Thursday, March 08, 2012

Too Big To Know

Too Big To Know I finally got my hands on David Weinberger's new book Too Big To Know and read it over the weekend.

In Too Big To Know Weinberger continues the thesis of Everything is Miscellaneous that digital information is fundamentally different from what went before. In the Prologue he argues that:
"Transform the medium by which we develop, preserve, and communicate knowledge, and we transform knowledge." 
The new extension to the thesis in this book is that
"Knowledge is now a property of the network".

Weinberger gives a good account of exactly the same objections being raised against paper historically as are currently raised against the Internet. There are also many anecdotes about "experts", the bane of our professional existence. The chapter on the Expertise of Clouds shows how the exuberance and enthusiasm of a large Facebook group of thousands can win out over a circle of self-appointed experts.

This book had a difficult gestation. I know this because I followed Weinberger's live blog of the writing process. To an extent, this shows in the book. By taking on such a large topic, it could be suggested that the results is a bit of a mishmash, but perhaps more accurately, the title is not quite for this volume? Which is not to say that I don't recommend reading it, because I do. The exposition on long form thought/writing versus Nicholas Carr is a particularly good read, as is the checklist of "to dos" in the final chapter:
  1. Open up access (open access)
  2. Provide the hooks for intelligence (metadata)
  3. Link everything (required to be a good Internet citizen)
  4. Leave no institutional knowledge behind (paywalls suck)
  5. Teach everyone (online everyone is a teacher)

I can't say that reading this book was as big a wake-up call to me as reading Everything Is Miscellaneous was (I can remember with great clarity exactly where I was when I read that book, one of those formative experiences), but to a large extent that's because Weinberger had already switched the lightbulb on. You still need to read this book.

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