Friday, August 28, 2009

Temporal Characteristics of Knowledge?

Phew ... . Haven't been in here in a while. Excuse me while I clean up a little.


I've been having and/or listening to a few discussions lately that use the phrase "all data is spatial". Don't like it - its probably 80-90% true, but not "all". Data like "the number of times I yawn in a day" may have relevant spatial components, or it may not.

What all data is, though, is temporal. All data is a snapshot in time. It may or may not change, but the only way to tell is to regather at a different time, and compare. In fact, almost all the utility of spatial data comes from its temporal component - real-time spatial data has to always be now. Non-real-time data needs the context of when it was created. There's a lot of other important characteristics, too, but time is the key one.

It got me thinking, though. I know we all hate (or should hate) the DIK(W) pyramid. But what little validity it has comes from the fact that there is a connection between the DIK elements. It a non-linear, non-hierarchical relationship, but it is there.

So I wonder, if all data is temporal, is the same true of information?

Probably. I can't think of any exceptions, but that doesn't mean there aren't any. You can have timeless information (fire burns), but its only proper information when fire IS BURNING something. I'm willing to be called on this, though.

But knowledge?

Hmmm, that's a tricky one. If you take the (albeit incredibly simplistic) view that knowledge is information in action or applied, then I suppose it has temporal qualities. But the knowledge that "fire burns paper" - is that temporal? I don't think it is - the temporal context of that knowledge isn't really relevant. You could argue that the time that knowledge was gained an/or used gives it a temporal quality. But because knowledge has a non-linear forward use element (it may or may not be useful at some point in the future), does that remove some of the temporal element?

I honestly don't know. I'm a big believer that that if something feels right, it is until proven otherwise (and "feels" is different to "believe", because believing has a sense of conviction behind it). And the idea that while all data is temporal, not all knowledge is, just feels right.

Still, I could be wrong (which is why it feels right, but I don't necessarily believe it). Any thoughts?


  1. I think I'm going to pick on your use of "believe" and see if that takes me someplace useful with the larger question.

    I know I have a hand at the end of my arm; I don't have to believe it. I also know that fire burns.

    And knowing these things means that I can do different things with that knowledge. I can light a candle, and I can run away from a forest fire. I can type this comment and I can pat the cat. Those are simplistic examples of the use of knowledge (not belief!), but sticking with the simple stuff usually helps. (Though there are probably going to be those who think I've over-simplified...)

    So, as you say, the knowledge itself can be applied in different ways, some of which I may not even have imagined yet.

    I'd say that makes knowledge non-temporal.

    Which, not to make bad puns, adds fuel to the fire for those who believe knowledge and information are different things! :)

  2. Thanks for the comment, Grace.

    I certainly have no problem with information and knowledge being different things. If they weren't, librarians and records managers would BE knowledge managers, instead of "just" being comfortable around knowledge sharing concepts.