As Daragh explains, “data are facts about things, information is facts about things in a context that gives meaning, and knowledge is facts about things in a context that gives meaning and supports action. Ultimately, the value of data is a function of its meaning (which makes it information) and its purpose (which gives context for that information).”
The journey from factual data to actionable knowledge travels the winding road of contextual information. In the story of that journey, fact and fiction intermingle, and the line between them blurs.
The Most August Imagination
In my blog post Once Upon a Time in the Data, I explained the structure of stories is eerily reminiscent of the structure we impose on reality by describing it with data. A story is a narrative creating a static and comforting–but fictional–semblance of reality.
To make sense of a story–or data–we must enter its reality, we must believe that its fiction is fact.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge explained the necessity of believing in this “semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.”
“The final belief,” Wallace Stevens once wrote, “is to believe in a fiction, which you know to be a fiction.” Stevens believed that reality is created by our imagination, which we use to understand the constantly changing world around us. “Reality is the product of the most august imagination.”
Data is a fiction we believe in, which we know to be a fiction.
Data is not literal, but literary–data tells us a story.
“There is fiction in the space betweenThe lines on your page of memories,Write it down but it doesn’t meanYou’re not just telling stories.”
This is also a fiction in the space between your data and the real world. Effectively managing your data doesn’t mean you’re not just telling stories.