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Data - Information - Knowledge

What is Data?

Data is the raw material of information. It is the product of research and discovery. A single piece of data has no meaning unless the context is understood. Data needs to be transformed to information.

What is Information?

Information is a flow of messages. The patterns and relationship in the data is pointed out and discussed. The data is made informative and must be put into a context and linked like data.

What is Knowledge?

Knowledge is a multifaceted concept with multilayered meaning. The history of philosophy since the classical Greek period can be regarded as never ending search for the meaning of knowledge. [Resource]. The traditional epistemology adopts a definition of knowledge as "Justified True Belief". In theory of knowledge creation, knowledge is seen as a dynamic human process of justifying personal beliefs as part of an aspiration for the "truth". Machlup(1983) see information is a flow of messages of meanings which might add to, restructure of change knowledge.

Dretske(1981) offers more useful definitions. He said that, " Information is that commodity capable of yielding knowledge, and what information a signal carries is what we can learn from it. Knowledge is identified with information-produced (or sustained) belief, but the information a person receives is relative to what he or she already knows about the possibilities at the source. "

Knowledge is created and organized by the very flow of information, anchored on the commitment and beliefs of its holder. There are two dimensions of knowledge classified by Polanyi Micheal.

Click here to view diagram that shows transformation of data, information and knowledge.


discussion on epistemology here is based on such classical accoutns as Plato’s Theaetetus and Phaedo, Descarte’s Discourse on Method, Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding and Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. For interpretation of these workds, see Hospers(1967), Dancy (1985), Hallis(1985), Moser and Nat(1987), and Winograd and Flores(1986)

Is there really a need to clearly classify data, information or knowledge? The author feel that one person's knowledge may become one's data. The same piece of cloth may tailor to different sizes and different patterns of clothing for different people. One may judge the clothing is comfortable (analogy qualifying that data to generate useful information and knowledge). But other may judge the clothing is uncomfortable or presentatble (analogy qualifying that data is garbage which may due to the data may not applicable to the one's context).

One may lose knowledge even though he equipped with that piece of knowledge before. Can you tell me what you have learnt in your History class in primary three? At that time, the history fact is data --> information --> knowledge (I am sure it became your knowledge if you pass your examination). But today? What can you remember? You still need to refer to find out what have you learnt in primary three History. Again, it is a cycle of knowledge creation from data--> information --> knowledge.

Hence, the author looks for more information on this and find out something interesting that worth all of us to think about it. Worth Thinking !!!

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