makes information a challenge in the age of the World Wide Web? According
to Vilém Flusser (1920-1991), today it seems to be
more important to generate “pure information“ than “informed
objects". Do you agree?
If Flusser's “pure
information" means the production of digital artifacts  we
are facing the opposite problem today,
namely the rise of the so-called Internet
of Things. The cyberspace is
not separated or independent from the physical world as John
Perry Barlow suggested 1996 in Davos. Quite the contrary, it is present
in all areas
of life. We live in digitally 'in-formed' societies. But the ability to
with a growing information overload differs tremendously with regard to
'in-formed' societies. We've been discussing for years the digital
divide as that which deals with the
lack of access to digital information. This divide persists
with nationwide coverage of internet access and those with lesser or no
This gap is also relevant within so-called information rich societies.
the divide is not just technical but also cultural, educational and
The internet is subject to censorship in many countries and can be used
fact, is being used as an instrument for surveillance and social
the same time, it offers new possibilities for a better life as well as
literacy is considered a key issue
in many LIS projects. What do you think about it and which skills
belong to it?
If the concept of information literacy or, better, "information
literacies" (Limberg et al.), is not reduced to written information but
includes the ability to deal with all forms of digitalized information
as learning how to handle digital codes and devices, then it should
play a key
role in the educational sector.
But it would be pedagogically misleading to understand information
as dealing only with skills without learning also a critical appraisal
possible misuses. Responsible practices with regard to blogs, apps,
social software should be taught in schools no less than the creative
the web for learning processes and political participation. Democracy
has to do
more and more with interactive digital processes. Information
required in all areas of society but each area has its own standards,
objectives. In a globalized world, information literacies deal with
how, why, how far and to whom we reveal or conceal who we are in a
environment with regard to specific situations and cultural
According to the philosopher Hans Blumenberg
(1920-1996) in his "The Legibility of the World" ("Die Lesbarkeit der
Frankfurt 1979) the book is a foundational
metaphor. How do you see the relationship between information literacy
and textual interpretation today?
In his essay "The Mission of the Librarian", the Spanish
philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1959) wrote:
democratic society is
a daughter of the book, it is the triumph of the book written by man
book revealed by God and over the book of laws dictated by
meantime, democracy is changing under the impact of interactive digital
media as paradigmatically opposed to the hierarchical one-to-many
structure of mass
media. But both paradigms are more and more intertwined as mass media
interactive devices and the internet is shaped by monopolies such as
Facebook, Twitter or Amazon. The right to internet access has become de facto a human right similar to freedom
of speech and freedom of the press. This issue was
at the World Summit on the Information Society ten years ago.
is not only readable, as Blumenberg's metaphor suggests, but also
both cases it is today digitally and socially interactively
want to be informed as well as to inform others using digital media.
foundational metaphor of our age is not any more the book but the
rising frequency of the occurrence of the
term 'information literacy' is correlative to the development of the
Web or digital media- and communication technology in general. The
the form seems to influence the content. What do you think in this
McLuhan's aphorism „the
medium is the message“?
The dualism between content and medium is not feasible. It was
criticized already by Plato in the dialogue "Phaidros," the first
media critique in the Western tradition. Plato's paradoxical
writing with regard to spoken language (logos) shows that no
neutral concerning the content it is supposed to transmit as well as
the relationship between sender and receiver. Writings are not able to
themselves from the misunderstanding of the readers because their
author is absent. This is one of the critical arguments given by the
the inventor of writing, the Egyptian god Theut, who corresponds to the
god Hermes. Plato points out the advantages of the lively dialog
the philosopher as educator takes care dynamically of the personal
learners, mostly Athenian male citizens. The French philosopher
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) criticized this
understanding of writing as being "logocentric."  Spoken language
has not the same quality and effect as written language. Each medium
enables not only different ways of dissemination but also different
kinds of interpretations.
(1911-1980) aphorism “the medium is the message"  is
related to the difference between “hot”
and “cool” media, i.e., to the work
of the recipient to understand a message. McLuhan was not only a media
but also a message theorist. His theory of media can be interpreted as
theory that I call 'angeletics' (Greek angelia = message).
