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We used to know how to know. We got our answers from books or experts. We'd nail down the facts and move on. But in the Internet age, knowledge has moved onto networks. There's more knowledge than ever, of course, but it's different. Topics have no boundaries, and nobody agrees on anything. Yet this is the greatest time in history to be a knowledge seeker ... if you know ho We used to know how to know. We got our answers from books or experts. We'd nail down the facts and move on. But in the Internet age, knowledge has moved onto networks. There's more knowledge than ever, of course, but it's different. Topics have no boundaries, and nobody agrees on anything. Yet this is the greatest time in history to be a knowledge seeker ... if you know how. In Too Big to Know, Internet philosopher David Weinberger shows how business, science, education, and the government are learning to use networked knowledge to understand more than ever and to make smarter decisions than they could when they had to rely on mere books and experts. This groundbreaking book shakes the foundations of our concept of knowledge, from the role of facts to the value of books and the authority of experts, providing a compelling vision of the future of knowledge in a connected world.


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We used to know how to know. We got our answers from books or experts. We'd nail down the facts and move on. But in the Internet age, knowledge has moved onto networks. There's more knowledge than ever, of course, but it's different. Topics have no boundaries, and nobody agrees on anything. Yet this is the greatest time in history to be a knowledge seeker ... if you know ho We used to know how to know. We got our answers from books or experts. We'd nail down the facts and move on. But in the Internet age, knowledge has moved onto networks. There's more knowledge than ever, of course, but it's different. Topics have no boundaries, and nobody agrees on anything. Yet this is the greatest time in history to be a knowledge seeker ... if you know how. In Too Big to Know, Internet philosopher David Weinberger shows how business, science, education, and the government are learning to use networked knowledge to understand more than ever and to make smarter decisions than they could when they had to rely on mere books and experts. This groundbreaking book shakes the foundations of our concept of knowledge, from the role of facts to the value of books and the authority of experts, providing a compelling vision of the future of knowledge in a connected world.

30 review for Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room

  1. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Machine-Made Blindness This is a rambling, discursive, facile presentatiοn. But what is it really meant to be? A meditation? A sales document? A popularised academic dissertation? It has lots of jargon like ‘long-form thinking’, and ‘book-shaped knowledge’ that suggest it is meant to be hip, the latest thing (in 2010) in intellectual cool. But its contribution to what it claims as its territory - epistemology - is difficult to detect. The book starts by quoting the former business guru, Russell Ac Machine-Made Blindness This is a rambling, discursive, facile presentatiοn. But what is it really meant to be? A meditation? A sales document? A popularised academic dissertation? It has lots of jargon like ‘long-form thinking’, and ‘book-shaped knowledge’ that suggest it is meant to be hip, the latest thing (in 2010) in intellectual cool. But its contribution to what it claims as its territory - epistemology - is difficult to detect. The book starts by quoting the former business guru, Russell Ackoff, who had a lot of interesting things to say about the difference between information and knowledge. But the author apparently missed one of Ackoff’s often used quips that “Leibniz was the last man to know everything.” This is important because it pulls the rug out of Weinberger’s argument, that the technology of the internet has made fundamental changes in what constitutes factual knowledge. Leibniz, of course, was a contemporary of Isaac Newton and knew nothing of information technology (although he did flirt with the idea if a ‘reckoning engine’). But he knew a great deal about what might constitute reality. Essentially, reality is what all of us know; and by extrapolation, are able to know. All of us, not some of us, not just the leaders or designated experts, or the prophetic seers or religious recipients of divine revelation. Knowledge, for Leibniz, was a joint human effort, and by his own theory even he could not comprehend it all. So the problem of knowledge that Weinberger wants us to recognise is not something that arose with computers or communications technology. Weinberger’s conceit is not simply historically wrong, it is also practically misleading. It makes it appear that the solution to the epistemological problem - what constitutes a fact - is more and better use of technology. One of Russell Ackoff’s teachers, Edgar Singer, had an insightfully laconic definition of a fact: “A fact is that which is not contradicted by any other fact.” The circularity is its genius. It is a condensation of all Leibniz’s philosophy in a single sentence. And it has several implications which Weinberger might beneficially notice. The first of these implications is there is no method, process, or procedure by which facts can be verified. Technology may help proliferate purported facts, but it does nothing to filter them. Such filters are judgments made extra-technologically, as it were. This has always been so, even when the technology involved was only one’s unassisted eyes and ears.* We pay attention to what’s important. The judgment about what’s important is a mysterious cultural phenomenon which may be made more mysterious by technology but certainly isn’t made any easier. Importance is a synonym for value. Values are interests. Interests, therefore, are inevitably an element of what constitutes a fact. The implication here is that agreement about facts is predicated on agreement about what is valuable. In other words, facts are political. And politics cannot be reduced to a machine algorithm, which must presume an existing political consensus. Creating political consensus is much harder than designing information technology. However there is one principle which is essential for both: any attempt to restrict participation in either will result in a distortion of reality and failure. Most of what Weinberger has to say leads to that brief conclusion. This is not too big to know. Only his obsession with technology blinds him to it. *An example, P.K. Dick more effectively explored the same issue fictionally a half century before Weinberger: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Postscript 27May19: As if by magic, this showed up today, making the point more concisely than I have: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-2...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Clumsy Storyteller

    “The Internet’s abundant capacity has removed the old artificial constraints on publishing including getting our content checked and verified. The new strategy of publishing everything we find out thus results in an immense cloud of data, free of theory, published before verified, and available to anyone with an Internet connection. And this is changing the role that facts have played as the foundation of knowledge.” i strongly agree, I wish the Internet had more educational and cultural filters “The Internet’s abundant capacity has removed the old artificial constraints on publishing including getting our content checked and verified. The new strategy of publishing everything we find out thus results in an immense cloud of data, free of theory, published before verified, and available to anyone with an Internet connection. And this is changing the role that facts have played as the foundation of knowledge.” i strongly agree, I wish the Internet had more educational and cultural filters, but unfortunately most of them work for commercial and economic purposes. It's a very interesting point of view about how the standard system of knowledge has changed since the Internet arrival. The main conclusion is evident: Today’s abundance of data and online information makes it difficult to know what is true and what is false “information overload » . Even though I think the Internet brings us a big opportunity to learn. “Our task is to learn how to build smart rooms—that is, how to build networks that make us smarter.” and yes it's true that Internet and social media has drastically changed the way people all over the world interact and communicate "Meron Gribetz talked and gave examples about how communication is affecting our lives i'll put the link down below" but There is not a right or wrong way to communicate and/or adapt social language into our lives. However, we are all becoming engulfed in this new world of communication due to technology. A glimpse of the future through an augmented reality headset

