Information truth and meaning: a response to Budd's prolegomena

Document Type


Publication details

Lingard, RG 2013, 'Information truth and meaning: a response to Budd's prolegomena', Journal of Documentation, vol. 69, no. 4, pp. 481-499.

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Purpose – This paper aims to respond to Budd's discussion of meaning, truth and information by exploring the ontological framework prescribed by critical realism. Budd's thesis that information must be defined within the context of meaning and truth is challenged and the ontological priority of information is argued.

Design/methodology/approach – Following a critique of Budd's conclusions, a “regional ontology” of information is discussed. The practical adequacy of this theory is demonstrated by applying it to information-seeking and meaning-making, as described by Dervin's Sense-Making Methodology (SMM). Finally, a case study is provided to illustrate the re-conceptualization and implications in future research applications.

Findings – Information is a “thing” of ontological significance and which possesses truth and meaning as properties. Information may present as uninforming, incomprehensible, deceptive, nonsensical or sensical, depending on how the properties truth and meaning are expressed.

Research limitations/implications – The main implication arising from this paper is that a definition of information is provided which permits application to situations of conflict or dissonance concerning information use. Abductive reasoning facilitates application of SMM to historically produced documents.

Originality/value – The novelty of this paper lies in the analysis of information, truth and meaning according to a realist, emergentist ontology, and in the consequent application of Dervin's SMM to documents by abductive reasoning.

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