Calendars to Chronicles: 4

Bringing Objectivity in Chronicles

Capturing experiential information (such as photo, audio, and video) using sensors was revolutionary. It transformed how events were reported. Earlier a reporter used his subjective observations in chronicles or stories and the strongest statement a reporter could make was: “I was there and I saw it with my own eyes.” Since the event was witnessed by only a few people, the event was really ephemeral with no real persistent record except a subjective and selective memory of people around. And the memory of those around could be influenced easily by rewards or punishments later.

Sensors are incapable of exerting subjectivity or selectivity. Of course humans can decide placement of a sensor and its use at a particular time and that decision suffers from subjectivity and selectivity. Once operational, however, a sensor will faithfully collect data without any interpretation. This data needs to be interpreted to convert this to information. The sequence: Data – Information – Knowledge , is well known and recognized. In this sequence at each step abstraction is used. Data is most concrete and one uses context and goal to extract information from data using a-priori knowledge. The same data could be used to extract multiple types of information. The famous phrase, “A picture is worth thousand words”, is a strong manifestation of this fact. By using a different combination of goals, knowledge, and contexts, one can interpret the data to extract different information. The context of the data is usually represented using some form of contextual data that is commonly called metadata.

When different humans look at the same data, due to their context and due to their different knowledge sources and goals, they usually see different information in the data. This is a well-known fact in psychological literature.

When chronicles are prepared based on human reports, they naturally represent the context, knowledge, and goal of the reporter. In a sense, a report represents as much about the reporter as it does about the event.

Triangulation of information, or assimilating or aggregating information from multiple sources, has been a commonly used technique to deal with imperfections and errors in the data. Using many reports from independent sources, one hopes to get better picture of the situation.

When multiple types of sensors are used to capture an event, each sensor collects data related to one or more attribute. Even we humans use five specialized sensors to experience any events in the world. We can experience correctly only by combining information from as many appropriate senses as required. If we use only one or limited number of senses, the information about the event may not be correct or may not be complete. It is essential to use data from all appropriate sensors to get a correct and complete report on the event. Equally important is to use right knowledge in extracting information.

Traditional chronicles gave information that was collected by humans. No data was saved from the event. Recording technology introduced storage of data for an event. Photos, audios, and videos were the first recording devices that allowed this. And that was the beginning of the end of subjective chronicles.

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