No Knowledge but through Information

Why would we settle for data when we can have information? Or information when we can have knowledge? Discussions often reflect an implicit ordering of these terms: data < information < knowledge, i.e., information trumps data and knowledge trumps information. I argue, instead, that information is "just right" -- a packaging of data that makes sense; a packaging of knowledge that can be seen, touched and manipulated.Why would we settle for data when we can have information? Or information when we can have knowledge? Discussions often reflect an implicit ordering of these terms:  data < information < knowledge, i.e., information trumps data and knowledge trumps information. In a corporate/organizational context, information management came first as a field of inquiry, followed, beginning in the 1990s by discussions of knowledge management as a related but separate field of inquiry.  And now, predictably, we have discussions of personal knowledge management (PKM), as a field of inquiry that relates to but is separate from personal information management (PIM).  In this and three follow-on posts, I argue for the following statements:  1. Information is a thing to be handled and controlled; knowledge is not. 2. Knowledge can be managed only indirectly, through the management of information. 3. Personal knowledge management (PKM) is, therefore, best regarded as a subset of personal information management (PIM) – but a very useful subset addressing important issues that otherwise might be overlooked.
To elaborate:
1.       Information is a thing ; knowledge is not. Information as thing (Buckland, 1991) can be pointed to and experienced (or ignored). Information can take form in information items such documents or email messages, which can be modified, stored, retrieved, send, received, deleted and otherwise manipulated (Jones, 2007). Knowledge as “no thing” (Zins, 2007) cannot be experienced directly. Knowledge cannot be examined. Knowledge is imbedded. distributed. Knowledge is hidden. Knowledge is inferred through its impact on observable behaviors (information). Knowledge cannot be represented directly. All attempts to represent knowledge give us information in one form or another.
2.       There is no management of knowledge except through the management of information. If knowledge lies hidden not to be experienced directly but rather to be inferred, then knowledge management must, to a large extent, be about its elicitation as information which can then be managed directly. Knowledge management also encompasses efforts to move in the other direction – from information to knowledge. For example, A company develops a new set of “best practices”. Knowledge management includes various uses of information aimed at effecting a change the attitudes and behavior of people within the company. Best practices are expressed not only in a formal document (which few will ever read) but also in posters displayed on cubicle dividers, in broadcast email announcements and in a film that employees are required to see as a group and discuss afterwards.
3.       PKM is a very useful subset of PIM. Personal information management is a large area. How does a person – any of us – make use of information to accomplish a life’s goals, fulfill la life’s roles and meet a life’s challenges? How – with better tools, techniques, training, policies, procedures, strategies, organizational schemes, etc. – might we do this better? Personal knowledge management as a subset of PIM gives additional focus. What do we know? Do we know what we think we know? Are we under-selling or over-selling ourselves? What should we be learning? How should we be learning so that the knowledge we need is integrated into our everyday lives? At the same time, PIM, as a superset of PKM,  provides additional grounding. All of our feats of PKM will be accomplished, necessarily, through the use of information.
More on each point to follow. Do people want references too?


Thanks Joerg, Collecting

Thanks Joerg,
Collecting information does not itself impart knowledge. We might call it potential knowledge. You still need to read and "instill" into your life. I'll say more about this in my next post.

