Weinberger’s third order of information

From ALA TechSource, an online resource for librarians, comes a great review of David Weinberger’s book Everything is Miscellaneous.

“This book is dangerous. Everything is Miscellaneous takes all the precious ideas we are taught as librarians and throws them out the window. Structure, order, precise metadata, bibliographic control: gone, gone, gone, gone.

Even, for you edgier types, ye who tell of your Semantic Web and your RDF triples: old-school, good-bye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

In what Weinberger describes as the “third order” of information, knowledge is no longer bound by either-or decisions, and “can be in many places at once; knowledge does not fit into finite boxes or even have a shape; and — most disturbingly, though in Weinberger’s hands, also most entertainingly — messiness is a virtue.”

Weinberger “explains this point repeatedly but no better than in a section discussing Flickr, where automated and human-supplied metadata create “a mess than gets richer in potential and more useful every day. … Third-order messes reverse entropy, becoming more meaningful as they become messier, with more relationships built in.”

As the ALA TechSource blog notes:

“The third order is most definitely not about attempting to perfect second-order rules and weld them to a third-order universe; it is not about predictive information; it is not about the primacy of accuracy over volume. The third order, in other words, is the opposite of how we do things in LibraryLand.”

In summary, says writer Karen Schneider: “This is, I repeat, a dangerous book. Ban it, burn it, or take it to heart. The most dangerous part of this book is not that Weinberger says these things, and so much more: the danger comes if we don’t listen.” Cory Doctorow has a review of the book at BoingBoing, and Cory is also the first in a series of interviews that Weinberger has done to go along with the book which are being made available as podcasts — and will include interviews with Arianna Huffington, Craig Newmark and others.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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