[iDC] Everything is Misc - extracts and intro

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Tue Jul 10 01:37:46 EDT 2007

Here is a enfolded hierarchy I used back in my cybrarian days, and which I
found pragmatically useful in organizing the knowledge building within

data: the basic phenomenological unit

information: grouped data organized in some kind of framework

knowledge: when the 'new' information is integrated in the past knowledge

intelligence: information/knowledge applied to action choices and thinking
strategically/tactically about the future

wisdom: when all the above is totally integrated, in other words, when you
walk the talk, what remains as a sediment of all the above processes

This way of enfolding is based on the idea that there can be no
data/information/knowledge etc... unless it is individually or collectively
digested/integrated, in other words it is a subjective/objective definition.
So a newsletter is mere information, until the moment that it is digested by
someone, it then becomes integrated in the evolving knowledge base; it only
becomes intelligence when it is effectively applied.

David's definition, which limits information to what can be processed by
software, is too reductionistic in my mind.


On 7/9/07, David Weinberger <dweinberger at gmail.com> wrote:
> Myron, thanks for the prodding to be clearer.
> I think in the book I'm moderately careful to separate information and
> knowledge. Although I haven't checked all my references (which would
> require rereading my book, which I dread), I think I reserve
> "information" generally for the stuff that computers handle. I've found
> it very difficult in the past to define the modern meaning of
> "information," but in general I think of it as having been reduced and
> shaped to make it manageable by software. The prototype of information
> in this sense is what comes out of a database management system, e.g.,
> 28% of men who bought Pampers also bought beer. [Bogus factoid!] (I
> don't think of information as "pointing," the way you do, unless I'm
> misunderstanding your understanding of me.)
> "Knowledge" I use in a vaguely traditional (Western) sense. It's
> justified true belief, or what that becomes in the course of that
> philosophical tradition. In the section you quote below, I am definitely
> talking about the traditional view of knowledge, not information.
> The question of the "we" is a damn good one. Assuming a "we" who turns
> out to be a strawperson is a serious danger when writing a book that
> addresses generally held beliefs. The problem is that beliefs are never
> generally held. I am hoping the reader recognizes her own beliefs in my
> characterization -- "Yes, there is one knowledge, just as there's only
> one reality" -- so I can proceed to undercut those beliefs. If she
> doesn't recognize my initial characterization of knowledge, I have
> little recourse.
> -- David W.
> David Weinberger
> Fellow, Harvard Berkman Center
> blog: www.JohoTheBlog.com
> book: www.EverythingIsMiscellaneous.com
> mail: self at evident.com
> Myron Turner wrote:
> >
> >
> > I found the excerpts from David Weinberger's book interesting.  But I
> > had the feeling that he tended at times to conflate information with
> > knowledge.  David uses information to mean "information technology",
> > i.e. search engines, databases, on-line catalogs (usually databases),
> > collections of hyperlinks (del.icio.us, iTunes, bookmark collections),
> > and the kinds of categorization technologies that enable the filtering
> > of this data.  True, this is a kind of "knowledge", vastly more fluid
> > and provocative than, say, the old library catalog with its yellowing,
> > dog-eared cards and so much quicker than browsing the stacks and
> > specialist bibliographies, which together once made up our information
> > technology.  But one would never confuse the "information" in the card
> > catalog with what it pointed to, and this is what I sometimes find in
> > David's analysis.  For instance, he quotes the disdainful remark about
> > Wikipedia made by Robert McHenry, former editor of  Britannica.  I
> > (unfortunately) happen to be a rather uncritical user of Wikipeda.
> > Unlike me, McHenry is a critical reader. He is not talking about
> > information technology, how we get to Wikipedia, but about the content
> > of the articles that appear in Wikipeda.  Just because I think
> > something is junk doesn't mean I am intimidated by overabundance of
> > choice.
> >
> > Information is not in itself ambiguous, or contradictory.  Information
