Explicit vs Implicit Data

by rlee on March 10, 2010

in Blog,Education,Product Updates,Resources

In the Web 2.0 world, rapidly distributing information has never been easier. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace allow individuals to share information about events in their lives to anyone around the world, while sites such as Wikipedia allow individual to globally share collective knowledge. These and other Web 2.0 systems are rapidly changing the way people communicate, stay in touch, and share information.

When an individual uses Web 2.0 technology to share information a number of actions are taking place, which may be unknown to the individual sharing information. The shared information is known as explicit data. Explicit data can be anything from creating an article about the nutritional needs of baby llamas on a wiki site to stating ones current whereabouts using a service such as Twitter.

Anytime someone interacts and shares information in a Web 2.0 system their contribution alters the system, which they are utilizing. Therefore each Web 2.0 contribution is an intervention of a complex system, which may or may not create the intended result. An intervention of any complex system can create unintended results. Often these results are unanticipated (most often benign) and sometimes have undesirable outcomes. This unintended data produced is known as implicit data.

Example 1:

Jill post to her Facebook page, “Jill is going to lunch early with her best friend Megan at Iron Pit BBQ!.” From this Facebook status the explicit data tells us that Jill and Megan are going to eat Barbeque for lunch.

However, from this same status one can derive a vast amount of implicit data such as:

  • Jill has a job.
  • Jill has a typical lunch time.
  • Jill went to work today.
  • Jill and Megan are not vegetarians.
  • Jill probably has a day job.
  • Jill and Megan are having a relatively normal/typical day.
  • Jill and Megan probably don’t have special dietary needs.
  • Jill’s work is likely close to Iron Pit BBQ.
  • When individuals contribute to a Web 2.0 system they are often careful of the explicit message they are sending but often overlook the implicit data. The information shared implicitly can often produce more information than the explicit data/message. The information derived from this Facebook status is fairly benign but when combined with explicit and implicit data from other post soon Jill may have shared far more information than she ever intended.

    Example 2:

    Joe is at work, and he post to his Facebook status, “Joe is not going to be the one drowning at work today.” Joe’s intention is to let others know that he is catching up with his work. However, about the same time Joe post this status on Facebook a tsunami rips through the coastline of several nations on the other side of the world. Joe’s status is perceived as making light of a situation, which he was unaware of. Joe’s comments are perceived by several people as flippant and lacking in compassion.

    This is an example in which a tragic situation changed both the perceived explicit and implicit messages. The intended message Joe wanted to convey was not delivered properly and misinterpreted completely.

    Example 3:

    Sean contributes to Wikipedia regarding molecular gastronomy; specifically how nuclear magnetic resonance is used to analyze crab cakes and spinach dip. The explicit information is clear regarding molecular gastronomy, however the implicit data suggest that Sean is an expert in molecular gastronomy. Based on this contribution in Wikipedia Sean is asked to present at “The International Workshop on Molecular and Physical Gastronomy”

    The benefits and damages one may receive from implicit messages are generally in proportion to the explicit messages. The impact is determined by the size of the audience, the weight of the message, and the influence that the audience has over the organization producing that message. For example, upset customers will typically have more impact on a corporation than outraged parents would have over a shock rock performer.

    Just as in the real world one’s physical actions can convey as much if not more than the verbal message one might be saying at any given time; implicit information can convey far more information than the actual data or message shared explicitly by the contributor. For this individuals and organizations need to be as cognizant about the implicit messages they send as they are about the explicit messages.

    WiiKno Education Services

    WiiKno’s Education Services will cover this and many more lessons about managing information within the Web 2.0 community. WiiKno will teach marketing personnel and individual employees how to share the appropriate information without sharing too much information or given the wrong perception. Web 2.0 is the most important evolution in the Internet since millions first signed-on. WiiKno will show your employees how to use Web 2.0 to achieve the greatest benefit while navigating your company away from potential trouble areas.

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