[Understandable but with some grammatical missteps]
There is no standard definition of "information flow", and neither there is of "information". Nevertheless, in ordinary life we seem to be in agreement with the meanings of information and information flow. A major problem is to know whether information flow is a concept or a metaphor. Here we are going to assume it is a concept.
While the concept of information is quite difficult to grasp, a definition of information flow in terms of information should not be that hard. Therefore, in this entry we propose an informal definition of information flow from the starting point of some elementary concepts in a well-established theory of semantic information: situation theory (Barwise and Perry 1983; Barwise 1989; Devlin 1991).
1. Information and information flow
Situation theory distinguishes between information and information flow (Devlin 1991: 142-144). The basic assumption is that information is abstract and can be used for classifying concrete states of affairs. On this assumption is built up the following distinction:
In theories prior to situation theory this distinction was not always taken into account. Neither it is clearly stated in recent proposals like that of Floridi (2005). On the other hand, whenever the flow of information is on the focus two typical problems arise immediately:
2. Defining information flow
Now then, neither in situation theory nor in further theories information flow is defined as such. It is only said that there is flow of information whenever some states of affairs carry information about each other. A definition of information flow must be therefore based on the concept of information.
If we call "distributed system" to any collection of states of affairs that are able of carrying information about each other (Barwise and Seligman 1997), and we call "information transfer" to the fact that -with respect to a distributed system- a state of affairs actually informs about another one, then we can define the flow of information within a distributed system as the class of all its information transfers with respect to certain analysis of the system as well as certain period of time. This definition has the advantage of conforming with common sense and with some basic yet fundamental concepts of situation theory.
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J. Ostalé (3/2010)
[It correspond with the article directly edited in the article column]