Information Beyond Shannon
Venice - Italy, December 29-30, 2008,
Organizers: Alberto Apostolico (Padova & Georgia Tech), and Wojciech Szpankowski (Purdue).
Shannon's picture Picture of a castle, where the conference takes place


The Workshop 'Information Beyond Shannon' will be held in Venice-Italy, on December 29th and 30th, 2008. The workshop will take place in the Istituto Veneto.

Our goal is not to collect answers or state of the art talks, but rather to debate and list educated questions as to the issues and tools that lay before researchers interested in information as a possibly evolving, yet central notion of our era. We expect the workshop to develop precisely as a reflection of the participants vision and taste. With luck, we hope to collect views and recommendations in a lean reference for the future.

Although pariticipation in the workshop is by invitation only, a limited number of seats may be available.


Venice is served by the ''Marco Polo'' Airport with connections to all major European Capitals and some direct flights to the US. The two largest Italian airports are in Milan and Rome. Italy has a capillary and relatively inexpensive network of railroads so that Venice may be easily reached from any other city or town.
Istituto Veneto and the nearby hotels can be reached by public waterbus directly from the Airport. The fare is about 12 Euros and the waterbus stop is ''Zattere''.
Waterbus service is provided from Venice trainstation and across the Lagoon.

There is plenty of hotels in Venice (about 350 in Greater Venice, of which approximately 10% in Venice-Lido), but as with one of the prime cultural and tourist destinations in the World you may expect Venice to be booked throughout the year. We strongly encourage early reservations by participants and their accompanying persons. For basic and relatively inexpensive but clean and modern accommodation, the following are close to the Istituto Veneto and often used by participants.

Among the nearby hotels, the Hotel American and the DD724 ''hotel de charme'' may offer competitive prices.


Information is the basic commodity of our era. We propose to advance a comprehensive science of information, offering a wealth of societal benefits in diverse engineering, scientific, and social applications. We integrate research and teaching activities that investigate information from all angles: from the fundamental theoretical underpinnings of information to the science and engineering of novel substrates, biological networks, chemistry, communication networks, economics, physics, and complex cognitive networks.

In 1948, the Bell Labs scientist Claude Shannon proposed a foundational definition of information that serves as the backbone for the classical paradigm in digital communication. Shannon statistical information quantifies the extent to which a recipient of data can reduce its statistical uncertainty. However, it does not yet provide an adequate formalism and overarching answers for extraction, comprehension, and manipulation of information in scientific and social domains. A comprehensive theory of information for complex systems like biological and chemical processes or social and communications networks has been elusive. Thus, while we can describe and design complex systems, we still lack fundamental understanding of them.

As a result, we have yet to answer (or even productively formulate) fundamental questions such as: what is information in a broader sense? how is information created and in what ways can it be transferred? how can we incorporate space, time, semantics and context into formal measures of information? how much information is embodied in structures (of molecules or websites)? what is the value of information in financial transactions or social interactions? Lack of understanding of such questions severely impedes the progress of science and engineering.

Some of the challenges we face today are:

  1. We still lack measures and meters to define and appraise the amount of structure and organization embodied in artifacts and natural objects alike, a deficiency that antagonizes the development of many useful theories and applications, notably, in the biomedical sector.
  2. Information accumulates at a rate faster than it can be sifted through, accessed and digested by humans, so that the bottleneck, traditionally represented by the medium, is drifting towards the receiving end of the channel.
  3. Timeliness is an important dimension of Information. Time and space varying situations are hardly touched by Shannon Information (in Shannon theory one bit of Information sent over a network is received as one bit whether it arrives within a second or withing a day and we know it is not the same Information; similar situations arise in business, biology, life science, etc).
  4. In a growing number of situations, the overhead in accessing Information prevails over that of fruition, which makes information itself practically unattainable or obsolete.
  5. Capabilities akin to contents addressing and semantic access and transmission are not even in sight, while computing and communication infrastructures of the new Millennium induce drastic mutations on the conventional notions of Knowing and Learning, Guessing and Discovering.
  6. Microscopic systems seem not to obey Shannon postulates of Information. In the quantum world and on the level of living cells traditional Information often fails to accurately describe reality.

The workshop is expected to have significant, broader, and potentially transformative impacts beyond the basic science of information. This broad-based effort will hopefully lead to the development of an active and thriving interdisciplinary community of students and researchers. We will seek to foster such a community within academia, industry and commerce, and to broaden its scope to national and international levels. On the discovery side, we aspire to help develop novel characterizations of biological networks and chemical processes directing self assembly of molecules, to identify fraudulent financial transactions, build more efficient cognitive networks, and to create better search engine infrastructure.


