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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter 2018

Relevance And Irrelevance

Jan Strassheim


Relevance and irrelevance, it is argued, are constitutive to our access to “information objects” on three interconnected levels: (1) access to the information object itself, (2) the information gained from it, (3) the use of that information. Relevance selectively shapes our experience and action, but the “irrelevance” of what is left out is not simply the opposite or absence of relevance. The complex relation between relevance and irrelevance expresses itself in different shades of knowledge and ignorance, and in a fuzzy border between information we do not want to access and information we cannot access. This implies both chances and risks for communication as a process of producing and exchanging information objects. In a second step, previous research on relevance and irrelevance is sketched with respect to different traditions and approaches: (1) Alfred Schutz and Aron Gurwitsch; (2) Paul Grice, Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson; (3) library and information science; (4) signs and language; and (5) epistemology and logic. Finally, the role of the word “relevance”, which is not found in all languages, is briefly considered after distinguishing the explicit reflection of relevance from the constitutive role of relevance, which often remains implicit.

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston