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Symposium 2012

Proposal - Applying the inherent structure of digital information to optimize knowlegde discovery

The Challenge

Unprecedented recent progress in information and communication technologies (ICTs) is enabling people and organizations to overcome personal and regional restrictions on information acquisition. The I ...

Unprecedented recent progress in information and communication technologies (ICTs) is enabling people and organizations to overcome personal and regional restrictions on information acquisition. The Internet and social media are particularly important for facilitating access to an unparalleled wealth of information, as well as providing opportunities for new innovative activities and social interactions.

Proposal: Utilizing the inherent structure of information as well as its content and context optimizes the management of digital resources with scalable functionality for knowledge discovery.

Rationale: Intertwined elements of content, context and structure establish the meaning of any information resource. Content and context have been used for thousands of years to manage hardcopy resources through the architectures of libraries and archives, respectively. However, we now live in a digital world with distinct education, business, scientific, government and social information opportunities and challenges.

The fundamental advantage of digital information is its structure can be utilized objectively, dynamically and automatically for the purposes of resource management and knowledge discovery. For example, in a physical library, entire books are managed and accessed with a cataloguing system. However, in a digital library - by utilizing structure - each book as well as its chapters, pages, paragraphs, sentences and even letters can be managed as unique granules of information.

Despite the advantage, there is a global disconnect that upwards of 80-90% of all digital information is considered to be "unstructured," suggesting that it cannot be decomposed into relational schema. Emails, reports, books and social media all are considered to be "unstructured" resources. The other 10-20% of digital information is considered to be structured, such as transactional data from business processes incorporated into databases that can be interrogated with business analytics to identify trends, clusters and other relationships.

With "unstructured" information, we have search engines for users to access potentially relevant resources through arbitrarily ranked lists, which hide relationships within and between the resources. We also have programmer-defined ontologies and semantic representations for users to derive subjective relationships among the "unstructured" resources.

Over the past three years, major information technology companies have invested more than $35B to acquire smaller companies in the fast-growing arena of "Big Data," which envisions vast market opportunities that will leverage the combined meaning of "structured" and "unstructured" information. In this sense, the ability to utilize "unstructured" information is seen as a sort of holy grail.

Reality is there is no such thing as "unstructured" information. Rather, there is digital information that is 'unmanaged' with conventional technologies (i.e., metadata, markup and databases). In 2010, the unrealized market value of this unmanaged digital information was estimated to exceed $120B with a compound annual growth rate of nearly 65%.

By utilizing structure - relationships within and between digital resources can be discovered comprehensively, quantitatively and instantaneously. DigIN® "Digital Zoom" illustrates how users can exploit the structure of a digital collection by expanding and collapsing information across levels of granularity simply by using a slider bar, for example, to reveal objective relationships within and between resources. Such "automated granularity" can operate independent of digital format to stimulate inquiry and empower individuals with open-ended knowledge discovery across all scales and sectors in our global information society.

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