Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What is Proto-Knowledge?

The world of ideas can be divided into different levels of organization.

-On the first level is data: I define data as unsorted numbers or letters. Data on its own carries no meaning. In order to become information, data must be arranged meaningfully.

-The second level is information: Information consists of isolated concepts that represent patterns (perceived regularities) found in data. For example a trend in statistical data, or words (concepts).

-The third level is Knowledge: For information to take on meaning, it must be interpreted by putting it into context with other concepts. Knowledge is a network of inter-connected concepts. This definition of knowledge is different from the classical philosophical understanding as"justified true belief". I understand connectedness as the central criterion for knowledge (without judging its truthfulness). People can hold concepts of varying truthfulness in their mental network.

-A fourth (and epistemologically different) level is meta-knowledge: Meta-knowledge (also called strategic knowledge or even wisdom) means knowing when to use knowledge.

So what is PROTO-KNOWLEDGE? Proto-knowledge is in-between information and knowledge. I describe proto-knowledge as potential knowledge. For example, a book that I have not read yet contains proto-knowledge. Once I have read the book and integrated the concepts of the book into my existing mental network it becomes actual knowledge that I can actively use for problem-solving and decision-making. Information in the internet is proto-knowledge. It is information, presented in context and connected to other ideas, for example through links, but I have not seen and integrated this information yet - thereby turning it into knowledge. Knowledge other people have but I do not is also proto-knowledge to me. After a person shares it with me, it becomes knowledge to me too.

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