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Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Thursday, July 01, 2010

data information knowledge wisdom

in my continuing quest to understand my own field, I've previously blogged about definitions of informatics. one such definition is that it is "the process of, or the study of the process of, transforming data into information." of course, this gets into tricky question about what constitutes "data" and "information," but for now I'll leave that to this rather old post.

turns out, some folks have argued that this data-to-information process is only one step in a larger trajectory. generally this goes somethings like the following (partially cribbed from the DIKW Wikipedia article, partially from an alternative hierarchy, and partially my synopsis/interpretation):

data - representations of direct observations of the world.
information - data assembled to answer specific "who," "what," "when," and "where" style questions. I might call this, "data made meaningful."
knowledge - the application of information for the accomplishment of a specific purpose, answers "how" questions. I might call this, "data and information made useful."
wisdom - understanding the significance and value of knowledge, answers "why" questions. I might call this, "data, information, and knowledge made valuable."

now, I don't think this is a particularly good categorization of how the world works, or how we work in the world. the Wikipedia article linked above has some pretty good discussion about how these various terms (data, information, knowledge, wisdom, etc.) might be so ambiguous, or polysemous, as to be not particularly useful. however, I think these sorts of hierarchies and typologies are interesting from a rhetorical/critical standpoint, as a way of understanding how different groups of people talk about and thinking about such topics as information and understanding.

this interlude was prompted by the ever-provocative Virtual Politik. now, back to work (in this case, grant writing).

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