Re: Information -- a working definition?

Subject: Re: Information -- a working definition?
From: Chris Despopoulos <despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2010 06:20:54 -0700 (PDT)

********
But why information? Why not knowledge, after all we now have "knowledge managers"?

Generally speaking, knowledge and information are split in three ways:

1. Multiplicity - information is seen as fragmented, piecemeal while knowledge is structured and coherent.
2. Temporal - information is timely, transitory, even ephemeral while knowledge is seen as enduring.
3. Spatial - information is a "flow" while knowledge is a stock, specifically located.

In
essence, information, as it is used today, is conceived as a process
whereas knowledge is a state. At the most basic level information can
be equated to raw data and, as such, has 2 main functions:

1. As an input into a process (manufacturing, economic etc).
2. As an output that is sold as a commodity in its own right (info sold on customers to other retailers etc).
********

I like your stress on the root FORM within inFORMation. I also like your division between information and knowledge. But I worry about equating information and data, because the point of definition is to draw boundaries. So it would be good to maintain boundaries between data, information, and knowledge.

I think the problem is that assigning one of these three labels to some "stuff" is largely situational -- from one POV it's data, from another it's information, and yet from another it's knowledge. The good news is that as technical writers we have a specific situation. Our data sources (SMEs, etc.) are in a specific relationship to that situation, as are our readers. Mapping to your difference between information and knowledge, SMEs and products provide us data, we produce information, readers add that information to their knowledge. That's how I would like to see it, anyway.

This situationalism is why I think a working definition of information is powerful... It adds meat to the definition of what we do, but also helps us get away from defining our jobs in terms of page count. The days when we can sell tech writing as the production of pages are numbered, if not over. Product development *is* information management, and we're information professionals. If we, the literary members of the gang, can't say what information is in this context, we're hosed.

My 0.02 euros on the subject...



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