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Information and knowledge

December 4, 2011

I just finished reading “The Social Life of Information“, by JSBrown and PDuguid. And, just by accident, I started reading “La democracia del conocimiento: Por una sociedad inteligente“, by DInnerarity. In both the same theme: what is information and what is knowledge.

We are, effectively, lost in a sea of information, struggling to find knowledge. Knowledge takes effort, time, reflection over information. Knowledge it is not a click away, in a Google search. Knowledge is not a product of information, it is a product of human action over it, mine or somebody else’s. That’s something that the immediacy of the Net goes against. No reflection is just another way of wasting knowledge, of wasting time that does not go into transforming, translating information into knowledge.

That’s why I’m finding books, the paper version, more and more attractive. That’s true that an e-book reader works the same, but there is an important difference: a book is just that one book; an e-book reader is a profusion of books, that allows you to jump from text to text in a too easy way. No reflection (or a lot of discipline that is not easy to come by). That does not mean that reading a paper book is a way of getting knowledge just by itself. But it may be, probably, better that something else. Part of it comes from finding the time and the place to read, not reading everywhere.

If I cannot take the time, I do not know. Brown and Duguid, in  the book above, mention the notions of “learning about” and “learning to be”; or the parallel (analogic) notions of “know that” and “know how”. Something to keep in mind whenever I want to learn. Is it worth being exposed to a lot of “stuff” if there’s no time to explore and deepen?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2011 11:46 am

    Being a huge fan of books (and having a house full of them :-)) I totally get your perspective on the qualities of the book as conveyor of information and an open door to knowledge. Having to find the time and the place to read, i.e. having to set a scenario and make yourself available (mentally and otherwise) to read creates good conditions to really focus on the task and take the necessary time to reflect upon and engage in the “dialogue” you develop with the content.
    However, I don’t think comparing a book to an e-book reader is a fair comparison. An e-book reader is more like a library (or a section of a library), or a (very big) bookcase. You may get the same kind of feeling when you are in the presence of a number of books you find interesting but know you only have the time to read a few. Furthermore, I think it’s great to be able to carry your personal library around and dive in the pleasure of reading in situations where otherwise you wouldn’t be able to.
    I think knowledge can be diversified and have different layers of deepness and “completeness”. The slower, solid knowledge you can build from books is great, but so is the quicker, just-in-time, at-the-point-of-application, good-enough knowledge you can develop through the abundance available on the Internet. Which, in time, can also become deeper and more complete (this is, naturally, a simplified version of a complex matter :-)).

  2. December 5, 2011 7:51 pm

    I agree. My point is just about the general disposition one starts with when using one or other of the text media. E. g., I clearly prefer to use an e-book reader for papers, avoiding the use of paper copies. Still, the highlighting (or note taking) in an e-book reader does not feel as natural as a pencil margin note or an underlining. Perhaps, in some way, both me and the manufacturers of e-books are trying the wrong things: to imitate/substitute a book. It doesn’t work, for good reasons. They are made for different things.
    Thanks for the input.

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