Jacques Lacan proposed in his Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis that meaning is created where language breaks down i.e. we find the most important content of communication in the cracks in language, the spaces left when an idea tries to conform to grammar, syntax and the words available for us to express ourselves and fails in a fascinating and meaning way. It is these juxtapositions of words and grammatical structures that animate the building blocks of language, that take information or data and imbue it with meaning; they are sometimes expertly crafted and linguistically 'accurate' and sometimes solipsistic accidents that resonate with others and help modify our language structure to accommodate this new insight.
The interplay between data and technology operates in much the same way: data is not information without the effect of technology to animate it. I use the term technology in its purest sense from the Greek meaning a crafted or systematic treatment, so the book is as much technology as the computer. And in so doing suggest that there are two complementary missions we undertake as caretakers of knowledge: the first is to collect and protect data, the second is to apply technology to that data in order to reveal and explore its meaning as information.
The danger arises when our desire for meaning encourages us to elide the distinction between data and information; we see it as a useful shortcut that gets us to the point faster, but in so doing we risk morphing the data, altering its fundamental nature to suit a particular interpretation. Once changed the data cannot be re-presented, interpreted or analyzed and potential new and more informed meaning is impossible.
I see enormous value in interrogating data projects through this lens to understand if our short term goals preclude the future utility of the data inherent in the project. It seems there are many things to consider about the data per se before we are in a position to start using it!