When people say that something is information, they probably really mean that it is presumed-information, very much like the notion of being presumed innocent until proven guilty.
In one of my most favorite blog posts ever, for satisfying the feeling of both accomplishment (subtle pleasures) and development, I disused a process for identifying disinformation surrounding the primary information in a news article. The focus, and the reason why I wanted to ‘out’ the disinformation, was the headline.
I only went so far as deconstructing the articles headline for two reasons; first, I am still developing my ideas and wanted to start with something small. Second, compared to how much time it takes for me to consume a normal news article, consuming it in this fashion takes considerably more time. I hope to eventually streamline some of these processes with the help of computer software, but first I need to practice and better understand this stuff.
Processing an entire article, and not just processing a headline and specific parts of an article, will take much longer. I have not committed enough time to try it, yet. But every so often, while reading an interesting article, I spot some presumed-information that is obviously needing support.
For instance, this article from Foreignpolicy.com titled, “All the Pentagon’s Lawyers”, contains a sentence that is screaming vagueness.
The United States was instrumental in the creation of the United Nations and the various international human rights treaties and institutions.
I could not help but think about the above XKCD comic after reading it.
The quote by Rosa Brooks, however much support the author (information producer) may think it provides, initiated a slippery slope condition for me (the information consumer), so much so that I was no longer thinking about the story of the article but instead how ill-used this specific byte of information is.
Aside, however stark this specific byte of information is, every sentence consumed should have its own probability-of-informativeness.
This is not to say that the sentence in question is not informative–it has highlighted an issue, obviously important to the information producer, that has been presumed by the information producer to be important, and relevant, to the primary information of the article.
So, what is this sentence, in the scope of inferred information classification, as stand-alone information? This is mostly a mental exercise, but critical for breaking information down for identifying entropy or misinformation. This is not exhaustive:
– Primary: the United States as a stakeholder
– Primary: the United Nations as a stakeholder
– Primary-meta: the notion of international human rights
– Primary-operational: the notion of creating treaties and institutions
What is clearly lacking here, as stand-alone information, is derivative information. To me, “The United States was instrumental [how]…” is where this could have easily been expanded, and ideally, in relation to the rest of the article.
What is the inferred information classification of the article? It seems that there are four ways of figuring this out:
1. Read the article-title
2. Read the article and describe it in a sentence or two
3. Visually depict the article by word-count
4. Visually depict the article by information-network
#1 is easiest, but only to obtain a general (and likely memorable) idea. #2 is easy, but describing it as if inputting its content into a Wikipedia article takes a bit of work. Especially for me since I have a reading-comprehension learning disability. It takes longer than most for me to synthesize written text, and is probably why I am so keen to break information down in this manner. #2 also has the strength of showing the articles retrospective subjectivity according to the information consumer.
There is a tool to make #3 in a snap: Wordle.net. However unfortunately, doing so severely lacks specificity:
#4 is where I hope to take this research, as I am unaware of any tool to help do this in any useful way. To accomplish this would be very complex, which mirrors the nature of information, let alone the nature of sharing information. Information should be understood according to the scope of the story provided (the shared network of information), but also in the larger context of an information network, where these bits and bytes link with the other bits and bytes of other available information by other information producers.
Back to the sentence in question, it is clearly derivative. Concerning the scope of the article, without following up in such a manner that would require me to do my own research, it does appear to be valid in use, and therefore is likely primary-derivative in nature. Hence the slippery slope–the information byte is derivative, but so much so that it is lacking its own derivative support to appear sound. There is so much entropy between this byte of primary-derivative information and the scope of this article that it, at first, appeared to be misinformation. Using information like this should be discouraged.
Rosa Brooks, the author, probably knew that including this byte of information was a stretch because of her use of parenthesis (yet being its own sentence). This might only be a sign laziness, but I certainly cannot claim to remember to replicate 100% of my knowledge into information for others when writing. It is very interesting to see the diversity of branches and leaves in an intelligently created network of semantic information.