Information as discursive construct / Ma(2010)

Citation - Ma, Lai. (2010). Information as discursive construct. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 47(1), 1-4.

Keyword - information

  • 重探 Buckland (1991)「資訊的事物觀」與 Ekbia & Evans (2009)「資訊體制」。
  • 本文主張:「資訊」的意義是由社群輿論所建構的,並且受到社會系統的經濟政治結構所影響。「資訊」應該被視為是一種論述性建構物。
  • 此一理解,不僅能矯正我們對傳播與認知內涵的誤解,也能開啟我們如何關照批判社會分析中的「資訊」問題,帶領我們重回認識論與方法論上的討論。
By revisiting the notion of “information-as-thing” (Buckland, 1991) and investigating the notion of “regimes of information” (Ekbia and Evans, 2009), this paper shows that “information” is constituted by community consensus and is influenced by economic and political structures of social systems. As such, “information” should be understood as discursive construct. Understanding “information” as discursive construct not only rids us of distorted views of communication and cognition implicated in influential conceptions of information, but also opens up questions concerning “information” for critical social analyses, which in turn leads to epistemological and methodological discussions.




  • 能改變人類知識力量的事物(something as having causal powers for altering human minds)。 Brookes (1980): 知識方程式 K[S] + ΔI = K[S + ΔS]
    • 以有意義方式呈現的資料或事實(data or facts that are processed and represented in a meaningful way)
    • Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom (DIKW) hierarchy
  • 只把資訊視為物體(object),會讓我們忽略資訊是社會與文化的表現,而忽略了:
    • (1) 在資訊的生產與使用中的功能、意識形態、文化與社會意涵(the functions, ideologies, cultural and social implications of the production and use of information);
    • (2)在認識論與方法論上的探討。


Buckland’s “Information as Thing” (1991)

  • It's Main argument:
    • “the information systems can only deal with information-as-thing”
    • information systems can only deal with “information-as-thing”—not “information-as-process,” “information-as-knowledge,”
    • “informativeness” is the requirement of being “information”
“Information-as-thing is of special interest in the study of information systems. It is with information in this sense that information systems deal directly. Libraries deal with books; computer-based information systems handle data in the form of physical bits and bytes; museums deal directly with objects. The intention may be that users will become informed (information-as-process) and that there will be an imparting of knowledge (information-as-knowledge). But the means provided, what is handled and operated upon, what is stored and retrieved, is physical information (information-as-thing).” (Buckland, 1991, p. 352)

* 作者提問: but how do we decide whether something is informative or potentially informative? Under this definition, what would not be considered as information? If a book, a musical score, a DVD, and a sculpture can all be “information-as-thing,” could not a clock, a rock, and a person be “information-as-thing”? But if all material things or beings can be information, how is the notion of “information-as-thing” helpful?

  • Evidence: Buckland 對於如何判斷一事物有資訊的根據
    • either a book or a rock can be considered as “information-as-thing” depends on whether the book or the rock can be viewed as evidence.
    • “Evidence, like information-as-thing, does not do anything actively. Human beings do things with it or to it. They examine it, describe it, and categorize it. They understand, misunderstand, interpret, summarize, or rebut it. They may even try to fake it, alter it, hide it, or destroy it.” (Buckland, 1991a, p. 353)
  • 作者抓緊 Buckland 這一點,巧妙的論證 Buckland information-as-thing 中具有非實證論的意涵:
    • 強調了資訊的被動性(passiveness),其意涵
      • 應當由人類決定什麼是資訊 (human beings are responsible for determining what could be “information,”)
      • 挑戰資訊的效率模型。顛覆資訊的實徵主義概念,因為資訊無法自證為資訊,而是根據其使用的社群共識與情境。
        it challenges the effective model for information. The notion of “information-as-thing” thus breaks away from the empiricist concepts of information because it does not posit information as being self-evident. The evidential quality, or informativeness, of “information-as-thing” also suggests that the determination of what is or is not “information” is, to some extent, based upon the consensus of a community, and is thus situational.

(information is what an-information-system-deal-with) (information is a thing/object that with informativeness) (informativeness is determined by evidence) (evidence is from what human doing to it)


  • 為自己建立資訊系統時,選擇與判斷何為「有資訊的事物」是主觀的
  • 為群體建立可用的資訊系統,其選擇是互為主觀的(intersubjective)
  • 資訊系統中「資訊」的判斷與選擇,是基於對系統使用者對資訊有用性與情報性的期望與共識。
    the judgment and selection of “information” for information systems depends on an anticipated agreement on the usefulness or informativeness of “information” between the systems and the users.
  • 因此,資訊不能當作是客觀的、主觀的、或有效力的,而是通過對於溝通結構、社會系統、以及兩者之間關係的理解,而描繪的東西。
    Hence, “information” cannot be conceptualized as objective, subjective, or having causal power, but rather, a discursive one involving the understanding of communication structures and social systems, and not the least, the relations between them.


  • “information-as-thing論” 對資訊科學是有用的概念,因為定義資訊為「資訊系統可以處理的東西」
  • 但資訊科學不只有資訊檢索與資訊系統設計,如:資訊尋求、資訊行為、社會資訊學。其「資訊」定義往往並不清楚(Yet, the meaning of the term “information” is not usually clarified in these studies)
    • Frohmann (2004) 建議,將「資訊」作為一個研究領域中的總稱(umbrella term),而不要太在意到底是什麼。
      suggests, “information” is used as an umbrella term for a broad area of study without much concern about what “information” itself might be.

作者認為可參考 Ekbia and Evans (2009) 的地主決策歷程研究。如何處理在社會情境中的資訊:

  • regimes of information: 資訊體制
    • 研究認為,資訊是在日常生活的社會實踐中被「上演(enacted)」,並且,在社會情境中有不同的資訊類型。
      The study shows that “information” is enacted from social practices of daily life and that “information” is of different types within a social situation.
    • 在不同的價值體制(regimes of worth)中,有不同種類的資訊。
    • 價值體制: 源自於 Boltanski & Thévenot (1991, On justification) “polity model”(政體模式)
    • 六種價值體制
      • (1) information as measurement data, 可量測的資料
      • (2) information as commodity, 有用的物品
      • (3) information as documentation, 文件
      • (4) information as message, 訊息
      • (5) information as anecdote, 軼事趣聞
      • (6) information as intuition. 直覺、感覺

Boltanski & Thévenot (1991) 區分西方六種不同正當性的價值體系,並以Polity(政體,政府體制)稱之。


  • Information is by consensus. 彼此講好的才是資訊。
  • Information as discursive construct. 作為論述性建構的資訊。強調資訊必須處於特定的社會文化脈絡中。
In other words, it is discursively constructed. The reasons for the consensus on what is and is not considered “information,” however, demand further inquiries. For, “consensus” regarding information involves social negotiations, cultural forms (such as language), economic and political values and social-cultural arrangements.


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