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Knowledge as Network

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  • We ’ re watching our most solid, bedrock knowledge-based institutions crumble. Encyclopedias...
  • Newspapers are becoming disaggregated and reaggregated
  • Libraries … (cc) Paul Lowry @ Flickr.com
  • ...don ’ t know what will happen to them
  • Why have our institutions have shattered at the touch of a tiny hyperlink? It ’ s reasonable to ask why. It ’ s not reasonable to expect an answer, but that ’ s what I want to ask: Why have our institutions of knowledge shattered at the touch of a hyperlink?
  • And this is an important question because of a promise knowledge has made to us: That there ’ s only one, and it can be what brings us together.
  • And this is an important question because of a promise knowledge has made to us: That there ’ s only one, and it can be what brings us together.
  • And this is an important question because of a promise knowledge has made to us: That there ’ s only one, and it can be what brings us together.
  • A quick reminder of what knowledge has been in the West.
  • (a) Knowledge has been rare: It winnows out the true from all those mere opinions.
  • (b) Settled. We don ’ t say we know something unless and until all reasonable people agree on it. (cc) thomas23 @ flickr
  • (c) Traditional knowledge is orderly. Everything has its place, and to know what something is is to know it ’ s place in this order. This now sounds medieval, which it was, but it ’ s certainly something we believed all the way through the 19th century and well into the 20th. To deny it was to declare oneself either a heretic or insane.
  • In fact, that medium worked wthin the oldest problem that we have as knowers, that the world is very big, skulls are very small, and skulls don ’ t scale. They were never big enough to know the world, and as we ’ ve learned more, our skulls have gotten no bigger.
  • In fact, that medium worked wthin the oldest problem that we have as knowers, that the world is very big, skulls are very small, and skulls don ’ t scale. They were never big enough to know the world, and as we ’ ve learned more, our skulls have gotten no bigger.
  • So, we broke off brain-size chunks of the world and had people master them. These people were experts ...
  • (d) The point of this system is that it lets you stop investigating. It ’ s backed up by a system of The credentials tells you that you can trust the authority, and thus brings your investigation to a stop. You don ’ t have to repeat the experiment in your backyard to discover what the atomic weight of carbon is. You ask the expert, or look it up in the book that the expert wrote, and now you know the answer and can get on with your work. Knowledge has been a system of stopping points because it is a highly efficient system. For one thing, it ’ s made us the dominant species on the planet.
  • It ’ s not an accident that the traditional properties of knowledge are the same as the properties of libraries. Paper, books, and libraries have been the medium for the preservation and communication of knowledge. Knowledge winnows because the economics of the paper publishing system and the limited space of libraries meant we were forced to winnow, curate. Knowledge is settled because its medium didn ’ t allow for easy revisions or even embedded commentary. Knowledge is orderly because physical objects can only be arranged in one order at a time; that ’ s not true of digital works, as a look at any teenager ’ s set of playlists attests. We ’ ve applied the limitations of the old medium to knowledge itself. Stopping point because books are disconnected.
  • Knowledge ’ s new medium is the Internet. Just as knowledge picked up properties from its old paper medium, it ’ s now picking up the Internet ’ s properties. Knowledge is becoming networked. Let ’ s look at four familiar knowledge networks.
  • The first example is the networking of science ((cc) Howzey @ Flickr
  • They posted there because it gets the information out quickly. And Arxiv includes some social tools.
  • As a result, a web of responses emerged quickly, filling every niche of the knowledge ecosystem. This is where knowledge is happening because paper doesn ’ t scale. I think it ’ s fair to say in some sense that knowledge is living in these networks now, not in paper and not in individual nodes. This web has value because the individual elements differ and disagree.
  • We don ’ t agree about anything and never will.
  • We don ’ t agree about anything and never will.
  • On the hopeful side, we ’ ve seen the emergence of ways of living together in disagreement. For example, scientists in the 19th century lost a lot of time arguing over how to classify the platypus.
  • E.g., Encyclopedia of Life scientists can ask to see information using whatever name and taxonomy they want. This enables collaboration across differences.
  • E.g., English and French versions in Wikipedia are different. Great! Even better: they link to each other
  • E.g., English and French versions in Wikipedia are different. Great! Even better: they link to each other
  • If you need to get started there are thousands of tutorials
  • if you have a question you can get it answered, and then iterated on.
  • If you want to build on someone else ’ s work.
  • Public learning: Education should be a public act that makes the public sphere smarter, including and especially within an organization
  • We ’ re very good at organizing things, but not just so that we can find them again.
  • In the West we ’ ve assumed that to know something is to know it ’ s unique place in the order of things.
  • But take a look at Flickr. The Library of Congress posted some color WWII photos there and let users add metadata. Messy. Inconsistent. At times even in error, although those errors can be helpful. We are no longer stuck with coming up with a single “ right ” order.
