Theories of Information, Communication and Knowledge

Volume 34 of the series Studies in History and Philosophy of Science pp 51-69


Epistemology and the Study of Social Information Within the Perspective of a Unified Theory of Information

  • Wolfgang HofkirchnerAffiliated withInstitute for Design and Technology Assessment, Vienna University of Technology Email author 

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Within the framework of the Unified Theory of Information (UTI) developed by the present author, knowledge is a part of social information. More specifically, social information is defined as any information appearing in social, or human, systems.

The study of social information has methodological implications. Its methodology is partly an application of generalisations of findings of the discipline that studies social information – which means it is an application of the theoretical considerations of the discipline to further research – and partly an application of epistemology to the constitution of scientific knowledge in the field – which means it is an application of philosophical considerations to the discipline.

On the other hand, epistemology deals with general features of social information and so needs the feedback from the discipline that studies it.

This chapter shows how epistemology and the study of social information are linked to each other within the perspective of UTI. In the first section, epistemology provides foundations for the methodology of social information studies. This involves discussions of ontological and praxiological issues, the way of transdisciplinary thinking, the relation of explanation and understanding, and semiotic notions. In the second section, these foundations are applied to social information studies. Social information is embedded in an evolution of information-generating processes of self-organising systems. It is this evolution from which meaning originates. It is argued that knowledge is located in the universe of cognitive, communicative, and co-operative information in social systems.