“Too Big to Know” by David Weinberger

In this very interesting book, the author makes a compelling argument that the very nature of knowledge is changing in a world of Google and hyper-connectivity. Some of the more interesting points include:

  • Up until very recently, knowledge consisted of “knowing-by-reducing”, i.e. knowledge consists of a narrow field of the few things that make it through an extensive review process (chosen by librarians to include in the library, what editors chose to include in almanacs, what editors and peer reviewers allow to be published in academic journals, etc.). Now knowledge is “knowing-by-including every draft of every idea in vast, loosely connected webs” (pg. 5).
  • Knowledge filters used to act to filter out information that is less useful or relevant. Now our filters (social networks, Google, etc.) filter information forward, “bringing results to the front” (pg. 11).
  • With the massive amount of information available to us, nailing down what constitutes as “facts” is more difficult than it used to be.
  • “The complex, multi-way interacts the Net enables means that networks of experts can be smarter than the sum of their participants” (pg. 62).
  • The internet is making it easier for us live in separate versions of reality (new filters filter forward preferred information – reinforcing our existing beliefs). (Chapter 5)
  • The communication of knowledge is now a two-way interactive process (expert posts knowledge on a blog, commenter critique, expert revises, on and on) rather than a one-way broadcast (expert publishes a book to which readers cannot immediately give feedback to expert). (Chapter 6)

This book sure gives you a lot to chew on, and I’ve already begun to rethink how I can most effectively present political “knowledge” to my students within the framework explained in this book.

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