Information Basis for Action in Human Information Processing: Consequences for Information System Design

Bertil Lind

Abstract


Information is available internally as well as all around us. It is possible to identify a
number of different levels for information. Internally we can find genetic information that
will make us the way we are. It will determine our characteristics as human beings. There
is also other internal information that we are unaware of, information that controls
automatic processes like heartbeat and breathing. We also have internal information that
we are aware of. Such information appears when we are thinking of something or solving
problems using our previous knowledge and impressions from the outside world.
External information can be obtained from several different information sources. Physical
objects may convey information to us when we perceive them. Such information can be
obtained through active as well as passive search. Conversation with other people is
another information source. Talking to people can also give us information through active
as well as passive search. Reference information is found in for example encyclopaedias
and reference literature. Such information is usually found through active search, but it
may happen that when looking for one concept you get information about another
concept and therefore this kind of information can also be gained through passive search.
Mass media is another information source that will bring us news information. We are fed
with the information that news editors has chosen to deliver to us. Encyclopaedias and
mass media can be seen as logical objects. There are also other kinds of logical objects
that may convey information to us such as for example books about a certain subject or
fiction. I will call this kind of logical objects descriptions. Descriptive information is
usually gained through passive search. Regardless of information source, we get
information only after we have interpreted the impressions and created a meaning using
previous knowledge. Information is thus regarded as an internal concept. We can see that
much of the information is a direct base for action. Thoughts are used for decision
making, which is we plan actions according to what we think. Information from external
sources can also be used as a base for actions since we use information obtained in that
way for decision making. An information system should help the user in information
processing. Since information is the base for actions it is not enough to look at usability
aspects of the information system but actability aspects must also be considered.
Actability means that the system should support and encourage the user to perform the
actions that the supplied information will imply as well as to support the information
behaviour of the user to find the information that he or she needs.

Keywords


information, information system design, actability, levels of information, action, information behaviour

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