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    I was 18% of the way through this book before I realized it was a book about philosophy. Well, perhaps it isn't, perhaps it's filed under popular computing or whatever the "books that tell you how everything is different with the Internet" section is called these days. But what I took from this book was the philosophy. Now I've read a little of philosophy: I can recognize a bunch of the Greeks and maybe make a lame ham-fisted explanation of one or two, but the real thing I learned from my reading I was 18% of the way through this book before I realized it was a book about philosophy. Well, perhaps it isn't, perhaps it's filed under popular computing or whatever the "books that tell you how everything is different with the Internet" section is called these days. But what I took from this book was the philosophy. Now I've read a little of philosophy: I can recognize a bunch of the Greeks and maybe make a lame ham-fisted explanation of one or two, but the real thing I learned from my reading is that "philosophers" have tended to congregate around a few different interesting questions like "what's the right way to live your life?", and "why are we here?", and "what is knowledge?" and "how do we know things anyway?" Too Big to Know's philosophy is about knowledge, not about virtue and higher meaning. Weinberger's central thesis is that The Internet Changed Everything. Well kind-of. It exposed everything. In the past we had the comforting illusion of authority and certainty: smart people researched things, wrote them down in books, which were stored in the library. When the likes of you and me needed to learn something, we'd find the truth from the books in the library, which had been written by those authorities These days, you Google something. And the chances are the second hit disagrees with the first. You can find multiple sources for quotes, physical "constants" which aren't, differing primary causes of global events, and much more. The comfortable illusion of certainty is gone. To make sense of what you find on the Internet, you have to understand that everything is contended, everything is interpreted, everything you believe can be disputed. Too Big To Know explores this state of affairs: how it came about, how various aspects of our society are changing, and what might be in store. It has been a long time since a book made me think so hard about something I thought I understood. After all, I've been building the web almost as long as there's been a web. But Weinberger's made me look at my old friend in a whole new way. Here are some bits that made me think. To start: the idea that filters in the old days prevented something from being published, but modern filters merely make it one click further away.Filters no longer filter out. They filter forward, bringing their results to the front. What doesn’t make it through a filter is still visible and available in the background. And he acknowledges that it can be depressing to see all the flat-out wrong or misguided information: [T]here’s also way too much bad stuff. We can now see every idiotic idea put forward seriously and every serious idea treated idiotically. What we make of this is, of course, up to us, but it’s hard to avoid at least some level of despair as the traditional authorities lose their grip and before new tools and types of authority have fully settled in. The Internet may not be making me and you stupid, but it sure looks like it’s making a whole bunch of other people stupid. On the need for stopping points for research, for authorities and trusted sources: The economics of knowledge make sense only if, after looking up the population of Pittsburgh in the almanac, people stop looking. If everyone were to say “Well, that may be a pretty good guess, but I can’t trust it,” and then hire their own census takers to recount the citizens of Pittsburgh, the cost of knowledge would be astronomical. Distrust is an expensive vice. I loved the idea that learning costs as much as sharing now: our information technologies are precisely the same as our communication technologies, so learning a fact can be precisely the same as publishing a fact to the world. The Internet’s abundant capacity has removed the old artificial constraints on publishing—including getting our content checked and verified. The new strategy of publishing everything we find out thus results in an immense cloud of data, free of theory, published before verified, and available to anyone with an Internet connection. Weinberger is a linked data fan, and talks about "networked facts": First, there was the Age of Classic Facts, represented by Darwin with a dissecting kit and by parliamentary blue books. These facts were relatively sparse, painstakingly discovered, and used to prove theories. Then, in the 1950s we entered the Age of Databased Facts, represented by punchcards stacked next to a mainframe computer. We thought we had a lot of information then, but it would have taken just under 2 billion cards to store what’s on a rather wimpy 200-gigabyte hard drive on a laptop—a stack about 300 miles high.42 So, of course the databases of the time had to strictly limit the amount of information they recorded: the employee’s name, date of birth, starting date, and Social Security number, but not hobbyist skills or countries lived in. The Age of Data still conformed to our ancient strategy for knowing the world by limiting what we know—a handful of fields, chosen and organized by a handful of people. Now, in the Age of the Net it makes sense to talk about networked facts. If classic facts and databased facts are both taken as fundamentally isolated units of knowledge, networked facts are assumed to be part of a network. Networked facts exist within a web of links that make them useful and understandable. I like this piece about our changed relationship with facts: This makes our ordinary encounter with facts very different from what it used to be. We don’t see them marching single-file within the confines of an argument contained within a blue book, a scientific article, or a printed tome. We see them picked up, splatted against a wall, contradicted, torn apart, amplified, and mocked. We are witnessing a version of Newton’s Second Law: On the Net, every fact has an equal and opposite reaction. Those reactive facts may be dead wrong. Indeed, when facts truly contradict, at least one of them has to be wrong. But this continuous, multi-sided, linked contradiction of every fact changes the nature and role of facts for our culture. When Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts,” what we heard was: Facts give us a way of settling our disagreements. But networked facts open out into a network of disagreement. This is gold: We see all too clearly how impotent facts are in the face of firmly held beliefs. We have access to more facts than ever before, so we can see more convincingly than ever before that facts are not doing the job we hired them for. [...] Our new medium of knowledge is shredding our old optimism that we could all agree on facts and, having done so, could all agree on conclusions. Paper shaped how we think about what we know: Traditional knowledge is what you get when paper is its medium. There is nothing mystical about this. For example, if your medium doesn’t easily allow you to correct mistakes, knowledge will tend to be carefully vetted. If it’s expensive to publish, then you will create mechanisms that winnow out contenders. If you’re publishing on paper, you will create centralized locations where you amass books. The property of knowledge as a body of vetted works comes directly from the properties of paper. Traditional knowledge has been an accident of paper. He does take the name of my people in vain: Indeed, on the Net, the measure of one’s strength as an expert often is not that you have the final word on some topic but that you have the first word. And from that first word—whether it’s on a blog post, a tweet, or a sheet of old-fashioned white paper—spin out a million gnats of difference, buzzing across the linked world, unsettled and unsettling Yes! This! We thought that knowledge thrives in a lively “marketplace of ideas” because the constraints of paper-based knowledge kept most of the competing ideas outside our local market. Now that we can see just how diverse and divergent the ideas around us are—because Internet filters generally do not actually remove material, but only bring preferred material closer—we find ourselves tremendously confused about the value of this new diversity. [...] It seems we love diversity until we see what it actually looks like. I was unsure of his description of the perfect environment for a diverse group to solve a problem better than individuals can. In particular, the notion of embracing diversity but keeping people out seemed to be an unhelpful vague guide. A diverse group of people who share a goal are likely to be more effective than a homogeneous group of people. Communities of knowers need walls around them. Those walls used to be like those of a fortress. These days, they tend to be usefully semipermeable. But they are walls nonetheless, and serve the good purpose that walls of every sort serve: permitting a group with enough in common to get something done by keeping out disruptive diversity. This is right on, though: Yet, it’s worth noting that it always seems to be “those other folks” who are being made stupid by the Net. Most of us feel, as we’re Googling around, that the Net is making us smarter—better informed (with more answers at our literal fingertips), better able to explore a topic, better able to find the points of view that explain and contextualize that which we don’t yet understand. I burst out laughing when I read: All the participants in this debate agree that excessive homophily is a bad thing. I recently had to deal with a lot of books that nobody had any use for. This paragraph rang true as a result: Birkerts is such a lovely writer that I enter a bibliophilic reverie. I am in a classic library—I personally envisage the Harvard Law Library where I work, an elegant epitome of the beauty of book culture—where I’m sitting in a leather-bound armchair reading a leather-bound book by one of those ancient writers I’ve always meant to read. Then I look at the actual book in my hand, a fifteen-year-old paperback of The Gutenberg Elegies. The top—the only part left exposed to the air in my bedroom—is dusty. When I open it, the dried glue crinkles and the pages begin to separate from the spine. I thumb through, afraid to spread it wider than the angle of a twig on an autumn branch. The outer margins of the pages look like they have been dipped in weak coffee. The book smells like an item from the past that was forgotten, abandoned. This is not what Birkerts means by books making the past present to us. This actual book’s past is present in its decrepitude. Instead of enjoying the frisson of connection to our culture’s continuous glory, I have to suppress a sneeze. Two sciencey things I hadn't known: If amateur astronomers in the Philippines and Australia had not notified professionals about the two-second flash of light they independently observed when watching Jupiter, we might not have known that the flash was caused by a small comet or asteroid smashing into the giant planet. But the contribution of amateurs becomes more substantial if we look not only at what individuals are doing but at what networks of amateurs are contributing. For example, Arfon Smith, the technical lead of Galaxy Zoo, told me about the discovery of “green peas.” It began as a joke in the discussion area of Galaxy Zoo about the green objects that showed up in some photos. After over a hundred posts on the topic, the amateurs at Galaxy Zoo realized that there was a type of astronomical object that the professionals had not noticed. “In mid-2008,” said Smith, “they put together a portfolio and delivered it to us, and insisted that we pay attention.” It turns out that “the green peas are important. We’re just beginning to understand how.” That insight, and its development, occurred within a network of amateurs; had it been only a single person’s observation, the importance of “green peas” would not have been noticed. Weinberger is a Semantic Web fan and his faith in namespaces and "data model translators" seems naive: We have given up on the idea that there is a single, knowable organization of the universe, a Book of Nature that we’ll ever be able to read together or that will settle bar fights like the Guinness Book of Records. No, you organize your data one way, I’ll organize it another, namespaces and data model translators will let us benefit from each other’s research, and we’ll still be able to learn from one another’s research. Best sentence in the book: A Google search reports that Nature magazine has used the word “shitless” once in its over 140-year history. Claims like this made me choke, and make me question the other punditry in the book: If Wikipedia and Linux had to rely on centralized leadership, they would never have been built as rapidly or as well. I wanted to give the book five stars because the philosophy was so delightful. The punditry, however, doesn't live up to this. The first half of the book is the basic "what's changed". The second half digs into expertise, media, science, and other issues to show how they've been changed by this networked knowledge. The second half, thanks to dodgy statements like "if Wikipedia and Linux had to rely on centralized leadership they would never have been built as rapidly or as well" even though Wikipedia and Linux DID have to rely on centralized leadership when they were built and were ONLY built because of that. The benevolent dictators make things possible, they don't get in the way. But when it shines, it's brilliant. I'll leave you with this excellent summary of what the web has reduced us to: What we have in common is not knowledge about which we agree but a shared world about which we will always disagree.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    This is a decent surface-skim of the way the Internet is redefining how we think and what knowledge even means. Things aren't discussed in much depth, but topics in this area are introduced enough that you can start to think about them for yourself. I enjoyed setting the book aside to think deeper about some of what it talked about, and while I often disagreed with the author, he later reveals he disagrees with a lot of what has already been said doom-and-gloom-wise about the Internet. He just d This is a decent surface-skim of the way the Internet is redefining how we think and what knowledge even means. Things aren't discussed in much depth, but topics in this area are introduced enough that you can start to think about them for yourself. I enjoyed setting the book aside to think deeper about some of what it talked about, and while I often disagreed with the author, he later reveals he disagrees with a lot of what has already been said doom-and-gloom-wise about the Internet. He just doesn't follow his own train of thought very far. Weinberger's main point is contained in the poorly worded subtitle that sacrificed clarity for snark. What he means by "the smartest person in the room is the room" is that the room is now The Internet, and it's smarter than any one person because it's an easy way to find answers from anyone across the entirety of this network of networks. He doesn't clearly link this in, but I think it's essential to his point that the interactive nature of the Internet and the speed with which it allows that interaction means people who are amazingly disconnected can actively collaborate and respond to new information. So the Internet itself is the smartest person in the room because it's much more like a person in terms of keeping up to date than any previous storehouse of knowledge (books, mainly), which were static and one-directional in their communication. The author brings up a number of claims about how the Internet is bad for individual humans' knowledge, intelligence, and communication. It's not clear he disagrees with this until the second half of the book, and even then he kind of says he doesn't think those claims are true, asks some questions to poke a hole or two in each claim, and leaves it at that. I categorically disagree with almost all of those claims; I think the Internet has made people smarter and better communicators in a number of ways. The one thing I agree is that the Internet has changed the nature of our intelligence and communication. The skills we are developing are more meta-level knowledge, for example we remember fewer facts and more ways to look up facts. It's less about what you know and more about knowing how to find the information you want. In addition, the author notes that the nature of knowledge has changed from compressing a large amount of data into a few knowable facts to filtering a vast amount of data to come up with a summary of current viewpoints. There is no longer a single truth, but a conversation about what people think is true. So instead of knowing what the current "truth" is, we are developing skills in evaluating the evidence and ideas for ourselves, essentially learning to do what the experts used to do for us. How is that making us dumber? I suggest that any downside to the Internet was not caused by the Internet itself, but was simply an existing flaw that was made more obvious by the Internet. For example, there is a claim that people seek out others of their own opinion on the Internet and reassure each other in "echo chambers" without allowing themselves to be exposed to opposing ideas and evidence. I think that subset of people is quite small, and they existed long before the Internet, but you just couldn't see or hear of them as much. And it's not that we had The Truth before the Internet, it's that whoever had control of the limited means for distribution got to declare their opinion The Truth without significant dissent. Anyway, I wish the author had developed his ideas a lot further. After all, by staying shallow he is inadvertently demonstrating the claims he is refuting. Except that he's doing it in a book instead of on the Internet, so maybe he is actually proving them false after all.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Corwin

