chapter  28
Pages 6

As more and more knowledge, in its representational forms, is converted into digital bytes, so it becomes an enlarged collection of data. We would not commonly think of a piece of music, the complete works of Shakespeare, the facts contained in an encyclopaedia, a photograph or a poem as data, other than as the way in which they become stored in a computer or transmitted through the network of computers. We ordinarily distinguish data from knowledge as the prior, raw or untreated state of information. Data are a product of various procedural systems, as in a quantitative collection of material, the results of a survey for example, which is also understood as a body of information when it is applied in some context or situation. A computer operating system processes data of a different kind, the algorithmically stored electrical impulses, coded as sequences of ‘0’s and ‘1’s. Data reside in the materiality of microchips of the CPU, in the switching between two states of electrical impulses which create the combinations of coded instructions. A computer database stores information through the additional procedural programming and code of software which carries the instructions and choices for accessing data in a readable form. The distinction we are making may be regarded as quibbling, since ‘data’ and ‘information’ are often used synonymously. However, the distinction is important when we relate our understandings of data, information and knowledge to the question of computer language and the preoccupation new media practice has with databases, networks and software. We need to go further with this line of thought.