Friday, October 26, 2007

Information: The Perfect Economic Good (Part 3)


Information has been difficult to define in and of itself, let alone defining it as an economic good. The actual nature of the information produced and distributed by information technology remains abstract and under-defined (Scholle). Instead of being a tangible object that one can hold in their hand, information is more of a concept, having similar traits as that of a conceptual idea, adding to the naysayer’s argument that information is not an economic good. This idea that information does not hold the same qualities of a physical economic good and therefore, should be left out of the realm of all other classes of economic goods has been a prevalent economic concept. To analyze the way that information does not qualify as an economic good, one must first have a baseline definition describing what is meant when one says “information”.

The original meaning of the word “information” derives from the Latin, informare, which means “to put into form”. “Informing” therefore carries the sense of “imparting learning or instruction” or more generally conveys the sense “to tell (one) of something”. As Webster points out, the semantic definition of information conveys that “information is meaningful, it has a subject, it is intelligence or instruction about something of someone.” (Scholle) Relying on the Internet, the following definitions of information is found:

· a message received and understood
· data: a collection of facts from which conclusions may be drawn; "statistical data"
· knowledge acquired through study or experience or instruction

Because of the nature and the omnipotent features that information and information goods possess, there are many different uses and definitions of information dependant on how information is used. Each discipline has its own way of defining information. According to Robert Losse, in his paper entitled, “A Discipline Independent Definition of Information”, he states that electronic engineer’s concern, when speaking of information, would be to create a product that could transmit the most amount of information (bits of information) in the shortest amount of time.

Conversely, those who work with communications and are scholars of communication are more concerned about mass media’s overloading of information (Losses 254). Losses goes on the give a definition of information that can be used interdisciplinary and which can be used in any facet. His definition is as follows:

The characteristics of the output of a process, these being informative about a process and the input. (Losses 254)

Economic institutions that are instrumental in defining “information”, is one in which information is emptied of any relation to “meaning”. Within the limits of specific disciplines this non semantic use of the term “information” is, at times, applied in a carefully circumscribed manner, but this field may undergo an extension in which it applies itself to processes where the semantic definition of information normally holds sway.(Scholle)

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