    The premise of this book is that somehow networked organizations and networked thinking will lead to better, smarter decisions. As long as we include a sufficient diversity of opinions and experience in the networks helping us make our decisions we will arrive at better, more informed answers. In fact, as the amount of information explodes, these networks will be the only way to manage all the information we are creating. Here's the problem. I don't think anyone will dispute that reaching out the The premise of this book is that somehow networked organizations and networked thinking will lead to better, smarter decisions. As long as we include a sufficient diversity of opinions and experience in the networks helping us make our decisions we will arrive at better, more informed answers. In fact, as the amount of information explodes, these networks will be the only way to manage all the information we are creating. Here's the problem. I don't think anyone will dispute that reaching out the to internet to search for knowledge can get reasonable answers quickly. Also, running contests where many experts are involved can get good results. The problem is, if you are solving a real problem at the end of the day somebody actually has to do the work to get an answer. A "network" isn't going to magically come up with an answer. Also, reaching out to a wide group on the internet often results in the same stupid *wrong* answers to a problem being circulated around and around and around. Networks can just as easily work in a negative direction recycling stupidity rather than knowledge. There doesn't seem to be much of a role in this book for sustained critical and deep thinking about a problem to arrive at a solution. This doesn't make sense to me since much of human progress continues to come from sustained hard work by individuals working to achieve expertise in an area and focusing on a single problem at a time. This book makes some good points about how our relationship with information is changing to rely more on networks of our colleagues or friends to filter and absorb the massive amounts of information created every year. However, the author's confidence that networked thinking and organizations will magically solve many of our problems is happy nonsense, in my opinion. Also, while the author claims that networks can make better decisions, he never really gives any detailed research supporting this assertion or showing under what conditions networks are better or worse at solving problems. This makes the book more of an exercise in faith rather than something you can use to decide if a network would be helpful in a particular problem or not.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Daniel M.

    If the number of underlines in a book is any measure of quality (or at least interest), this is possibly the wisest book I’ve read on the changes in how we think about knowledge. Every chapter has at least 10 underlined passages. Weinberger gets a lot of it right: the changes in our expectations about what constitutes validity; how internetworking at the speed and scale we have now radically changes the WAYS we think; and the ways in which large amounts of networked knowledge allows us to think If the number of underlines in a book is any measure of quality (or at least interest), this is possibly the wisest book I’ve read on the changes in how we think about knowledge. Every chapter has at least 10 underlined passages. Weinberger gets a lot of it right: the changes in our expectations about what constitutes validity; how internetworking at the speed and scale we have now radically changes the WAYS we think; and the ways in which large amounts of networked knowledge allows us to think in ways we couldn’t before. In my reading, there are 4 major themes here (and lots of minor ones I won’t cover). (1) There’s more easily information available to you now than there’s ever been. This. Changes. Everything. In particular, it shifts the definition of “expert” and their authoritative pronouncements from “those who had access” to the information to “those who dive most deeply into commonly available information.” In this way, the world expert on topic X might be some kid without a degree who has a deep passion for topic X. Huge problem—that kid might not know how to understand this topic in context. (Or they might. It’s up to you to figure out.) (2) There’s been a change in the ways we can approach a body of information, and therefore, what we even consider as knowledge.. As he says (p 126) “Systems biology was not possible in the Age of Books.” It was too hard to get information out of the book and too hard to coordinate it all. Now, it’s all right there. The winning people will be those who can somehow wrangle all that information. As we should have known all along, Knowledge is heavily contextualized… now we can start to see what all of that context stuff is all about. (3) Big shift in the way we read and write. Long form is mostly out. “Transclusion” (Ted Nelson’s original idea of incorporating the entirety of the referred-to text) is becoming reality. It’s a bit like the Reformation—now you, the lay reader, can go read the sacred texts. Careful, though, interpretation is still very hard, especially as we chop topics and writings into ever shorter bits. (4) We, as a society, are destined to be in a perpetual struggle for what’s important, and what we understand as “true.” The old models of “knowledge” and “truth” are schisming away into something very different than what we thought once upon a time. It’s not written down in an encyclopedia any more, but distributed across many sources and contexts. I could go on. It’s a book that’s a bit overwritten (there’s a bit of repetition in the themes), but that’s probably required for readers to get these big, baggy, complex, and really important ideas out onto the table in a way they can understand them. Weinberger is a great writer and a superb thinker about many of the consequences of large networked information. He gets it in a way that most writers don’t… Or maybe he just articulates it all more clearly. I think that’s his real strength—taking the obscure and difficult to understand (this is slippery, complicated stuff) and writing it out in a way that explicates clearly. He has ideas, he explains, he shows and gives prescriptions. This is precious. It’s worth monitoring his blog: - www.johotheblog.com He’s also full of pithy quotables… > “It seems we love diversity until we see what it actually looks like” (p 71) > “When the process of knowing occurs online, in our midst, with a comment section and abundant links to other opinions, it’s no longer possible to separate knowledge-at-work from knowledge-eas-it-is-understood.” > “Objectivity fallen so out of favor in our culture that in 1996 the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethic dropped it as an official value.” (see David Mindich book “Just the Facts”) > “And yet, as a culture, we can’t handle an experiment done in a classroom on a spring day with 36 college students. How then will we ever make sense of scientific topics that are too big to know?” (p 123; after a discussion about how bogus the “Mozart Effect” was as it was based on a single fairly bad experiment) > “It seems incontestable that this is simultaneously a great time to be stupid. If you want to ignore the inconvenient truths of science you can surround yourself with a web of ignoramuses who provide a sham system of misconstructions that make falsehoods seem as profound truths.” (p 156) > “Modern printed works of scholarship footnote everything they can, in part to authenticate ideas but increasingly to avoid transgressions in an insane economy of micro-ownership of ideas.” (p 177) > [Now] “We can all see the Sausage of Knowledge being made, one link at a time. We can see that what used to come forward as the canon of knowledge depends upon the filters we’re choosing and how we apply them.” (p 180) > “We used to think that knowledge is what is true independent of us. Now we are faced with the fact that knowledge is not a mirror held up to nature but, rather, a web of connections that shows itself to us depending on our starting point, viewpoint, and inescapably human sense of what matters to us. We had hoped that knowledge is independent of us. How we know for sure that it is not.” (p 180)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Armanda Moncton

