The Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom Chain: The Metaphorical Link

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

DIKW Chain

If you don’t know where you’re going and what you’re doing, then you run the risk of being led astray by those who do more about what they know less, improvising their way forth — by trial and error — while remaining clueless about why they are doing what they are doing and where they are going, in a circuitous journey of the blind leading the blind.

Of course, this may sound “disrespectful” to those who think they know more than they really do.

The ignorant ones demand respect; the wise ones never do. The wise ones command respect, but never from the ignorant arrogant (sorry for the redundancy, as arrogance always implies ignorance), but rather, from the teachable ones. These aspirants to knowledge are recognized by those who truly know how to discern the true from the false, the good from the bad, the useful from the useless. We may call them the wise ones.



The Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom Pyramid of Enlightenment (DIKWE) is the upper structure  of lower, inverted and dark counterpart, as in an octahedral pyramid,


The Counter Pyramid of Darkness (GMFAD)


Misrepresenting the truth (mistaken beliefs, fallacies, illusions) is the inevitable outcome of data glut conflated as misunderstood information. Confounded opinions beget the arrogance of the ego-gloated ignorant: data rich, wisdom poor.

Like Theseus, the seeker must follow Ariadne’s Thread — the metaphorical link from raw data to meaningful information to actionable knowledge to useful wisdom — in order to kill the Minotaur of misinformation and weave a lighted way out to the truth. Otherwise, the misguided aspirant is bound to the circuitous maze of the blind leading the blind in the GMFAD Pyramid.


DIKW Chain


Metaphor associates a target domain of experience, usually more abstract, with another, more concrete, literal domain, called the source domain. Two ubiquitous examples include the metaphors of Knowing Is Seeing and Understanding Is Grasping.

We can place data in storage in databases, or fill a repository. It is discrete, it can pile-up, be recorded and manipulated, or captured and retrieved. Data can be mined for useful information or we can extract data. We can look at the data or experience the tedium of data-entry.

Information is corpuscular, quantifiable, morselized, commoditized, objective and ‘out there,’ transferable, interconvertible, transparent, autonomous and measurable. It has shape and can be processed and accessed, generated and created, transmitted, stored, sent, distributed, produced and consumed, searched for, used, compressed and duplicated.

Knowledge is generally personal, subjective and inherently local – it is found “within the heads” rather than existing objectively without. Knowledge is internalized by the knower, and as such is ‘shaped’ by their existing perceptions and experiences. Thus we have knowledge and can possess knowledge as an individual which is, for example, quite impossible with data. Within the field of knowledge management there exist two quite distinct and widely accepted types of knowledge: tacit (non-codifiable) and explicit (codifiable).

In sum then, knowledge is conceptualized in two very different ways: as both a fluid and a solid. In contrast to the metaphors for information and data, knowledge tends to reside ‘within’ a person thus removing it from the objectivity enjoyed by the others that are seen as objectively outside the body. Whilst we may prefer, and much of the best efforts of the knowledge management field push towards, a more uniformly solid concept to enable us to transfer, share and store it reliably, much of the power and beauty of knowledge lies in its fluidity and ‘leakiness’.

The transformation of data into information… It is commonly assumed that data itself inherently contains no meaning . Information is therefore often seen as “Data with meaning.” Other sources, such as the data mining literature, refer to the transformation of data to information as a process of distillation or pattern recognition.

Knowledge is created by accumulating information. Thus information is a necessary medium or material for eliciting and constructing knowledge.

Adding structure to data makes information, and adding structure to information follows well to create explicit knowledge, but not to create tacit, ‘leaky,’ knowledge.

… the visual metaphor provided by the ‘Knowledge pyramid’ where large amounts of data are distilled to a smaller quantity of information, which is, in turn, aggregated to create yet more distilled, though more widely applicable, knowledge.


One thought on “From GMFAD to DIKWE

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