An introduction to data and information
An introduction to data and information

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

An introduction to data and information

4 Computers as tools for finding

4.1 Where am I and how do I get to … ?

Computers can be used to find things and the obvious thing they can find is information. The World Wide Web (WWW or just the web) is just one example of a vast store of information which can be searched to find what you want using computers (The web consists of linked data which is accessed via the internet using a browser). But computers can also ‘find’ things in the sense of locating them geographically, either by generating maps that can be used for navigation or by locating something or someone with reference to a map.

This section aims to:

  • describe how computers can be used in geographical applications (and, in doing so, it discusses maps and shows that maps can have uses beyond mere navigation);

  • describe and help you learn how to find information.

As you read on, you should try to determine for yourself:

  • what data is involved;

  • how it might be acquired;

  • what the computer is doing to this data;

  • what information is being presented, and for what purpose.

You may find it useful to take notes as you go along.

In Section 3, I used an example that gave a location (Ewe Hill in Northumbria) in terms of latitude and longitude, which are parameters for indicating specific locations on the face of the earth. (The word parameter comes from mathematics, and in this course means a property or characteristic – often measurable or quantifiable – of something.) Any point on the earth can be described in terms of latitude and longitude. Indeed, map-makers have used them ever since reasonably accurate means of determining them were developed in the eighteenth century.

Exercise 8

Can you think of four or five quantifiable and measurable parameters that describe you? If you're not certain about this, try looking in your wallet or purse at things like your driving licence or other documents.

Discussion

You might have listed things as: your age in years, your height in centimetres, your weight in kilograms, and your birth date. All of these are measurable or quantifiable characteristics of you.

M150_2

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371