    This is a good book, yet I found it very hard to persist to the end. Perhaps for someone who is deeply knowledgeable about the evolution of networks, and who swims effortlessly in the hyperlinked knowledge environment of blogs and tweets, this work of philosophy will deepen their understanding of powerful changes that come with a paradigm shift. For myself, I am desperately trying to flit from one observation post to another as I borrow the perspective of those who are knowledgeable about what t This is a good book, yet I found it very hard to persist to the end. Perhaps for someone who is deeply knowledgeable about the evolution of networks, and who swims effortlessly in the hyperlinked knowledge environment of blogs and tweets, this work of philosophy will deepen their understanding of powerful changes that come with a paradigm shift. For myself, I am desperately trying to flit from one observation post to another as I borrow the perspective of those who are knowledgeable about what the internet has done/is doing to society. I've read "The Net Delusion" by Evegeny Morozov, "Smart Mobs" by Howard Rheingold, "Hamlet's Blackeberry" by William Powers, "The Penguin and the Leviathan" by Yochai Benkler, "Cognitive Surplus" by Clay Shirky, "Macrowikinomics" by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams, and "The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr. Of all the above books, this one was the most difficult for me to hold onto my concentration. I suspect this is partly because it is intended for a reader who has a more nuanced understanding of the issues. But I think that it is also due to the writing. I found Weinberger's style quite dry and scholarly (which I don't necessarily object to) but at the same time somewhat repetitive and tedious. I often felt that he would have achieved more with less. I also found it difficult to hold onto a take away message that I could share with others - but that may be because philosophy is so abstract by its very nature. So, all in all, I recommend the book to those who want to revise their assumptions about knowledge in the networked, hyperlinked, world wide web. For those who want to add to their reading list without taxing their self-discipline, try some of the other books I listed above; I especially liked "Cognitive Surplus" and "Hamlet's Blackberry."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Though there really is "too much" to even discuss (much less know!) regarding new media's effect on how we establish, glean, and use knowledge, Weinberger does a fantastic job in exploring many of these issues. Better yet, he does so in an engaging manner, presenting plenty of historical and modern-day examples in a sophisticated, yet easy-to-read narrative voice. What most impresses me about Weinberger's approach is his clear confidence in the importance of these issues coupled with a conscious Though there really is "too much" to even discuss (much less know!) regarding new media's effect on how we establish, glean, and use knowledge, Weinberger does a fantastic job in exploring many of these issues. Better yet, he does so in an engaging manner, presenting plenty of historical and modern-day examples in a sophisticated, yet easy-to-read narrative voice. What most impresses me about Weinberger's approach is his clear confidence in the importance of these issues coupled with a consciousness of the limitations of his book. At one point in the book he actually encourages readers to do an Internet search on "embodied thought" after mentioning it but pointing out that the concept is not the crux of the book, so he won't confuse readers by discussing it in his book. I appreciate authors' blatant reader-awareness, including Weinberger's- I really think he thoughtfully handpicked each content item and wove them all together to create a meaningful product that covers a good breadth of relevant information (or is it knowledge? or perhaps even so-called wisdom?).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rob Kitchin

    In Too Big to Know, David Weinberger (2011) develops a materialist argument with regards to the relationship between the medium and nature of communication, arguing: ‘[t]ransform the medium by which we develop, preserve, and communicate knowledge, and we transform knowledge.’ Such arguments have been made by others, such as Kittler in his book Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, where he sets out how each of these technologies transformed knowledge production and changed how people relate to and inter In Too Big to Know, David Weinberger (2011) develops a materialist argument with regards to the relationship between the medium and nature of communication, arguing: ‘[t]ransform the medium by which we develop, preserve, and communicate knowledge, and we transform knowledge.’ Such arguments have been made by others, such as Kittler in his book Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, where he sets out how each of these technologies transformed knowledge production and changed how people relate to and interact with knowledge. Of course, it’s not just technologies that shape the creation of knowledge, but social and cultural milieu with, for example, the notion of authorship and readership shifting over time in response to political transformations such as the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Weinberger is no doubt right that the formulation, communication and nature of knowledge is presently being transformed by the internet through the radical ‘networking of knowledge’. Knowledge, he argues, ‘is now a property of the network’, altering its shape and nature, wherein ‘[t]he smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it.’ Knowledge is framed not as ‘a library but a playlist’. In an engaging narrative, he contends that the networking of knowledge leads inevitably to knowledge without a firm foundation (networks do not have bases); an elimination of gatekeeping and filtering; and an erosion of the value of tokens of credibility, authority and reputation; thus leading to a flattening and democratisation of knowledge production and sharing. His arguments with regards to filtering forward and credibility, however, overstate the case that there is a flattening and democratisation of information. Yes, search engines do provide links to all relevant pages rather than filtering out, but in filtering forward they order and weight the material. That ordering pushes those searching towards certain kinds of sites; often ones owned by corporations and institutions. Indeed, the internet is inhabited by the bastions of traditional media, such as publishers, newspapers, radio and television, and they are still dominant sources of news and analysis which continue to work by filtering out. And whilst there is a move to open access, much valuable knowledge still exists behind pay walls - whether that is on the internet or in traditional media, such as the Weinberger’s book. Indeed, data and data analytics are massive, multi-billion dollar industries, and that is unlikely to change any time soon, even with the opening up of some data and information. The push towards open access has been accompanied by attempts to extend and tighten intellectual property regimes, and there is an on-going tussle between public good and private profit (though both are increasingly networked). Moreover, hierarchies of credibility, authority and reputation are re-established on the internet, not erased; most often on along the usual institutional lines. As a result without some form of credibility and authority, individuals can post material on their own pages, but readership will be much smaller than on institutional sites where it is penned by authors who have forms of cultural capital established through the usual institutional channels. Further, the means of sharing maybe more democratic (assuming you have the resources, literacy and time to be online and post material), but the distribution of attraction, influence and power have not been made even and equal. This suggests that far from the traditional pyramid of knowledge being reconfigured into a network, the situation is more complex. This is not to say that the internet is not changing how knowledge is produced, shared and debated, it most certainly is. Rather, knowledge will continue to display a certain lumpiness rather than flattening. To a degree this is illustrated by the self-acknowledged irony and hypocrisy evident in the medium Weinberger uses to communicate his thesis - a traditionally published book that has closed, paid access, is protected by copyright as opposed to having a creative commons license (he strongly advocates open access and open licensing), is not interlinked beyond tradition references, and seeks to claim authority and credibility through the gatekeeping and investment of a publisher and his institutional affiliation at Harvard. We might be entering a new phase in the nature of knowledge, and Weinberger undoubtedly raises some important questions to ponder, but he undermines his own argument through the very choice of medium it is made through. Nevertheless this is an interesting and thought-provoking book, written in an engaging and easy-to-follow style.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Neil R. Coulter

    In Too Big to Know, David Weinberger is essentially saying, "Listen, folks, I've read a few articles, and boy do you need to hear what I've learned!" I kept waiting for something from Weinberger's own experience or expertise to rise up and take its place in the book, but it never seemed to. Rather, he relies on other books on similar topics, and on information he found online. He did a few interviews, but they add little to his argument.His argument is that the very idea of knowledge is changing In Too Big to Know, David Weinberger is essentially saying, "Listen, folks, I've read a few articles, and boy do you need to hear what I've learned!" I kept waiting for something from Weinberger's own experience or expertise to rise up and take its place in the book, but it never seemed to. Rather, he relies on other books on similar topics, and on information he found online. He did a few interviews, but they add little to his argument.His argument is that the very idea of knowledge is changing as we move from a print-bound society, with severe gatekeeping procedures, to a networked society, in which knowledge is no longer limited to the confines of books and institutions but is freely (mostly) available to everyone. In this new system of knowledge, everything is important and can be used and accessed; links, metadata, and tagging are the most significant artifacts; and large networks will lead to breakthroughs that would have been unthinkable in the past.I'm unconvinced that the changes in the past couple of decades, and especially the changes brought about by the Internet, are as astounding as Weinberger asserts. Yes, we work differently now, different things are possible, some things are more efficient and other things less so. But to me it all seems like a connected progression or flow. "[O]ne thing should be certain," Weinberger states near the end of the book, "We are in a crisis of knowledge" (173). That's not how it feels to me, and his book didn't convince me otherwise. The tone of his book was too often that of an older person struggling to make sense of change. We all deal with that--I feel it myself as I enter my 40s--but we learn, we deal with it, we carefully choose the areas in which we are comfortable being curmudgeons.I had previously read Weinberger's book Everything Is Miscellaneous, and I enjoyed it for what it is: a popular, general-audience non-fiction book. It was full of interesting stories and bits of historical information. Somehow Too Big to Know misses what I found enjoyable in Everything Is Miscellaneous. There are few stories, not many interesting trivial anecdotes from history, too many errors or over-generalizations. For example, his assertion that "We have become the dominant species on our planet because the elaborate filtering systems we've created have worked so well" (5). Well, yes, I suppose that's part of it; but broad statements like this make his tone seem a bit trite.Another annoyance was Weinberger's occasional digs at religion. This happens throughout the book, and it always felt cheap and embarrassing. It made me trust his voice less than I otherwise would have. For example, he says that "Creationism (or, as it is now called, Intelligent Design), is not falsifiable, and is therefore not a scientific alternative to evolution by natural selection" (150). Weinberger shows his ignorance by assuming that there is only one strand of belief that falls into the category "creationism," and therefore intelligent design must be the same thing; and, by the same token, that there is a monolithic "evolution" which stands in opposition to it. Reality is of course more nuanced, but he is, puzzlingly, quick to mock anything associated with religious belief. (And this particular example is also annoying in its naive view of science as necessarily "falsifiable"; it's an interesting point to discuss, but human origins is a rather complicated area to dive into with such large generalizations...)In short, rather than finding this book "stunning and profound," as the cover proclaims, I found it disappointing and irrelevant. On page 73, Weinberger references Scott Page's book, The Difference , which was merely a reminder of how much better Page's book is than Weinberger's.

