Sunday, May 20, 2007

David Weinberger's messy cupboard

Here's a video with David Weinberger talking for roughly an hour about the topic of his book : everything is miscellaneous. I got alerted to the video by the knowledge management for development list.

He is expanding on the idea that digital possibilities are changing the ordering of things which has implications for knowledge creation and decision-making on categories. It kind of democratises categorisation and ordering (my words). I had heard this metaphore before about tagging: books can be stored in just one cupboard, but online you can store a book on as many shelfs as you like (he used the metaphore of branches on a tree).

First order: books on the shelf
Second order: meta data about books on cards (library science)
Third order: all digital data and meta data

Messiness on the internet is hence a virtue rather than a problem, with the miscellaneous drawer of the cupboard getting larger and larger online. He provides the example of a speech delivered by Bush, which attracts 2400 blogposts within a short period of time. This is a new public negotiation of knowledge on a scale that had never before been possible. No one appears to be authoritative, and hence this is a much better reflection of what we're interested in than any controlled source.

I liked the video and I agree with this idea that the negotiation of knowledge is changed by all the recent interaction possibilities on the web, but I find it a little superficial and surprising that everyone's raving about this. I regret that he doesn't go on to analyze how current power relations and cultural assumptions do get reproduced. For instance, it's no coincidence that google posted David Weinberger on the net, rather than for instance Nana Nketsia, a professor at Cape Coast university, who may be an equally important thought leader. But I haven't read his book, so maybe I should do this first.

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