MONDAY December 29
09:00 - 09:30 Welcome
09:30 - 11:30 Information Theory (Moderator: Kontoyiannis)
I.Kontoyiannis (AUEB, Greece) Introduction
Flemming Topsoe (U Copenhagen, Denmark) "Modeling Information - The Truth-belief-data Interaction"
Alon Orlitsky (UCSD, USA) "Information in Patterns"
Suhas Diggavi (EPFL, Switzerland) "A Bit of Network Information Theory"

11:30 - 12:00 BREAK
12:00 - 12:30 Plenary discussion (Moderator: Kontoyiannis)
12:30 - 14:00 LUNCH
14:00 - 16:30 Life Sciences (Moderator: Milenkovic)
J. Bruck (Caltech, USA) "Beyond Shannon's Relay Circuits"
R. Battati (Trento, Italy) "Mutual Information for Feature Extraction"
O. Milenkovic (UIUC, USA) "Sparsity and Information"
R. Giancarlo (Palermo, Italy) "Alignment-Free Comparison and Classification of Biological Sequences and Structures"
T. Tishby (Jerusalem, Isreal) "The Information Theory of the Perception-Action Cycle"

16:30 - 17:00 BREAK
17:00 - 18:00 Plenary discussion (Moderator: Milenkovic)
20:00 - TBS Conference Dinner (Restaurant La Caravella)

TUESDAY December 30
09:00 - 11:00 Computer Science and Information (Moderator: Cesa-Bianchi)
N. Cristianini (Bristol, England) "Patterns in Data"
A. de Luca (Naples, Italy) "On the Many Lives of Information Concept"
C. Jędrzejek (Poznań, Poland) "Information in data structures - syntax and semantics"
N. Cesa-Bianchi (Milan, Italy) "Information at the interface between Machine Learning and Game Theory"

11:00 - 11:30 BREAK
11:30 - 12:30 Plenary discussion (Moderator: Cesa-Bianchi)
12:30 - 14:00 LUNCH
14:00 - 15:00 Information in Other Disciplines (Moderator: Apostolico)
L. Ricciardi (Naples, Italy) "Probability, Uncertainty, Functionality"
R. Franzosi (Atlanta, USA)"Quantifying Narrative: An Application to the Rise of Italian Fascism (1919-1922)"

15:00 - 15:30 BREAK
15:30 - 17:30 Communications (Moderator: Anantharam)
Victor Raskin (Purdue U., West Lafayette, U.S.A) "How to Reconcile Information Theory and Natural Language Semantics."
Leandros Tassiulas (U. Thessaly, Volos, Greece) "Scaling Peer-to-peer Wireless Networks"
Philippe Jacquet (INRIA, Paris, France) "Three or Four Information Time Paradoxes Revisited"
Anthony Ephremides (U. Maryland, College Park, U.S.A.) "Is there a Concept of Stable Capacity?"

17:30 - 18:00 Discussion and Conclusion

Participants (partial list)

Venkat Anantharam University of California, Berkeley, USA
Alberto Apostolico Padova & Georgia Tech
Roberto Battiti LION Laboratory (Machine Learning and Intelligent Optimization), Italy
Robert Bonneau Air Force Office of Scientific Research
Shuki Bruck California Institute of Technology, USA
Nicolò Cesa-Bianchi University of Milan, Italy
Matteo Comin University of Padova, Italy
Nello Cristianini University of Bristol, UK
Gian Antonio Danieli University of Padova, Italy
Andreas Dress Partner Institute for Computational Biology, China
Tony Ephremides University of Maryland, USA
Meir Feder Technion, Israel
Roberto Franzosi Emory University Atlanta, USA
Raffaele Giancarlo University of Palermo, Italy
Philippe Jacquet INRIA Institute, France
Czesław Jędrzejek Poznan University of Technology, Poland
Ioannis Kontoyiannis Athens University of Economics & Business, Greece
James Lawton European Office of Aerospace Research and Development
Paul B. Losiewicz Office of Naval Research Global
Aldo De Luca University of Naples Federico II, Italy
Heikki Mannila University of Helsinki, Finland
Giovanni Marchesini University of Padova, Italy
Dan C. Marinescu University of Central Florida, USA
Olgica Milenkovic University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Alon Orlistky University of California, San Diego, USA
Cinzia Pizzi University of Padova, Italy
Victor Raskin Purdue, USA
Luigi M. Ricciardi University of Naples Federico II, Italy
Wojciech Szpankowski Purdue, USA
Leandros Tassiulas University of Thessaly, Greece
Sirin Tekinay National Science Foundation, USA
Tali Tishby Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Flemming Tposoe University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Sergio Verdú Princeton University, USA


Tom Cover Stanford University, USA
Alan MacKay Crystallography Birkbeck College, University of London, England
Manfred Eigen Department 081 (Biochemical Kinetics), Gottingen, Germany


We wish to thank the following for their contribution to the success of this conference: