English: Critique of Information
Spanish: Crítica de la información
Origin of the term
Critique of Information is the title of one of the books published by the social philosopher Scott Lash [Critique of Information, 2002]. The concept is apparently influenced by the titles of Kant’s critical works but is used in the context of social criticism, characteristic of the members of the Frankfurt school. Lash poses the question of what legitimacy such a social critique can have in the information epoch, when there is no shared faith in some transcendental guarantor with reference to whom the available reality is to be measured.
Scott Lash defines information through its main characteristics: it forms a stream, it has been pulled out of the medium (i. e. is fragmented, decontextualized), it is compressed in space and time, and it has a fleeting topicality. These characteristics of the predominant part of the messages around which contemporary society is organized are the reason we live in the information age (Лаш : 30).
Lash challenges the thesis that power still operates through subjugating everything with respect to some instrumental calculating rationality. In information society this is no longer the case: it moves from order to disorder and thence to a new order. The highly rational production leads to quasi anarchy of multiplying information and information streams. The information disorder gives rise to its own non-linear power relations (ibid.: 32).
Critical theory, in the form it has had so far, finds it hard to operate in such a situation, since so far it has always criticized the existing conditions from the position of something transcendent to them: God, “the realm of freedom”, reason as a whole (rather than instrumental rationality), truth, Being, the Other, the other, the future just social order etc. In information culture all messages are on an equal footing and there is no way for any of them to refer to something transcendent to the established order. The distinctions between the same and the other have been erased; nothing is transcendent to information; everything is “in” it. In information there is no “here” (existing) and “there” (due, transcendent); there is only “and”, only adding more and more messages. That is why the critique of the information age needs to be immanent – to flow into the streams of information, to add to them more messages that challenge the currently established power relations, with no appeal to some transcendent guarantor (ibid: 36-9, 236).
The very concept of critique of information has not gained currency and the book bearing that title received less attention than Lash’s other works. But his idea of an immanent critique contained in information streams themselves continues to be one of the considered approaches, when digital literacy and its critical potential are discussed (Pangrazio ).
Both the concept and the book are more directly thematized by Paul Taylor, according to whom immanent critique risks remaining ineffective and therefore it should be counted on fields such as literature and the history of culture to provide critical perspectives, distanced from information streams themselves (Taylor ). Lash accepts these objections and elaborates its conception in accordance with them: the critique of information can be an expression of a new dialectic between the available and the ideal, incorporated in the available itself. Lash gives examples from the fields of media art and metadata (Lash ).
- Лаш, С., 2004, Критика на информацията, София: КОТА
- Lash, S., 2006, “Dialectic of Information? A Response to Taylor”, in Information, Communication & Society, vol. 9, 5: 572-581
- Pangrazio, L., 2016, “Reconceptualising critical digital literacy”, in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, vol. 37, 2: 163–174
- Taylor, P., 2006, “Putting the Critique Back into a Critique of Information: Refusing to Follow the Order”, in Information, Communication & Society, vol. 9, 5: 553-571
How to Cite:
Gerjikov, Georgi (2021) Critique of Information, in Thesaurus. Sofia University Dictionary of Philosophy. Online edition. Sofia: St. Kliment Ohridski University Press, 2021, ISSN 2815-2832.