From Data to Information
by Jacques du Plessis, 2004

Note: The following graphic is based on the research in my dissertation (LINK) in which these steps to transform data to information were developed.

A datum is an entity, usually combined with other data, that is intended to be the raw material of information. If the datum or data cannot be transformed into information, the entity or entities still retain the designation as data. Figure 1 below indicates the successful intermediary steps that have to be met in order to transform data into information.

Figure 1: The Intermediary Steps to Transform Data to Information

Data have to be received to be data. To be received it has to be transmitted, and the receiver has to be endowed with the capacity to receive the data.

Data have to be adequately clean in order to translate the data. If it is not clean, it is corrupted; the intended signal is not received. (If it is not adequately clean, it would be corrupted to the point where the data becomes incomprehensible.)

If data is received, and it is not corrupted, is opens to possibility to be translated (decoded). It requires the receiver to have to capacity to interpret the symbols. If I were to say" Julgi dile sultanet!" the data would be received by you, it would be clean, but you would not have to ability to translated the data because you either do not have the capability to understand the signs "julgi" and "dile" and "sultanet." Yet, if the provider of the data only intended the data to be clean, and not to be translatable (gibberish), the data does not have the potential to be decoded.

If the data is received, if it is clean, if it has intended meaning, and if the receiver is able to decode the data, the receiver has to be able to contextualize the data. The ability to contextualize data depends additionally on several other variables -- the receiver's ability to understand beyond the superficial level, to relate to the unsaid, the implied variables in space and time. If the data cannot be contextualized, the intended information is missed. For example, the phrase, "use the can till silence returns" does not inform unless the data can be connected to an appropriate and intended context.

Information is data that informs. What do we call "information" that doe not inform? In other words, the data is received, it is clean, translated, contextualized and yet the message does not inform. For example, if I tell you, "you can read," the data would be received, clean, translated, and contextualized, yet it does not inform. This is communition. If you have authority and I ask your permission. If you were to say either YES or NO, it would be data that informs. Every bit of the data informs. That is illumination.

Information does not consist of purely commonition or illumination. Commonition is needed to contextualize illumination. Politicians often use the tactic, using expressions filled with commonition with virtually no illumination.

See also the piece on Transferring Information for one Intelligence to Another

Jacques du Plessis 2004 (Last revision, March, 2005)