What would you call this process, and role?

Subject: What would you call this process, and role?
From: "Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)" <sjanoff -at- celgene -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2012 16:05:27 -0700

Hello Fellow Whirlers,

I'm trying to put a name to something and get a handle on the process. Maybe you can help.

Let's say that, like many companies, your company has a lot of raw data scattered over its various networks. And one of your tasks is to harness or sort of "corral" this data -- not really pull it all together, but pull together the major data relevant to a particular task at hand; and then present that data in meaningful ways: in charts, graphs, spreadsheets, presentations, flowcharts, documents, etc.

An example I'm thinking of is, let's say you're a scientist working at a major academic or national lab, and you're involved in the Mars Rover project. You get access to the huge amount of raw data transmitted back by the Rover, and it's your job to let's say extract the relevant information on soil composition, make sense of it, and then present that information in ways that are meaningful to either a specialized audience (other earth scientists) or a general audience (Scientific American types, or even Popular Science types, or "Discovery Channel").

What would you call that process, and role? Is it Information Architecture? Is it Information Design? Is it "data mining"? Is it "intelligent data warehousing"? (I used to work at such a company.)

In a lot of companies, data is gold. And raw data is gold that has not yet been "prospected." What I'm trying to understand is, in this analogy to data, what is that process of prospecting for gold, finding gold, processing the gold, and then presenting the gold in meaningful ways?

I suppose you could call it Technical Communication. But it's not Tech Comm in the way that I normally think of it, such as writing user manuals or online help. The purpose of the process is so that the audience can have "understanding," and "meaningful information" extracted and presented from the "meaningless" (in its raw form) data. The purpose is not so that they can "do" something, or perform a "task" (at least not directly). And there is no "device," no "software," no "product" for them to use. (Think of an infographic: I know that's considered "Information Design," but this seems like something more.)

I'm looking for some other term that might fit this process more appropriately. But maybe there isn't one.

Thanks for any light you can shed on this. I'm almost certain I'm missing something obvious.

Best wishes,


Steve Janoff
Staff Technical Writer
Celgene Corporation
San Diego, CA USA
sjanoff -at- celgene -dot- com

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