  • But take a look at Flickr. The Library of Congress posted some color WWII photos there and let users add metadata. Messy. Inconsistent. At times even in error, although those errors can be helpful. We are no longer stuck with coming up with a single “ right ” order.
  • But take a look at Flickr. The Library of Congress posted some color WWII photos there and let users add metadata. Messy. Inconsistent. At times even in error, although those errors can be helpful. We are no longer stuck with coming up with a single “ right ” order.
  • But take a look at Flickr. The Library of Congress posted some color WWII photos there and let users add metadata. Messy. Inconsistent. At times even in error, although those errors can be helpful. We are no longer stuck with coming up with a single “ right ” order.
  • More about authority and credibility… Being in the Brit confers authority, but not being in Wikipedia. Yet Wikipedia is gaining authority. In what sense and to what effect?
  • More about authority and credibility… Being in the Brit confers authority, but not being in Wikipedia. Yet Wikipedia is gaining authority. In what sense and to what effect?
  • IRRI Images (rice)
  • It ’ s helpful to define things by contrast.
  • Portal gives access to resources (cc) kansas sebastian
  • But library platform isn ’ t about building apps primarily
  • No diff between the two. Melville is metadata for Moby Dick when you don ’ t remember the title, and Moby Dick is metadata for Melville when you don ’ t remember the author.
  • What do you get out of it? A local library network. Local differences
  • What do you get out of it? A local library network. Local differences
  • What do you get out of it? A local library network. Local differences
  • But a platform done right also connects to every other platform and service, across all libraries and across every Web site, from Wikipedia to a startup to a teenagers Tumblr acct.
  • A quick reminder of what knowledge has been in the West.
  • These are properties of the Internet and are becoming properties of knowledge too.
  • These are properties of the Internet and are becoming properties of knowledge too.
  • They ’ re also properties of humans trying to know a world vastly bigger than them. Networked knowledge is thus much closer to our situation as humans.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Too Big to Know David Weinberger Ph.D. self@evident.com www.JohoTheBlog.com dweinberger@twitter Harvard Library Innovation Lab Co-Director Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society Senior ResearcherSystems Integration KM Leaders Community Dec. 18, 2012
    • 2. StuffPo
    • 3. (cc) Paul Lowry @ Flickr.com
    • 4. Everyone isentitled to hisown opinion, not his own facts. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
    • 5. Everyone isentitled to his There is oneown opinion, knowledge. not his own facts. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
    • 6. Knowledge will bring us together. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
    • 7. What knowledge was (cc) Striatic @ flickr.com
    • 8. (cc) thomas23 @ flickr
    • 9. Living thingsPlants Animals Invertebrat Vertebrates es Reptiles Birds Mamm als
    • 10. CertifiedAnswerSTOP Belief Point
    • 11. (c) Abelardo Morell
    • 12. (cc) Howzey @ FlickrNetworked science
    • 13. The Net is exposing a long-hidden truth
    • 14. W Don’ Agre.The Net is exposing a long-hidden truthe t e
    • 15. Fur? BirdEGGS?? Four beak?? ? feet?
    • 16. Scientist Scientist ScientistPlatypusPlatypus watermole watermoleOrnithorhynchusOrnithorhynchus paradoxus paradoxus Taxonomies Names EOL.org
    • 17. Social learning (cc) mizzD @ flickr.com
    • 18. Thesis Software developers now live in the fastest, mostefficient and effective ecosystem for rapid learning that ever
    • 19. Lessons from DevelopersHumility & Generosity Iteration Public learning
    • 20. Photos: Abundance without order cc steve kay @ flickr
    • 21. Living thingsPlants Animals Invertebrat Vertebrates es Reptiles Birds Mamm als
    • 22. Red 1942Rosie the Riveter coiff
    • 23. Red 1942Rosie the Riveter coiff
    • 24. Red 1942Rosie the Riveter coiff
    • 25. Messiness scalesmeaning
    • 26. Authority cc steve kay @ flickr
    • 27. Library as platform (cc) MandoLux @ flickr.com
    • 28. Platform vs. Portal
    • 29. 1. ideas People Works2. Tools Services3. Data Metadata
    • 30. 1. ideas People WorksUbiquitous portal accessSocial objects > networks Open innovation
    • 31. End-user services2. Tools Services Developer building blocks Developer tools
    • 32. Backends are Web-starts Support standards Share our work Rethink privacy3. Metadata Data
    • 33. Locality enables Difference
    • 34. What knowledge was (cc) Striatic @ flickr.com
    • 35. CuratedSettledScarceOrderlyDiscrete
    • 36. inclusive UnsettledOverwhelming messy Linked
    • 37. Networked knowledge may or may not be true-er about the world, but it is true-er about human knowing.
    • 38. Thank you. David Weinberg Blog: www . JohoTheBlog . Co Email: self@evident . c Twitter: dweinber

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