Information, in a broad sense, is structured, processed and organised data intended for future use. It gives context to existing data and allows rational decision making. For instance, a single customer’s sale in a particular restaurant is data, that becomes information only if the restaurant can identify the most profitable or least profitable dish. Decision making is based on this information. Information science, in particular, deals with the extraction of this information from large consolidated databases.
Information is used to make decisions. However, this decision can be wrong, because sometimes information about a certain object or situation may be perceived in a different way by different people. In cases of paranormal language, for instance, there may be two (or more) possible interpretations of a sentence depending upon how it is said. The sentence may be valid, if the interpretation is given by the paranormal language user. On the other hand, the sentence may be invalid, if it is grammatically incorrect and false by the paranormal language user.
How does this play out in informational systems? A typical informational system is built upon many different types of data sources. One such source could be a collection of phone numbers stored in an address book, or phone conversations in an audio tape, or documented speech samples, or even typed text in a word processor. Each piece of data will need to be interpreted and presented in a way that makes sense to the particular system being used.
This is the essence of information systems, and it is also the essence of scientific disciplines such as computer science, which is largely concerned with the creation and utilisation of information technology systems. Information technology can take many forms. For instance, information systems can be used to control a network of computers. In some cases, information technology can be used to allow people to interact directly with each other over a network of interlinked computer systems. Information technology is also involved in things like scientific databases and archives, which are collections of recorded information about everything from astronomical phenomena to literary subjects.
So just how does the question of how people use formal information sources relates to the issue of the validity of scientific information sources? The issue here is that people do not always want to base their knowledge about the world on facts. Many people use informal information sources, and scientific journals have become repositories of information for many disciplines of study. But these informal sources are not always true, and in some cases they can actually cause more harm than good to those who rely on them.
How people use information sources is important because such information may determine the course of their lives. For instance, a scientific finding that suggests that a particular kind of flower is poisonous can make a lot of people go out of business because the flower has been found to be poisonous. But people will probably still grow it, because they think it’s edible. Only later will scientists discover that it was, in fact, poison. So, how people use information, and what kinds of information are most valuable, become part of the larger social issue of information behavior.