Architecture of Information

Meaning is key to information. Meaning is attached to it by its receiver. It’s the senders assignment to minimize the gap between his intended meaning and the meaning a receiver attaches to it. Just to keep communication sensible! Successful communication is greatly facilitated by supplying the receiver with proper contextual information. For, as we all know, it’s context that pre-eminently controls meaning. Information never comes on its own – no, information is always and inextricably connected with its associated context. It’s all about the delivery of intended meaning. As said: meaning is key to information. That is, in a nutshell, Architecture of Information.

Using Metapattern [1] modeling Architecture of Information is rather straightforward – as shown in the model below:

The model ‘starts’ with a thick black line; the horizon. The model itself displays from the horizon; behind this horizon the unappointed is ‘found’. This model ‘says’: Concept-in-Context is the contextual specialisation of Concept in Context [2]. As a clarifying example: in the context of a company (Context) a natural person (Concept) can specialise to an employee (Concept-in-Context).

Architecture of Information makes clear how information mutually relates, is modeled systematically (e.g. by explicitation of context) and naturally unfolds itself. This possibly sounds somewhat abracadabra, but will become more clear when the above model gets dressed up a little more.

The previous (open) model can easily (and in principle unendingly) grow and develop:

  • Each specialisation can, in turn, be taken as a… Concept:
    In the context of a, for example, function classification (Context) the employee can be taken as a Concept en specialise to, for example, a general (Concept-in-Context).
  • Each specialisation can, in turn, be taken as a… Context:
    The employee can also be taken as a Context for the specialisation of, for example, clothing (Concept) to uniform (Concept-in-Context).

Growth/development is not limited to a downward direction (as just described); upwards development is possible as well. For the concepts that immediately connect to the horizon (Context and Concept) can also be taken as specialisations of other material; material ‘waiting’ behind the horizon [3].

The next model shows, still in a general fashion, the aforementioned developments in a tangible manner:

This second model ‘says’: An Employee starts out as a Natural Person (Concept). A General is an Employee at a Company (Context). Being an Employee at a Company, a General uses specialised Clothing (Concept): a Uniform.

This model even more clearly shows that with respect to meaningful information it’s all about the way information concepts mutually relate. Uniform has Employee as its context. Employee has Company as its context. Company has the horizon as its context. Each concept gets its situated meaning from its specific (above) context; the context in which it manifests itself. And, in opposite direction: any concept in the model contributes to the meaning of the concepts below it (also referred to as “intext”).

Who starts practicing the concept of Architecture of Information, easily discovers how relevant properties systematically and durably get distributed along coherently modeled concepts. An Employee starts out as a Natural Person. And the attributes that hold for Natural Person do not repeat themselves for Employee for they are always attainable via relationship. In the same way we get a robust distribution of attributes (also read: meaning) along the linked concepts General, Employee and Natural Person.

What is, for example, “wage”? Well, it depends! It depends on the specific situation in which “wage” manifests itself. And the entire government practice is infested with problematic concepts like wage. This blurs and confuses and slackens a great deal of our information exchanges. As a consequence societal development wavers.

Would application of Architecture of Information be of real help here? Who practices the concept Architecture of Information orderly arranges problematic concepts – one by one and context for context – in one single model. A model that coherently shows the essential differences and similarities in meaning of the conjoining concepts.
Humans live their lives from situation to situation; it’s the way they are wired. And meaning isn’t a sitting duck; it ‘follows’ situation – so to speak. That’s also part of human wiring. Therefore human beings would greatly benefit from information systems that are designed and built based on information models that comply with Architecture of Information.

September 2013, Copyright (c) 2013 – Jan van Til/Information Roundabout

1. For more information on Metapattern, please do have a look at Information Dynamics.
2. The organisation principle of “Contextual Specialization” is designed and developed by Pieter Wisse; please have a look at his website.
3. Sideward development is, of course, possible as well.

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