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Re: [xml-dev] What is Data?

On Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 12:35 PM, Simon St.Laurent<simonstl@simonstl.com> wrote:
> Peter Hunsberger wrote:
>>>> Data is information that lacks context.
>>> Or data is information fragmented to optimize logical processing, rather
>>> than assembled for human comprehension.
>> What do humans have to do with any of this?
> I think it's because humans comprehend and share information in ways that
> look little like the pathways we describe for computers.  I'm not even
> talking about "knowledge", just information.
> I recognize that an entire industry rests on believing that the
> 'information' computers produce is equivalent to 'information' as humans
> have described it in the past.  I just don't believe that equivalence is
> real.

That's essentially my second point below: the context for a human is
necessarily different from that of any system operating on any data.
Any attempt to attach a special status to any context is going to do
so at the expense of some other context.  Pick your costs and benefits
as best you can ...

>> I'm actually being somewhat serious here.  I often try to get the
>> people new to data modelling to think more "meta" by breaking it down
>> as:
>> - Information is data in context;
>> - Data can be local or global, private or shared, transient or
>> persistent, typed or untyped.  Anything that puts any constraints on
>> any of these dimensions is some form of context.
>> - One persons information is another persons data (substitute process
>> for person as needed).
>> One can also play with "Knowledge is information in context" and
>> iterate, but that starts to devolve into debates on AI or metaphysics
>> (depending on the audience) if you're not careful...
> If your people think like computers, or in this case, prefer to think that
> they do, this description is great.  If I spend too much time programming,
> everything looks like a programming construct.  Step back, though, and it's
> clear that I've just spent too much time talking with computers.

Who said anything about computers? ;-)

Again, it's a question of what costs do you want to pay?

One can spend enormous amounts of time specifying a very precise set
of contexts within which some system (automated or not) can handle
some piece of data.  If one does so well, you end up with a system
that can handle some very precisely modeled piece of data in a very
efficient mater. That system, may however, have problems handling
anything outside of that precise context (or set of contexts).

Alternately, one can allow for much more generalized contexts and
spend more in terms or processing resources.  If one steps back too
far, you're attempting to do AI, or metaphysics, or philosophy
(depending on your context)....

Peter Hunsberge

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