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Too big to know? Rethinking knowledge in a web society

Md.Toufiqul Islam & Rashmi Kodihalli Basavarajappa: “Too big to know? Rethinking knowledge in a web society.” PechaKucha presentation in the “Information & Communication Management in a Web Society” Course of Dr. Gerald Fricke, 14th, June 2013. Watch the presentation on YouTube (6:40 min).

“Too Big To Know” is a book written by David Weinberger. David Weinberger is a famous Internet philosopher, American technologist, professional speaker, and commentator. “Too Big To Know” is a stunning and profound book on how our concept of knowledge is changing in the age of the Internet. David Weinberger cements his status as one of the most important thinkers of the digital age. If you want to understand what it means to live in a world awash in information, “Too Big to Know” is the guide you’ve been looking for.

Weinberger’s work focuses on how the Internet is changing human relationships, communication, and society. It honours the traditional social practices of knowing, where genres stay fixed, and provides a graceful way of understanding new strategies for knowing in today’s rapidly evolving, networked world. It isn’t about technical communication either, but what it has to say about the changes the web has brought to scientific publishing should make us all fundamentally rethink how technical communication will work in the future.

His thesis in Too Big to know is that the web is changing the concept of expertise and what it means to know. Our concept of what knowledge is, what it means to know, and the role of authority in defining knowledge, he argues, is shaped by the nature of paper technology. Because of the economics of paper, facts were relatively rare and gem-like because there wasn’t room for a whole lot of them. Because of the physics of paper, once a fact was printed, it stayed there on the page; it cannot be changed, at least on that page. The limitations of paper made facts look far more manageable than they seem now that we see them linked into our unlimited network.

The web, Weinberger argues, breaks down the knowledge which is created artificially by the nature of paper. Books focus on specific topics because they have to fit between covers. So, in a book-based world, knowledge looks like something that divides into measurable domains. On the Net, topics don’t divide up neatly. They connect messily. Books thus fostered a culture which saw knowledge as the domain of experts speaking fixed truths.

Expertise’s value was the certainty of its conclusions. Books get to speak once. After they are published, it’s expensive for the authors to change their minds. So, books try to nail things down. But because the multitudes of people on the Internet are different in their interests and abilities, a network of experts is of many minds about just about everything. The value of a network of experts can be seen now. The author advised us to use the cloud computing system & forking method as to expand our knowledge and research.

Cloud computing is a colloquial expression used to describe a variety of different computing concepts that involve a large number of computers that are connected through a real-time communication networks (typically the Internet). In science, cloud computing is a synonym for distributed computing over a network and means the ability to run a program on many connected computers at the same time. The popularity of the term can be attributed to its use in marketing to sell hosted services in the sense of application service provisioning that run client server software on a remote location.

In software engineering, a project fork happens when developers take a copy of source code from one software package and start independent development on it, creating a distinct piece of software. The term often implies not merely a development branch, but a split in the developer community, a form of schism. Free and open-source software is that which, by definition, may be forked from the original development team without prior permission without violating any copyright law.

It is David Weinberger’s idea to develop a smart room before if you want to get some smart output. Smart room is nothing by a network place where people can share their ideas together. He said,

“Smart is not the one who knows the most but the room (networks) where people know together.”

So, before anyone who is willing to establish a cultural project in a web society, he should build a Smart Room first. Where people will work as volunteer, links will be developed there, these links will express interest & create contacts, Knowledge will expand one network to other, free access will make contradiction and lastly, disagreement and diversity will make the room richer.

If we disagree about one thing, it means the new way will open to discuss more. This is how knowledge expands. That’s why he said:

“What we have in common isn’t one knowledge about which we agree, but a shared world about which we disagree.”

The value of Too Big to Know for technical communicators is that it can help us grasp that the move to the web is not about having a new place to publish. It is about engaging with the continuous now of technical communications on the web. Technical writers may not like losing the coin of authority either, but the continuous now of technical communication on the web is not something that the world is waiting for us to create, but something that already exists, that thrives, and that is rapidly picking our pockets for whatever coin of authority we may still retain in opening things up, not simply coming to unshakable conclusions.

Submitted by:

Md. Toufiqul Islam & Rashmi Kodihalli Basavarajappa

[1] Fork in Software Development, Wikipedia Page.

[2] Cloud Computing, Wikipedia Page.

[3] Blog “Too Big to Know”.

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