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Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited
Advances in modern technology have given new meanings to the word information. Described at the turn of the century simply as "something that is told", it later took the meaning of "to encompass all knowledge". Recently, its use in the title "Information Technology (IT)", has led to further speculation and indeed much confusion about its interpretation. We now have the word information included in almost every title that may be used to name some activity associated with computing machines. Not only do we have IT but informatics described as the science of processing information data; information science thought of as the study of processing information and so many more descriptive titles that conjure up the image of a modern, contemporary, computer-orientated subject or field. Information systems has now become a more recognisable title. Information theory, however, is a title that does not owe its origins to computer technology but has an accepted meaning in as much as it is thought of as a mathematical study of the coding and transmission of sequences of symbols, impulses, etc.
Whatever our own interpretation of the information and activities associated with its concept we are becoming increasingly aware of its multidisciplinary nature. Cyberneticians and systemists expect a multidisciplinary, and indeed a transdisciplinary approach, to be made to any field, whether it be concerned with business or science or any other compartmentalised activity. Such approaches to studies and systems involved with information are therefore regarded as natural and inevitable progressions.
In this special issue of the journal we have concentrated on but some of the latest trends in these multidisciplinary approaches. They involve both theoretical considerations as well as the more practical applications. An attempt has been made to initiate discussions and to ask important questions about information and information processing systems. Information theory is introduced and many of its contemporary interpretations analysed and discussed. To do this we have presented the issue in three parts:
Part I Multidisciplinary applications of information systems;
Part II Information theory invited tutorial study; and finally,
Part III Information theoretic framework.
Dr R.C. Papademetriou is the Guest Editor for the first part and he has chosen five papers which form a collection that illustrates the wide range of methodologies and applications in this rapidly changing area. He describes their relevance in his guest editorial: "Scanning the field". His work in signal processing and applications is already well known, as is his support for this journal.
In the second part, Dr Lars Skyttner, who is an author (see Hutton, 1997) and a past contributor to Kybernetes, presents a tutorial study. The Editorial Board believes that such a study, which looks at both old and new concepts on information theory, is timely, and invited him to prepare such an appraisal. His discussion takes the form of a tutorial study which looks at the ideas of information theory from a cybernetical viewpoint. He believes that information theory underlies cybernetics and its information processing aspects. In his study he shows how the principles and concepts used in information theory can be both understood and used from a psychological basis without, he believes, the use of complicated mathematics.
In the third part of this issue, however, Professor Guy Jumarie relies on mathematics to introduce a new approach to information and self-organisation. Dr Jumarie is a long-standing contributor to Kybernetes on this subject and many readers will recall his contribution (Jumarie, 1996) in which he discussed his views of five decades of information theory, outlining some of the successes, the disappointments and some of the future prospects.
This special issue therefore provides a truly multidisciplinary view of information concepts as well as providing a similar approach to information and information processing. The aim is to stimulate discussion and to present new and thought provoking ideas to this fascinating multidisciplinary subject. No one, we believe, can afford to ignore such studies in a world that has so rapidly become what is now commonly accepted to be an information society.
Hutton, D.M. (1997), "Review: General systems theory: an introduction", by Skyttner, L., Kybernetes, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 238-9.
Jumarie, G. (1996), "Five decades of information theory: successes, disappointments, prospects," Kybernetes, Vol. 25 No. 7/8, pp. 164-87.