During my research I have searched for a definition of data. Most of the times I found definitions that say something like “data is a collection of characters according to predefined syntax rules” (cf. Bodendorf 2005). But does this technical definition really define what data is? Doesn’t it rather say what data looks like? And how does data relate to information then? Is information really data + context / semantics? Of course, when I interpret data, I use my context knowledge and add semantics to it. But isn’t there a much more obvious relationship between data and information?
Data is materialized information.
While thinking many times about it, I finally found a simple, yet useful definition of data. I discovered the definition while thinking of the basic purposes of an information system: People use information systems to store and retrieve information. For this purpose, information is materialized into physical data, e.g. when people fill out forms. So thinking this way data is materialized information. And yes, it is of course also a collection of characters…
Do you agree? What is data for you? Please, send me your comment!