A medium can be understood
as in-between a sender and a recipient embracing
both of them, but it can also be understood as a tool. In both cases it
do with the issue of a sender offering a message or what the German
Niklas Luhmann calls a "meaning offer" ("Mitteilung" or
The recipient chooses a possible meaning which is the information
("Information"). Such information is integrated into the recipient's
(pre-)understanding ("Verstehen").  Luhmann's theory of
communication is one of the most ambitious and influential
contemporary theories of communication.
thesis  I examined various dimensions of the concept of
information as a foundation for
information literacy. According to the so-called "Capurro's trilemma"
it is impossible to formulate a unified theory of information. What do
you think about such attempts to unification?
The question we must ask first is: 'what does "unified" mean?'
And then: 'who needs such a unified concept?' The meaning of a word in
life does not need to correspond to or to be "unified" with its use
within a scientific theory and vice versa. A precise definition within
remains often related to its use in natural language as John Austin
word never –well,
hardly ever– shakes
off its etymology and its formation. In spite of all changes in and
of and additions to its meanings, and indeed rather pervading and
these, there will still persist the old idea." 
is a circle between natural language with its plasticity of
meanings –the American philosopher Hilary Putnam calls it the
"porosity" of language–,
and the interest of sciences to define their concepts making them as
or informational as possible. This relationship between the plurivocity
and the univocity of information can be a productive or hermeneutical
one as analyzed
by Weizsäcker in the paper I already mentioned as well as by
Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002), the founder of
philosophical hermeneutics in the tradition of Martin Heidegger's
so-called imprecision or fuzziness and the changes of word meanings
in daily life offer the possibility for science to redefine freely a
within a theory. Claude Shannon, for instance, developed a concept of
information arising but also partly opposed to its everyday meaning as
Weaver remarked. Other
sciences, including information science, are not happy to deal alone or
mainly with Shannon's concept because
pragmatic dimensions are excluded. Since Shannon,
plenty of information concepts have been developed, which partly
are even equivocal. Peter
Fleissner and Wolfgang
Hofkirchner called this issue “Capurro’s trilemma."
 I formulate it as
may mean the same at all levels
(univocity), or something similar (analogy), or something different
(equivocity). In the first case we lose all qualitative differences, as
instance when we say that e-mail and cell reproduction are the same
information process. Not only the "stuff" and the structure but also
the processes in cells and computer devices are rather different from
other. If we say the concept of information is being used analogically,
have to state what the "original" meaning is. If it is the concept of
information at the human level, then we are confronted with
if we use it at a non-human level. We would say that "in some way"
atoms "talk" to each other, etc. Finally there is equivocity, which
means that information in physics and information in education are
different concepts. In this case, information cannot be a unifying
more, i.e. it cannot be the basis for the new paradigm you are looking
trilemma goes back to the Aristotelian
distinction between univocal, equivocal and analogous terms. Aristotle
research with the question: 'Which are the different meanings and uses
concept and how are they related?' The most philosophical crucial
with the different meanings of the concept of being ("to ón
pollachós," "being can be understood in different ways").
trilemma can be solved by taking a certain definition and its context
as the first and original one, this meaning being called the primum analogatum. All the other
applications and definitions have to be compared to this first and
This solution is proposed, for instance, by the German philosopher
for whom the concept of information belongs originally to the human
analogical applications having only a limited and mostly misleading
legitimation.  Another way of solving the trilemma, which I
prefer, consists in accepting the
coexistence of different concepts in different sciences and contexts
network of "family resemblances" or "language games"
philosopher and polymath Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) was the
modern semiotics and pragmatism. He proposed to transform logic into a
of signs and to follow a functional or pragmatic interpretation when
concepts are difficult or unclear. Do you believe that Peirce's
maxim' is a possible solution of the trilemma?
as far as the Peircean 'interpretant' makes possible a change from
one context to another. This can take place also within a science.
science, for instance, can define information as dealing with the
meaning of a
message. The interpretant can be the producer, the mediator or the
At the document-level, however, information means an object bearing
message. The concept of information differs according to specific
and/or practical areas. These differences can be analyzed from a
perspective.  Peirce
what effects, that might conceivably have
practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have.
conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the
means that the triadic relation –our conception, the effects, the
object–, defines an area of research or practice or a regional ontology
is called, for instance, in Husserl's phenomenology. But Peirce goes
Husserl and comes near to Heidegger as far as it deals explicitly with
"practical bearings" excluding metaphysical objects. This links him
also to Kant's and Heidegger's critique of metaphysics. But Kant's
imperative is of another kind as Peircean pragmatism.
