‘Beauty is pregnant with potentiality’ – Bracha Ettinger
Again, delving deeper into the rabbit hole, let’s try to entangle the concepts in the web of free knowledge definitions.
In the previous post we mainly discussed the difference between free information and free knowledge. But we were not quite finished. We were still basically stuck when we hit the Cyberpunk definition which gave information an inherent entelechy towards freedom, making it in a way into an active agent.
But maybe we shouldn’t interpret the cyberpunk aphorism of ‘information wants to be free’ in such a way. For as we established before, information in itself is not active. Information needs an agent. If we again look closer at the DIKW definition, we find that knowledge is the appropriate collection of information, it is thus deterministic. Information has (or can have) use and meaning, but only becomes knowledge when it is ‘made active’, when it is put to use, involving an action/actor. Again, in other words to make it clearer: information without action might have meaning and may be useful, only when it is put to use can it become knowledge. As the definition says: the intent of knowledge is to be useful, information does not have this intent, it only has the potential.
Information needs an action/actor to combine information into knowledge: to give it meaning in context.
Now as we look at it in this way, the cyberpunk definition of information should be free or wants to be free, can be interpreted as in order to be able to become knowledge. And this is the possibility the web offers increasingly.
Now this potentiality of information entails two things:
- - It entails an actor, who acts upon the information, collecting and combining it in such a manner and applying it to the appropriate context so that it can become knowledge. Since it is the actor (or actors in this respect, for of course in many occasions it is groups of people working together turning information into knowledge) who is responsible for the creation of this knowledge, it is in a way his or her interpretation, combination and contextualization of the information. This explains why people have moral rights or even claim copyright or intellectual ownership over their active creation of knowledge out of information (if they publish it that is, there is no such thing as copyright on thoughts, unfortunately one thinks sometimes…).
- It also entails a movement, a dynamic, as already expressed in the Cyberpunk definition. Not a dynamic inherent in information however, but a dynamic from information towards knowledge (a force in between information and knowledge in a way). It is the potentiality itself that creates the dynamic, the need towards. As the Cyberpunk movement argues, the digital age and the coming of the Internet, which has freed information from its mostly physical and print based constraints, has enlarged this potentiality of information enormously, making the dynamic or movement seem in a way more urgent, or more logical. In this way one can say that it is the digital age that makes information want to be free.
As a final remark, what is interesting in even more recent developments is that the actor can now also be a computer: with the rise of the semantic web the computer can turn/turns information into knowledge or at least into networked information, conceptualizing and contextualizing it and thus combining it in a useful manner. Maybe this means information and communication technologies as well as social media are adding a new layer to the DIKW hierarchy: Connectionism, or connected, interlinked information. As Kevin Kelly says when speaking about social media: ‘we are connecting everything to everything’, and: ‘when connected into a swarm, small thoughts become smart.’