The Revenge of the DIKW Pyramid…



A long, long time ago, [cue music]…was there a reason George Lucas selected the pyramid? And what about the ancient Egyptians, Mayans, Aztecs, and Free Masons? Why a pyramid? Are we reaching for some Maslowian pinnacle of ordering these terms? And if the steps in this hierarchy implicitly suggest some kind of progress, progress towards what?


For me, looking at these key concepts in the world of KM it is not possible to completely disentangle them and say that “data is XYZ” and “wisdom is ABC.” I appreciate the efforts to make clear distinctions of these individual elements, but each by itself is meaningless – or lacks context. What’s data to me may be information to someone else, and so on up the DIKW food chain. I don’t want to suggest abandoning the need to clearly understand what each concepts means in some kind of PoMo post-industrial end of history kind of way; but without tangible reference points for each term (i.e., context or situation) I get stuck in an intellectual loop that while interesting doesn’t do anything for me other than spin some wheels.


So, let’s break down the wisdom hierarchy/pyramid


Since data, information, knowledge, and wisdom are the building blocks of wisdom use this analogy or metaphor rather than superimposing this on a pyramid:

OK, but this only gets me partially where I want to be. If each element contributes to the other (and most definitions are endlessly circular in their arrangements), why are they dissected to the nth degree? Some are quantifiable, some are qualitative…and this is starting to smell of professionalization. But of what? Oh, yeah, information science and knowledge management. Well, at some point I will come back to this idea and sort it out for myself. For now, can’t we all just get along…and keep the interlocked terms together?


Lastly, and I really need to work on this bizarre train of passing thought: whether it’s blocks, pyramids, or spheres, we seem to be using geometry to discuss these topics. And yet, I haven’t found a good reference that looks at the mathematical implications of this kind of modeling. If anyone out there is aware of something like this, I’d be most appreciative of some leads in this area – at some point I will wander further down this road anyway. Tangentially related to this, perhaps Foucault was right to use an archaeological analogy. Just another passing thought. Or was he?


4 Responses to “The Revenge of the DIKW Pyramid…”

  1. 1 DocMartens

    I do have some things that might be of interest that you’re welcome to borrow, though I suspect that the DIKW idea is much more of a metaphor than a model! (But I’m intrigued, of course, by even the notion of a geometry of metaphor….)

  2. 2 Rob Levy

    Doc Martens:

    In my efforts to stretch everything to the breaking point…DIKW is the example at hand. Sure it’s a metphor, but as I think about reconfiguring the metaphor I need to find a way to talk about this. Geometry is the “massage to my medium” or something like that!

    Yes, I’d love to see what you’ve got on this…emailable, hard copy, both!



  3. Hey Rob:

    I’m curious what your exploration into the geometry question may have uncovered. I just finished rewriting the Wikipedia article on DIKW, and actually just wrote a blog post on the topic ( Any new critical insights would be quite appreciated.

    – Beads

    • 4 rdlevy

      I’m looking at your entry, and I’m still working on this – life interrupted. I’m modifying this entry in a revised format (DIKW, of sorts), but rather than a geometry it’s turning out to be more of a calculus experiment. The “shapes” of the DIKW are still there in where I’m heading, but it’s more fluid (hence the calculus turn).

      I am interested to see where you’re heading with this as well – either something different, similar, or building on this (but then aren’t we all?).

      Thanks for the comment.

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