Technology and society demand that we understand how information is more imortant than knowledge, before we can manage knowledge competently. This may mean unlearning some of what we thought we knew about knowledge.
Our “knowledge about knowledge” has led to scientific delineation of its elemental
structure, offering a production pattern for its synthesis.
The synthetic pattern features data as the smallest unit (“atoms”), combined in
defined relationships that create information (“molecules”), which in turn groups
and acts in specified contexts as a state of knowledge (‘objects” or “compounds”).
If data, information and knowledge are each already defined to structurally
distinguish them from each other, then how is it that one person’s information is
another person’s knowledge? That one person’s knowledge is merely another
person’s data? That one person’s data is another person’s information?
These conditions occur because they are the normal result of utilitarian matters,
where the way something needs to be used is what really decides how it is defined,
and at minimum the decision is borne out by the experience of the results.
A universe of intellectual content
Most interest in “knowledge” has to do with thinking, and most thinking is topical. There is always
high interest in building up a reliable coverage of the topic.
But most thinking does not begin with data.
Most thinking begins with expressions received as information.
As a starting point, information is processed into both data and knowledge. More processing of data
and knowledge can continue to occur; but without deliberate intent, that additional processing
does not necessarily link the derived data to the derived knowledge. At minimum, we know this is
the case because of rhetoric.
Operations performed on information create a functional “space” of possible relationships between
information, data and knowledge -- relationships which are not necessarily hierarchical and can be
non-linear, as well as one-to-many or many-to-many, and bidirectional.
What’s important about that is the real-world experience of that space, which is not about data,
information and knowledge. Instead, the main concern is with how Messages, Facts and Meanings
co-exist – in turn giving roles to information, data and knowledge, respectively. Roles turn out to be
a more useful and consistent way of defining these elements.
Field of Interest
In our ordinary conceptual life, we experience numerous different balances and
disparities of meanings, messages and facts.
These differences stem partly from where we are, “mentally”, when we encounter
those items, and partly from how they are being provided to us (both separately
The initially experienced balances can subsequently change, either with our own
help or without.
When taken “as is”, without changing, the balances “cover” our interest in ways
that we can decide to accept and possibly even reinforce.
But we can also consider and attempt to change the balances in order to fit them
more closely to our immediate purposes. The purposes may be persuasive,
remedial, exploratory, conformational, etc.
In effect, it is behaviors that generate the coverage of our interest – by determining
the extent to which messages, facts and meanings respectively contribute.
Within the field of interest, coverage includes those items and any of their
potential concurrencies such as:
• Facts-with-facts; facts-with-messages; facts-with-meanings
• Messages-with-messages; messages-with-meanings
The manipulations, whether impending or already evident, operate on ideas to
variously render and manipulate them as messages, facts and meanings in the form
of information, data, or knowledge – thereby supporting the retention,
regeneration and reuse of the ideas.
The following sketches illustrate typical field manipulations and effects.
Each illustration is also associated with some typical issues regarding the availability
or uses of the items underlying the coverage in the field.
These illustrations and issues are neither “technical specialties” nor “standards”.
And they are not intended to be collectively exhaustive.
Instead, they are simply reflections of common experience.
In that light, it is common that “interested” behaviors are often goal-oriented,
constrained, and productive. This characteristic is also part of the annotations,
identifying how key operations on information are routinely distinctive.
P.S. - Thinking about Content
The functional perspective on the “field of interest” allows us a certain further
understanding of the management of ideas.
We know that ideas are represented at various levels of language, itemization, and
specificity. Yet we also know that all of these representations are addressable as
By understanding content as “the actor in the role” of message, fact or meaning, it
is understandable how the diversity of material seen in a given role by a population
of thinkers is neither unusual nor problematic.
Instead, it aligns comfortably with the diversity of “occupations” in that population
– while making each role variable and more widely approachable through differing
iterations via content. This also explains why content management is increasingly a
higher-level executive function in the community of interest.