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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Information? Only In Your Head

11:20:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , , 2 comments
The term information technology "...is concerned with the use of technology in managing and processing information, especially in large organizations." (Wikipedia)

This definition is based on the definition of information as being a collection of data, or even as being simply a synonym to the concept of data.

I strongly believe that we should use another definition of information:

Information is the result of a successful communication process, a message that has been sent from a sender and that has been recieved and understood by the intended receiver.

A definition like this would help us to produce more useful and meningful content, as well as technologies that actually make life easier for people. Why? I will tell you why.

Think of information as something that is created in your head, by cognitive processes in your brain, when you consume content. By content I mean a message that is encoded as text, images, sound etc. To be able to interpret and understand what the content (the message) is about, you must already know a lot about the concepts that it refers to. If you don't, then the content will mean little or nothing to you. You will make no sense out of it. For example, if you don't know much about cars and how they work, then you will not understand what a "electronic fuel injection system" is about. You have to have a "preunderstanding" to be able to understand the content, to extract the meaning from it. Otherwise, you will have to do some research first to learn about the other concepts that "electronic fuel injection system" relates to.

My point is, that we cannot create, distribute, exchange or consume information. Everything we create, distribute, exchange and consume in the digital world is some sort of content. Everything.

Furthermore, since information is something that exists only in our heads, then the same certainly holds true for knowledge. We simply cannot manage neither information nor knowledge with technology. So forget about Information Management and Knowledge Management as a set of technologies. What we can do, however, is to enable and facilitate efficient communication between individuals with the use of technology, and thereby enabling and facilitating information and knowledge exchange between individuals.

If we, as producers of content, continue to think that we actually create, distribute and exchange information, we will have less chance of achieving what we want to achieve. By using the term content instead, it will be more natural to focus on understanding the intended receivers (the audience, the target group, the users...) when the content is created, distributed and exchanged. That is, trying to figure out what our intended receivers already know, what they need to know and what they are capable of understanding. Then we should try to create content that match their wants and needs.

This is all pretty much common sense. Or at least obvious when made obvious.


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