From The Reasoner , **Volume 7, Number 5 - May 2013 **
5 th Workshop on Philosophy of Information, University of Hertfordshire.
The fifth workshop on the Philosophy of Information took place at the University of Hertfordshire 27th to 28th March 2013, organised by the UNESCO Chair in Information and Computer Ethics in collaboration with the AHRC project ‘Understanding Information Quality Standards and their Challenges’ (2011–2013).
The topic was the intersection between qualitative and quantitative views of information. Nineteen papers were presented whose themes were diverse yet united by the application of informational methods.
The keynote speaker, Dr Leonelli (Exeter) discussed Data integration and the management of information in contemporary biology. In particular, she reflected on what it means and takes to integrate data to acquire new knowledge about biological entities and processes, focusing specifically on the facilitating role of data-sharing tools. Continuing the biology theme, Russo (Brussels and Kent) and Illari (Hertfordshire and UCL) argued that biomarkers research can be used as a test case for an informational account of causality, illustrating how even in complex cases, the idea of tracing a causal link could still be vital to the scientific practice.
In an interesting perspective on consciousness Gamez (Sussex) considered whether “Information or Data Patterns are Correlated with Consciousness?” He discussed howexperimental work on the correlates of consciousness is attempting to identify the relationship between phenomenal and physical states. While information integration is currently the only explicitly informational theory of consciousness, other algorithms could be used to identify information patterns in the brain that could be correlated with consciousness.
Algorithms were also discussed by Gobbo (L’Aquila) and Benini (Leeds) in their co-authored paper on computational complexity bringing together an aspect of information in Computer Science (CS) that is quantitative and qualitative at the same time: measuring, an act that is often described as ‘describing a phenomenon by a number’. Other papers that were concerned with modeling were given by Coghill (Aberdeen) and Antón (Sevilla), while Hamami (Vrije) approached the topic from a mathematical perspective
Two papers considered information security and individual rights. Pym (Aberdeen) argued that information security is concerned with the protection of the attributes of items of information that are of value to the owners, users, and stewards of that information. Taddeo’s (Warwick) paper addressed two challenging and ethical questions; namely, whether the transformations engendered by the information revolution create the need for individuals to claim new rights for themselves as agents living the onlife, and what such rights should be. Primiero (Ghent) looked at distrust and mistrust relations for privatively and modally qualified information channels.
Many of the papers referenced the work on the philosophy of information carried out by Floridi (Hertfordshire and Oxford). His paper, _Maker’s Knowledge and the synthetic uninformative, _ soughtto understand what kind of knowledge this is as when Alice (knows or rather) is informed (holds the information) that Bob’s coffee is sweetened because she just put two spoons of sugar in it.
The Workshop demonstrated that the philosophy of information is a multi- faceted and topical field of research, not only in itself, but also as a conceptual framework for other established philosophical domains, allowing elaboration from an informational perspective.
Interested readers can see all the abstracts on the website of Society for the Philosophy of Information (SPI) and indeed, may be inspired to join. Please visit http://www.socphilinfo.org for further information.
PA to Prof Luciano Floridi
University of Hertfordshire