What is Information?

from Dictionary.com -- Dictionary
Collins English Dictionary, 10th ed., 2009

information -n

  1. knowledge acquired through experience or study
  2. knowledge of specific and timely events or situations; news
  3. the act of informing or the condition of being informed
  4. a. an office, agency, etc, providing information
    b. ( as modifier ): information service
  5. a. a charge or complaint made before justices of the peace, usually on oath,
    to institute summary criminal proceedings
    b. a complaint filed on behalf of the Crown, usually by the attorney general
  6. computing
    a. the meaning given to data by the way in which it is interpreted
    b. another word for data
  7. informal too much information I don't want to hear any more

from Dictionary.com -- Thesaurus
Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition
[Note: synonyms of informal/non-formal usage were deleted.]

Main Entry: information
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: facts, news

Synonyms: advice, ... clue, confidence, counsel, cue, data, .. dossier, earful, enlightenment, erudition, illumination, info, inside story, instruction, intelligence, knowledge, ... learning, lore, ... material, message, network, notice, notification, orientation, propaganda, report, science, ... tidings, tip, what's
what, whole story, wisdom

Antonyms: ignorance
Differentiation between Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom:
  • Information, knowledge, wisdom are terms for human acquirements through reading, study, and practical experience.
  • Information applies to facts told, read, or communicated that may be unorganized and even unrelated: to pick up useful information.
  • Knowledge is an organized body of information, or the comprehension and understanding consequent on having acquired and organized a body of facts: a knowledge of chemistry.
  • Wisdom is a knowledge of people, life, and conduct, with the facts so thoroughly assimilated as to have produced sagacity, judgment, and insight: to use wisdom in handling people.
The distinctions above between information, knowledge, and wisdom are key to understanding the following quotations:
  • "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
    Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" --T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
  • "We are drowning in information and starved for knowledge." --Rutherford D. Rogers
  • "In your thirst for knowledge, be sure not to drown in all the information." Anthony J. D'Angelo, The College Blue Book
  • "Data is not information, Information is not knowledge, Knowledge is not understanding, Understanding is not wisdom." --Cliff Stoll & Gary Schubert
"Information" is hard to define because it is many things. Perhaps the easiest way to think of it is somewhere between data and knowledge. In the Information Science and Knowledge Management fields, raw data becomes information when it has been interpreted or put into a context.

* Statistics can be seen as raw data, simply numbers, until I view them in a particular context that is relevant to my needs.

* A photograph is raw data made up of colors, shapes, textures -- it becomes information to me when I view and process it.

Knowledge comes from sifting through information from many sources. It can be organized into disciplines that influence the way information is accessed. The three major disciplines of knowledge are:

  • Science
  • Social Science
  • Humanities

Your search for and use of information in these major disciplines will vary.

Through your studies, hopefully your data, information and knowledge will eventually lead to wisdom, an indefinable human state.

However we define it, we all know there is a lot of it. By some estimates, the amount of available information doubles about every four years, with digital content doubling every 18 months, especially since the advent of the Internet in the 1990s.

NOTE: The terms "Internet" and "World Wide Web" are often used interchangeably, even though they are two different things. Very simply...

Internet = a global network of tens of thousands of computer networks; many applications use the Internet

World Wide Web (Web) = one of the applications that use the Internet; a protocol that allows you to view, link, download the information, images, videos, etc that are available to computers connected to the Internet

Learning to filter through information to get the best for our purposes is what information literacy is all about.

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