Roberto Verzola on Mon, 6 Dec 2010 09:59:19 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> abundance on the Internet

>  Isn't it really an abundance of _data_, but not automatically one of
>  information (in the sense of 'a difference that makes a difference' )
>  and knowledge? .... Data multiplies, but information?

Hi Florian,

I would even add: data, information, knowledge, wisdom. Which one is it 
that is abundant on the Internet?

The disagreement might be a matter of definition, so let me clarify the 
definition of information assumed in my paper. Roughly, information is 
that which reduces uncertainty (which is basically the definition in 
computer/information science). Digital information of course is that 
which answers a series of true/false yes/no questions, which eventually 
can be represented as a string of 1s and 0s.

Bateson's “difference that makes a difference” is not what I mean. 
(Aside: I heard this definition before in a similar discussion, and we 
could never agree, because the other side was always looking for “a 
difference that makes a difference”, while I was looking for areas of 
agreement. Once I point out that that a disagreement really didn't make 
a difference, he would go on looking for one that did!) I'm not 
comfortable with Bateson's definition because it makes for a moving target.

Anyway, going back to your point about data or information. Your comment 
suggests that the Internet has an abundance of data (which I take it, 
you mean information by my definition – strings of 1s and 0s) but not of 
information (which I take it, you mean that there's not much of 
“differences that make a difference” on the Internet). And of course, 
the latter is the basis of knowledge (and even beyond that, wisdom).

Let's be more specific. In the same paper (in the footnotes, because I 
was limited to 15 mins in my talk), I included the following example of 
what I meant by abundance: (footnote #3)

The following Internet search results give us an idea of the extent of 
the abundance:

* Search term Hits on YouTube Hits on Google*

how to open a coconut 2,160 7,380,000

how to make cheese 55,800 46,100,000

how to tailor pants 323 869,000

how to make a solar cooker 248 335,000

how to make a fishing net 576 6,180,000

how to temper steel 677 2,480,000

how to learn algebra 3,270 3,360,000

how to bind a book 991 7,870,000

how to do magic 883,000 279,000,000

Even if only one-tenth of one percent of the Google hits were relevant, 
that is still a lot of information.

I realize it remains debatable if the above represents “knowledge”. 
Again it might be a matter of definition, but I would argue it does.

Just in case some switch the argument, and say: well ok let's concede 
for the sake of argument that there is indeed abundance. But it is too 
much! How can one handle all that much information?

That is also a valid question, which can be covered in another thread. 
But raising this question would already back up the assertion of 
abundance on the Internet – whether you call it information or knowledge.

It's been a long time... Greetings,


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