cluetrain manifesto conference

Saturday’s keynote – Knowledge in the Age of Abundance

David Weinberger, of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, provided our Saturday morning keynote address. He’s the author, by the way, of the Cluetrain Manifesto, which I posted about on the 10th anniversary of that publication on this very blog.
He’s going to discuss what happens with knowledge in this age of abundance. The abundance (1 trillion pages on the web) would have required a mobilization on the order of several world wars – but we did it in our spare time. The age of information (which we are leaving) was about reducing info so that we could control it. Now, the age of the web (?) is about LOTS of information and abundance.
What knowledge was: grew up in a time of scarcity 1) only one knowldege 2) same for everyone 3) binary – at most one can be right 4) it’s simple 5) doesn’t matter who says it – if it’s true, it’s true 6) it’s scarce (most things are opinions) 7) knowledge is settled 8) ordered and orderly.
“our view of what knowledge is is influenced by the media we use to contain it”
Everything going digital changes our tools and changes the way we think.
The authority of knowledge
We create experts who are “expert” in their small chunk of the world – we can ask the expert and then *stop* looking for info – you’ve got the knowledge. Paper (books) is also a stopping point (even footnotes are difficult to follow) and non-transparent.
From disconnected media – to hyperlinks which are transparent and definitely not stopping places.
The new knowledge – a network of differences. The smartest person in the room is not the “sage on the stage”, but rather the room in total. The network of people is smarter than any one.
How networked knowledge can make us stupider

  • can’t find info – no formal distinction between metadata (what you know) and data (what you are looking for); makes things hard to find – the amount of data/metadata is always going to outrun our ability to manage it; good enough, however, is good enough. Most questions are more like “which hotel is best in Silicon Valley”, fewer are like “what is the atomic weight of Silicon” – a factual, one answer question.
  • needed skills make digital divide worse – even as you scale access, if you don’t scale the skills, you are doing nothing – maybe making it worse.
  • only find what we agree with – we stay within our comfort zones (We “flock it all up”). Most conversation is not about changing minds – and very few do. “It’s not a flaw in the system that we have an echo chamber in politics – it is the system. It’s how the system works”.
  • makes us lazy – we can see the argument (Wikipedia’s talk page), but we don’t bother to look at it

The architecture of morality and the architecture of a hyperlinked world are exactly the same. Hyperlinks allow us to link to others and discover their views of the world.
Compassion and curiosity are our bulwarks
A general theory of love was recommended as a book that would complement this keynote well.
another questioner asked if we should be pushing students to go farther than the “good enough” Google search; as librarians, we are instructing them in what is “good enough” for their discipline & needs as well as expanding their view to consider what they otherwise wouldn’t have.

cluetrain manifesto Web 2.0

Cluetrain Plus 10 – Thesis 94

The thesis I picked from the Cluetrain Manifesto‘s 10th Anniversary Project reflects my recent work on collaboration with “cloud” tools – #94 says that:

To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.

Part of what I’ve been spending all of my free time writing about these days is the fact that we can easily circumvent the corporate pecking order and create our own conversations with anyone at all – just by using the tools that are freely available on the ‘net today. It may be considered by some to be subversive, true, but if you are active on Facebook and your boss’s boss is on there too, why not consider Facebook a valid way to communicate with him? If you have co-workers that are on Facebook, why not use the tools provided to work together in a way that the corporate hierarchy may not be ready for? We can do so much more as employees of a corporation (or as freelancers, self-employed business owners or members of a charitable or non-profit organization) if we cut through the traditional chains of communication in an institution and use the somewhat more freewheeling communication methods made available by Facebook, Twitter and blogging.
Of course, this assumes that your boss’s boss is on Facebook – if he or she considers networked conversations confusing and chaotic, however, Facebook probably isn’t one of his or her daily visits…
Corporate rules about how to contact people and who to contact for a particular project don’t have to be adhered to in this Web 2.0 environment. You can directly contact anyone who has a social networking account much more directly than in the past – and get an answer back to a question or feedback on an idea much more quickly!
The general rules against “facebooking” at work show that the folks in charge of traditional corporations don’t understand how much more productive being able to contact the right person, at the right time, about a potential problem can make us. (1) Until the people at the top of the corporate food chain understand this, the people in the trenches who are tasked with doing the work of the business will be forced to come up with ways of getting around these social site bans so that they can do their work more effectively than they could in a traditional, hierarchically structured organization.


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