DIKW-model (Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom)  works on the basis
hiearchy between these concepts. What is the relation
information and sign in this regard?
hierarchy is problematic in many regards. It suggests that
something somehow emerges from something else. You feed your
mind or the
computer with data and somehow information emerges. Knowledge
emerges somehow from information. Similarly it happens between
and wisdom. This is, obviously, a caricature of a complex issue. Even
philosophy is supposed to be a longing for wisdom and not wisdom
who call themselves 'wise' are either gods or charlatans. Scientific
is limited and subject to criticism. The whole refers to different
of knowledge. In the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition there is a
between opinion (doxa), practical knowledge (empeiria),
(techne), scientific knowledge (episteme), ethical
and knowledge of the first principles (sophia). This taxonomy
changed and even turned upside down in modernity, for instance, by Kant
Peirce who rejected metaphysical knowledge.  According to
Heidegger signs ("Zeichen")
("Zeuge") of something to which they refer ("zeigen"). They
are primarily within a practical holistic network of references
which makes the difference to a formal network of references
("Verweisungen") that are not necessarily signs in every instance and
remain abstract. He writes:
signs there are symptoms [Anzeichen] ,
warning signals, signs of things that have happened already
signs to mark something, signs by which things are recognized ; these
different ways of indicating, regardless of what may be serving as such
From such 'signs' we must distinguish traces, residues, commemorative
monuments, documents, testimony, symbols, expressions, appearances,
significations. These phenomena can easily be formalized because of
formal relational character; we find it especially tempting nowadays to
such a 'relation' as a clue for subjecting every entity to a kind of
'Interpretation' which always 'fits' because at bottom it says nothing,
than the facile schema of content and form." 
Heidegger chooses the “adjustable red arrow” motor cars were fitted up
with as an example for a special reference or indication. This sign is
of an equipment which is ready-to-hand to the driver in his concern
driving, and not for him alone"
as the showing of the sign stands (in
this case) “in the whole equipment-context of vehicles and traffic
regulations”.  To put it
another way, there is no such thing as an isolated sign, because a
sign always exists in "everyday care" ("alltägliches
Besorgen") within an "equipmental totality" ("Zeugganzheit").
Signs are merely "present-at-hand" ("vorhanden") when
detached from their practical care-relations. “World” in Heidegger's
constituted by this kind of care-relations of meaning and reference.
communication of such meanings, i.e., information, is possible and
within the background of a common world of practical networked
should raise the question: what is this “common world” and who is
i.e., who has the power to exclude or to integrate? When Heidegger
signs as ready-to-hand he puts all the emphasis on the usage and
serviceability, whereas a sign in Peirce is about meaning in the
most basic sense. In semiotics the concept of sign is not only defined
relations, but also by the process of interpretation. Peirce calls this
Is it possible to understand information as process, accordingly?
important not to absolutize the concept of sign following the
"temptation", as Heidegger warns, to take such a relation between
things "as a clue for subjecting every entity to a kind of
'Interpretation' which always 'fits' because at bottom it says nothing,
than the facile schema of content and form." This leads eventually to a
metaphysical semiotics where everything is understood only as a
are, as Octavio Paz wrote, “grammarian monkeys,” i.e., we have indeed
possibility to see everything that we encounter as a sign, but
not signs: they are trees." 
When we perceive trees as
signs, thanks to our “grammatical” condition, and we name them whereby,
sense, and we share this sense and communicate it to other “grammarian
We inform them. This means also that we always have only a particular
things within the context or the “world” making it possible to
interpret trees as
"something standing for". The key issue is not to identify this 'as'
with an 'is' or to be aware that each time that we speak about 'is' we
do with an 'as.' To interpret everything 'as' a sign does not mean that
everything 'is' indeed just a sign. In this case we would fix the
being and instead of understanding semiotics as (!) a possible
of the world and ourselves, we would state that this 'is' indeed the
be means then to be a sign. It is the indeterminacy of being that
such a fixation.  The semiotic view of the world as a possible
interpretation of being makes
manifest the fragility of the human interpretant in her aim to make
world fully understandable. This is only possible from the perspective
transcendent or metaphysical observer beyond the space-time limits of
existence. For such an observer there is no need for information
it 'in-forms' everything.
his book "Cybersemiotics.
