Thursday, July 30, 2009

Knowledge in the Age of the Internet

Raw Notes
Friday Keynote

Dr. David Weinberger, Knowledge in the Age of the Internet
Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University
Joho the Blog
Twitter: dweinberger

We are beyond the Information Age and entered the Age of Internet/Connection/Differences characterized by the differences between us and our children. Nature of knowledge has changed.

What knowledge in the West has been: Ancient Greece to present > one knowledge is the same for everyone > simple, beyond the confusion of the world > universal truths, extract personal > scarce, many voices in the marketplace, many voices, a few voices worth of belief > settled, once you know it you can move on > ordered and orderly, single correct order > knowledge has been transgenerational thing based on ordered truth, correct way, stable, same for everyone. This is also a description of libraries because books have been the medium for the storage of knowledge. Has knowledge been limited because of the limitations of books/the medium?

Problem - our knowledge storage is limited by what we can store in our brain. System of authorities (paper) credentialling function: diplomas, editors > good process when there is too much to know. Gives us a stopping point for our inquiry and defer to the authority on the subject. Opposite of transparency, and settle for opacity (?) which is a hack of the lousy paper system. Paper sucks as a means of knowledge - footnotes and bibs required for acquiring deeper knowledge.

Age of hyperlinks: new type of punctuation that links you to the next thing. Network becomes a rich system of differences.

Remove paper and you get the Age of Abundance - great stuff and "crap of every sort" (his word, not mine). We handle "crap" better than the good stuff. Institutions are premised on the idea that there is a small amount of good stuff that they will find and manage for us, but this is no longer true. Now there is no longer a single correct answer but many answers, some better than the other.Wolfram|Alpa referenced.

Usually but not always "good enough is good enough." s educators our job is guide student toward when knowing when perfection and rightness are the correct response/goal.

TOPIC: Philosophy
Britannica - 180,000 words
Wikipedia - 9,000 words + millions of links
Apples to apples word count doesn't work. Totally different straegy to each topic. No longer apples to apples, we have a new entity. Topics don' start and end, but that is how paper works. Hyperlink approach is a better expression of topics than print was. Paper is a mis-conception of how topics work.

Change in the nature of topics/knowledge/expertise.
Hedghog and the Fox - Isaiaha Berlin - story a popular reference for learning today.
The network / internet becomes more expert with use, as it grows from learning communities.

Flickr Library of Congress - utilized social network to get WWII photos tagged. Tagging allows access to these perviously "unfindable" photos. Comments - boxes are discussions on aspects of photos, and proof that humans will argue over anything OR engage in conversation of anything ;) The NETWORK and SOCIALIZING of KNOWLEDGE ois where expertise is emerging.

The smartest person in the room is the room. How do we build smart community/better rooms?

Transparent data - can get past old system of authority. Links are invitations to continue. (Wikipedia - show Talk page in lessons - debate and decisions behind the article.)

Meta-data incredibly important. Drowning in tsunami of information was the fear. In fact, we are managing pretty well and information is continuing to grow via management from meta-data. Meta-data is changing is important ways.
  • search a piece of meta-data (ex. author name) and get back a book
  • refine seach data and get back everything and topic
  • meta-data is key to the world of the topic
  • meta-data is the thing you know to get data , which is what you don't know.
  • meta-data is the tool to pry up the information for what you need/data
  • meta-data age is now for everyone
  • knowledge now has its own ecology - not peer reviewed, but collection of all submitted scientific data. PASS THIS ALONG TO SCIENCE DEPT! Don't have to wait 2 years to appear in professional journal.
We are fallible. Wikipedia is non-credentialled, but is highly credible in many areas. Britiannica is a credentialled system so we can rely n it. Where does wikipedia get its credibility? Meta-data notices list how it can go wrong, and encourages reader to contribute comments/judgements. This increases the credibility because it doesn't try to impress you with its authority, but works to give you valuable data. Fallibility is acknowledged and encourages the contribution of different opinions. Differences.

Networks and Difference (fallible) - uncomfortable for institutions (authority)

The web is fundamentally different because it reflects our fundamental moral and intellectual self. However - there are (of course) drawbacks. Division between people can be reinforced on the web and breaks down the hopefullness of the web. Big discussion not pursued. Started with Jefferson/Hamilton. Lost the thread. Summary: the web is diverse and a pretty good place, but it doesn't matter.

Educating for Difference
  • media literacy - why limit number of internet sources you can use in an assignment?? Teach kids how to use web effectively. EVALUATION!
  • meta-literacy (meta-data around information)
  • engagement with information - learning is social, be OK with this
  • public learning
  • constructive learning - leave a place better than you found it, build stuff, share, do something with your learning
  • model ignorance
  • reward civil disagreement
The main thing the web is teaching our children:
  • the world is far more interesting then they were ever told

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