Below is the starting point for a 50 minute talk, followed by 10 minutes of questions, given at Google on 10/5/2007 by David Weinberger. I'll know in while if the talk is a précis of Weinberger's just-published book Everything is Miscellaneous. The central point of the talk is that there is now no one right way of ordering the world; furthermore, that whereas physical things (books, stuffed animals, tools, CDs, journal articles) have to be put somewhere logical - both in space and in a physical catalogue - so that you can find either them or the record associated with them, this is not the case for digital things, which can be anywhere, and whose classification is much less relevant, provided you can search for and find them. The talk is an exploration of the changes that flow from this: to cut a long story short and to cruelly oversimplify, Weinberger's thesis is that the fundamental change that is taking place is the "externalisation of meaning", by which he means that:
- it is now simpler for citizens to organise or search digital things as they themselves decide, rather than for them to be classified for them;
- the links between digital things, and the tags and other attributes that people give them create a rich layer of meaning that can be drawn upon by others;
- the difference between data and meta-data is disappearing (except the the extent that meta-data is "what you know", and data is "what you are looking for";
- through Wikipedia and blogs and similar there is an increasingly public negotiation of knowledge, in which experts are decreasingly the arbiters of authority.
See also Nothing is miscellaneous, about the Hawley Collection of tools in Sheffield.