A denial!

So, information as thing?

Further, the term “evidence” implies passiveness. Evidence, like information-as-thing, does not do anything actively. Human beings do things with it or to it…The essence of evidence is precisely that perception of it can lead to changes in what people believe they know. (353)

This includes documents and events themselves, almost to the point that information as thing could include everything, but that it needs to be put into a specific context, such that “(a)t quite specific situations and points in time an object or event may actually be informative, i.e., constitute evidence that is used in a way that effects someone’s beliefs.” (357) As a result, information storage and retrieval systems can only deal with this conception of information, which is handy for legitimating information science, but in reality, it ignores the complexity of what information actually is. The drive to carve up the definition of information into its respective parts partially results in conceptual clarity, but it also results in the obfuscation of important details that lead to real-world understandings of those very things.

A case study:

Miley Cyrus v. Kurt Cobain

These are the same song, the metadata on these two videos, when viewed by a person, would be pretty similar. But what is at the heart of these things that makes them informative? Surely, the ads, Miley’s stage banter, Kurt Cobain messing around before they kick into it all matter. But what really separates these two, aside from video quality, is the fact that Miley is earnest in her delivery, striving to communicate the song’s aggression and libido. Kurt, on the other hand, doesn’t push as hard, delivering the contradiction and insouciance of it.

But some things that can be seen in the metadata could matter a lot outside of the Benjamin-esque consideration of “aura,” which, regardless is intact. I’m accusing Benjamin of being a spoilsport. The Miley video is probably some kind of camera-phone video, maybe a camcorder or a flip, whereas the Nirvana video was captured on some much higher quality film, and from the sound of it, the audio came off of the mixing boards. All of that is important to note for the reception by the person watching the video. Benjamin is a spoilsport because no matter what the formats of the “evidence,” no matter what the “information as thing” analysis, you can tell the difference between these two performances.

So don’t divvy up information. It’s oversimplifying, and you might miss something more important going on. Information and knowledge are about context, and reducing information to it’s thingness leads to Benjamin’s accusations of lack or aura resulting from technological reductionism.

Likewise, don’t ignore the thingness, because it directly affects the experience of the aura. Information is more complex than mere “evidence” and it always will have an affect on the perciever. It will help librarianship if we stop pretending that all of these things aren’t intimately related.

2 thoughts on “A denial!

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