Data, information, knowledge, wisdom

From Science Europe Data Glossary

Definition: data, information, knowledge, wisdom (DIKW) is a hierarchical model, often depicted as a pyramid, in which these four terms are placed and can be understood.

Explanation: typically, information is defined in terms of data, knowledge in terms of information, and wisdom in terms of knowledge.

  • Data is conceived of as symbols or signs, representing stimuli or signals, that are of no use until in a usable (that is, relevant) form.
  • Information is defined as data that are endowed with meaning and purpose.
  • Knowledge is generally agreed to be an elusive concept which is difficult to define. Knowledge is typically defined with reference to information. Definitions may refer to information having been processed, organized or structured in some way, or else as being applied or put into action. One of the most frequently quoted definitions of knowledge captures some of the various ways in which it has been defined by others: knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, expert insight and grounded intuition that provides an environment and framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations it often becomes embedded not only in documents and repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices and norms.
  • Wisdom has been described as "know-why" or as "why do", to distinguish it from "why is" (information), including a form of know-what ("what to do, act or carry out"). Some authors place a separate tier of understanding as an "appreciation of 'why'" between knowledge and wisdom, the last being "evaluated understanding": wisdom is the ability to increase effectiveness. Wisdom adds value, which requires the mental function that we call judgment. The ethical and aesthetic values that this implies are inherent to the actor and are unique and personal. Others describe wisdom simply as "integrated knowledge - information made super-useful" or as "knowing the right things to do" and "the ability to make sound judgments and decisions apparently without thought". Wisdom involves using knowledge for the greater good. Because of this, wisdom is deeper and more uniquely human. It requires a sense of good and bad, right and wrong, ethical and unethical.


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Data pyramid