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“A few exciting words”: information and entropy revisited

Bawden, D. & Robinson, L. (2014). “A few exciting words”: information and entropy revisited. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 66(10), pp. 1965-1987. doi: 10.1002/asi.23459


A review is presented of the relation between information and entropy, focusing on two main issues: the similarity of the formal definitions of physical entropy, according to statistical mechanics, and of information, according to information theory; and the possible subjectivity of entropy considered as missing information. The paper updates the 1983 analysis of Shaw and Davis. The difference in the interpretations of information given respectively by Shannon and by Wiener, significant for the information sciences, receives particular consideration.

A nalysis of a range of material, from literary theory to thermodynamics, is used to draw out the issues. Emphasis is placed on recourse to the original sources, and on direct quotation, to attempt to overcome some of the misunderstandings and over‐simplifications which have occurred with these topics.

While it is strongly related to entropy, information is neither identical with it, nor its opposite. Information is related to order and pattern, but also to disor der and randomness. The relations between information and the ‘interesting complexity’, which embodies both pattern and randomness, are worthy of attention.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Bawden, D. and Robinson, L. (2015), “A few exciting words”: Information and entropy revisited. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Publisher Keywords: information theory; information entropy; complexity; randomness; physics
Subjects: Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science
Departments: School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering > Library & Information Science
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