Informating is a term coined by Shoshana Zuboff in her book In the Age of the Smart Machine (1988). It is the process that translates descriptions and measurements of activities, events and objects into information. By doing so, these activities become visible to the organization.
Informating has both an empowering and oppressing influence. On the one hand, as information processes become more powerful, the access to information is pushed to ever lower levels of the organization. Conversely, information processes can be used to monitor what Zuboff calls human agency.
From In the Age of the Smart Machine, Informating is described as:
What is it, then, that distinguishes information technology from earlier generations of machine technology? As information technology is used to reproduce, extend, and improve upon the process of substituting machines for human agency, it simultaneously accomplishes something quite different. The devices that automate by translating information into action also register data about those automated activities, thus generating new streams of information. For example, computer-based, numerically controlled machine tools or microprocessor-based sensing devices not only apply programmed instructions to equipment but also convert the current state of equipment, product, or process into data. Scanner devices in supermarkets automate the checkout process and simultaneously generate data that can be used for inventory control, warehousing, scheduling of deliveries, and market analysis. The same systems that make it possible to automate office transactions also create a vast overview of an organization's operations, with many levels of data coordinated and accessible for a variety of analytical efforts." (Zuboff, 1988; p. 9)
As per the Zuboff's definition, and examples stated in her book surrounding the concept, confers the basic idea as, any activity, such as two friends who using Facebook communicate to other whats on their mind. Which could also be said they are informating, where using a technological tool such as Facebook, the two friends are converting their activity of thinking or per se something specific to their mutual context, into information. Thereby making their activity visible to friend or friends.
With advent of parallelism also the concept of informating is achieving further value. Because any activity done is able to produce multiple streams of information, which may be independent, yet held together by the context, in which they are embedded.
Usage of Word
Recently a Limited Liability Partnership was successfully registered with Ministry of Corporate Affairs, India with the use of the word Informating in the Company title.
Informating as a concept, is being applied to several contexts.
- Such as Education. Example, Alan November, in his 2010 work, Empowering Students With Technology, builds on Zuboff's definition:
It is a powerful learning tool because it shifts the power and control to students by giving access to new sources of information and relationships. November states, "Students have access to content information that was previously only available in the teacher's edition of the textbook."
- Such as Communities of Practice. Example from corporate world, a recent India based start-up CHIASMA Informating Communities has embarked on creating communication architecture, using this principle as reflected in their Activity Statement.
We consult communities on optimization of their knowledge management and informational activities. We are also involved in designing communication architecture for communities. We analyze Information Flow and Group Dynamics of our adopted communities. Our chief role is in the area of facilitating knowledge exchange and network building activities internationally.