Information Ecology

Humpty Dumpty

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory'," Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't---till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' " "But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected. "When I use a word", Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean---neither more nor less." "The question is", said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is", said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be the master------that's all."

          Lewis Carroll 1896, from Ch.6 of Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There


Information ecology is an emerging field generally concerned with modeling information processes in human systems. The term has been used in computer science and business management. In most cases, "ecology" is used metaphorically, rather than using actual tools or principles of modeling developed by biological ecologists. Anthropology has a long tradition of applying the science of ecology to human behavior and adaptation. A primary concern of anthropology is to understand how culture brings meaning to our lives and guides our behavior. In particular, rituals, symbols, and the meanings they impart determine the ways information is used in any culture. These systems of meaning can lead to beautiful expressions of the human spirit and/or horrible atrocities. One goal of information ecology is to understand how information is distributed and processed in cultural systems in order to understand why cultures successfully adapt to changes beyond their control, fail catastrophically, or become socio-pathological. Since 1996, H.E. Kuchka has been working to develop an anthropological approach to Information Ecology.

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