It is nowadays a commonplace that we are living in an ‘information society’. The practical importance of information to problem solving, decision making, and just plain coping with life is clear to all. The communication of information in society is an immensely variegated and complex phenomenon, and the more understanding of it we can achieve, the more effective can it become.
This book is an attempt to present and discuss a scientific understanding of the processes of information transfer. This transfer is a human, social activity: it is the transfer of meaning from one person to another, through whatever apparatus of media, machines, and intermediaries that may exist. This is the central principle that has guided our selection of subject matter for the book and that has shaped our presentation of the subject.
In seeking scientific understanding of the processes of information transfer we have had to go considerably outside the subject limits within which ‘information science’ as an academic subject is normally constrained. In doing this we are following the same path as current advanced research in the field. It has become increasingly clear that only by widening its ‘knowledge base’ can information science establish a solid foundation for future development.
Our title mentions both theory and practice. There is a good deal of theoretical research and discussion embedded in the text, and we are very conscious of the need for theory development. But we have also sought to relate theory both to experimental studies of information processes and to the practical environment of information provision.