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What is FIS? What is Information?
Many people know about FIS because of its discussion list, almost a classic in these fields. From its very beginnings in early 90’s as an informal endeavor promoted by Michael Conrad and this author, the FIS initiative (Foundations of Information Science) has been an attempt to rescue the information concept out from its classical controversies and use it as a central scientific tool, so as to serve as a basis for a new, fundamental disciplinary development –Information Science. This renewed discipline should be understood as one of the fundamental sciences, and leading one of the four Great Domains of Science: the Physical, the Biological, the Social, and the Informational (Computational?).
Scholars and scientists from very different fields have converged onto this collective long-term project, that, after some difficult starts in 1992-1993, has matured in a series of successful conferences (Madrid 1994, Vienna 1996, Paris 2005, Beijing 2010, Moscow 2013, Vienna 2015, and Gothenburg 2017). Several scholarly publications and a vast accumulation of electronic exchanges in a high-quality discussion list have been produced during all these years. (See archives in the different sections of this Web page.) The FIS discussion list has been an essential instrument to keep alive the Foundations of Information Science initiative –which in late years has fructified with the creation of the International Society for Information Studies (IS4IS), that has hold, together with FIS, the Moscow, Vienna and Gothenburg conferences.
At FIS, rather than the discussion of a single particularized concept, information becomes the intellectual adventure of developing a ‘vertical’ or ‘transdisciplinary’ science connecting the different threads and scales of informational processes, which demands both a unifying and a multi-perspective approach. Above all, the solution of the numerous conundrums and conceptual puzzles around information becomes the patient task of a community of scholars, in which the ideas and speculations of each individual thinker can be shared and experienced upon by the other colleagues, so that a sort of ‘group mind’ develops (paraphrasing L. Hyde, 1979): one that is capable of cognitive tasks beyond the power of any single person.
In our times, information represents a crucial discussion theme in many arenas (from quantum and cosmological processes, to biological organization, nervous systems, social complexity, economics, and social sustainability). Thus the advancement of information science (or of “the science of information”) appears as a plural and open enterprise – whereby the intellectual capital amassed at FIS has to be shared and joined with other multidisciplinary efforts and organizational enterprises.
This web page, and the discussion list itself (the most valuable FIS resource, with so many thousand messages exchanged), will be kept permanently open, inviting to affiliation and participation of any like-minded individual thinker or institutional venture.
Pedro C. Marijuán