The Other Pitfalls of Information Processing
The Other Pitfalls of Information Processing
In the broadest sense, information is well structured, processed and organised information. It gives context to data and allows rational decision making. For instance, a single consumer’s sale in a restaurant is statistical data-this becomes information when the company is able to accurately identify the most common or least common dish. In the context of an organisation, information may be used to gain competitive advantage, as it provides crucial details about how existing customers are perceived, how new customers are attracted or how current customers are negatively impacted by changes in certain areas.
In September last year, an MP stated that in order for the UK to remain a leading country, there should be a focus on information technology. He went further to state that; “We cannot move forward without the sort of data centre that we have today. If we want to continue to be at the forefront of technological innovation, then that’s what we need to be doing. But I also think that we can’t move on from the fundamental architecture of our system without shifting a significant amount of our workload.” This MP was referring to the shift in workload which took place during the period of the credit crunch. His comments were widely publicised, therefore providing ammunition for those opposing information technology, particularly in the financial sector, who argue that information technology is not the answer all that should be done to remain a successful nation.
However, an alternative argument to this is that technology is the answer all that should be done to remain a successful nation. An academic from Durham University conducted an extensive research into the topic ‘Innovation’, focusing on three main points. These three factors form the crux of the debate. These factors are information technology, business process change and knowledge creation. According to the Durham researcher, the first factor represents the actual creation of new knowledge or new developments. For instance, the invention of the computer, information technology such as the internet and mobile phones, telecommunications, software development all represent the creation of new information.
The second aspect represents business process change. Business process change refers to the process by which organisations use information to make informed decisions about their operations and about the production of goods and services. The third factor, information technology, refers to the means by which information is processed. This includes such things as internet access, digital machines and other associated technologies. The Durham researcher suggests that there are three major potential pitfalls if information processing is to succeed. These include the risks associated with information security, the dangers related to information processing and the dangers of relying too heavily on information technology and not enough on the production of economic goods and services.
As regards the second aspect of information theory – information processing – there is a potential pitfall identified as the “instrumental” approach to information processing. In the instrumental approach, a decision-maker uses one or more specific tools (such as a spreadsheet, a database or a simple list) to process information, without taking the time to consider its affect on causal inputs such as human beings, raw materials and so on. According to Durham, this approach is flawed because it “couples information processing with the task of creating meaning”. According to him, then, the effect of information processing is to create an environment in which what was previously unclear or uncertain becomes transparent and therefore worthy of criminal prosecution.
According to Durham, the other pitfall associated with information processing is when it is used to create meaning or to justify the use of violence or to support power structures. For instance, information can be twisted to justify police surveillance, racial profiling and the disproportionate use of force against minority groups. In these instances, the criminal justice system can be said to be “undercover”. Information also can be twisted to justify the use of physical force against civilians in the name of protecting them from harm. Again, the criminal justice system can be said to be “undercover” when a school teacher spits in their kid’s face and the criminal justice system kills him because the teacher was “upside down” and had crossed the line of normalcy. According to Durham, then, the other pitfall is when an information processor uses his or her information processing skills to create meaning or to justify violent or immoral behavior.