While having conversation and coffee with a friend in Den Haag the other day, he shared a concept with me which was a bit profound if you will. This new perspective set me to thinking about “data” and what it is and means to us. The idea is as with all things, “data” has a shelf life per-say or even should we say a “sell by date” if you would because as soon as the data is created, it’s obsolete.
In our morning conversation, my table mate shared with me the tactics he used to combat the wry misuse of “stale” data as he would place the following words in the footers of all his documents which read “obsolete by printing“. This struck me as profound as not only from the practical truth it brought forward, however also the rhetorical underpinning which it exposes about “data” itself.
As first, for non-legal documents* this hit me as making a lot of senses because the second you print a “data” or any analytics based document for that matter, the “data” is out of date. Why you might be asking at this point as you scratch your head and exhibit a puzzled look? The answer is simple as long as the data remains in its “liquid” form be-it a spreadsheet, database or other application it is still “pliable” as it can be updated and changed. Thus the “data” is alive as in a “living document” because it can maintain its ability to evolve, keeping pace with the world which has given birth to it and of which it represents.
However once committed to paper, “data’s” pliability is now lost as its media has become static rather than dynamic. Where the data was once liquid, it is now a solid as if to have been fixed in stone by chisel and hammer.
In viewing data this way, we see a hidden paradigm emerge in which the computer has brought us. As in mans prior world (pre-computer) there was only paper and “data” only lived in a solid place. As this “paper world” was slow and static as once the data was written it was than considered law as it could not be changed. However in today’s world data begs to be changed, as the data wants to be free to match the world around it, to keep pace with its quick rate of change.
With this said, its not about saving the trees, or reducing, ones carbon foot print. Not printing data is about allowing it to maintain it’s liquidly, and fluidity of the environment which it represents. As imagine it this way, data printed on paper is like a goldfish out of water as neither will have a long life…
*Note: Legal Documents should be and are anchored in time; they aren’t “data” as they are simply a “data point” along a line. Much like a still photograph captures a snapshot moment (static point in time) during a vacation whilst a video recording will capture the continuum of the “data-line” as it plays out in a “live” format.