What is Data? What is Information?

Florian Allwein from London School of Economics will present research into What is Data? What is Information? Read the summary below.

As the field of Information Systems (IS) research is increasingly concerned with data, a clear definition of this term, especially in distinction from information, would be desirable. As McKinney & Yoos (2010) show, “’Information’ is poorly defined in the Information Systems research literature, and is almost always unspecified, a reflexive, all-purpose but indiscriminant solution to an unbounded variety of problems.” (p. 329). This paper builds on this work and looks at how the term ‘data’ has been used in recent IS research. It finds that most authors take an implicit view of data as unprocessed information. Based on an outside definition of data as “facts of the world”, it relates the concepts to the ontology of critical realism, arguing that ‘data’ should refer to items in the realm of the actual, whereas ‘information’ should refer to items in the realm of the empirical. IS can thus be seen as efforts to capture the facts of the world from the realm of the actual and store them (in the realm of the empirical) in order to make them accessible for analysis. The paper ends by outlining how this can shape future research.