A Story Culture
The Editor and I don’t argue, we discuss.
We’re arguing… discussing over a glass of red wine my concern over our collective attention spans. Not just she and I, but everyone. The whole damned planet.
I say, “Information just keeps getting smaller. We’re sharing our bright ideas in 140 characters now and no one is taking the time to construct a strategic thought. All these micro-ideas are free and everyone is taking them for granted. We’re just tactically stumbling through a day full of intellectual sound bites stuffed with shortened URLs. There’s no deep now. Just shallow passing seconds.”
“No one is learning. There’s no work involved in knowing a thing, so we’re becoming mentally flabby. I want people to read more.”
To which the Editor retorts: “I don’t think you know what information is.”
Information has a Hierarchy
So I looked it up. According to Ray R. Larson at Berkeley, information has a hierarchy that looks like this:
* Data – The raw material of information
* Information — Data organized and presented by someone
* Knowledge — Information read, heard or seen and understood
* Wisdom — Distilled and integrated knowledge and understanding.
If you ignore the fact that the word information is used to define a hierarchy about information, this hierarchy makes sense, but it dances around a key point.
Another version of this hierarchy describes the same categories as above but focuses more on what happens to information once we get a hold of it. Not just consumption, but synthesis.
* Data — Raw material. Facts. Got it.
* Information – Organized data. See what happens here? Someone showed up and organized the data into something else. Why’d they do this? How’d they know it was the right thing to do? Let’s keep moving.
* Knowledge — Information seen, heard or read and understood. To me this is when information is transformed by the understanding of why. Our data is organized into information and that is passed onto someone else who can now recognize the value in the information and thinks, “Oh, wow. Now I understand how a trash compactor works. Slick.”
* Wisdom — Distilled, integrated knowledge and understanding. The idea here is that higher order constructions of information are based beyond our ability to consume, combine, evaluate, and interpret information. The information becomes a catalyst for creation. Think of it like this: maybe a lot of people understand trash compactors, but you know so much about trash compactors that you could build one yourself and perhaps advance the art of trash compacting in the process.
Still with me? This is going to take more than 140 characters and there’s a point. Just wait a tick.
Take a look at this list:
* New York is a city.
* It takes me about five hours to fly to New York.
* I’ve been to New York three times this year
* I never believe I’m in New York until I’m in a cab or smoking a cigarette.