Information and knowledge
With the advent of the Internet, the academic field too has been bombarded by excessive amounts of information. All information cannot and does not become available directly as knowledge (thought students will continue to lift papers off the Net and pass them off as 'researched work'). And yet there is no doubt that the information made available in the cyber world is extremely useful to the research community. There is a need to understand how information, sometimes even a surplus of information becomes useful for producing knowledge. There are ways of understanding 'information'- one from the social context and another from the technological context. Information at an everyday level refers to a bit of factual knowledge. One can call this kind of information, in order to reduce confusion, data. However, in technical terms it refers to the ordered procession of signals in a transmission network. The information in this context is not meaningful information, and has been understood as syntactic rather than semantic. Information of this kind finds it's meaning in the technological context of translation, transmission, and reproduction of signals.
Data and information
The factual material available on a particular topic would constitute the data or the datum field of the subject. The processing of this material would enable it to become information on a given subject. It is the conversion of mere data into information that becomes a matter of interest to the world of automation and artificial intelligence. Moreover it is only information that is sorted out based on certain criteria that can become useful for knowledge production.
Too much data?
Data, by its very definition, is abundant in quantity. The enormous pool of data available on a particular topic cannot be sifted easily by human effort. Automation would enable primarily a sorting out of the material. Flamenco, a search program that lets users browse a digitized collection in ways that are similar to a stroll among the shelves of a library, uses cross-linked categorization so that when people clicked on one category, they not only see the images within it but those in related categories. This allows not only information to be made available but also interesting correlations to be formed within different categories. Bruce Horn, the founder of Ingenuity Software in Mammoth Lakes, California, has created an information management system that lets people individually tailor and cross-index all kinds of files. This system collects and cross-links references to any subject that is identified by the user. These systems assist not only the management of too much information but also enable interesting correlations that could sometimes go unobserved despite human discerning.
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|Scattered Data Assembled together Categorized Classified Information made available. |
Final Information: sorted along various dimensions.
As newer and newer mediums of information and information storing (archiving, scanning digitizing) are constantly evolving, there is a need to standardize the information. Unless the information is made uniform it is not possible to present it along the same horizontal search. Digitizing and automation would also assist in providing this uniformity to the information.
And still a lot more…
While automation would render redundant a lot of human labor that goes into say data collection and analysis, it in fact opens out huge possibilities for research. Pre-automation, it was humanly possible only to access and analyze a limited number of materials on basis of which knowledge would be produced. With the mechanization of this process, infinite documents could be used. The task of the academic is thus more enhanced as well as made more competitive and meaningful.