Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blog Post #4

The most important common point I've seen between the Web 2.0 & Web Squared documents and Weinberger is the notion of liberating the second order of order...

Web Squared makes a big deal of the "sensor net" and how this data is being used to re-order other data - from world maps built using Flickr geotags to the information shadows of commercial media. Weinberger talks about collecting this information not only from passive user input but also active user input - from de.licio.us to the vast, constantly in flux pool of knowledge contained in Wikipedia. O'Reilly covered the value of both deliberately user-contributed data and the passive data in his "What is Web 2.0" article: not only through deliberate sources like Flickr and Wikipedia but also passively in the form of Google's Pagerank.

All three documents have in common a fascination with Wikipedia - not only that it works at all, but in that it actually works quite well.

"Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia based on the unlikely notion that an entry can be added by any web user, and edited by any other, ...is already in the top 100 websites, and many think it will be in the top ten before long. This is a profound change in the dynamics of content creation!" (O'Reilly, "What is Web 2.0?")
"On paper, it sounds like a terrible idea. Build an encyclopedia by letting anyone create or edit an article, even anonymously. Yet four years after its launch at the beginning of 2001, Wikipedia had more people reading its pages than the New York Times' Web site did... its shape, freed from the two dimensions of paper, better represents the wild diversity of human interests and insights." (Weinberger, "Everything is Miscellaneous" pp. 99-100)

At its guts, both the O'Reilly articles and "Everything is Miscellaneous" are concerned with the transformation in the character of human interaction with human information - from the old order of words stored in physical paper with a form of scarcity dictated by the crude laws of Newtonian physics to the new order of data-driven reality, transported in a more Einsteinian and Turing-based world where everyone can have access to a copy of anything that exists if the economic factors are right.


  1. The shift from physical to digital (yes, still technically physical but there is a big difference in terms of required space) storage of knowledge has really opened up all sorts of new possibilities. I still have a soft spot for physical books and libraries. Something about the weight of knowledge (or at least paper) I feel when wandering through the stacks of Holland doesn’t translate in the seemingly endless library of the internet. However, there is no denying that the potential is greater in the digital realm.

    I think it’s interesting that you should mention economic factors though. I don’t’ know if I’ve correctly interpreted your meaning but it makes me think of something I’ve been thinking about since I read Web2. O’Reilly says that the web is the world… In most of the rest of the paper I found his seemingly boundless enthusiasm for the new digital arena to be infectious, but here I think he erred. Or at the very least displayed a perspective based solely on a privileged post-industrial perspective. Tell a subsistence farmer, or impoverished worker in a third world country that the web is the world and see what they think.

    On a lighter note: The Problem With Wikipedia - http://xkcd.com/214/

  2. interesting how you used examples from physics to explain the transferring of information from paper to the data-driven world. Never thought of it that way!

  3. Despite the fact that a subsistence farmer, or impoverished worker doesn't have access to the internet or may not be able to afford it, doesn't mean it doesn't affect them. Its slowing down their access to physical books as kindles come out. It still affects their imports/exports within their country. Even cell phones because they are so vastly common in stable governments i think are going to 'infect' these worlds soon enough. If these companies can take the risk to make more customers, globalize, and maybe even stabilize third world countries, I think they will. So it may not be affecting them now, but in the next 30 years we may hear of cell phone towers going up in the strangest places. It has all just begun really. The internet and cell phones being combined will only speed up the flow of information, it is all about risk/reward and I think we aren't that far out from mega globalization. Wikipedia is truly remarkable and intriguing that it can survive considering the concept of it outside of the computer: a message board on a wall in a public access area. This is going to greatly affect the 'true-ness' of information and hopefully with regulation will only help to gatekeep, and bring in more trains of thought that can be narrowed down to the important ideas and information.

  4. (P.S. of course what is important is totally subjective also, making that a difficult thought in terms of information, ideas and concepts) And there will always be people who will never use technology or have access to it in there everyday life, i just think its like government, just because you don't vote, doesn't mean it doesn't affect you. And we are one big global family when it comes to technology.

  5. You can have your Kate and Edith too - the advantage of the digital is that, at least in theory, it takes nothing away from the physical world. Despite the dire predictions of the last millennium, paper books still exist and sell quite well, there are still newspapers out there and the ones that are failing reflect the apathy of the modern American rather than the advent of new news sources.

    I won't go so far as to say paper books will "always be around" but the advantages of the physical artifact (over the new breed of pseudo-digital that the content providers are trying to invent) are clear. Once a copy of a book (or a CD or a DVD) is bought and properly maintained, any number of people can have access to it in perpetuity. Libraries exist to provide this service - omnivorous readers could never hope to afford to buy everything they read on the Kindle store and they couldn't loan it to their friends without depriving themselves of ALL of their own books.

    You can't have your license to read a book revoked because you carried it with you to too many bars, restaurants, cafes, airports and hotels - but that's exactly what the video game companies have been doing with PC games to discourage traffic in used video games. They provide non transferable use-limited licenses - you can only install the game three times on no more than one computer at a time and you have to be online at all times to play it.

    DRM starts to make the concept of concrete ownership of the physical artifact look even more compelling.

  6. My view of moving most, if not all, data from physical space to a digital one, is not totally convinced. I mean, obviously it has its endless perks like Wikipedia, Google, and national news sites, but I am against the full-on digitize everything train. An example is turning all paper books into digital ones (like the Nook). My dad has a Nook, and while I've played around with it, I don't think I will ever ditch the spine of a good novel for a tablet.

  7. Wow, great post and great conversation here y'all. Tom, I like your summation saying that the authors are concerned w/ "the transformation in the character of human interaction with human information." The theory geek in me loves considering the ways in which technology & humans impact and interact w/ one another. Yet, the praxis geek in me sometimes questions the "so what" with such interrogations. Does it make us more mindful in the ways we use, purchase, or design digital technologies if we're critical about the human interaction with information? I guess I wouldn't be in this gig if I didn't think it was somehow worthwhile... although I think the most persuasive use of these readings is likely capitalistic--watch libraries squirm when it comes to e-books, and not b/c they love their books so much (ok, that's part of it) but more because people's livelihoods depend on 'the old.'

    And now I am rambling...

    Good post. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. 100% agree with you about wikipedia. I always assumed wikipedia would eventually deal with some kind of major hick up that would affect the effectiveness of the site but it seem to be going strong. and improving as method of effectiveness and new discoveries allow for new was to provide information to any topic.