Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to bring the concept of a “hierarchy of action”, as it is currently being used in other fields, into library and information science (LIS). Design/methodology/approach – Hierarchy theory is adopted to describe three hierarchies of action, which include the human processes of semantic and social innovation, as well as a system of biological interpretence, from which human processes are thought to have evolved as a development of biosemiosis in nature. By way of example, it is argued that a text is a complex achievement, and hierarchy theory shows how to account for this complexity; the everyday definition of “text” is augmented with accounts from different levels of observation. Findings – The concept of a hierarchy of action enables a person to account for a text as a meaning/symbolic product; include in that account the processes whereby texts are produced and used; and say why these processes are important to the health of the biosphere that is called home. Originality/value – “Hierarchy of action” has been developed as a concept in biology and ecology; it belongs to a way of thinking whereby human reality, like nature, is construed as dynamical processes operating in symbiotic relationship with each other; it has not yet been adopted in LIS with reference to hierarchy theory and its potential is yet to be explored.
Journal of Documentation – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jul 26, 2011
Keywords: Hierarchy theory; Complexity theory; Process philosophy; Natural philosophy; Hierarchies of action; Complex systems; Libraries; Information science
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