> > is just that, information.  What it points to, that may be
> > contradictory or ambiguous.  I haven't read David's book and have only
> > the passages quoted in the posting.  So I'm not sure who the "we" are
> > in the paragraphs below.  When I was a young graduate student,  50
> > years ago, it was already a salutary part of our intellectual culture
> > that science, like the arts, also had a need for metaphors to imagine
> > the contradictions of the invisible.  My PBS knowledge of contemporary
> > physics tells me that this is even more true today and quite readily
> > acknowledged by physicists.  There will always be people who can't
> > live in contradiction and prefer answers to be embedded in
> > absolutes.   So, it would be interesting to know who these "we" are.
> > I suspect that David is writing against a backdrop of  absolutist
> > socio-political culture in the U.S.  But perhaps there is also a
> > culture of cynicism in the corporate world that, given his background,
> > David is aware of and that leads to the dissing of uncomfortable
> > contradictions.  That would make for interesting reading.
> >
> > There is also a question of the neutrality of digital information
> > technology.   As Lawrence Lessig put it, "Code is Law":  "In
> > cyberspace," he writes,  "we must understand how code regulates--how
> > the software and hardware that make cyberspace what it is regulate
> > cyberspace as it is."   It is true that information on the Internet
> > seems to come at us in a miscellaneous fashion.  But information
> > technology is not neutral and unfiltered.  We are all very dependent
> > on Google, but Google's search results are not really miscellaneous
> > but filtered through constantly changing tweaks to its algorithms.
> > Because of the vast spaces of the Internet and the multiplicity of
> > information sources, we may experience the Internet as miscellaneous.
> > Nevertheless, we are now in other hands than those of  the
> > intellectual elites of the past.  These new, digital corporate hands
> > may appear less coercive and intrusive than those earlier hands, but
> > are they as well intentioned?
> > Thank you for the stimulating topic,
> >
> > Myron Turner
> >
> >
> > David Weinberger wrote:
> >> As we've seen, the first characteristic of traditional knowledge is
> >> that just as there is one reality, there is one knowledge, the same for
> >> all. If two people have contradictory ideas about something factual, we
> >> think they can't both be right. This is because we've assumed
> >> knowledge is an accurate representation of reality, and the real world
> >> cannot be self-contradictory. We treat ideas that dispute this view of
> >> knowledge with disdain. We label them "relativism" and imagine them
> >> to be the devil's work, we sneer at them as "postmodern" and
> >> assume that it's just a bunch of French pseudo-intellectual gibberish,
> >> or we say "whatever" as a license to stop thinking.
> >>
> >> Second, we've assumed that just as reality is not ambiguous, neither
> >> is knowledge. If something isn't clear to us, then we haven't
> >> understood it. We may not be 100% certain whether the Nile or the
> Amazon
> >> is the longest river, we but we're confident one is. Conversely, if
> >> there's no possibility of certainty - "Which tastes better, beets or
> >> radishes?" - we say it isn't a matter of knowledge at all.
> >
> >> Robert McHenry, a former editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia
> Britannica,
> >> summed up his analysis of Wikipedia:
> >>
> >>
> >>      "The user who visits Wikipedia to learn about some
> >>      subject, to confirm some matter of fact, is rather
> >>      in the position of a visitor to a public restroom.
> >>      It may be obviously dirty, so that he knows to exercise
> >>      great care, or it may seem fairly clean, so that he
> >>      may be lulled into a false sense of security. What
> >>      he certainly does not know is who has used the facilities
> >>      before him."
> >>
> >> If these experts of the second order sound a bit hysterical, it is
> >> understandable. The change they're facing from the miscellaneous is
> deep
> >> and real. Authorities have long filtered and organized information for
> >> us, protecting us from what isn't worth our time and helping us find
> >> what we need to give our beliefs a sturdy foundation. But, with the
> >> miscellaneous, it's all available to us, unfiltered.
> >
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