Letter to the editor

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 18 October 2011



(2011), "Letter to the editor", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 67 No. 6. https://doi.org/10.1108/jd.2011.27867faa.003



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Letter to the editor

Article Type: Letter to the editor From: Journal of Documentation, Volume 67, Issue 6

In a recent article in the Journal of Documentation on the topic of information, John M. Budd references an article of mine on the same topic (Bates, 2006). Budd states: “Bates (2006) has sought to identify information as an agglomeration of matter and energy, and claims that it can be encoded or embodied” (Budd, 2011, p. 60).

This description of my definition is precisely and exactly wrong. In my article, after defining information as the pattern or organization of matter and energy, I note:

This distinction between the pattern of organization and the material or energy that constitutes the pattern is crucial. As Wiener has said: “Information is information, not matter or energy” (Wiener, 1961, p. 132). (Bates, 2006, p. 1035).

I agree with Wiener; information is not matter or energy, as I noted in the article Budd cites. Also, in the companion article I wrote on information (Bates, 2005), which is cited in the article Budd references, I devote a whole section titled “Is Information Material?” to that question. The discussion is subtler than can be quickly reprised here, but the reader is invited to visit the original at: http://InformationR.net/ir/10-4/paper239.html

Marcia J. BatesProfessor Emerita, Department of Information Studies, University of California,Los Angeles CA, USAEmail: mjbates@ucla.edu


I apologize for mischaracterizing the work of Bates. Her clarification is noted. That said, I do disagree that information is information; no tautology helps to define what information is. Bates does expand greatly on the discussion of what information can be conceived as, and her work should be read closely in conjunction with mine.

John M. BuddProfessor, School of Information Science & Learning Technologies, University of Missouri, Columbia MO, USAEmail: BuddJ@missouri.edu


Bates, M.J. (2005), “Information and knowledge: an evolutionary framework for information science”, Information Research, Vol. 10 No. 4, paper 239, (available at http://InformationR.net/ir/10-4/paper239.html)

Bates, M.J. (2006), “Fundamental forms of information”, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Vol. 57 No. 8, pp. 1033–45

Budd, J.M. (2011), “Meaning, truth, and information: prolegomena to a theory”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 67 No. 1, pp. 56–74

Wiener, N. (1961), Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, 2nd ed. , MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

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