Friday, March 09, 2012


In David Weinberger's book Too Big To Know there is a discussion of the DIKW hierarchy:
The famous DIKW pyramid
The origin of this model is murky, but it resurfaces many times, for example, in the form of Bloom's Taxonomy.

The goal of Data is Information, the goal of Information is Knowledge, of Knowledge, Wisdom. Become wise and win a prize. What is the gatekeeper for each stage of the hierarchy? Curation.

Weinberger make the point that Knowledge is Information that is not only true but in which belief is justified. We may, or may not, have "Information overload", we certainly don't have Knowledge overload. Filtering works with Information, but is disruptive to Knowledge. Wisdom - well that seems like too difficult a puzzle to crack.

Now, if all this is getting a bit philosophical, well that's probably the only way to survive ten weeks of teaching first year students statistics. My statistics module has two goals: To get students to realize that statistics is about transforming Data into Information, and to realize that transforming Information into Knowledge requires experience and understanding.

Most of my day is spent curating stuff. When I'm researching, I curate Data to transform it into Information. When I teach, I'd like to think I'm curating Information which students transform into Knowledge. But I still haven't figured out what Wisdom has to do with education.

A.J. Cann

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting addition to the 'data, information, knowledge' series, and not one that i have come across before. On the strength of your recommendation I have ordered 'Everything is miscellaneous'. so I might get round to reading 'Too big to know one day' too.

    Is wisdom something like 'the long view'? - I have a vivid memory of revisiting a place I knew from my childhood, and seeing how the trees had grown from little more than saplings into relatively mature trees. I've always felt this was what wisdom is, having a store of structured knowledge into which your new experiences can be contextualised.

    Wisdom can't be taught, it has to emerge through the longterm accrual of little bits of knowledge synthesized over time rather than immediately, and repeatedly using that knowledge (what might more formally be called 'practice'). It probably also involves unlearning and forgetting as well as new learning.

    One final thought I had (after writing the above, otherwise I would probably have come to different conclusions): wisdom isn't a word you come across in the academic literature, but how different is it from 'expertise'.