A document is a message delivered with a communicative intention, potentially informative and reusable for the receiver. It is an informative item.
Generally speaking, one can assert that documents have always been involved in humans’ intellectual activities. From the beginning of the history of thought, man has used a number of objects or materials where he can capture and store his thought or feelings. There are clear examples of such objects or materials: the cave paintings, Mesopotamian clay tablets, the walls of sacred buildings Egyptian papyrus, the parchments and later the paper. Nowadays, the development of communication and information technologies increasingly contributes to electronic formats in collecting our intellectual production.
We usually use the term "document" to refer to all such objects or materials. In other words, we can identify any type medium that holds some types of information as a document. In this sense, we can consider under the concept of a document a written paper, a book, a photograph, a videotape, a DVD, a file created with a word processor, a database or even a web page. To give a definition: Document = any medium where information is represented.
It is clear from the definition that document has two dimensions: on one side, it is something physical/material and on the other, it holds/contains an associated information or informative content. Here we see the relationship between these two dimensions with the concepts of data, information and knowledge.
The relationship between the two concepts of document and data seems quite simple. If we consider data is as the physical medium information, document should be understood as (a special type of) combination of data.
Now, let us see what happens to its relation with the concept of information. If information is understood as the semantic content of data derived from an encryption key, document would appear to be as the material object that can represent and implement information.
This representation and materialization helps to explain several things. On the one hand, it explains how you can transmit information: the information is represented (associated with) in (to) a document by a code and its transmission is realized by the material transmission of the document itself. On the other hand, it also makes it clear that why the preservation and storage of document means the preservation and storage of the information it contains therein. One can only analyze this document under the same codification key (or code) used to associate it with that particular semantic content for retrieving the information after storage of the document.
Finally, we tackle the articulation of the concept of document against the knowledge. Knowledge should be understood as those of mental states of an individual that is constructed from the assimilation of information and that controls the actions of the subject. Document, facing these mental states and from its physical dimension and ability to carry information, plays an important role: it appears as the material object, which can represent and implement those mental states residing exclusively in the head of people. This representation and realization, as happened in the case of information, helps to explain the transmission and storage of (explicit) knowledge from the transmission and storage of documents.
In this regard, on one hand, the knowledge in an individual represents (is reflected) in a document by a code and its transmission is realized by the material transmission of the document itself. When a second individual is able to obtain the information associated with the transmitted document to form a new state of mind by it, we can affirm that there has been a transmission of that knowledge. On the other hand, by the same mechanism, the preservation and storage of the document obtained as a fruit of representation of a concrete knowledge also allows the preservation and storage of that knowledge. One can only analyze this document under the same codification key (or code) which used in the representation of those mental states to be able to retrieve the associated information and create new mental states in other individuals after storage of the document. In this way, this knowledge can be retrieved by anyone who needs it at the right time.
In the same vein, to give a brief outline, it is also important to mention one more thing that can make clear this entire conceptual scenario. We should not forget that, at certain occasions and in colloquial terms, we often classify a concrete data as information or knowledge. We also, usually in an organizational context, use the terms "knowledge" and "information" to refer to physical representations of the mental states, or the informative contents, to refer to documents (in any medium (paper, electronic , optical, magnetic, etc..)) we use to represent and disseminate that knowledge or information. For example, if a document (a fact, a physical occurrence) carries some information or is obtained as a representation of a knowledge that a subject has, in a larger sense, we say also that this document is respectively information or knowledge.
Para citar este artículo:
Pérez-Montoro Gutiérrez, Mario (ed.), Rodríguez Bravo, Blanca y Golkhosravi, Mehrad (2010). “Documento”. Díaz Nafría, José María; Pérez-Montoro, Mario y Salto Alemany, Francisco (eds.) (2010). Glosario de conceptos, metaforas, teorías y problemas en torno a la información. Leon: Universidad de León.
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B. Rodríguez and M. Pérez-Montoro (12/2009)
[It was directly introduced after translation of the entries originally given in Spanish.]