Archive for October 3rd, 2004

State of Play: Information Quality Research

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Together with Martin J. Eppler (University of Lugano) and Markus Helfert (Dublin City University), I serve as a Guest Editor of a 2004 Special Issue of the International Journal Studies in Communication Science on Information Quality. This special issue brings together researchers in the domain of business and organizational studies, as well as information technology and legal scholars to share findings regarding information quality and information quality management.

I’ve been asked to write a summary of the state of information quality research as far as information law is concerned. Here’s the draft:

“Information quality as a cross-sectional matter only recently has become a subject of legal scholarship. In essence, we might distinguish between three stages in the evolution of information quality as a research topic in law: initially, legal scholars addressed particular aspects of the information quality problem – mostly against the particular backdrop of a new piece of legislation, a court case, or the like – within the well-established, but rather fragmented sub-disciplines of law such as constitutional law, copyright, contract or corporate law. In this early stage, information quality was neither perceived as a distinct research field nor explored from a conceptual angle. In a second stage, triggered by Jean Nicolas Druey’s groundbreaking monograph on information as a subject of law, a debate about the definition of information quality, about quality criteria and about the question of legal assessments of information quality emerged. The insights gained from this scholarly work have been applied to specific problem areas such as the regulation of mass-media where the quality of information as a “product” came up for discussion, or to privacy-related issues. Most recently, however, a more fundamental debate about information quality regulation has been launched. A book edited by one of the authors of this introduction addresses the promise and concerns associated with information quality from the perspective of information law, analyzes key problems of informational quality regulation, and provides theoretical overviews of legal approaches to information quality regulation as well as practice-oriented and sector-specific exemplifications and analyses. Contemporary legal research seeks to analyze what players and/or what forces are regulating quality of information by what means, for what purposes, and with what effects. As far as regulation by law is concerned, the following issues are on top of today’s research agenda:

  • Need for legal intervention: Initially, the question arises whether there is need for regulation at all, since legal interventions into social processes in general and content-related regulation of information and communication processes in particular require compelling factual justification and legitimation (e.g. in cases of market failures due to external effects or asymmetric information).
  • Modalities of Regulation: Different legal strategies and techniques can be used to regulate information quality, for instance direct or indirect modes of regulation, substantive provisions or procedural approaches, ex ante or ex post regulation, minimal versus comprehensive regulation, rules or standards, etc.
  • Sources of normativity: One important strand of research explores in what manner the law values information quality and what the possible sources of normative criteria for law-based information quality assessments are. Increasingly, the law derives normative criteria for quality assessments from the economic system (e.g. efficiency, functionality), especially where information is regarded as a “product”.
  • Regulatory context: Some contributions have considered as to what extent there is need for a uniform information quality framework in law or, by contrast, whether sector-specific approaches to quality regulation are more adequate.
  • Limitations: One of the most important issues concerns the question where the limitations of the law regulating information quality ought to be. Such limitations are necessary due to factual constraints (context-sensitivity of information versus the generalizing nature of law) and fundamental values such as “free speech” and “freedom of thoughts.”
  • Effects of regulation: First experiences with legal attempts to regulate information quality suggest that the actual effects on information quality are not easily predictable. It turns out that information quality regulation by law also causes unwanted or at least unexpected effects.

Information law and regulatory approaches to information quality are still in their early stages. Most of the themes and questions outlined in this paragraph remain to be studied in greater detail and discussed from various perspectives, by integrating knowledge from different disciplines such as communication studies, information science, economics, and sociology.”

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