Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On the Internet and the Embrace of Miscellanea

The Chronicle:
David Weinberger is perhaps best known as a co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, a document, written in 1999, that urges businesses to treat the Web as a “global conversation.” Now Mr. Weinberger, a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, says it’s time to shed “the idea that there’s a best way of organizing the world.”

In Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, a new book published last month, Mr. Weinberger argues that the Internet breaks down information so that people can reorganize it as they see fit. “Lots of people have seen lots of ways in which things are related, and we can express that on the Web,” says the author in an interview with the blog 10 Zen Monkeys. “We don’t have to minimize it.”

When a librarian files a book, he or she is forced to choose just one shelf through which to categorize the volume. “That’s not a natural restriction,” says Mr. Weinberger. The beauty of the Internet, he argues, is that physical space no longer dictates how detailed categorization and organization can become. —Brock Read

I agree with the concept (as any reader of this blog and its highly idosyncratic index would recognize immediately), but my librarian spouse would cause me harm if I didn't include the following comment, quickly posted to The Chronicle site:
The point about filing a book in only one spot is correct, but it is only part of the story. For years libraries have assigned multiple subject headings, author names, and secondary titles to catalog records. These additional access points enable a catalog user to find a book or other library resource in many different ways. The Internet clearly opens up access to library materials, but the basic concepts have been there all along.

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