How to Teach About Information as Related to Documentation?

Henning Spang-Hanssen


The word information is certainly not a new word in the English language – nor in other languages that adopt Latin words, for instance German (Information) or Russian (informacija). However, during the last 20 years this word has acquired the status of a word very much in vogue – like for instance communication, data and cybernetics.

So in Denmark the word information was certainly known by at least certain groups of people before the Second World War, but nowadays it has almost suppressed the formerly much more used Danish word "oplysning" (which etymologically corresponds to enlightenment). This development is due to a variety of influences of a cultural, political and technical nature, and it has been a result of the word being used extensively in professional terminology and in the language usage in newspapers and radio.

The word information has been successful not only as a separate word, but even in combinations like information theory, information system, information center, information retrieval, and SDI (selective dissemination of information). The term information science is rapidly gaining ground in the United States as covering what has earlier been spoken about as documentation research or theory of documentation. It is illustrative that the American Documentation Institute changed its name a few years ago to the American Society for Information Science.

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