I’ve been reading through books about and culture and technology lately. (wow wow wow, I think EVERYBODY NEEDS to read at least a couple of books about this subject. I have learned a ton!)

One of the ideas that struck me was the difference between data, information, knowledge and wisdom. (I am getting this breakdown from Tim Challies book The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion*)

To put it in MY words: Data is random words, letters, and even single facts. Data is completely context-less. i.e. I am a girl

Information comes when you put a lot of data together to create longer sentences or even a paragraph. It is still context-less, but you have more data and therefore, more understanding of what is being discussed. i.e. I am a girl who is happily married. The mother of several children, in my 30s, and I live in Mi.

Knowledge comes when you combine a lot of information together about one single subject, a whole paper about Africa or a book about elephants for instance. Tons of data, more information, and it finally has a context. You know specifically what you are learning about and usually where the information is coming from. And you learn a lot!

Wisdom is the final step. Wisdom is where you take the knowledge you have learned and you ask questions about it. Why am I learning this? What’s the purpose or intention of the author? What am I suppose to do with this information? How do I apply it to my life? It’s the practical step.

Wisdom is taking knowledge and letting it make a difference and influence the way you live.

Now for part 1 of the Application – the why I said all this:

We live in a society overflowing with information. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, blogs even, all have tons of short pieces of information usually context-free. I may know the person who’s writing the information, but I don’t know much about why they’re writing, what the intention is with it (other than just to share), and what in the world am I suppose to do with this information. It is usually just a short paragraph at most, and often just a sentence. There is no context.

The same can be said with television and the news. The news thrives on short pieces of information about something that I know very little of. And rarely, if ever, do they take the time to fill me in on ALL the information that I’m missing. But in all honesty, they can’t. Where are the countries they are talking about? What’s the history and the events that led up to this one point in time? What are the feelings of the people involved? What am I suppose to do with this information? And why are they even telling me about all this in the first place?

Data, information, knowledge and finally wisdom. We live in a society over flowing with information. How many of us are trying to take it to the next step to get knowledge, much less taking the time to find wisdom?

Maybe there’s just too much information and too little time…