Why Information Is Not Enough" (Toronto 2008) Søren Brier
proposes a holistic approach to
information based on empirical studies of cognition and communication.
your rejection of a unified and universal concept of information imply
impossibility of such a universal information science?
We can study cognition and communication empirically based on such a
„cybersemiotic“ theory of information, as Brier proposes following
ideas which are quite similar to Luhmann's approach on
systems. All the great systematical philosophies, e.g., of Aristotle,
Aquinas or Hegel, aimed at something like this. Heidegger called those
endeavours to grasp and fix the meaning of being metaphysics.
it impossible for us not to ask such metaphysical questions.
But at the
same time he warned us to be aware about the limits of pure reason when
to answer such questions.
are the future tasks and challenges for
think that information science has to increase its awareness towards
social questions and free itself from its one-sided focus on
retrieval technology. Joining the library science tradition(s) it
investigate social phenomena, dealing with the production,
analysis, transmission and use of all kinds of knowledge according to a
classical definition. Although information
science, from this perspective, belongs to the humanities and social
it does not imply giving up the methodology of computer science or of
natural sciences when analyzing the phenomena at stake. But it does
in mind its main goal, namely to contribute to a critical view of
literacies within the background of societal needs and cultural
traditions in a
digitally globalized world.
Linda Treude thanks
Sascha Freyberg for
philosophical support. Rafael Capurro thanks Linda Treude for her
the English translation. A special thanks goes to Jared Bielby (University of Alberta, Canada) for critical
bibliographic references and for polishing the English.
 Capurro, Rafael: Information
. Ein Beitrag zur
ideengeschichtlichen Begründung des Informationsbegriffs.
[Information. A contribution to an etymological
and conceptual-historical foundation of the concept of information] Munich
 "Man beginnt sich [...]
heute daran zu gewöhnen, daß Information als eine
dritte, von Materie und Bewußtsein verschiedene Sache
aufgefaßt werden muß. Was
man aber damit entdeckt hat, ist eine alte Wahrheit in einem neuen Ort.
das platonische Eidos, die aristotelische Form, so eingekleidet,
daß auch ein
Mensch des 20. Jahrhunderts etwas von ihnen ahnen lernt.“ (transl. R.
Capurro) In Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker:
Sprache als Information. In: Die
Einheit der Natur, Munich 1974,
p. 51 (Engl. transl. The Unity
of Nature, New York 1980). The
held in Munich in 1959 at the
"Die Sprache" ["Language"] organized by the Bavarian Academy
of Fine Arts.
Flusser: Die Informationsgesellschaft. Phantom oder Realität? Cologne
Flusser's ideas of
"pure information" and "information objects" see V. Flusser:
Towards a Philosophy of Photography (1984) (or. German ed. Für
der Fotografie, Göttingen 1983). I quote: "In the case of such
images [electromagnetic photographs, RC] the material basis of
completely disappeared and electromagnetic photographs can be created
artificially at will and processed by the receiver as pure information
'pure information society')".
See Hektor Haarkötter
Weil (Guest Editors): Ethics for the Internet of Things. In International
Review of Information Ethics
, 22 (2015) (forthcoming).
 On information overload see my: Between Trust and
. On the Moods of Information Society. In Richard
Keeble (ed.): Communication Ethics Today. Leicester 2005, pp. 187-196.
See also my: Medicine 2.0.
Reflections on a pathology
of the information society. In: Innovation, journal
librarianship and information work in Southern
Number 46 (2013) (Special Issue: Information Ethics, ed. Stephen
 Rupert Scheule; Rafael Capurro and
Thomas Hausmanninger (eds.): Vernetzt gespalten. Der Digital Divide in
ethischer Perspektive. Munich 2004.
 See the special issue of the International
Review of Information Ethics (IRIE) on "New ICT and
Social Media: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and Social Change" (Guest
Editors: Christopher Coenen, Wolfgang
Hofkirchner and José María Díaz Nafría),
 I borrow the
plural form "information
literacies" from Louise Limberg, Olof Sundin, Sanna Talja: Three
Theoretical Perspectives on Information Literacy. In Human IT,
2, pp. 93-130.
