The key distinction I think I was missing was that characterization happens on the bench (as opposed to on an engineering pad or with a computer simulation). It is empirical.
There are other important notions in the background, like we want to understand a device's actual behavior well enough to reliably deploy it in an actual system in an actual environment, and this is what motivates us to characterize.
I encourage you to review all the answers.
Apologies to respondents and readers for any mismatch between question and answers resulting from my edits attempting to make it less a matter of opinion.
I got my BSEE in 1986, and promptly started a career in software development. Now that I'm "reclaiming" my electrical engineering education, I've had occasion to read quite a bit and watch a lot of videos on EE topics.
I've been struck by how often the word "characterize" has arisen in the discussion. It has never been accompanied by a definition for its use in this context, but that's not terrifically surprising. I'm familiar with the dictionary definition of course, but there seem to be connotations that are not immediately clear to me, like:
- "Why would a EE invest time in characterizing a device or instrument?"
- "What would be his or her primary objectives in doing so? What outcomes, once achieved, would cause them to stop characterizing, considering their objectives achieved?"
- "In what ways am I already naturally occupied by characterizing devices, circuits, or whatever, just that I'm not using that word to describe what I'm doing?"
Can someone help me understand what more specific meaning it connotes when used in an EE context?
It seems to be pretty fundamental to the electrical engineer's role, and perhaps to any engineer's.