Blowing up the Pyramid

That bloody DIK pyramid gets my goat every time. It was used far more than is good for my blood pressure at a conference in Kuala Lumpur this week. It is pervasive and nasty. Martin Fricke has published a rigourous theoretical paper (from the perspective of information science, not explicitly KM) showing exactly why the DIKW pyramid is not only wrong, but also misleading. It generates poor understandings of the relationships between data, information and knowledge, and this in turn leads to poor methodological practices. This observation in particular struck a chord:

“The DIKW theory also seems to encourage uninspired methodology. The view is that data, existing data that has been collected, is promoted to information and that information answers questions. This encourages the mindless and meaningless collection of data in the hope that one day it will be ascend to information—pre-emptive acquisition.”

Fricke cites a hilarious example of the kind of things we can learn from such practices – did you know that Librans tend to break their hips?

While every assault on the pyramid is welcome in my book, it’s a shame that the issue wasn’t addressed as well from the knowledge perspective (ie data is a designed knowledge artefact, not a primitive of information), and that the ludicrousness of the framework will only become obvious to the relatively few people in KM (my guess) who read the Journal of Information Science. Thanks to Margaret Gross via the TaxoCop community for this link.

4 Comments so far

Stephen Bounds

Hey Patrick,

Thanks for the link—a very interesting paper, although I didn’t quite follow how Fricke treated knowledge.

He seemed to say that “know-that” knowledge was actually information, and then ignored “know-how” as unmanageable (as least from an IS perspective).  Was that your interpretation as well?

Also, could you explain this statement:  “data is a designed knowledge artefact, not a primitive of information”?  I agree that data isn’t a primitive of information, but what exactly do you mean by a “designed knowledge artefact”?

Posted on July 03, 2008 at 07:30 PM | Comment permalink

Patrick Lambe

Yes that’s what I understood.

By “designed knowledge artefact” I mean that data (in the real world) is an intentional human construct (ie a filtered and usually structured selection of information fragments collected for deliberate knowledge-driven purposes).

Posted on July 03, 2008 at 10:10 PM | Comment permalink

John Tropea

Hey Patrick this was good timing I just revisted the knowledge pyramid with a lengthy blog post.

The pyramid was a shape that growing up was so facinating, and now I’m beginning to not like it, as I associate it with the over seeing eye (big brother), and hierarchies. Cycles and loops have a much more friendly and organic feel.

Posted on July 04, 2008 at 06:47 AM | Comment permalink

Patrick Lambe

Yes it must be in the air!! I was reading your latest post yesterday after I had posted mine and marvelled at the synchronicity.

Posted on July 04, 2008 at 08:53 AM | Comment permalink

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