A typology of information

A typology of information has been proposed by Van Gunsteren (1988) which can be summarised as follows.

Let us consider the design decision of an architect involved in an Open Design process, i.e. in a situation where he has to deal with a multitude of stakeholder interests. If God himself were to make that decision, He could make use of all the information relevant to the matter concerned. This information is labelled relevant information (Fig. 5.1).

The architect, of course, receives much more information than he is ever able to use for his particular decision. This information is labelled information paid attention to. The part of that information having relevance to the purpose concerned - the design decision - is called used information.

Relevant information to which no attention is paid, is labelled Cassandra information. (The god Apollo, being in love with Cassandra, the beautiful daughter of King Priam of Troy, gave her a present: the ability to predict the future. When she rejected him in spite of that gift, he could not take it back because a gift from a god is a gift forever. Therefore, he provided her with another: no one would ever listen to her. When she warned the Trojans about the wooden horse, her advice was ignored and the city was subsequently destroyed.)

used information used information

relevant information information paid attention to

Figure 5.1 Information pertinent to architects

The information paid attention to by the architect that is not relevant is called confusion information, as this type of information tends to confuse the issue.

When dealing with information (in an Open Design process) the architect should, of course, primarily be concerned with Cassandra information. He must strive to reduce the likelihood that relevant information is overlooked or ignored.

In principal, this can be done in two different ways (Fig. 5.2):

1. Increasing the information paid attention to. It cannot be denied that in this way Cassandra information is indeed reduced, but at the same time confusion information increases. The availability of ever more powerful computers generates a trend in this direction (making the problem of overabundance of information worse than it was already);

2. Reducing Cassandra information along with reducing confusion information. This is what good (expert) consultants (and designers) try to do: telling their client what is relevant to him. No more, no less.

The latter is the essence of the typology: try to simultaneously minimise both Cassandra information and confusion information.

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