  11. 4 out of 5

    A Mig

    A collection of interesting tidbits but otherwise too shallow to my taste.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Karel Baloun

    From Harvard’s Center for Internet & Society, these 200 pages punch far above their weight! Supremely well organized, with memorable, witty anecdotes throughout. Knowledge is no longer anything like it has ever been. “ The world is far, far too big to know.” pXIV Yes, having all knowledge available in our pockets changes everything, changes what knowing means and whether it matters. This 2011 book feels rather timeless, and also most timely. Notes that Carl Sunstein in 2001 predicts echo chambers From Harvard’s Center for Internet & Society, these 200 pages punch far above their weight! Supremely well organized, with memorable, witty anecdotes throughout. Knowledge is no longer anything like it has ever been. “ The world is far, far too big to know.” pXIV Yes, having all knowledge available in our pockets changes everything, changes what knowing means and whether it matters. This 2011 book feels rather timeless, and also most timely. Notes that Carl Sunstein in 2001 predicts echo chambers, and foretells their sad impact on democracy and politics. p82-3 Scientific models don’t have to model reality, they just need to work for their purpose. Just as knowledge can’t be “objective”, something doesn’t have to be more or less important or true because it maps to something in the physical world right now. The facts and opinions of the internet are infinite, and that means knowledge must be pulling differently depending on context. Also, no one really knows what knowledge matters, or what is wisdom. Just knowing doesn't matter anymore, because both knowledge and further on wisdom, are moving targets. Valuable views on diversity! The soon as you start running into crazy people, you immediately wish for less diversity. Diversity helps for problem-solving only if there's enough commonality experience and ability to help, and that is diversity in perspective/maps and heuristics/tools. p75-78 “The network can make us smarter if we want to be smarter.” p91 “To think that knowledge itself is shaped like books is to marvel that a rock fits so well in its hole in the ground.” p100 “ being right is not enough. Truth is not enough. It can’t be, because it is and always has been a product of a culture it is held together by more than knowledge. The new network makes that truth unavoidable.” The challenge to science, pg 151 “We used to think that knowledge is what is true independent of us. Now we are faced with the fact that knowledge is not a mirror held up to nature but, rather, the web of connections that shows itself to us depending on our starting point, viewpoint, and inescapably human sense of what matters to us. We had hoped that knowledge is independent of us. Now we know for sure it is not.” p180 Mandeley, ruined by Elsivier. Green peas of Galaxy Zoo. Darwin took 21 years to publish. Each story gets better with a web search now 5 years later, proving Weinberger’s point about knowledge being too big to fit a book and constantly evolving.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Weinberger’s book tells us an obvious truth: there is so much information on the Internet. Maybe too much. How do we turn all of that data into knowledge? How do we keep ourselves from spiraling into heaps of information that isn’t true? Most of us know that the Internet is full of information; what we don’t know is how much of it can be backed up by facts, though it’s easier than ever to link to data. As we’ve seen, anyone can put up any information—whether true or not—to lead their readers to Weinberger’s book tells us an obvious truth: there is so much information on the Internet. Maybe too much. How do we turn all of that data into knowledge? How do we keep ourselves from spiraling into heaps of information that isn’t true? Most of us know that the Internet is full of information; what we don’t know is how much of it can be backed up by facts, though it’s easier than ever to link to data. As we’ve seen, anyone can put up any information—whether true or not—to lead their readers to come to false conclusions. “Fake news” is definitely alive (though fact-checking doesn’t always seem to be involved in bestowing that moniker). Blogs can link to other blogs that can then in turn link to other sites, and a reader can check out the sources right then. Books can also cite their sources, though publishing a book is obviously a slower process than posting something on the web. Should we get rid of books and publish everything on the Net? No, never. I love books. Should I make this review consist solely of questions and occasional answers? Maybe. (Forgive me; the book was full of questions.) Weinberger’s book introduced me to topics I hadn’t had much desire to read about before: scholarly journals, open access Internet, notes on the creation of Darwin’s On the Origins of Species. Actually, I take the last one back; I’ve had that book on my reading list for years, and I should really check it out soon. Anyway. I did skim through a couple portions of this book, mainly chunks of the chapter titled “Too Much Science.” It really was full of too much science, and it also had a lot of background info about scholarly journals, which I don’t feel the need to stuff into my brain. Luckily the rest of the book was full of tidbits I did want to stuff in my brain. (See? Information overload. It’s real!) It’s hard to know if a piece of information on the internet is actually true. We have to weigh what we know about the writer, the site it was published on, what we already know about the subject. Sometimes we’re leaning toward something, and then we see an article about it, and since we’re already leaning there…that information gets us. It doesn’t always matter if it’s true. And our Internet filters what we see, because it thinks we want it to, I guess. So search engines don’t delete sites, but they do reorder how we see them based on what we normally look at. That’s a bit worrying. We get stuck somewhere with who and what we’re already comfortable with and familiar with, and it becomes harder to see other points of view. While this book didn’t blow me away with its giant stream of knowledge, there were lines that I had to stop and read again. One such line went like this: “If the Net is creating more echo chambers,” Weinberger writes about our places, “the biggest loser will be democracy, for the citizenry will be polarized and thus be less able to come to agreement, and to compromise when it cannot” (82). Hmm. I think he called it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ken McDouall

    Weinberger dazzles us with examples of how the structure of knowledge and means of knowing are changing with the rapid growth of digital networks in all our institutions. He details how tools such as crowdsourcing, open access repositories, and aggregators are exponentially increasing the amount of information we have access to. There has always been an abundance of information, but our traditional paper-based system of disseminating it has put time-tested filters in place. Weinberger describes Weinberger dazzles us with examples of how the structure of knowledge and means of knowing are changing with the rapid growth of digital networks in all our institutions. He details how tools such as crowdsourcing, open access repositories, and aggregators are exponentially increasing the amount of information we have access to. There has always been an abundance of information, but our traditional paper-based system of disseminating it has put time-tested filters in place. Weinberger describes how networked knowledge on the Internet discards these filters and creates new ones, but filters that do not exclude, but filter information forward. The cornucopia of information is there in its abundance, with ever-expanding links stretching in all directions. This can, of course, create problems. To name a big one, we now know that the Enlightenment ideal of perfect knowledge is an illusion. “Try to use facts to ground an argument, and you’ll find links to those who disagree with you all the way down to the ground. Our new medium of knowledge is shredding our old optimism that we could all agree on facts and, having done so, could all agree on conclusions. Indeed, we have to wonder if that old optimism was based on the limitations inherent in paper publishing: We thought we were building an unshaken house based on the foundation of facts simply because the clamorous disagreement had no public voice.” (p. 41) Two weaknesses can be identified with this work. One is a tendency to repetitiveness. Weinberger's points are important, and he wants to make sure they stick. This leads him to repeat them many times, in different contexts. Secondly, he largely bypasses concerns over potential social dangers of the new inter-connectivity. When truth isn't protected by our traditional guardian filters, can anything become "true" if referenced often enough on the Web? How much control can be exerted by entrenched political/economic powers to make sure that the preferred version of truth is disseminated? Read this along with Nicholas Carr ("The Shallows") and Jaron Lanier ("You Are Not a Gadget") for a triangulated view of the new frontiers of knowledge.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike Nyerges

