Latest updates

Take a look through our articles for the latest updates from The Information Factory

What is data?

Oct 3, 2023
What is data?

‘What is data?’ was the first question asked of our CEO, Robert Jordan during a panel discussion hosted by Logistics Business. Data is so ubiquitous, so commonly used that we don't really think about what it is and so it seems difficult to define explicitly. Especially as data is not just numbers and text. It also includes images, film and sound.

Before revealing how Rob answered the question, here’s a selection of definitions provided by a variety of learned sources.

First, from the Merriam-Webster dictionary: Data is…“factual information (such as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation.”

And, Wikipedia’s view on the subject: “In the pursuit of knowledge, data are a collection of discrete values that convey information, describing quantity, quality, fact, statistics, other basic units of meaning, or simply sequences of symbols that may be further interpreted.”

And now some random definitions found via Google:

“A collection of values that transmits information about quantity, quality, fact, statistics – or any other unit of meaning.”

“Data is defined as facts or figures, or information that's stored in or used by a computer.”

“Data is information, more specifically facts, figures, measurements and amounts that we gather for analysis or reference.”

There’s a common thread of words running through the disparate definitions. Words such as information, facts, statistics and value. Plus some descriptions of what data is used for i.e. reasoning, calculation, analysis, reference.

Having been put on the spot, Rob offered the following “Data is a descriptor”. It’s the base unit from which you build up a picture and that picture helps you to take action.“

After considering this answer, he then refined it. “The best definition I can give is that data is the building block of information.”

For something as all-encompassing as data perhaps simplicity is the key. The idea of a building block is clear and easy to grasp. It conveys the impression that more than one piece of data is required, that data is used to construct something bigger and that whatever is built is stronger when the individual pieces work together.

Which brings Aristotle’s quote to mind “The sum of the whole is greater than its parts”. As it is with a sports team or an organisation – so it is with data. Things work better when they work together.

Back to Media Hub

Contact The Information Factory

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you transform your data into actionable insights then please get in touch:

Telephone: +44 (0)20 3858 9655

Email: info@theifactory.com

Copyright © The Information Factory S.A