Below are some references
-- William Jones

Aftab, O., Cheung, P., Kim, A., Thakkar, S., & Yeddanapudi, N. (2001). Information theory and the digital age. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Argyris, C. (1994). Knowledge for Action. San Francisco CA, Jossey-Bas.
Blair, D. C. (2002). "Knowledge Management: Hype, Hope, or Help?" JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 53(12): 1019–1028.
Bloom, B. S. (1984). "The 2 Sigma Problem: The search for methods of group instruction as effective as one-to-one tutoring." Educational Researcher 13 3-15.
Bondarenko, O. and R. Janssen (2005). Documents at hand: Learning from paper to improve digital technologies CHI 2005: ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Portland, OR, ACM Press.
Braman, S. (1989). Defining Information. Telecommunications Policy 13, 233-242.
Bransford, J., Brown, A. L. & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, National Academies Press.
Broadbent, D. E. (1958). Perception and communication. London, U.K., Pergamon Press.
Buckland, M. K. (1991). "Information as thing." Journal of the American Society for Information Science 42: 351-360.
Buckland, M. K. (1997). What is a document. Journal of the American Society of Information Science, 48(9), 804-809.
Capurro. R & Hjørland, B. (2003). The Concept of Information. In B. Cronin (Ed.), Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST) (Vol. 37, pp. 343-411).
Civan, A. and W. Pratt (2007). Threading Together Patient Expertise. . American Medical Informatics Association Fall Symposium (AMIA'07). Chicago, IL.

Cornelius, I. (2002). Theorizing information. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 36, 393-425.
DAMA International Foundation (2005). Model Curriculum Framework for Post Secondary Education Programs in Data Resource Management.
Duffy, T. M., J. Lowyck, & Jonassen, D. H. (1993). Designing environments for constructive learning. Berlin, Springer Verlag.
Hutchins, E. (1994). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.
Grudin, J. (1988). Why CSCW applications fail: problems in the design and evaluation of organization of organizational interfaces. Proceedings of the 1988 ACM conference on Computer-supported cooperative work. Portland, Oregon, United States, ACM Press.
Hoffman, R. R. (1989). "A survey of methods for eliciting the knowledge of experts." SIGART Bull 108 19-27.
Jones, W. (2004). " Finders, keepers? The present and future perfect in support of personal information management." First Monday,
Jones, W. (2007). Keeping Found Things Found: The Study and Practice of Personal Information Management. San Francisco, CA, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
Jones, W. and J. Teevan (2007). Personal Information Management. Seattle, WA, University of Washington Press.
Kelly, G. (1955). The psychology of personal constructs. New York, Norton.
Lashley, K. S. (1950). "In search of the engram." Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology 4: 454-482.
Machlup, F. (1983). Semantic Quirks in Studies of Information. In F. Machlup & U. Mansfield (Eds.), The Study of Information: Interdisciplinary Messages. (pp. 641-671). New York: Wiley.
McDonald, D. W. and M. S. Ackerman (2000). Expertise recommender: a flexible recommendation system and architecture. CSCW '00: Proceedings of the 2000 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, ACM.
Newell, A. and H. A. Simon (1972). Human problem solving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall.
Novak, J. D. (1998). Learning, creating, and using knowledge: Concept Maps as facilitative tools in schools and corporations. Mahweh, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Polanyi, M. (1967). The Tacit Dimension. New York, Anchor Books.
O'Dell, C., C. Jackson Grayson & Essaides, N. (1998). If only we knew what we know : the transfer of internal knowledge and best practice. New York, N.Y., Free Press.
Sellen, A. J. and R. H. R. Harper (2002). The myth of the paperless office. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.
Shannon, C. E. (1948). A mathematical theory of communication. The Bell System Technical Journal, 27, 379–423, 623–656.
Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
Snyder, W. and R. A. McDermott (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge
Harvard Business Press.
Schwartz, D. L. and J. Bransford (1998). "A Time for Telling." COGNITION AND INSTRUCTION 16(4): 475-522.
Zins, C. (2007). "Conceptual Approaches for Defining Data, Information, and Knowledge." JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR INFORMATION SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 58(4): 479–493

I always thought that the

I always thought that the following order is true: data < information < knowledge

Now you say: Information is a thing ; knowledge is not.
Actually, I would love more references, especially the ones cited (Buckland, 1991) , and (Jones, 2007), knowledge as 'no thing'(Zins, 2007).

Can you also elaborate a bit more why knowledge is a 'no thing' and why collecting information does not give knowledge?

Is knowledge then only valid if it is my head (and I have read the collected information), or I know how I can find it back quickly (within a set of a lot of irrelevant information)?

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