Posts Tagged ‘information ecology’

As part of Module 5 we have been encouraged to consider how Internet technologies can be thought of as an “information ecology“, rather than simply a set of tools, systems, and communication between them.

As we know from our physical environment, an ecosystem consists of everything from ourselves, animals, plants, physical structures and organisms which we may not even be able to see.

In considering an information ecosystem, we must be aware of the mulititude of elements that make up this virtual environment. These elements include but are not limited to defined objects such as users and tools, and also abilities like adaptation and creativity.

Every action we undertake in the online world produces an outcome. A click on a website produces a record in the site’s analytics program. A blog post produces another document on the web. A purchase transaction produces multiple actions from activating a shipping process, through to a series of financial transactions between ecommerce operators. Just as in the physical environment, the online equivalent produces equally powerful outcomes, not excluding destructive results.

In his paper Information Ecology, Felix Stalder presents the concept of Interdependency within an information ecology. The idea of Interdependency is that everything within that particular environment is connected through communicative processes, producing complex relationships. These complex relationships are formed partly via another dimension, that of Differentiation, which highlights that information only survives if it holds a unique value and is of use for others. In this form, a single item of information is not complex, but a group of items bound together by relationships is, and can produce highly valuable results. In trying to consider an example of what this actually means, I put forward the example of social networking, where a single profile holds little value but a network of a million profiles holds a very complex and interdependent ecology.

Interestingly, Stalder published his paper in 1997, and referenced from 1996 a note citing Apple Computer’s failure to capitalise on interdependency as a reason for their decline. Maybe this is a good example of how no single method of survival can be labelled as ideal, since Apple posted record quarterly profit of $US 1.61 billion in the first quarter of the current financial year, still keeping with their closed operating system format (Apple 2009).

What would happen if we disengaged one section of the information ecosystem? Think for example, what effect censorship has and how it would “disturb” other elements of the ecology. Censorship is in place in some countries at the moment, so the ecology has adapted to cope but we cannot quantify or establish the exact effects of such activity. In an environment where so much information is quantifiable, we still cannot measure the effects of typical ecosystem activity. As in the “real” world, not everything is measurable.


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