Tuesday, 3 January 2006

Knowledge and Information, are they the same? Take 2

Since I wrote Knowledge and Information, are they the same?, I am becoming more and more uncomfortable when these two terms are used interchangeably. A strong feeling is growing inside me that said without a proper understanding of the difference between externalised information and internally coherent knowledge that we have, it would be very difficult to fully understand how learning may be best advanced. I am not a philosopher, so I don't know much about any previous debate/discussion in this area, if you can point me to any resource, it will be highly appreciated. Anyway, the following paragraphs explain why I am feeling so uneasy about this.

The essence of the "knowledge" and "information" distinction is the recognition of the boundary between "me" and "the rest of the world".  Knowledge is part of me (obviously one other part is the material (my body) which supported my biology existence), my being, my conscienceness.  This knowledge has been built to the current state via all the sensory inputs that I have been able to utilise.

I am not a good writer.  I know prefectly well that the words that I put down do not reflect 100% what I really want to say.  I also know that the way you interpret these words may be quite different from how I have interpreted and will interpret these words.  I also know that no matter how hard working I am as a writer, I will never be able to write down ALL of my knowledge.  So as externalized information, all my writings combined will only represent a small part of the knowledge that I have.  

Since the start of humanity, we have been trying to externalised our knowledge and trying to pass that onwards. With the advent of printing, these externalised partial knowledge (information as I prefer to call them today) of many great minds have been accumulating faster and faster, to the point that I will never able to read them all and hence will never be able to incorporate them all into my knowledge.  With today's technology, lots of them are at my finger tips. I will be contantly enchanted and enlightened by more reading and hence extending my knowledge.  But before I get the chance to read them, these externalised information, remains as "non-knowledge" to me.

Does this great collection of manifestations constitute as knowledge? If I own a copy of such manifestation, can I say I own that knowledge? Or, can I say I know the "partial knowledge the writer tried to manifest in that information"?

So in order for a piece of information to become part of my knowledge, I need to exert certain effort to make that information cross the "me" and "not me" boundary AND incorporate that into my current knowledge.

I suppose "learning" is this effort.

Pedagogy is the art of

  • convincing someone to put in the effort to get information across and to be integrated to be their knowledge
  • helping people to make this effort more effortless :-)
  • directing them to some sources of such information

I prefer not to call this process as knowledge transfer. Obviously, giving a learner a pointer to some information is only a small part towards helping the learner to learn.

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