Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

A Contribution to Defining the Term 'Definition'

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

A Contribution to Defining the Term 'Definition'

Article excerpt


Over time, a massive stock of information has been accumulated; the body of knowledge records is growing faster than the substance of knowledge itself, and it is increasingly difficult to search, manipulate, communicate, and transfer this voluminous structure. It can be questioned whether we are capable of accessing efficiently the whole body of knowledge accumulated by our ancestors.

Academic efforts to categorize sub-domains and fragments of knowledge into specialist communities of practice or disciplines, each with their special language to describe new phenomena, have certainly brought in the tides of progress in understanding our ambient and ourselves. However, the vivisection of our environment, the enclosure within formal domains, has also raised undesired barriers. Recent trends in science favor the de-specialization of knowledge and collaborative communication communication between initially separated disciplines. However, both trends have uncovered a variety of hindrances to the transfer of knowledge, such as existence of special terms and acronyms used within disciplines previously isolated from each other, as well as the appearance of homonyms and synonyms.

The growth of knowledge stock and the occurrence of cross-disciplinary communication are necessary, but not sufficient conditions for further improving knowledge transfer (Cartelli, 2003; Spuzic, 1999; Spuzic & O'Brien, 2002a).

There is little doubt about the importance of language in human thinking, and its key role in functioning of our civilisation (e.g. in communication and specifically in education). However, it is argued that contemporary languages are imperfect or not sufficiently developed since the explicitness and interpretations of terms and statements can vary significantly. Everyday language has developed from small community languages and dialects originating dynamically. The progress of civilizations coincides with developments of writing and printing. Yet the "dominant" languages we use today contain vestiges of orality and early literacy (Ong, 1982). Indeed Bolter (2001) argues that new developments in the use of information and communication technologies are slow to capitalize on the capabilities these technologies offer because one of the ways cultures adopt these new technologies is by making them imitate earlier technologies like print, writing and even oral techniques. As a result inconsistencies are many.

Ambiguities due to accumulation of synonyms, homonyms and acronyms have become apparent during the development of programs for applications of artificial intelligence. Since the synonyms, homonyms and acronyms bring vagueness and misunderstanding in the communication and interpretation of knowledge, they should be considered as important cases of misinforming.

A further problem is the multiplication of the records of already existing knowledge due to translation into other languages. These translations obviously increase further the amount of formal records. Do we really need to have the same knowledge written in Mandarin, French, Russian, Spanish, and Czech...?

There is no doubting the enormous advantages of the existence of variety of languages - the question is how this treasure can be made more useful.

Knowledge is a model (replica) of some relations that enables realisation of premeditated changes in some relations. A specific piece of knowledge has a context; this framework relates to when and where it can be reliably applied. We can state that we possess certain knowledge only when it actually has enabled repeated performance, irrespective of factors that are not included in formulation of that knowledge.

The body of knowledge can be broken into its structural components in the following manner: the simplest element of knowledge is information. Aggregates made of two or more of these elemental information units, together with their relations, constitute a concept. …

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