Information Matters: Informational Conflict and the New Materialism

Abstract

This paper focuses upon the challenge posed by the concept of ‘information’ to the new materialisms, viewed with reference to the multifaceted worldly phenomenon of informational conflict. ‘Informational conflict’ is a broad term designed to encompass the hi-tech ‘cyber’ operations of inter-state warfare as well as the informational actions of non-state actors, and is contingent not upon information technologies, as commonly understood, but upon ‘information’. Informational conflicts can be viewed as sociotechnical assemblages of humans and non-humans although information is a problematic component of these assemblages, on account of its uncertain ontological status. This paper addresses the ontology of information and asks how the new materialisms might respond in the various ontological registers described. Drawing upon the natural sciences—especially physics—and the emerging ‘philosophy of information’ to outline the metaphysics of information and the differences that exist in its ontological characterisation, the paper outlines informational challenges to materialist perspectives. It concludes by examining two examples of how information and materiality are addressed in International Relations with respect to informational conflict. It concludes by noting the positive contributions the new materialisms can make to the study of information and informational conflict, but challenges them by asking: Information matters for conflict; does it matter for materialism?

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