[iDC] Everything is Misc - extracts and intro

David Weinberger dweinberger at gmail.com
Sat Jul 7 12:38:49 EDT 2007


Thanks for kicking this off with such trenchant comments.

Some brief replies:

1. You're right to further muddy the distinction between data and 
metadata. Tom Matrullo has some more great examples: 

2. In the book I do try to say that "the" miscellaneous pile is lumpy, 
not flat. More exactly, the pile is unlike a real world pile in that it 
is super-saturated with relationships. We use those relationships to 
form something like localities.

3. Yes, there is a danger that the incumbent powers will unduly 
influence what we see and what we make of it. That already happens, of 
course. OTOH, we now have a powerful means of making meaning our own. Is 
it perfect and pure? Nah. But, it's _better_ than it was. At least, so 
it seems to me.

David W.

David Weinberger
Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society
self at evident.com
Elevator statement on file with building supervisor

dave cormier wrote:
> Hey all...
> First I'd just like to commend Trebor once again on the fantastic job he 
> does ensuring that this mailing list is the most interesting thing in my 
> inbox.
> Second, that's a very clear description of the post-structuralist (call 
> it what you will) position on knowledge. Please see the following 
> comments in the context of my general agreement with the position 
> outlined in those few page. Also, please excuse my ignorance of the fact 
> that these points may be addressed elsewhere... If only I had the time 
> to read it all :)
> "but in the first case you used Shakespeare's name as metadata to find 
> the contents of a book and in the second you used some of the contents 
> of the book as metadata to find the author and title. In
> the miscellaneous order, the only distinction between metadata and data 
> is that metadata is what you already know and data is what you're trying 
> to find out."
> I'm finding more and more that I'm using data to find metadata... to 
> learn the appropriate contextual language so that I can ask the right 
> question. In that sense... I'm not sure that the distinction between 
> data and metadata even applies... It's no problem to find a given piece 
> of 'knowledge' if we're looking at quotes from books, or dates of 
> events, or even how to tie knots. The problem becomes how to find out 
> information about disputed knowledge. Try, for instance, to find out how 
> to plant grape vines. Or how to barbecue ribs. Or try and find out who 
> the influential philosophers in the 20th century are. Or try and make an 
> lolcat. ( http://www.pageflakes.com/cormier/11091021 )
> Having not read the rest of the book its tough to know if this wasn't 
> covered elsewhere... but there seems to be an implication, almost a 
> feeling, that while knowledge is not a 'form' or a 'monolith' it does 
> all reside in the same pile... or at least, the same set of skills will 
> get you access to any given set of knowledge. My experience is that 
> things are a little more like sets of rhizomes... with loose connections 
> (more language adopted from David) between the given types of rhizomes, 
> each with their own local rules and contexts.
> There is a sense, particularly when were talking about metadata, in 
> which it is tempting to think of knowledge (or bits thereof) as 
> identifiable objects, that can be pointed at (even digitally) and then 
> used, commercial items to be purchased. My sense is that they are only 
> contextually observable, only in a given community (or network mr. 
> siemens) of thought... and cannot, in many cases, be identified at all. 
> And certainly not without a certain understanding of that given context.
> GIVE UP CONTROL. Build a tree and you surface information that might
> otherwise be hidden, just as Lamarck exposed information left hidden in
> Linnaeus' miscellaneous category of worms. But, a big pile of
> miscellaneous information contains relationships beyond reckoning. No
> one person or group is going to be able to organize it in all the useful
> ways, hanging all the leaves on all the branches where they might be
> hung.
> Seems very similar to the arboreal/rhizomatic distinction from 'a 
> thousand plateaus'. My concern again about thinking of the 'pile' as a 
> single object. I might be being over picky on this, but it still seems 
> to imply to me that there is a single 'set' of knowledge bits to choose 
> from and that they are all connected inside the same pile. I'm not sure 
> how the metaphor teases out the power structures implicit in this kind 
> of monopile.
> Users are now in
> charge of the organization of the information they browse. Of course,
> the owners of that information may still want to offer a prebuilt
> categorization, but that is no longer the only - or best - one
> available. Put simply, the owners of information no longer own the
> organization of that information.
> This is my real concern. I worry a great deal about this... considering 
> how many people are moving online, and how little they understand about 
> how things are built. Creating any habitat... any space in which the 
> 'pile of miscellany' is situated involves thousands of hidden decisions 
> that focus where people go. Realistically, we've hidden the design from 
> view... where in the shopping mall, I can tell that the products closer 
> to me, on the sale rack, are being forwarded... online i can be guided 
> without seeing a thing.
> I worry, most of all, how this emancipation can be controlled by those 
> who have far more money, and therefore far more cycles, to build ghosts 
> into these free wheeling machines. To take amazon as a simple example, 
> if the advertising guides the choices people make, and those choices 
> create a 'path of knowledge' for the group that follows, in a sense, 
> these socially constructed bits of knowledge are MORE susceptible to 
> advertising. It is really a very simple thing to adjust any system to 
> subtly slide people's focus, on say itunes, to the music supported by a 
> company that is paying you millions of dollars. 0.1% on the machine that 
> allows that 'mix and match and find' system to work is enough to make a 
> big difference.
> cheers all,
> dave.
> http://davecormier.com/edblog <http://davecormier.com/edblog>

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