I doubt anyone will get a government grant to study this question but it is one that people often puzzle over. I believe this question is more than just semantics. What makes something a “date” rather than just “doing something together”? And why do we think it’s important?
Date or no date
I don’t believe you can go on a date without realizing it. Dates don’t just happen to you; in fact people usually want to define a date as such beforehand, as in “Are you asking me out on a date?” So I would argue that how you approach the situation is more important than the other possible characteristics.