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David Weinberger--Harvard Berkman Center

Send up on Lessig. Hilarious!

What's happening to knowledge? NPOV--what constitutes neutrality?

Traditional Properties of Knowledge.

1-Knower, Known and Knowledge--place where mind and thing met.

2-Knowledge is singular. Only one.

3-Knowledge is binary--it is true or false.

4-Doesn't mater who said it.

5-Knowledge is simpler than the world it explains.

6-Most things are not knowledge. Need experts to arbitrate.

7--Knowledge is orderly. Everything has its place--hierarchy of knowledge.

8--assume that knowledge is bigger than all of us. Transgenerational.

Properties are similar or same to properties of the real world. Means we have had for aggregating knowledge are physical objects, like those in the natural world.

Knowledge in our heads. It is not, according to Weinberger.

Let's say you go down the street to the Harvard Museum. You find a lot of objects, such as bugs, with labels on them giving information labeling them. You've got a bug, a pin, and some labels in this little shish-kebob. But that doesn't do you any good if you don't have the metadata. So there's a pointer to a ledger which is kept in a filing cabinet somewhere in a professor's office. The chain of people protecting this knowledge. So what does it take to know a gnat? Is this something in our head? No. It takes air conditioners, dedicated institutions, people, experts, systems of metadata, pins. That's what it takes to know a gnat. It's not in our heads. The idea that we think knowledge is in our heads is pathological, but we're getting away from it.

Harvard is now putting it all online, so at some point in the future we'll have a database that enables us to know the gnat.

Knowledge is simpler than the world it explains. (photo of George W. Bush) In May, Bush gave a talk about immigration. We all know that speeches are boiled down and worked over. Within a few hours after the speech, there were over 2500 blog posts about it, and most of them in one way or another complicated what the speechwriters had tried to make simple. That's all we do in conversation, is find something and iterate on it. That's a movement toward complexifying the simple. That's a great joy, especially after 100 years of being made stupid by simplification.

This dialectic has taken us ... there's something Hegelian about it ... hyperlinks are a way out of, and above, but yet encapsulates both sides: the need to complexify, and the need to simplify. Every chance you can get, you hyperlink. Now you have something that no longer fits within covers. Users' discretion is incredibly powerful and liberating and breaks the old book model.

If you read the memoirs of X, it sounds like a lifetime of fighting against the evils of alphabeticization. Alphabetizing something adds no information.

(joke about the limitations of Wikipedia's navigation system)

There may be neutral point of view possible about facts. I can't imagine that NPOV is even possible about taxonomy.

The binary nature of knowledge. Things are true or false.

If you open up a copy of Brittanica, World Book, whatever, you are right to bellieve that what you read is credible. If you open up Wikipedia randomly, something does not have credibility simply by being in Wikipedia. You may hit the article at the very moment when some asshole has turned it into fiction. Things in Wikipedia obviously have credibility, but (listed some methods used to verify credibility of individual articles), and (my favorite thing), Wikipedia is not shy about putting up notices about its own fallibility. Wikipedia encourages editors to post notices saying, "Here's how this article may be wrong." That makes Wikipedia more credible.

The question is, why is Wikipedia so easy about letting users insert these, but I don't believe that in my lifetime you will ever see those types of notices in the New York Times. Why not? Why wouldn't they do this?

Newspapers do have metadata that lets you know whether you should believe this. They post certain content in an editorial section; they identify certain information as coming from anonymous sources.

Wikipedia feels like ours. It's something we've done. For too long, thousands of years, we've been alienated as knowledge because it's been presented as theirs. "They" are the authorities.

By commoditizing facts, we were moving up a peg in world access to knowledge.

Heidegger said, "what does it mean to be a hammer?" What's a hammer? In order to know what a hammer is, you have to know about nails, and boards, and lumber, and trees, and forests, and the economic system that connects those things. You can call this whole thing a context, or you can do what Heidegger did and say, "you're talking about a realm called meaning."

Andrew Clark, in a book called "Being There," said that as a species we've always externalized functions of consciousness. Books externalize knowledge. This is how we've progressed as a species. Maybe what we're doing now is externalizing meaning. We're spending a lot of time putting things together. We're adding tags and letting things connect. Mitch Kapor has a really interesting thing going on involving gathering tags and mining them for meaning.

We're going to do it through the semantic web...