The book Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger is terribly intriguing. He states that our knowledge of the world has assumed the shape of a tree because that knowledge has been shackled to the physical. He repeats this notion numerous times in cataloguing information onto atoms. [putting the catalogue on index cards] With information being digitized, which allows us to go beyond the physical means, the shape of our knowledge is changing. Note he doesn’t say our knowledge is changing, just the shape of it.
There seems to be a pre-occupation with the notion of singleness [each-only-one-what] when dealing with knowledge in tree shapes. He gives us the following embedded assumptions that are so deep in our tradition of thought that they look like common sense.
- A well-constructed tree gives each thing a place. If too many items haven’t a place our miscellaenous category begins.
- Each thing gets only one place. Listing something more than once is confusing. Where should it go?
- No one category should be too big or small. This really points to an inadequacy in the method, not the knowledge.
- It should be obvious what the defning principle of each category is. Exactness, precision.
So where does that leave us? We are still trying to bridge the old model of viewing information with the attempt of trying new ways. We continue to grasp our “belief in the efficiency of rationality“. When one uses the word belief in these terms it becomes dogma and whoa to those who don’t follow that dogma. Dogmas with data are dangerous.
Some new ways – wikis, metadata, tags, facetted classification systems. We need to begin to use these new tools in our look for answers when faced with the magnitude of information we see daily. It’s hard to grasp sometimes and move away from paper and atoms. Paper has its place but when you can choose to store, sort and read it digitally vs the older way which really is the easiest?