Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Miscellaneous means more knowledge for those who want to dive in

If you love the messiness that is the sprawl of information on the World Wide Web, then read "Everything Is Miscellaneous," by David Weinberger. If you hate that messiness, you should read the book, too. It'll teach you a few things.

Weinberger describes how the nonhierarchical, unfiltered, near-chaos of blogs, wikis, Amazon playlists and Digg rankings offers us far more possibilities to learn, engage and converse than we ever had going to neatly-organized libraries and reading our local newspaper. (Disclosure: I happen to like blogs. And newspapers too.)

One concept discussed in "Everything Is Miscellaneous" is "social knowing," in which "connections among people help guide what the group learns and knows." Via the range of comments on a blog post, or the discussion page on a Wikipedia entry, the reader can absorb the information in a posting, plus an array of opinions about it--some nutty, some profound, all passionate. Hyperlinks can lead the reader to source material, and she can draw her own conclusions about the opinions in the text. All in all, there's the ability for a reader to deepen the context, almost infinitely, when gathering information on the Web. And therefore the possibilities to study and grow are similarly endless.

In this Weinberger echoes Richard Ogle in "Smart World," who argued that creative leaps were enabled by the environment in which the creator lived and worked--his world helped think for him. Picasso in creating Cubism had the museums of Paris and dialogue and competition from collaborators such as Braque.

Whereas we've got pretty much the whole world available from our laptop. Who can say what we can do with it?