From physics to the social sciences, information is now seen as a fundamental component of reality. However, a form of information seems still underestimated, perhaps precisely because it is so pervasive that we take it for granted: the information encoded in the very environment we live in. We still do not fully understand how information takes the form of cities, and how our minds deal with it in order to learn about the world, make daily decisions, and take part in the complex system of interactions we create as we live together. This paper addresses three related problems that need to be solved if we are to understand the role of environmental information: (1) the physical
problem: how can we preserve information in the built environment? (2) The semantic
problem: how do we make environmental information meaningful? and (3) the pragmatic
problem: how do we use environmental information in our daily lives? Attempting to devise a solution to these problems, we introduce a three-layered model of information in cities, namely environmental information in physical space, environmental information in semantic space, and the information enacted by interacting agents. We propose forms of estimating entropy in these different layers, and apply these measures to emblematic urban cases and simulated scenarios. Our results suggest that ordered spatial structures and diverse land use patterns encode information, and that aspects of physical and semantic information affect coordination in interaction systems.
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