Saturday, 13 August 2005

Knowledge and Information, are they the same?

I have been thinking about this a lot, really a great deal! I don't say I have any answer.

Knowledge* is all the accumulated experience I have since my birth. This is very much which define "me". Some of this knowledge may not be immediately retrievable or may have been lost (hence these will have little utility value); some may better be forgotten, which, unfortunately, I cannot. Of course, most of my knowledge will be called upon when I make any decision in my daily activity.

Information is manifestation of someone's part knowledge. Being an externalisation, information is not necessarily an accurate representation of one's knowledge, nor represents the whole of one's knowledge. However, being externalised, knowledge can be transferred from one place to another and from one time to another and stored externally.

It involves great skills to externalise one's knowledge. Hence, some are greater writer and story teller than others.

[further thinking required: Is factual information a manifestation? For example, the weather man measures and reports the air temperature of the city we live daily. Are these data points his manifestation of his knowledge, given that he does not actually do the measurement himself. He may have just read it off an instrument! There are millions of automatically collected data. Do they represent information as defined as a manifestation?]

The process of "importing" information, among many other activities which may or may not have the same effect, as being part of one's knowledge is called learning.

Social linguists argue that it is the language (natural or symbolic) which forms the building blocks of our mental model (knowledge). Because language is developed (and acquired) socially, we have a common understanding of the language, albeit there may be shades of diferences. Both instructivitic and constructivitic approaches to teaching and learning can produce learning results. Different learning theories deal with different aspects, and with varying degree of emphasis, of the organisation and presentation of information itself (typically the focus of instructional designs) or conditions under which the information "enters" the learner.

Connectivitism deals with an information network and treats both human and databases of information as nodes. Learning is part of a network building process. While this network view of the interconnectedness of information may also be the underlying operative description of our mental process, does an interconnected organisation represent a higher intelligence in which human is the equivalent of a brain cell? Sure, human has been extending our abilities by external means for as long as history can tell. We have been extending our physical strength by external power machinery. Data bank can supplement the potential fuzziness of our memory. By knowing where to get the information to help solve a problem, instead of accessing that information from within, external information network will help us solve more problems better and faster. It does represent a change of the kind of knowledge we would like to be accessible in our operative part. Does that represent a "bigger" or "better" knowledge?

That is my current thinking and I am open to be convinced otherwise.

*I am using the term knowledge very boardly here. At this stage, I am making no attempt to distinguish the more subtle difference between just knowing and wisdom, inspiration or value systems.

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