The Information Hierarchy

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The term “information” has always simply meant, “facts provided or learned about something or someone” (Oxford Dictionary). However, it appears that this only portrays a partial definition of a much wider used conceptual term. This definition supplies the factual representation of “information” from a semantic view and ignores the classic view that information can exist whether it is perceived by, “something or someone” (Oxford Dictionary) or not.

The Data Knowledge Continuum or Information Hierarchy (AEW, 2008), suggests that there are several different levels of information and that, in fact, information is only one of the points in the continuum (AEW, 2008). The distinctions, however, between some of the levels of the hierarchy seem minimal when first encountered. It was after shifting these levels into easier to understand visually based concepts that they became simpler to digest.

For example, chaos can be viewed as a wide selection of letters flying around your head, and yet you have no idea that they are in fact letters. Once they have been identified as letters that belong to the English language, they become data. However, they remain as individual letters with limited meaning attached to them. The information level is, therefore, where words begin to form out of these letters and the data takes on a previously unknown meaning. Yet, it is not until knowledge that these words are in turn given their own meaning and can be recalled later for reuse. Finally, wisdom as a level suggests that these words can be used for a higher purpose, i.e. a sentence can be created out of them that achieves a higher order goal than knowledge.

Below is a visual representation of the above levels:

Chaos c, 4, #, a, b, r, 7, %, t, l Symbols are mixed and not separated into organised groups


Data c , a, b, r, t, l Letters are separated and understood to belong to the same group. However, minimal meaning is given.


Information Cat, cab, rat, tar, art Letters form words, however, the meaning of the word is not given.


Knowledge Cat: a four legged animal

Cab: a type of car

Rat: a small rodent

Words are now given their own meaning and can be understood and reused.


Wisdom A cat chased a rat past the cab. Words can be combined to form wider meaning and higher knowledge.


The information hierarchy suggests how information is formed and processed, however, due to the nature of society and human interaction, information is forever fluid. In order to communicate with each other as human beings, it is important to note that information is inconsumable, meaning that information does not disappear once used, in fact it grows. Therefore, it must be shared in order to allow society to truly benefit from the information network that the world has created. Information must be digested, understood, transferred and accumulated to benefit the whole population and allow society to keep up with the constantly changing nature of information itself.


AEW. (2008). Community of practice: Part B. The Information Hierarchy. Retrieved from:

Oxford Dictionary. (n.d.) Definition of Information in English. Oxford Living Dictionaries. Retrieved from:

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