Other than examining the ways in which the display of data has changed, we can also see shifts in the uses of the word data and its meanings. It seems that what is most reliable and fixed throughout time is visual display. As Robert Hooke said, words can mislead us, we need to show what we can. The definition of words have been known to change throughout time, but images, for the most part, are secured. Now, we think of data as being used in a quantitative form or as scientific reasoning or evidence. I think it is also safe to say that ‘data’ is rarely used to refer to literature, especially, religious scripture. There is certainly data on the number of times a word is used for instance, but the publication of a phrase is generally not considered data. However, the first recorded use of the word was in reference to bible passages: “a heap of data.” Here, data was used to describe truth, like we see it now, but the time in which a word is used also needs to be considered. This was not during a secular time, but rather, when the Church held greater rule in society and when the large majority of people agreed God’s word was law. In this case, the cultural distinctions between then and now is what changed how ‘data’ is used. I believe that ’data’ is still undergoing a gradual and continuous change. I used to think of ‘data’ as being synonymous with ‘fact’ or ‘evidence’, which it still is, but with the rise of computers, softwares, and technology in general, ‘data’, I believe, is shifting into a mainly quantitative analysis. As a society, we build on the newest forms of technology, and therefore, there is a correlation between the rapid rise in quantitative data and the possible ways of accumulating information efficiently and transforming this into a statistic or a graph.
The value of data now versus then is even more significant and its value is also increasing. It seems that a theory or an argument is not valid unless supported with data. A presentation is not complete without a chart or a visual representation of data. The increasing importance of data is based on the reduction of risk. For example, before producing a new product, there must be analysis of data to estimate the success of the product. However, data cannot be the predominant form of reasoning. First, because it is theory-laden in itself. The complex matter is that data is also made from theories. When accumulating the data of income in a neighborhood for example, there is the theory of what value is below the poverty line. Second, it cannot predict what has not yet come. We cannot calculate the success of an innovation, but we still try. Therefore, is data restricting possibilities, or is it saving us from failure?