Information Cultures in the Digital Age pp 287-306
“Data”: The data
While many scholars in information science have understandably focused on the concept of “information” as foundational, some authors have identified other concepts as having similarly foundational status. Two that are regularly suggested as candidates are “data” and “document.” Oddly, perhaps, for such a basic term, “data” has not been as frequently subject to probing analysis in the scholarly literature as “information”; and although “document” has long been a term of special interest to historians of the European documentation movement, some of whom continue to develop a document theory, there is little consensus on the precise nature of the conceptual relationship between “data” and “document.” In this paper, a review is conducted of historical interpretations of “data,” and relationships with contemporary conceptions of “document” are explored. The conclusion is reached that, current practice notwithstanding, it is not in fact the case that documents are made up of data, nor that the document is a species of dataset: rather it is the other way round, in both respects. A dataset is made up of documents; and the dataset is a species of document.
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