At the Fifth International Conference on the Foundations of Information Science (FIS) in Moskow 2013 L. Floridi was elected as President-Elect and W. Hofkirchner followed K. Kolin as President of the  International Society for Information Studies.

Read here his presidential address:

Let’s unite in diversity!

Wolfgang Hofkirchner (Austria)

I have a vision – the vision of a Global Sustainable Information Society, as i’m used to calling it. It’s not a blueprint of the society to come. It’s rather a framework of requirements that enable our societies to cope with the challenges of our time. Globality, sustainability and informationality are the three sine qua nons: societies can’t cope with the challenges, unless they co-operate on a worldwide scale; unless they transform the mechanisms that produce risks of anthropogenic breakdown; and unless they create knowledge that capacitates them to do what is necessary to ensure a humane future.

Creation of requisite knowledge is a task that concerns everybody and every organisation. It concerns the scientific and engineering community. And it concerns all those institutions that do research in information, develop information technologies or make use of R&D results for the information society, and all individuals that work for those institutions. However, it is not yet a concern of all of them.

I regard it as the noble task of our International Society for Information Studies to raise awareness of the responsibility for providing knowledge about how to facilitate the generation, dissemination and application of knowledge required for making our societies ready to accept the challenges in front of them.

Any knowledge about information processes in the artificial, social or natural domain can thus gain importance to society. “Information Studies” is a term meant to comprise any discipline that deals, in one way or another, with information processes: Computer Science, Informatics, Artificial Intelligence, Advanced Intelligence, Robotics, Collective Intelligence, Crowd Sourcing and other parts of engineering sciences revolve around information; ICTs and Society, Internet Research, Communication Science, Media Studies, Information Society Research, Semiotics and other social and human sciences do it too; Cognitive Sciences, Social Cognition, Psychology, Behavioural Sciences, Ethology, Bioinformation, Bioinformatics, Biosemiotics, Information Physics and other parts of science do it as well; and even parts of Mathematics and Logic do it, and let’s not forget about Philosophy of Information.

All of them apply a diversity of methods to gain such knowledge or to apply it for practical purposes: mathematical and logical methods, computer simulations, cellular automata, agent based modeling, empirical social research and other quantitative as well as qualitative methods are used.

The study and the engineering of information processes have been spreading and diversifying, while diffusing throughout the disciplines. There is a rich body of knowledge about diverse aspects of information. In many cases valuable findings have been achieved. But more often than not Information Studies are not focused on contributing to the urgent needs of civilisation in crisis and research and development is undertaken to meet short-sighted economic interests, one-sided military and political interests, and self-centered cultural interests all of which prohibit thinking big. Thus diversity still outbalances unity instead of providing the basis for Information Studies to become a science of information in its own right.

I feel, time has come to call: Let’s shift that balance! Let’s harness the richness of Information Studies for a common endeavour to find out how to design information processes so as to reduce the frictions in the functioning of the systems that make up our world! Let’s discuss the foundations of information sciences and find out how much we can agree on a transdisciplinary ground!

Time has come for a self-reflection of Information Studies. Aims, scope and tools need to be contested.

Time has come to let Information Studies come of age! – In that vein, I also call for the next ISIS/FIS conference 2015 in Vienna themed: “Information Society at the Crossroads – Response and Responsibility of the Sciences of Information”!

ISIS and FIS provide the platforms to enhance the process of self-understanding of the sciences of information, of information society and of information technology. We are open to any discipline, school, approach, and the representatives thereof who share the same concern. Herewith I invite all interested academics, students, engineers and other stakeholders as well as organisations to join our activities and support us.

Let’s strive for as much unity as needed through as much diversity as possible!

Wolfgang Hofkirchner