• systems;
  • signs;
  • patterns;
  • information;
  • Neolithic clay tokens

The concept of information is clearly foundational to the systems, behavioural and information sciences but lacking in a clear conceptual foundation. In this paper, we propose that the concept is clearly overloaded and suggest that a new vocabulary is needed to enhance our powers of understanding and explanation. We argue that information is better situated at the intersection of signs, patterns and systems, which involves the enactment of forma (the substance of a sign), informa (the content of a sign) and performa (the use of signs in coordinated action). To demonstrate the utility of this framework and to help us breakdown entrenched conceptions, we deliberately consider a ‘strange’ case from a different time and culture. We conclude with a discussion of the usefulness of this framework in helping us better understand the complex entanglement of signs, systems and patterns and how this helps unravel the multifaceted nature of information. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.