What is Information? by Robert K. Logan

What is Information?: Propagating Organization in the Biosphere, Symbolosphere, Technosphere and Econosphere

What is Information book cover“So, what is information? And why is it such an enormously difficult question to answer with any clarity and thoroughness? It is an ambitious book that sets out to answer this question, much less present an elaborate theory of how it has morphed into a seemingly independent universe of meanings, rituals, art-forms, values, and technologies since our ancestors first learned to talk. Who would attempt such a challenge?”
—from the Foreword by Terrence Deacon

What is Information? is a unique title within information studies. It is strongly interdisciplinary, crossing information theory, systems theory, new media and cognitive linguistics. Therefore, it may carry provocative themes and insights that require of the reader a broader frame of reference than the known, narrow path. Among these themes is Bob’s notion of different forms and frames of information in ecological contexts. With help from Stuart Kauffman, he shows that biotic information – the instructions of life and reproduction – requires a different theory of information entirely from bit-oriented signal processing (Shannon-Weaver hypothesis).

The book takes on the complex issue of defining information as a carrier of meaning vs signals processed by meaning-makers. Recovering the importance of MacKay’s original contribution of the “distinction that makes a difference,” Logan bridges information and media theory. If meaning is the coherence of organization, then information as meaning remains consistent with the notion of negative entropy. While media may shape the expression and meaning of meaning, it is information that signals the meaning of the medium. The power of language in developing symbols generates a constant source of meanings through information.

To better distinguish these functions of “information” Dr. Logan relates information as a functional power of organization within four ecosystems: Biosphere, Symbolosphere, Technosphere, and Econosphere. The Biosphere gives rise to human cultures through information, and culture gives rise to the other three spheres. Information is the media-tor of these spheres.

Portrait of Robert K. LoganRobert K. Logan is Chief Scientist and a co-founder of Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) at OCAD University. Dr. Logan’s work at sLab follows a luminous career as Professor of Physics at University of Toronto. Bob’s academic research bridges complexity science, information theory, biology, environmental studies, linguistics, design and media studies. Dr. Logan is the author of a dozen books, and twice-recipient of awards from the Media Ecology Association (MEA).


DEMO stands for Design Emergence Media Organization. DEMO Publishing presents new genres and formats of interdisciplinary design and media research. An initiative of Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) at OCAD University, DEMO seeks to illuminate complex social and organizational systems, to foster foresight and innovation. All of these domains manifest emergence and demand continual updating of our systemic design thinking. www.demopublishing.com

What is Information?: Propagating Organization in the Biosphere, Symbolosphere, Technosphere and Econosphere
Dr. Robert K. Logan

Includes bibliographic references.
ISBN 978-1-60888-996-9

First edition published by DEMO Publishing, Toronto, Canada.
Printed on Demand (POD) in the United States of America by IngramSpark.
Access ebook editions or contact the editors at http://demopublishing.com

Copyright © 2014 DEMO Publishing and Robert K Logan, except as indicated.

This is an open access book, released under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license. This license lets others remix or build upon the work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge the creator and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms. No permission is required from the authors or the publisher. Statutory fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above. For more information please see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

Editors: Peter Jones and Greg Van Alstyne
Book design by Garry Ing & Greg Van Alstyne
Cover design by Greg Van Alstyne