    In Too Big to Know, David Weinberger examines how the unprecedented growth of information on the Internet has challenged how we determine fact and share our understanding of the world, and he suggests possible strategies in coping with this growth. Weinberger reviews how the Internet has facilitated a dynamic exchange of ideas that was once the province of established institutions and professions. What were once closed networks are now more open, visible and public. Studies and investigations ar In Too Big to Know, David Weinberger examines how the unprecedented growth of information on the Internet has challenged how we determine fact and share our understanding of the world, and he suggests possible strategies in coping with this growth. Weinberger reviews how the Internet has facilitated a dynamic exchange of ideas that was once the province of established institutions and professions. What were once closed networks are now more open, visible and public. Studies and investigations are now presented as many-layered and their complexities made more visible; they can include paths not taken and contravening facts. In addition, the transition to digital formats from books and journals has also helped fuel these changes because writing is no longer bound by the economies of presentation, the reduction of fact, intrinsic to these physical formats. These developments have been both positive and negative, and he examines how they have led to strengthened outcomes as well as greater discord and uncertainty. But Dr. Weingerger, who is a senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and co-director of the Harvard Library Lab, advocates that the way forward is embracing networks on the Internet; that networks need to cross more boundaries, not fewer; and that networks are more effective when they include individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience. "When an expert network is functioning at its best, the smartest person in the room is the room itself." He calls for an increased use of metadata, linked data and development of the semantic web to better manage the explosion of data. He is also a proponent of Open Access. He believes these would provide us more accessible and meaningful filters in dealing with the flood of information that now threatens to overwhelm our ability to make sense of the world, as well as helping us aggregate data in new and useful ways.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This was less a new book and more a book-length response to Nicholas Carr's "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", and, as with New and Quiet, this book could easily have been half the length. The author talks at length about how research used to be done, how research used to be reported, how newspapers used to be the "record", etc. and how now, in the Internet age, thanks to the ease of crowdsourcing and self-publishing, those traditional "experts with official imprimatur" are now losing ground to the This was less a new book and more a book-length response to Nicholas Carr's "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", and, as with New and Quiet, this book could easily have been half the length. The author talks at length about how research used to be done, how research used to be reported, how newspapers used to be the "record", etc. and how now, in the Internet age, thanks to the ease of crowdsourcing and self-publishing, those traditional "experts with official imprimatur" are now losing ground to the general public and nontraditional experts. The theses are interesting, but several of the chapters went on far too long. For example, "Too Much Science" could have been halved and would have been far more effective. More on how we can create new 'metadata' that identifies experts, more on how the wisdom of the crowd can be used to increase our knowledge, and how we can better filter out the noise would have been very helpful. Leaving the world of science and looking more at reporting (for example, using 'nonexperts' to prove or disprove stories) would also have been interesting.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Roy Kenagy

    Evgeny Morozov eviscerates Weinberger, Too Big to Know http://bitly.com/x6m4fe ~I guess I need to read it anyway... Report on "Too Big to Know" lecture by Weinberger at UC Berkeley School of Information: http://nyti.ms/tKdVgg “Newspapers, encyclopedias, they are just gone, at the touch of a hyperlink,” Mr. Weinberger said. The institutions of “education and politics – they’ll just shatter. How did they get to be so fragile?” With the pained glee of a scientist discovering very bad news, he added, Evgeny Morozov eviscerates Weinberger, Too Big to Know http://bitly.com/x6m4fe ~I guess I need to read it anyway... Report on "Too Big to Know" lecture by Weinberger at UC Berkeley School of Information: http://nyti.ms/tKdVgg “Newspapers, encyclopedias, they are just gone, at the touch of a hyperlink,” Mr. Weinberger said. The institutions of “education and politics – they’ll just shatter. How did they get to be so fragile?” With the pained glee of a scientist discovering very bad news, he added, “knowledge for my generation was at the center of the human quest. It is going the way of the recording industry. It is a term that won’t survive the generation.” PW review: http://bitly.com/rB2NQP "The fundamental and pertinent question Weinberger pursues is how the new surplus of knowledge afforded by the Internet affects our "basic strategy of knowing." This strategy evolved from "book-shaped thought," a form "in which parts depend upon the parts before it." "

  18. 4 out of 5

    Harry Fulgencio

    If you have read something about Big Data then some of the examples here would be familiar (vice versa). This book offers a glimpse and interpretations of previous,mostly successful, instances of highly networked knowledge e.g. Patientslikeme, foldit, open government in US, open data initiatives, innocentive, more can be read in the chapter 4 "The expertise of clouds". "Life is local. Without the local, we would have no standpoint by which to make sense of the world near us or the world within wh If you have read something about Big Data then some of the examples here would be familiar (vice versa). This book offers a glimpse and interpretations of previous,mostly successful, instances of highly networked knowledge e.g. Patientslikeme, foldit, open government in US, open data initiatives, innocentive, more can be read in the chapter 4 "The expertise of clouds". "Life is local. Without the local, we would have no standpoint by which to make sense of the world near us or the world within which the local is embedded"

  19. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    A study of knowledge in a networked world: Weinberger looks at how paper and digital technologies shape what we know and how we know it. A more cohesively written volume than his Everyting is Miscellaneous, Too big to Know proposes that knowledge now belongs to the network and the Internet is not making us stupid, it is merely making us structure knowledge in different ways.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    Not sure if full of filler, or if I just didn't need to be persuaded to Weinberger's way of thinking. Link to show your evidence/reasoning, teach people how to tell complete bullshit apart from rhetoric, don't abandon traditional knowledge/institutions when it/they can still offers us stuff, label stuff well, open access to knowledge. Sounds fine to me. Not sure if full of filler, or if I just didn't need to be persuaded to Weinberger's way of thinking. Link to show your evidence/reasoning, teach people how to tell complete bullshit apart from rhetoric, don't abandon traditional knowledge/institutions when it/they can still offers us stuff, label stuff well, open access to knowledge. Sounds fine to me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eric Abell

    This book has given me a great deal to think about. I'm honestly not sure what to think about what it means to "know" something. I have a system of studying that I have developed over the last 15 years of my life, and after reading this book it's difficult for me to have trust in that system. I'm immediately starting the second read of this book while I try to assemble the ideas in my head. This book has given me a great deal to think about. I'm honestly not sure what to think about what it means to "know" something. I have a system of studying that I have developed over the last 15 years of my life, and after reading this book it's difficult for me to have trust in that system. I'm immediately starting the second read of this book while I try to assemble the ideas in my head.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mariah Bennett-Gillard

    He makes some great points. I found this to be overly cited and fairly repetitive, which was distracting. For nonfiction books, I prefer concise writing, so this was a little arduous for me. Overall, it is quite informative. I got a lot out of it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Science For The People

    Featured on Skeptically Speaking show #159 on April 8, 2012, during an interview with authorDavid Weinberger. http://skepticallyspeaking.ca/episode... Featured on Skeptically Speaking show #159 on April 8, 2012, during an interview with authorDavid Weinberger. http://skepticallyspeaking.ca/episode...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Finally finished! Interesting thoughts on knowledge in the digital age.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lor-El

    Too Big to Know: Overusing the term Knowledge now that online comments are Facts, Quotations are everywhere, and the smartest thing in the Book is the Title. (2.5)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Greg Linster

