INFORMATION AND OTHER RELATED CONCEPTS - THEIR MEANING AND CHARACTERISTICS:
You may often hear or read in newspapers and other popular magazines about "exponential growth of information" or "explosion of information" and computers are to be used for handling such large mass of information and for quick retrieval of the desired items from it. We talk about the "growth" or "explosion" because we see around us, large bookshops, libraries and news stands, a wide array of publications - books, periodicals, newspapers and news magazines. The much talked about information is recorded in these publications. The term "information" is used very loosely. It is therefore necessary, in the context of library and information science, to know its more precise meaning.
Let us begin with the definitions as provided in two well-known dictionaries and a definition given by UNESCO.
1) "News or intelligence communicated by word or in writing; facts or data; knowledge derived from reading or instruction gathered in any way". (New Webster Dictionary of the English Language, 1984).
2) "Knowledge communicated or received concerning a particular fact or circumstances; any knowledge gained through communication, research, instruction". (Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 1983) .
3) The definition of information, according to a UNESCO document (Inter-governmental Conference on Scientific and Technological Information for Development, UNISIST II 1979), is as follows:
"Information is made up of symbolic elements, communicating scientific and technical knowledge, irrespective of their nature (numerical, textual, graphic, etc.), material carriers (paper-print, microform or machine readable form), form of presentation, etc. It refers both to the substance or contents of documents and to the physical existence; the term is also used to designate both the message (substance and form) and its communication (act)."
The Random House Dictionary has also listed two sets of words that are used synonymously with the term "information". These are;
i) Data, Facts, Intelligence, Advice.
ii) Information, Knowledge, Wisdom. The terms, "news", "data", and "knowledge" contained in the above definitions of information, are relevant in the context of library and information science. According to the three definitions: i) these terms are related to the concept of information and thus are nearly synonymous with the term information; ii) information is communicated by word of mouth or in writing; and
iii) information is derived from reading or instruction or gathered in any other way.
Further, the last two statements imply that some people communicate information while some others acquire, derive or gather and use information. Information is, thus, generated, communicated and used. There are then generators, communicators and users.
Although in this Block, we shall use "news", "information", "data", and "knowledge" interchangeably as if they are synonymous terms, it is necessary to point out that they are not strictly so. Each is a shade different from the other.