If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you’ll know I often use the phrase “information environment.” This isn’t a word pair you’re likely to encounter in many other contexts, so I think it’s worthwhile to peg it down. The phrase is composed of two relatively common words: information and environment. You probably have ideas of what these are, but let’s first clarify what I mean by them here.
If you’re like most people, the word environment will evoke the rainforest, whales breaching the surface of the ocean, or smokestacks spewing filth into the atmosphere. In other words, ecological images. This is not surprising since we often see environment in phrases such as “protect the environment” or “save the environment” or “environmental pollution.”
The natural environment is certainly an example of what I mean by environment. However, I also mean it a bit more generally. When I say environment, I mean the surroundings of a system or organism, especially the aspects of those surroundings that influence the system’s or organism’s behavior. This latter condition is important; you could say your surroundings include all of the solar system, but the orbit of Jupiter has very little influence on your day-to-day actions. (Unless you’re into astrology, in which case I’d argue that the belief that the orbit of Jupiter influences your actions is what influences your actions, not the planet’s orbit per se. But I digress…)