ExperimentsInformation & LawLab NotesNotesReflections

Abandoning the concept (and illustration) of “information collection” for that of “production”

In its original 1990 version, the theory of interpersonal information processes refers to collection as one of information’s logical phases. The term collection is borrowed from protection of personal information law, which itself borrowed it from the lexicon of public and private bureaucracies. However, the word collection (action to pick a pre-existing object) masks the presence of a production of new informational artifacts. The result is that several implications are veiled, particularly those related to the intellectual property of the new information objects and to their pragmatic dimension.

The question then is: should collection really be considered as a logical phase of information? Or is it the chosen term that is inadequate?

Funnel (illustrating the concept of collection of information)

Funnel illustrating the concept of collection of information

The trials to visually represent this phase have questioned the very concept of collection. My research on how to visually evoke the idea of collection finally leaned toward a symbol suggesting a funnel. The wide entrance collects information items. Its output, represented by the narrow end of the funnel, “channels” the information objects toward the subsequent phases thus supplied.

The analogy between word and image works. Except that, irresistibly, a question arises: where do the “collected” or “gathered” information items come from? If they come from another person, then this is not a collection, but a communication (represented in the model by a rectangle arrow). And if they do not come from somewhere else, then this is a creation of new artifacts. In one case as in the other, the notion of collection, although frequently used by law, appears inadequate and inaccurate.

Hence the need to abandon the concept of collection for that of production. This production can be done at the opening of a file. For example, when an organization’s employees or its customers themselves fill in a form. It is then outright creation (“out of nothing”). This production can also result from processing operations of already existing information items so as to generate new ones. Or from any other procedure. Whatever. Each production corresponds to new artifacts to which intellectual property applies and meanings are attached.

Illustration of "production of information" (framing the creation phase or the information created with three concentrically layered rounded corner rectangles)

Illustration of “production of information” (here, price charged)

I tried different ways to represent the production or creation of new information objects. Finally, I was inspired by the PICOL icons representing wireless emissions from networks and devices with three concentrically layered circle sections. I opted to frame the creation phase or the information created with three concentrically layered rounded corner rectangles. The resulting icon is simultaneously evocative, highly adaptable and harmonized with PICOL iconography.

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