When is information intelligent?

  1. chevron left iconWhen is information intelligent?
September 15, 2011

Information is fleeting. We often have difficulties remembering the name of the person we had been introduced to, the color of the dress a guest wore, the date of our last meeting. Which is why we exchange calling cards, maintain our calendars, take photos and rely on the stored information remaining accessible.

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But the photo of a red piece of cloth does not enrich the information in any way. We need context. Preferably a photo of the person who wore the dress, the particular settings in the background, and saved with the date so we can assign the information accordingly. Now if a third person were involved here we would still have to provide some additional information so that the photo could be properly understood. "That was Petra, a witness at the wedding last year in Frankfurt", or "This woman is responsible for the company's marketing. We got to know her at the symposium in Berlin, where we launched our new product. The photo was taken at the legendary after fair party …".

It is only when information is enriched, when relationships are created, when information is discoverable and retrievable that such information becomes useful.

But what characterizes "intelligent information"?

Already in 2002 the work of Ann Rockley appeared under the title of "Managing Enterprise Content. A Unified Content Strategy", published by New Riders Press. The author addresses the question as to what makes content intelligent:

»We define it this way: Intelligent content is structurally rich and semantically aware, and is therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.«

Let us take this as an opportunity to check as to whether these criteria also apply to intelligent information.

Does intelligent information have to be strongly structured?

No, that is not possible. Information is part (the smallest) of a content, an asset, an aspect of a person. Always a granular part, an own entity, an own little unit of meaning. As such, it is initially without significance. Structures, however, are usually rigid. Which is why we prefer to speak of relations.

Intelligent information has semantic meaning

"Semantically aware" refers to semantic significance. This means information that is enriched, assigned with metadata, linked relationally and with other information. Only when information is enriched is it possible to create a relationship, become "aware". Take organizations, for example, that generate personalized content:

It is only when information enters into a context of meaning (for example, preferences shown, purchases made, requests submitted) does this information become valuable and relevant. Relations and enrichment should take place dynamically. Additional and exciting dimensions, for example, could include time (purchased on / requests notification on) and place (keyword, location-based services).

Intelligent information is discoverable, retrievable

Rockley says that contents must have semantic significance and be structured in order to be discoverable and retrievable. We say that intelligent information will not only be easier to find, but will also find the relevant users, will recommend itself. Take the example of search agents that recommend books on Amazon that might also interest you. Here, relationships are formed from your reading and purchasing behavior and that of other users. And if you are interested in a specific topic, new products will be offered to you without you having to search for them.

Intelligent information is reusable

According to Rockley, one of the criteria of intelligent content is the fact that it can be reused. Frequently used contents are therefore more readily available than contents that are used less frequently. Integrated publishing or integrated communication that is based on relational information meet these criteria alone given that the frequency of utilization is nothing other than additional information, a characteristic that is also linked and interconnected. The same also applies to the criteria of "reconfigurable" and "adaptable".

Intelligent information organizes itself independently

Content is structured or a sum of information items that are related with each other. If we take a dictionary or a glossary (in which every entry consists of the information of the term, the explanation of the term as well as links and characteristics), we do not need a structure in order to reorganize the information or apply it in another context. Such information or assets are more variable than structured content could be that would have to be initially adapted to new user needs.

Information creates Relations

Information items that hold significance among each other are nothing other than content. A single information item alone (take a binary digit, for example) does not reference to anything further. It is only when this number (such as 4 as an abbreviation for for, or a bad omen in Chinese culture, for example) gains an enrichment in terms of content that it becomes content. This is an organic context of meaning - according to Rockley's conceptualization - highly intelligent and variable. When people and contents come together in this way we can depart from our (rigid) ideas of the information society and finally speak of the knowledge society.

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