The DIKW Pyramid and the Role of Forward Filtering

In short, Expert Labs is a conscious response to the fact that knowledge has rapidly gotten too big for its old container…

Especially containers that are shaped like pyramids. The idea that you could gather data and information and then extract value from them by reducing them with every step upward now seems overly controlled and wasteful.

-Weinberger, Ch. 1

Only a few days ago, my boyfriend asked me if I knew the origins of the pyramid as an informational tool, such as the DIKW Pyramid or the Food Pyramid, and why they are effective. I had not yet read Weinberger’s history and interpretation of the pyramid so I wondered the answers to those questions myself. We mutually did not understand the efficacy of it. The DIKW Pyramid does strongly and proportionally represent the expressions of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom and their order of origins or flow. But beyond that, the pyramid is a very limited representation of knowledge when it is appropriated to the evolving means of information access, ie. the Internet, and the modern reaction to information overload, which is again through technological forms.

The terms “overly controlled” and “wasteful” are incredibly apt of this new knowledge network that is formed from the Internet. It is described by the idea of forward filtering, which ensures an opposite environment of one that is controlled or wasteful. No content is deleted. In fact, content is actually created. The term “filter” is curious because the act of filtering implies the removal or obstruction of something, not typically including additions or supplementation. However, the semantics do not matter and the situation is still the same.

Interestingly, the concept of forward filtering seems to be both an asset and a burden. The benefit to forward filtering is the sustained or increased amount of information that is available and its provision of a way in which to organize some of that information. Having access to an infinite sum of sundry information is great. However, the problem arises in that in one’s lifetime one physically cannot access all of the compelling information that is on the Internet, and that predicament can become overwhelming, for me personally with increasing discomfort to the idea of neglecting or being unaware of something of interest, of crucial knowledge. Weinberger proposes “the fear that keeps us awake at night is not that all this information will cause us to have a mental breakdown but that we are not getting enough of the information we need.” While I believe this refers to the idea that it is not simply the staggering amount of information that is overwhelming but is actually the high measure of filtering that people have to do in order to remove that dubious feeling that the information they are considering is not quite right, this concept was the catalyst that influenced me to recognize my own anxiety regarding information overload. With all of the forces of real life plus the pull of the intrigue of countless informational resources available at one’s fingertips at any time, there still is not enough time to experience it all. I am left to wonder about the psychological impact of becoming so keenly aware of all of the information that is on the Internet. Perhaps I should Google it.

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