“Everything is Miscellaneous”

08 Jun

I just picked up "Everything is Miscellaneous" (David Weinberger) and an odd image popped into my mind: Jimmy Wales hanging out at the Library of Congress.

I had mentally dismissed this double spread ad for Conde Nast
–or so I thought. Excuse my wanting to deconstruct the ad to make a
point. The context and scale of the photograph adds to the incongruity
of the founder of Wikipedia
perched on a railing in one corner of the Library. Its magnificient
cathedral-like arches, and everything else in balance create a great
metaphor. You just know that this guy is here to quietly turn things on
his head –in a good way, mind you.

I know why that image came to mind. The jacket cover of Miscellaneous has a blurb from Mr. Wales lovingly complaining:

"Just when I thought I understood the world, David Wenberger turns it upside down – and rightside up again."

Sure, it’s one of those sweeping ‘advance praise for’ comments you’ve
seen on many other jacket blurbs heaping praise on a new book about the
digital economy.

But it’s hard to exaggerate this book’s analysis. Weinberger, who co-authored The Cluetrain Manifesto,
notes that the card catalog system gives us a ‘narrow slit’ to look
through the world of books, but ‘imperfect classification’ in the
digital world, is paradoxically richer. He’s referring of course to
tags and links that create this thing called ‘social knowing’ (the term
‘social media’ isn’t in the index) by showing us connections, and
putting bits of knowledge into context.

Which is exactly what the book does, drawing on centuries of historical
precedents, to make that point of miscellany over and over again.



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