05 June 2010

Odds and ends

Apple's Safari browser - which I now use most of the time - is rumoured to be due for an update and it's said that the browser will incorporate a "Reader" device. This will strip out the text of an article from a Web page and present it on screen. I can imagine that this idea will be picked up by other browsers quite quickly since there is nothing more frustrating (well, little, anyway) than trying to read an article with all the flashing sidebars, ads and other stupidity going on around. Let's have it quickly, I say.

Then there's a bit of non-news: Internet Explorer 6.0 has now fallen to hold just 4.7% of the market. Sometimes the tech blogs obviously have a difficult time finding news. After all, we've had IE7 and IE8 for some time now, so it's hardly news that version 6.0 is declining in use. The article suggests that the rise of Chrome is the reason for IE's overall decline, but Chrome rose from 7.7% to 8.1% in May, so I'm dubious.

Finally, the "k" word takes a real battering in a recently announced White Paper from Europeana:

"Knowledge, then, is information that has been made part of a specific context and is useful in this context. The contextualisation processes leading to a specific set of information becoming knowledge can be based on social relations (information as part of a group of people's apprehension of the world, information present in the memory of a person) or semantically based (information related to contextual information via shared properties and thus becoming part of a semantic 'class' of information). On this level of knowledge it becomes possible, as well, to derive new knowledge (or at least new information) from combined existing knowledge: a form of interpolative – albeit very mechanical – reasoning such as the one based on formal logic in artificial intelligence applications."

It would be difficult to find any more confusion about the word than this. And yet the distinction is quite simple: knowledge is what we know and information is what we report about what we know. The notion that knowledge is "information that has been made part of a specific context" is quite absurd, since without context we have only data. The datum 29035, for example, is meaningless, until we put it in the context of (for example) Mount Everest, when it then become "information" - if (and it's a big if, these days), I manage to store that information in whatever way the brain allows, it becomes part of my general "knowledge" of the world. Of course, it could also be the brand number of a Ferrari watch, or the number of schools in Sind province without power... context makes the datum information.

And so the "knowledge" hype continues and continues to induce nothing but confusion. Well done, Europeana! (Whatever that is - I have no "knowledge" of the organization.)

1 comment:

  1. I agree that this is an ill-considered definition. References to Donald Rumsfeld, and to a seemingly mis-interpreted or partly misinterpreted Bates is not good... The White Paper seems to miss out on the essence of the distinction - well expressed in the suggested definition "knowledge is what we know and information is what we report about what we know". As Morecambe and Wise might have said: the many of the correct words were there - but not necessarily in the right order.