I quote: "Three theoretical perspectives are presented that represent
different understandings of information literacy; phenomenography,
sociocultural theory and Foucauldian discurse analysis. According to
theoretical lenses, information literacy is embedded in and shaped by
as shaping the context in which it is embedded. In consequence, we
notion of information literacies in the plural." (p. 93). See also:
Tadashi Takenouchi: A Consideration on the Concept of Information
Literacy. In: International
Review of Information Ethics, 2 (2004) 11. I quote:
"Is information literacy "necessary for all"? Now we can answer
this question in the following manner: It is impossible to conclude
without specifying the category, field, and level of the concept of
literacy in each situation. If we do not care about such matters,
will be confused and may lead to faulty conclusions." (p. 5); Christine
Pawley: Information Literacy: A Contradictory Coupling. In: The
Quarterly, 73 (2003) 4, pp. 422-452.
 See Rafael Capurro, Michael
Eldred and Daniel Nagel: Digital Whoness: Identity, Privacy and Freedom
Cyberworld. Frankfurt 2013. Abridged version in Johannes Buchmann
2012, pp. 63-142.
 José Ortega y Gasset: Misión del bibliotecario.
Madrid 1962, p. 33: “La sociedad democrática es hija del
es el triunfo del
libro escrito por el hombre escritor sobre el libro revelado por Dios y
el libro de las leyes dictadas por la autocracia.“ (Engl. transl. R.
 See the overview in the ICIE
 Ivan Illich: In the Vineyard
of the Text. A commentary to Hugh's "Didascalion". Chicago 1993.
 On the relation between the
digital interface and the (Levinasian) 'face-to-face' see my: Face-to-face oder
der Beratung per Internet
. In Eric
Mührel (ed.): Ethik und Menschenbild der Sozialen Arbeit, Essen
 Jacques Derrida: De la gramatologie. Paris
 Marshall McLuhan: Understanding Media: The Extensions
 Rafael Capurro and John Holgate
(eds.): Messages and Messengers. Angeleltics as an Approach to the
Phenomenology of Communication. Munich 2011.
 Niklas Luhmann: Soziale Systeme. Frankfurt 1987.
 Linda Treude: Das Konzept Informationskompetenz.
Ein Beitrag zur theoretischen und praxisbezogenen Begriffsklärung.
[The Concept of Information
Literacy. A contribution to the theoretical and practical conceptual
 John Austin: A
Plea for Excuses
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1956-57.
 Hilary Putnam: Representation
and Reality. Cambridge
 See Claude Shannon: A
Mathematical Theory of Communication. Bell
Systems Technical Journal
27 (1948), pp. 379-423, 623-656 as
well as Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver: The mathematical theory
Urbana, IL 1949/1972.
 See P. Fleissner, W. Hofkirchner: In-formatio
revisited, Wider dem
dinglichen Informationsbegriff. In: Informatik
 Rafael Capurro, Peter
Fleissner, Wolfgang Hofkirchner: Is a Unified Theory of
Information Feasible? A
trialogue. In: Wolfgang Hofkirchner
Quest for a Unified Theory of Information. Proceedings of the Second
International Conference on the Foundations of Information Science.
1999, p. 9.
 Peter Janich: Informationsbegriff und methodisch-kulturalistische
In Ethik und Sozialwissenschaften
9 (1998) 2, pp.
169-182. See my
criticisms: "Das Capurosche
In ibid. pp. 188-189.
 See Rafael Capurro and Birger Hjørland: The Concept of
. In Annual Review of Information Science and
Ed. B. Cronin, 37 (2003), pp. 343-411
 See my Hermeneutik
[Hermeneutics of Scientific Information]. Munich
61-67 where I analyze
Norbert Henrichs' semiotic view of information science. See also my Digital
Hermeneutics: An Outline
In AI & Society
35 (2010) 2, pp. 35-42.
S. Peirce: How to make our ideas clear. In: Popular Science Monthly,
12 (1), 1878,
pp. 286-302 (CP 5.388 – 410)
 Russell L. Ackoff : From Data
to Wisdom. In: Journal of Applied Systems Analysis, 16 (1989),
 See my Skeptical
. In Hans-Christoph Hobohm (ed.): Knowledge Management.
Librarians Taking Up the Challenge. IFLA Publ. 108, Munich
and Time. Oxford
1962 (transl. J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson), p. 108.
op.cit. p. 109.
mono gramático, Barcelona 1974, p. 97
 See my Towards an Ontological
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(2006) 4, pp. 175-186.
e.g. Harald Borko: Information science: What is it? In American
19 (1968) 1.