Emergent Information. When a Difference Makes a Difference…

  • Wolfgang Hofkirchner Unified Theory of Information Research Group
Keywords: Objectivism, Subjectivism, Materialism, Idealism, Externalism, Internalism, Subject-object-Dialectics, Emergentist Materialism, Perspectivism, Self-Organisation, Sign, Unified Theory of Information, Computing, Meaningful Technology, GSIS


Gregory Bateson’s famous saying about information can be looked upon as a good foundation of a Unified Theory of Information (UTI). Section one discusses the hard and the soft science approaches to information. It will be argued that a UTI approach needs to overcome the divide between these approaches and can do so by adopting an historical and logical account of information. Section two gives a system theoretical sketch of such an information concept. It is based upon assuming a co-extension of self-organisation and information. Information is defined as a tripartite relation such that (1) Bateson’s “making a difference” is the build-up of the self-organised order; (2) Bateson’s “difference” that makes the difference is the perturbation that triggers the build-up; (3) Bateson’s difference that is made is made to the system because the perturbation serves a function for the system’s self-organisation. In semiotic terms, (1) a sign (= the self-organised order) relates (2) a signified (= the perturbation) (3) to a signmaker (= the system). In a third section, consequences of this concept for the knowledge about techno-social information processes and information structures will be focused on.

Author Biography

Wolfgang Hofkirchner, Unified Theory of Information Research Group
  • Associate Professor, Technology Assessment, Vienna University of Technology; Professor, Internet and Society, University of Salzburg, 2004-2010
  • Member, Board of Directors, and Chair, Science Advisory Committee, Science of Information Institute, Washington
  • Member, Foundations of Information Science Board, http://fis.icts.sbg.ac.at
  • President, Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science, Vienna
  • Editor, Unity Through Diversity Two, Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science Book Series, ISCE Publishing, Goodyear, Arizona
  • Member, Board, Institut für Design Science, München
  • Coordinator, icts and society network, http://www.icts-and-society.net
  • Research fields: Praxio-Onto-Epistemology, Evolutionary Systems Theory, Unified Theory of Information, Critical Social Systems Theory, Critical Design Theory, Critical Information Society Theory
Special Issue: The Difference that Makes a Difference 2011