A review of large-scale ‘how much information’ inventories:

variations, achievements and challenges
Hilbert, M. (2015). A review of large-scale “how much information” inventories: variations, achievements and challenges. Information Research, 20(4). Open access at: http://www.informationr.net/ir/20-4/paper688.html


Introduction. Pressed by the exploding number and increasing social importance of digital technologies during recent decades, combined with the attention given to the ‘big data paradigm’, several research projects have taken up the challenge to quantify the amount of information supplied and created, and/or consumed.
Method. This meta-study reviews existing inventories in a descriptive and comparative manner, focusing on methodological differences and challenges.
Analysis. The eight most important information inventory projects are reviewed. It shows that the quantification of information and communication presents a theoretical, methodological, as well as statistical challenge.
Results. Variations in the approaches include differences in how the information realm is conceptualized (e.g. in terms of stocks or flows, or in terms of creation or consumption, etc.); differences in the unit of measurement (words, bits, minutes, etc.); varying geographic and temporal scopes; and diverse additional attributes that highlight complementary aspects of the amount of information (e.g. the kind of technology, the sort of content, the type of user sector, etc.).
Conclusion. Depending on the particular question on the researchers mind and on the subsequent methodological choices, different conclusions and insights are obtained. The review ends with a discussion of the remaining theoretical and practical challenges.


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