The Difference that Makes a Difference (DTMD 2015)

Conference Stream

Information and values: ethics, spirituality and religion




David Chapman, 
Magnus Ramage,
Chris Bissell,

Mustafa Ali; Department of Computing and Communications;
Derek Jones; Department of Engineering and Innovation;
Graham Harvey,
Paul-Francois Tremlett, Department of Religious Studies; The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK


This workshop starts from the premise that information and values coexist in a relationship of tension, and that they engage in a dialectical process in certain key areas of human society. Within these areas, information and values co-construct a synthesis which includes but transcends both aspects. This synthesis is particularly expressed in the fields of ethics, spirituality and religion.

Particular inspirations for this workshop include the work by West Churchman on The Systems Approach and its Enemies, which argued for a dialectical relationship between the rationalist ‘hard’ systems approach and perspectives such as morality, politics, religion and aesthetics which are apparently opposed to it. Ethics and religion have also been long-standing interests in various areas of cybernetics, which is the starting point for this exploration of information, and were central concerns in the later work of Norbert Wiener, Heinz von Foerster and Gregory Bateson. In this sense the workshop is continuing an ongoing stream of work.

As well as leading to new insights into ethics, spirituality and religion, this work also acts as a further lens through which to explore the nature of information. The language of information is increasingly used in many different disciplines, and comparing the usage in different fields contributes to a better understanding of information in its own right. The areas of spirituality, ethics and religion are somewhat less examined in the context of information than many other disciplines, and so this workshop will continue the ongoing process of exploring multi-disciplinary aspects of information.

This workshop follows two international workshops held in Milton Keynes, UK, in 2011 and 2013, both entitled The Difference that Makes a Difference. These workshops explored the nature of information in a range of disciplines (including physics, biology, sociology, computing, systems thinking, philosophy, geography and art, among others). Proceedings of both workshops can be found at

Subjects and scope

Key questions which the workshop will address include:

  • Can newly-emerging insights into the nature of information inform ethics, spirituality and religion? And does our understanding of ethics, information and religion contribute to a new understanding of the nature of information?
  • If information is the new language of science as Von Baeyer suggests, can it also be a new language of ethics, spirituality and religion?
  • If we are re-ontologising the world as an infosphere, does that make information ethics the new universal macroethic, as Luciano Floridi suggests?
  • Is the language of information effective in talking about spirituality?
  • Can we interpret the theologies, mythologies and praxis of religion using the language of information? How do religions use information and informational concepts? Conversely, what might it mean to think about information as theological or mythological?
  • Can a theory of information provide a weltanschauung to replace or supplement religion as the motivation for ethics, spirituality and community, and if so, is such a replacement necessary and / or desirable?

Target groups

The workshop organisers welcome submissions which address themselves to the above and related questions through the medium of art as well as traditional academic formats – DTMD 2013 had a major focus around the interplay between art and information, and we hope to continue this in the current workshop.


For more information click on the logo at the top.

Important Dates

Submission deadline: 27 February 2015 13 March 2015
Notification of acceptance: 20 March 2015