For more information, click on the various
terms in the above concept map.
The Continuum of Understanding
One gains knowledge through context (experiences) and understanding.
When one has context, one can weave the various relationships
of the experiences. The greater the context, the greater the variety
of experiences that one is able to pull from.
The greater one understands the subject matter, the more one
is able to weave past experiences (context) into new knowledge by absorbing,
doing, interacting, and reflecting.
Thus, understanding is a continuum (Cleveland, 1982):
Often, the distinctions between data, information, knowledge, and wisdom
continuum are not very discrete, thus the distinctions between each term
often seem more like shades of gray, rather than black and white (Shedroff,
- Data comes about through research, creation, gathering, and
- Information has context. Data is turned into information
by organizing it so that we can easily draw conclusions. Data is also
turned into information by "presenting" it, such as making it visual
- Knowledge has the complexity of experience, which come about
by seeing it from different perspectives. This is why training and
education is difficult - one cannot count on one person's knowledge
transferring to another. Knowledge is built from scratch by the learner
through experience. Information is static, but knowledge is dynamic
as it lives within us.
- Wisdom is the ultimate level of understanding. As with knowledge,
wisdom operates within us. We can share our experiences that create
the building blocks for wisdom, however, it need to be communicated
with even more understanding of the personal contexts of our audience
than with knowledge sharing.
Data and information deal with the past. They are based on the gathering
of facts and adding context. Knowledge deals with the present. It becomes
a part of us and enables to perform. However, when we gain wisdom, we
start dealing with the future as we are now able to vision and design
for what will be, rather than for what is or was.
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?
T.S. Eliot's The Rock (1934)
Cleveland H. "Information as Resource", The Futurist, December
1982 p. 34-39.
Shedroff, N. (2001). "An overview of understanding" in Information
Anxiety 2 by Richard Saul Wurman. Indianapolis: Que.