    How do you know what you think you know? What counts as knowledge and what doesn’t?  These questions speak to a great semantics-based problem, i.e., trying to define what ‘knowledge’ is. Studying the nature of knowledge falls within the domain of a branch of philosophy called epistemology, which happens largely to be the subject matter of David Weinberger’s book  Too Big Too Know . According to Weinberger, most of us tend to think that there are certain individuals — called experts — who are kn How do you know what you think you know? What counts as knowledge and what doesn’t?  These questions speak to a great semantics-based problem, i.e., trying to define what ‘knowledge’ is. Studying the nature of knowledge falls within the domain of a branch of philosophy called epistemology, which happens largely to be the subject matter of David Weinberger’s book  Too Big Too Know . According to Weinberger, most of us tend to think that there are certain individuals — called experts — who are knowledgeable about a certain topic and actually possess knowledge of it. Their knowledge and expertise is thought to be derived from their ability to correctly interpret facts, often through some theoretical lens. Today, like facts, experts too have become ubiquitous. It seems we are actually drowning in a world with too many experts and too many facts, or at least an inability to pick out the true experts and the important facts. Most of us are appalled, for instance, when we hear the facts about how many people are living in poverty in the United States. However, these facts can be misleading and most people don’t have enough time to think critically about the facts that are hurled at them every day. There might in fact be “X” amount of  people living in poverty in the United States, but did you know that someone with a net-worth north of one million dollars can technically be living in poverty?  How the government defines poverty is very different than the connotation that many of us have of that word. The amount of income you have is the sole factor used to determine if one is “living in poverty,” but this bit of information seldom accompanies the facts about how many people are “living in poverty.” I recently posed a question on Facebook asking my subscribers if a fact could be false. To my surprise, there was much disagreement over this seemingly simple question. Weinberger reminds us that facts were once thought to be the antidote to disagreement, but it seems that the more facts are available to us, the more disagreements we seem to have, even if they are meta-factual. It’s unquestionable that today’s digitally literate class of people have more facts at their fingertips than they know what to do with. Is this, however, leading us any closer to Truth? Well, not necessarily. This is because not all facts are created equal, and not all facts are necessarily true. Facts are statements about objective reality that we believe are true. However, while a fact can be false, truth is such regardless of our interpretation of it — we can know facts, but we can’t necessarily know Truth. In the book, Weinberger draws an important distinction between classic facts and networked facts. The late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts.” What he meant by that was that facts (what Weinberger calls classic facts) were thought to give us a way of settling our disagreements. Networked facts, however, open up into a network of disagreement depending on the context in which they are interpreted. “We have more facts than ever before,” writes Weinberger, “so we can see more convincingly than ever before that facts are not doing the job we hired them for.” This seems to be true even amongst people who use a similar framework and methodology for arriving at their beliefs (e.g., scientists). One of Weinberger’s central arguments is that the Digital Revolution has allowed us to create a new understanding of what knowledge is and where it resides. Essentially, he claims that the age of experts is over, the facts are no longer the facts (in the classical sense), and knowledge actually resides in our networks. While this is an interesting idea, I’m not sure it’s entirely true. Knowledge is a strange thing since it depends on the human mind in order to exist. I have a stack of books sitting on my desk, but I don’t point to them and say there is a stack of knowledge sitting on my desk. I simply don’t yet know if there is any knowledge to be gleaned from those books. For this reason, I don’t think knowledge can exist on networks either. Knowledge requires human cognition in order to exist, which means that it only exists in experience, thus giving it this strange ephemeral characteristic. I cannot unload my knowledge and store it anywhere, then retrieve it at a later date. It simply ceases to exist outside of my ability to cognize it. Knowledge, Weinberger argues, exists in the networks we create, free of cultural and theoretical interpretations. It seems that he is expanding on an idea from Marshall McLuhan, who famously said, “The medium is the message.” Is it possible, then, that knowledge is the medium? The way I interpret his argument, Weinberger seems to be claiming that the medium also shapes what counts as knowledge. Or, as he himself puts it, “transform the medium by which we develop, preserve, and communicate knowledge, and we transform knowledge.” This definition of knowledge is, however, problematic if one agrees that knowledge can only exist in the mind of a human (or comparable) being. To imply that a unified body of knowledge exists “out there” in some objective way and that human cognition isn’t necessary for it to exist undermines any value the term has historically had. Ultimately, I don’t agree with Weinberger’s McLuhanesque interpretation that knowledge has this protean characteristic. In a recent essay in The Atlantic Nicholas Carr posed the question: “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” His inquiry spawned a fury of questions pertaining to our intelligence and the Net. Although Weinberger has high hopes for what the Net can do for us, he isn’t necessarily overly optimistic either. In fact, he claims that it’s “incontestable that this is a great time to be stupid” too. The debate over whether the Internet makes us smarter or dumber seems silly to me, though. I cannot help but conclude that it makes some people smarter and some people dumber — it all depends on how it is used. Most of us (myself included) naturally like to conjugate in our digital echo chambers and rant about things we think we know (I suspect this is why my provocative “Who Wants to Maintain Clocks?” essay stirred up some controversy — most RS readers don’t usually hear these things in their echo chambers). Weinberger also argues that having too much information isn’t a problem, but actually a good thing. Again, I disagree. In support of this claim, he piggybacks off of Clay Shirky, who tells us that the ills of information overload are simply filtering problems. I, however, don’t see filtering as a panacea because filtering still requires the valuable commodity of time. At some point, we have to spend more time filtering than we do learning. An aphorism by Nassim Taleb comes to mind: “To bankrupt a fool, give him information.” Overall, Weinberger does a nice job of discussing the nature of knowledge in the Digital Age, even though I disagree with one of his main points that knowledge exists in a new networked milieu. The book is excellent in the sense that it encourages us to think deeply about the messy nature of epistemology — yes, that’s an opinion and not a fact!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex Johnson

    The biggest thing I got out of this book is that our definition of what is knowledge is changing and that we need to teach people to use the internet well. Weinberger frustrated me at times because it felt like he was talking around a subject rather than explaining it; hence I'm still not sure what the heck "networked knowledge" means and how the network is smarter than everything else. This book is not super accessible to an outsider. I'm starting to realize that all technology books are think- The biggest thing I got out of this book is that our definition of what is knowledge is changing and that we need to teach people to use the internet well. Weinberger frustrated me at times because it felt like he was talking around a subject rather than explaining it; hence I'm still not sure what the heck "networked knowledge" means and how the network is smarter than everything else. This book is not super accessible to an outsider. I'm starting to realize that all technology books are think-pieces about theology in disguise. Maybe I need to turn to Twitter or blogs in order to get the thoughts I want about technology and education.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Martha Decker

