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Information Ecology

Table of Contents

When speaking of ‘the environment’, most people still think only of the tangible, physical environment of air, earth, fire, water and life.   But these material ecosystems are bound together in an emergent flow of sustaining energy and information; the Earth-Sun-Universe connection. It is this thermodynamic life force, this radiant electromagnetic environment, and its impacts on the human body and mind, and on all life, to which a sense of ecology must also be acknowledged.

While we understand a great deal about material ecosystems, and are now including entropy and energy flows in our equations, we have barely applied understandings of ecology to information. The information environment; the flow of information; and the sensory and communicative effects of information, have to date not been included in most whole-systems ecological understandings and applications. This is a major omission that will have evermore troubling consequences as local-global societies increasingly tune into, develop, consume, pollute, manipulate and live in the information environment. An ecological understanding of information is as critical to life as that of climate, microorganisms, watersheds, air quality, forests, or migrating populations.

Information is not just data or bits.  It is not simply a useful technical resource; a commodity that can be sent and received, bought and sold, and regulated.  Information must also be considered as patterns of perception, genetic expression, cognitive relationships and differences.  The flow of information determines the course of social evolution.  Decisions regarding spectrum allocation, regulatory interventions, copyright, property, privacy, digital divides, technology development or “new economies” cannot be effective, if made without an ecological context.

Information ecology extends our basic understandings of ecology to the physical, social and economic transformations being wrought by the rapid developments in information technology, networking, and by our becoming an increasingly tele-networked ‘society of mind’.

Most of us now personally communicate globally, gather and share large databases and media files, receive un-vetted news, have cyber-infrastructure make our cities and towns ‘smart’, and feel the effects of information overload, future uncertainty and constant need to technologically keep up.   An ecologically integrated understanding of our information environment and our actions therein will be as critical to sustainability goals, as is improved ecological understanding of our material environment: climate, energy, water, forests, food, agriculture and the economy.

This Report, based on a rapid assessment of the field, proposes some next steps for integration of information and communications networking, applications, learning and implementation, with the purpose of augmenting and furthering the work of mountain regions’ sustainability, well-being and resilience.  Understanding of complex whole-systems ecological processes and human activities in the environment, are key to this critical work.  Setting examples for ecological information and communication processes is a fundamental challenge for our networked world.

Gunter Pauli FROM DATA MINING TO DATA FARMING        2/25/2021

​Nature, and all members of the ecosystems have created an amazing variety of communication systems, both on land and under water. It is easy to be impressed since the speed, density and social commitment goes beyond what humans would consider. In this three part article we first explore how nature communicates, second we study the parallel between data and petroleum, and finally we discuss how a new generation of internet could look like: inspired by nature.

Luciano Floridi   Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Rafael Capurro

“Towards an Information Ecology”. Irene Wormell (Ed.): Information and Quality. London: Taylor Graham. pp. 122–139, 288, 1990.

Thomas H. Davenport + Laurence Prusak

Information Ecology, Oxford University Press. 1997.

Alexei Eryomin

Information Ecology – a Viewpoint, International Journal of Environmental Studies. – Vol. 54. – pp. 241–253, 1998.

George Pór

“Nurturing Systemic Wisdom through Knowledge Ecology”, The Systems Thinker, 2000.