David ‘I live in miscellaneous ways’ Weinberger vs Andrew Keen @ Picnic07

6 January 2010

David Weinberger: ‘Everything is miscellanous’
In a nice and warm Extraction Room West which fills up during the morning, Weinberger kicks off the PICNIC Thursday. David Weinberger talks about the topic of his book ‘Everything is Miscelleneous: organisation and order in the digital age. In the physical world we can organize as much as we want and we do it all the day, even when putting forks next to forks in the kitchen. In the end we always up with a huge pile of miscellenaous stuff. In real life we can only store things in one place, one box. In the digital world new rules apply. We can store, slice, join digital things in unlimited ways.

Weinberger distuingishes three ways of order

  1. Order of things its itself
  2. Order of metadata of things on fysical object (library cards)
  3. Order of digital metadata

Our world is changing where the third order is getting more important. There are four principles of changes between the fysical and digital world.

  1. You can hang a leaf on many branches.
  2. Messiness as a virtue. The more links you have, the better.
  3. No difference and data and metadata
  4. Unowned owner. Many users can reuse digital information in their own ways, save it, order it and share their lists with other people.

Weinberger states a couple of implications of these changes:

  • The world can be shown as complex as it is. Bloggers elaborate on presidential speeches and turn a 2000 word speech into 2000 blogposts with as much dimensions.
  • Implicit knowledge can be made explicit by creating relationships between people and even information. This is one the drivers of social networks.
  • Social knowing instead of expert knowing. There are still experts but they store their knowledge in networks such in mailinglists. The mailinglists contain more information that the expert has to offer because it combines the knowledge of a lot of people. The web act in this respect as an enabler of conversations. Take Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an example of social knowing. Wikipedia is willing to state their uncertainty about articles, if it’s neutral or not, if there are articles which contradict, if there is a lot discussion about the article. This makes Wikipedia in the end more thrustworthy than newspapers, which only present the meaning of one journalist and the editors.
  • Externalization of meaning. We externalize information and meaning by writing articles online, make hyperlinks.


Discussion between Andrew Keen and Weinberger moderated by Walt Mossberg (Wall Street Journal)

Keen is the author of ‘The Cult of the Amateur’. One of the things that triggered Keen is that Weinberger states that we want more complexity, because it reflects the innate complexity of our world. Keen finds that our media shouldn’t reflect the world. For Keen it needs to educate and entertain in meaningful ways. The job of the media is to simplify the world to create a better understanding.

Walt Mossberg takes the discussion a step further into the direction of the neutrality of information on the web. How do you know on the web when you read a review, a computer review, that the reviews aren’t created by the manufacturers? The moderator mentions that at the Wall Street Journal that he as a editor and blogger he doesn’t accept reviews and gifts such as computers to be neutral. The community can’t know this.

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This text has a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) and has been copied from the Kennisland website. For a full version with images, streamers and notes go to https://www.kl.nl/en/opinion/david-i-live-in-miscellaneous-ways-weinberger-vs-andrew-keen-picn/