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The word ``information'' and its soulmate ``data'' ...

The word ``information'' and its soulmate ``data'' are rather neutral, technical terms that often have superseded the term ``knowledge'' as referents for our preserved cultural lore in the contemporary era. These terms also suggest our ambivalent attitude toward many of the symbolic artifacts produced in the late twentieth century. ``Information'' and ``data'' imply symbolic artifacts without mooring; such uncontextualized material seemingly floats and accumulates and serves as a reservoir (largely untapped) for the individual inhabitants of electronic culture. Of course, human beings remain knowers in much the same fashion they have in earlier eras. To be a knower is a social endeavor that involves contextualizing such that one becomes an effective agent. A knower recognizes significant relationships among domains of information. Nevertheless, individuals in electronic culture perceive a certain distance between personal life and the larger environment; they sense a disconnectedness within the larger framework of expanding information. In part, this is to say no more than that the suppositions about reason and the edifice of knowledge developed in book culture seem to be collapsing. We have at least imagined that there were a finite number of appropriate classificatory schemes within which to locate ourselves and our experience; but now we seem to be relinquishing this hope for at least a map of maps. The world of information seems to have lost its human scale; its vastness leaves us unsteady even if we remain excited about its prospects.gif

Fri Jul 25 22:00:35 MEST 1997