In its simplest form, information is just information. But information is more than simple data; it is the process by which we make that data meaningful. It is also the framework upon which decisions are made and actions are taken.
There are three broad elements of information theory: information processing, meaning and pragmatics. In much the same way as there are three phases of information processing, there are three main phases of meaning: pragmatic pragmatics, meaning pragmatics and sociological pragmatics. This last is sometimes called the last known by the senses (Latour, 1984). Meaning pragmatics is sometimes called “theory of knowing” because it is more theoretical than data compression or information theory. The elements of meaning are not found in the data at all, whereas the elements of pragmatics are inherent in all information systems.
As an example of a system based on meaning, consider the information booth. At a recent event in Connecticut, the information booth was outfitted with a flat panel computer screen, two large flat panel monitors, touch-screens for inputting user information, and a USB port for loading mobile devices such as PDA’s. When the information was fed into the computer system, a number of algorithms took the information and determined what each piece of information meant. Each piece of information was fed into a database that contained both the meaning and the practical application of that information in the context of the event that it related to.
Consider again the scenario in which the information is in the form of a menu. Each piece of information corresponds to a particular menu. If you pick a menu option, your computer system will tell you whether you understand the meaning of the menu. If you do, the system will assign you points. If you do not understand the menu, you will be deducted from the program.
A similar system is used at many hotels. At breakfast each morning there is a machine that dispenses information. At lunch the same machine dispenses yet another menu. In addition to the information menu, there are a number of different options that the hotel can use to combine or segment your stay. If you choose the wrong option, you will be given the wrong options.
I believe that the information presented by the informational display devices of the future will be predictive and more intuitive. I also predict that this development will accelerate as companies invest in the r&d to build better predictive models. I believe that by drafting a charter for the Girgiesh to include these predictive features, we can solve some of the problems associated with the information interface associated with the yips.