    This book is interesting, and it makes many valid points. There are a few things that I don’t totally agree with Weinberger about, but overall, his points are valid and well stated and his work is thoroughly sourced. His points definitely have credibility, as he has vast experience in all that is "internet." David Weinberger is a writer, philosopher, marketing consultant, professional speaker and teacher with a Ph.D from the University of Toronto. He taught college for several years in the 1980s. This book is interesting, and it makes many valid points. There are a few things that I don’t totally agree with Weinberger about, but overall, his points are valid and well stated and his work is thoroughly sourced. His points definitely have credibility, as he has vast experience in all that is "internet." David Weinberger is a writer, philosopher, marketing consultant, professional speaker and teacher with a Ph.D from the University of Toronto. He taught college for several years in the 1980s. He currently co-teaches a class at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard School of Law called "The Web Difference." He is also Co-Director at the Harvard School of Law's Harvard Library Innovation Lab. He has provided his technical expertise to the presidential campaigns of Howard Dean in 2004 and John Edwards in 2008. Weinberger's most well-known work is probably his co-authoring of the book, Cluetrain Manifesto, which deals with internet marketing. The main focus of his work is the way in which the internet is affecting relationships, communication and society in general. * Book Overview: In chapter 1, “Knowledge Overload” Weinberger discusses the glut of information that is readily available and the need for filtering it. In chapter 2, “Bottomless Knowledge” he discusses the history of facts. In chapter 3, “The Body of Knowledge” he discusses the actual definition of knowledge. In chapter 4, “The Expertise of Clouds” he discusses experts, who they were, who they are, and are they really experts? In chapter 5, “A Marketplace of Echoes?” he discusses what meaningful diversity is and the fact that on the net, we tend to preach to the choir and “fork” off into groups or “echo chambers” of people who think the same way. In chapter 6, “Long Form. Web Form” he discusses the need for longer argument chains or “long-form thinking” and the fact that there are disadvantages to printed, bound books that we are just discovering. In chapter 7, “Too Much Science” he discusses flawed science and how fast it spreads and the fact that science is churning out facts, but most are not put together in any sort of meaningful way. In chapter 8, “Where the Rubber Hits the Node” he discusses decision making based on the information that is available. In chapter 9, “Building the New Infrastructure of Knowledge” he discusses ways to make the most out of what is out there. The key chapter in this book for me is chapter 5, where Weinberger discusses diversity and the “echo chamber.” Knowledge cannot be properly tested and weighed without diversity. He cites Scott Page’s book, "The Difference" where Page says that not all diversity is equal. What Weinberger takes from Page is that the two most important types of diversity are the diversity of perspectives and of heuristics. On page 74 he states, “Perspectives are the maps we give to ourselves to represent the lay of the land ... Heuristics, on the other hand, are the tools we bring to bear on problems.” Diversity is necessary, but we also need to have “just enough in common” as Weinberger says (74). Weinberger’s example of two women, Mae Tyme, who is an anti-porn feminist and Annie Sprinkle who is a porn star and prostitute, having a conversation in which they both ultimately said they learned something from the other. Each was able to enlighten the other in some way. Their belief systems were very diverse, yet they were still able to find a little bit of common ground. (75, 76) Chapter 5 goes on to discuss the “echo chamber” that we tend to fall into when we discuss things on the net. This, to me, is the most frightening thing about the internet. Weinberg says that these “echo chambers” are making us more narrow-minded. For example, he states, “Fork ‘birthers’—or enthusiastic supporters of President Obama—into their own discussion, and they're likely to close themselves to external criticism and egg one another on, rather than be opened up by a good diverse conversation.” (81) I see this all over the net and in social media. Lies and out-of-context half-truths that are never fact-checked are being spread like wildfire. I believe that extremist groups are planting such lies wherever they feel like they will be effective. People, safe in their own echo chambers, are eating it all up like candy. Weinberger states, “If the Net is creating more echo chambers, the biggest loser will be democracy.” (81) This is a very dangerous and very frightening thing and it is an issue that must be addressed. My take on this book, overall, is that our knowledgebase hasn’t necessarily grown with the advent of the internet. Most of what is available now was always available to us, but never was it so easily and instantly available. Also, “more” isn’t really “more” unless it comes from reliable sources and it is filterable. In chapter 1, Weinberger states, "There was always too much to know, but now that fact is thrown in our faces at every turn. Now we know that there's too much for us to know. And that has consequences." (11) The task of filtering all of this information is daunting. * Source on Weinberger's credentials, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_W...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    David Weinberger was a keynote speaker at a conference I attended last year. I had picked up this book beforehand, as a way of being uber-prepared for this last-minute-approved professional development opportunity. In Too Big to Know, Weinberger briefly examines how technology is shaping the way we create knowledge. Some years ago, I read Nicholas Carr’s The Big Switch, though I think he is better known for his book The Shallows. Weinberger’s book is in the same topical vicinity as those, but Wei David Weinberger was a keynote speaker at a conference I attended last year. I had picked up this book beforehand, as a way of being uber-prepared for this last-minute-approved professional development opportunity. In Too Big to Know, Weinberger briefly examines how technology is shaping the way we create knowledge. Some years ago, I read Nicholas Carr’s The Big Switch, though I think he is better known for his book The Shallows. Weinberger’s book is in the same topical vicinity as those, but Weinberger is not a subscriber to technodeterminism. He doesn’t believe that technology leads to only one outcome. Weinberger describes the “old” paradigm of knowledge creation as “knowing-by-reducing”: we winnow information until it’s more manageable, with the byproduct of excluding ideas along the way. Today, we are exchanging this “filter-out” process for a “filter forward” process. Some information is still selectively pushed forward, but unlike in the past, we are still able to access what didn’t make it through the filter. People can see the filter and interrogate it. I think the most interesting chapter for readers is chapter 6, “Long Form, Web Form”. In it, Weinberger challenges the idealization of published books as the true form of knowledge. A few choice quotes: "If you’re writing a book, you have to have a conversation with yourself about possible objections because books are a disconnected, nonconversational, one-way medium. We have had to resort to this sort of play-acting not because that’s how thought should work but because books fix thoughts on paper." (p. 95) "Books do not express the nature of knowledge. They express the nature of knowledge committed to paper cut into pages without regard for the edges of ideas, bound together, printed in mass quantities, and distributed, all within boundaries set by an economic system." (p. 100) Weinberger references Jay Rosen’s Pressthink blog as an example of long-form’s possible future direction. He points out the benefits of this approach: arguments get their natural length; because of comments / interaction with readers, the argument becomes more responsive; ideas get to the public faster, and the author’s authority becomes “right-sized.” The disadvantages of this approach are that the readers’ voices may function as noise; some arguments actually do work better when presented all at once; and a published book is still a “traditional token of expertise and achievement.” Weinberger doesn’t forget that he is presenting these ideas in a published book: "Not only is the irony / hypocrisy of this book inescapable, it is so familiar in this time of transition that I wish someone would write a boilerplate paragraph that all authors of nonpessimistic books about the Internet could just insert and be done with." (p. 97) My other favorite chapter in this book was Chapter 7 “Too Much Science”, where Weinberger describes how this new paradigm of conveying knowledge affects the scientific community. He quotes the (recently deceased) Jean-Claude Bradley, a chemist who supported Open Science initiatives, and who said “trust should have no part in science.” The book argues that we should be able to dig into the data and see commentaries from amateurs and experts. Weinberger points out that “scientific journals rarely published research with negative results” but that kind of research is still very important information for the community. Research scientists need to know what didn’t work, as well as what did work. In the last chapter of Too Big to Know, Weinberger offers five strategies for navigating this time of transition: 1. Open up access – have a policy of “including everything and filtering afterward.” 2. Provide hooks for intelligence. (This would be metadata, and specifically Linked Data. Incidentally this is where my job intersects Weinberger’s ideas.) 3. Link Everything (show your work) 4. Leave no institutional knowledge behind. 5. Teach everyone – people should learn how to evaluate knowledge claims. The chapters I glossed over were also interesting, though I found the first few chapters covered arguments and ideas I’d previously encountered. It was Weinberger’s discussion of books and scientific knowledge that I found most thought-provoking. I liked that Weinberger saw both the pros and cons of knowledge’s new direction, and wasn’t a doomsayer or an indiscriminate cheerleader. His keynote speech had a great sense of humor and that shows in the book as well, though in lesser degree. I realize that this post is more a summary of the book than a proper review, but it’s the kind of book where I feel more like sharing its ideas than writing about my reaction to them. I’ll close with another quote: "Welcome to the life of knowledge once it has been taken down from its shelf. It is misquoted, degraded, enhanced, incorporated, passed around through a thousand degrees of misunderstanding, and assimilated to the point of invisibility. It was ever so. Now we can see it happening." (p. 110)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    “The smartest person in the room is not the person standing at the front lecturing us, and it is not the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it.” In his book “Too Big To Know” Weinberger describes how the internet changed the way we create, share, receive, manage and store knowledge in the 21st century. The above quote supports his main thought that the tra “The smartest person in the room is not the person standing at the front lecturing us, and it is not the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it.” In his book “Too Big To Know” Weinberger describes how the internet changed the way we create, share, receive, manage and store knowledge in the 21st century. The above quote supports his main thought that the traditional pyramid of knowledge is now losing shape and becoming a network that connects the people and their ideas. This shift is associated with the emergence of the internet – the infinitely large and rapidly growing frontier of knowledge created by humans. This information revolution enables everyone on the internet to become an “expert” and to add, edit or share opinions and ideas to a body of knowledge. The body of information and knowledge is therefore growing at an astoundingly fast rate. Should we be worried about this information overload and can the internet really help us become more knowledgeable? This post will focus on the effect the internet has on knowledge and the risks and benefits of this new institution of knowledge. Before the internet, knowledge was mainly generated by relatively small numbers of professional knowers who can be called experts in their fields of knowledge. They generated the knowledge through a lengthy, thorough and hard-working process. This knowledge could then later be stored in academic journals or books which focus on the specific topic the author wanted to share. Such writing can then potentially be found in physical libraries under the condition that someone found it worthy to be included in the existing body of knowledge. Before the internet, knowledge was filtered out by small groups of individuals or experts. Writings also didn’t change over time. They remained the same as the world changes around them. The internet and digital media alter this traditional idea of knowledge. Weinberger describes five characteristics of the new institution of knowledge which are: 1) Wide – knowledge is generated by a larger number of contributors. This “crowd” is now used to crowd-source information and generate knowledge. 2) Boundary- free – knowledge is not anymore in the hand of “experts” only. 3) Populist – the process of generating knowledge is now a collective task where everyone should have the same rank. 4) “Other”-credentialed – credentials are not needed to make one an expert. One only needs the access to the internet. 5) Unsettled – knowledge is not anymore set in stone; it develops as we go. Unlike libraries which filter certain books off the shelves, the internet filters things forward which means that even if it is not visible it is still available in the background. The pieces of information and knowledge that are available in the front are there based on their popularity. Unfortunately, not all information that is pushed to the front is useful or of high quality. There are not only highly trained professionals and experts who manage the knowledge on the internet. The internet connects the largest crowd we have ever seen and this crowd contains different types of individuals. Anyone can decide what is good and what is bad and we might not always agree with it. Of course, it can be argued that a diverse internet community captures the most accurate picture of the human condition. On the other hand, there can also be a large number of bad or false information by people who are everything else but experts. The knowledge on the internet is not only vast but it is also dynamic. Once a book is published and read, the reader can not share his opinion with the author or with other readers. One can not agree, disagree or diverge into a new train of thought. On the internet, the individual has the opportunity to comment and give his “2 cents” which can potentially generate more knowledge. Unlike any other medium, internet gives us the ability to interact with the information we receive. Thanks to the internet I have been able to add my “2cents” on the book I am reviewing in this blog post. Although I am not Weinberger who is the author of his book, I am still able to share my opinion with other readers. Collectively we are able to share our feelings and thoughts and generate new ideas about his book in the most efficient way. I still believe in the value of books and written knowledge but I cannot deny the fact that managing knowledge in such a static way has its disadvantages. The internet has opened the doors to a new world which facilitates an extremely fast way to communicate knowledge between all its users. It might create an overwhelming feeling of information overload but at the end of the day it is us who decide what we want to consume and what we want to filter out. I believe that this kind of knowledge management is fair and its advantages are outnumbering its disadvantages.

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