Situational Meaning

Did you know that the vast majority of ICT-educated people are thoroughly trained to believe that meaning of information is fixed and can be defined at forehand?

Did you know that most otherwise-educated people know that meaning of information depends on and varies with the ever developing situation at hand?

From social psychology we know, for already some decades now, that meaning of information heavily depends on the situation in which it comes about. In other words: meaning of information depends on the context it is in. A moody tiger looking at you from his cage means something quite different to you than the same tiger looking at you while sitting in front of it.

Did you realise that most otherwise-educated people are fully unaware of the fact that ICT-educated people design and build information systems that are entirely based on fixed, on predefined meaning of information?

Did you? Did you realise that any of the information systems you work with… supply you with information according to just as many differing fixed sets of meaning? Did you realise that all the information systems you work with expect you to respond in accordance with these fixed sets of meaning? And… do you behave that way? How often do you shake your head or even get irritated while using an information system that isn’t able to simply serve you in your actual work situation?

Some forty years ago our world still turned rather slow. At that time society hardly changed and everything in it stayed very much the same for years. In such a world one can assume meaning to be fixed. In such a society no real harm will manifest from that. Today’s world, however, shows us something completely different. Nothing stays the same for long anymore. Almost everything is almost continually influenced by almost everything else. And in such a society… a full-blown information society… the fundamental flaw in the assumption of fixed meaning becomes a real pain in the neck – blocking further societal and organisational developments.

Two qualitatively differing worlds are running into each other like tectonic plates…. It’s the ICT world of fixed meaning grating the real world of situational meaning. And none of both knows or realises it. The effects are, however, annoyingly real. The people in the ICT world of fixed meaning don’t have a clue of the ever increasing problem they create. They keep ‘requesting’ information system users to give up and conform themselves to the fixed sets of meaning provided by these systems. The people in the real world of situational meaning don’t have a clue of the problem the other world creates since it’s so bloody obvious that meaning of information is throughout situational.

Why would you, or anyone, need an Information Roundabout? An Information Roundabout is an infrastructural facility that is thoroughly grounded in Situational Meaning. An Information Roundabout provides you with systematically organised information enabling you to construct meaning you situationally need in order to be effective right now and right here.

In case you feel you need some additional – grounding – information on Situational Meaning, you may want to have a look at Peirce’s Semiotic Triad and Wisse’s Semiotic Ennead on this site.

October 2011, Copyright (c) 2011 – Jan van Til/Information Roundabout

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