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Proceedings of Wikimania 2006 ( Index of presentations)
What's Happening to Knowledge?
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About the author
is co-author of David Weinberger, Ph.D. and the author of The Cluetrain Manifesto ; he writes Small Pieces Loosely Joined www.JohoTheBlog. He is a Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society. His work has appeared in many places, from to Wired to Harvard Business Review . He is a commentator on TV Guide NPR and is a columnist for KMWorld and Il Sole 24 ore (Italy's leading financial daily newspaper). As a marketing consultant he has has worked with many companies, large and small. He has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Toronto. His book Everything Is Miscellaneous about the ways in which the new principles of digital organization are transforming knowledge will be published by Times Books in winter 2007.
The old principles for the organization of knowledge turn out to be based on principles for organizing physical objects; in the digital age we're creating new principles free of the old limitations. This is changing the basic shape of knowledge, from (typically) trees to miscellanized piles. This has consequences for the nature of topics, the role of metadata, and, crucially, the authority of knowledge. In short, the change in the
shape of knowledge is also changing its place. Despite the hysteria too often heard, knowledge is not being threatened. We are way too good at generating knowledge, and it is way too important to us as a species. But, much of what we're doing together on the Web is about increasing meaning, not knowledge. That re-frames knowledge -- traditional and Wikipedian -- in ways that are hard to predict but important.
Note: These are my notes-in-progress. Sorry they're a little cryptic. And highly likely to change, especially in response to what happens at Wikimedia. [Revised on Aug 2] - D. Weinberger
Too big and grand a topic.
Path through it...Why is there such a hubub about Wikipedia?
You think you’re doing K, but much of the world thinks you’re mardi gras
You think you’re the searchers and the defenders of NPOV - the traditional values
Why do the media insist on taking W (falsely) as mob, more committed to social process than to truth?
Seven properties of traditional knowledge
Three-term relationship: knowledge, knower, known
Same for everyone
Same in everyone’s mouth
Not everything is K
Simpler than world
Order is where beauty meets K
Look at five of the properties again
1. In our heads: Romantic myth of knower
Wikipedia is perceived as mob rule, more committed to social process than to truth
We think K can’t be social:
Myth of individual genius
what it takes to know a gnat (= institutional nature of k)
Got K driven into our heads:
K as a property of belief
Where head meets world
Hence: mixed up with privileged relation to world
Tomato topic - knowledge without knower
Expert has to negotiate knowledge
Why is that scary?
If K is mirror, there’s no negotiating with a mirror
3. Simpler and orderly: Unbound topics
Bush’s immigration speech complexified by blogs
Who gets to decide what’s important?
Social structure built on this
Money rests on it
Interpenetration of topics
Went through fear of alphabetization
Now past that. Networked topics. Web of topics, based on relationships.
Web is already semantic. See it at Wikipedia’s links.
Authority and truth
Wikipedia’s notices conditioning articles – “This article may not be NPOV,” etc. , medical info
Why don’t traditional authorities use them?
Prefer authority to truth
4. Bigger than we are: Exactly our size
Wikipedia is better representation of human interests and human world than any traditional encyclopedia can be
5. One truth: Commoditization
Wikipedia flies in the face of the Web’s multiverse
Gets there by reducing knowledge to what can be agreed upon or civilly disagreed about
Long tail of editing – life cycle
Almanac commoditized facts
What’s next? What’s up a level? Meaning
How do you know a gnat? Heidegger wanted to know a hammer.
Externalizing memory in writing, knowledge in books
W as the knowledge moment in something larger
Heidegger on meaning
Meaning, not knowledge
We’ll always know
For the next hundred years, our task is to build meaning