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David Weinberger talks information organization in a more digitally connected world at KMWorld Connect 2020

Human beings are "information omnivores," and are constantly collecting, labeling, and organizing data. In the past, everything had its one place; the physical world demanded it, but now everything has its places: multiple categories, multiple shelves, and multiple channels. Simply put, everything is suddenly miscellaneous.

David Weinberger, author of Everything is Miscellaneous, Too Big to Know and his latest, Everyday Chaos: Technology, Complexity, and How We're Thriving in a New World of Possibility, discussed “Miscellaneous Organization in the AI Age” during his KMWorld Connect 2020 presentation, part of the Taxonomy Boot Camp track.

KMWorld Connect, November 16-19, and its co-located events, covers future-focused strategies, technologies, and tools to help organizations transform for positive outcomes.

Weinberger referenced his 2007 book throughout his discussion, starting with a quote from Plato that outlined how important it is to group things into categories after identifying them. However, we are adding a new type of order through organization.

A new order takes digital data and metadata, which changes how information is organized because the data and metadata become fluid, he said. There is no limit on how much metadata there is and the source of it.

“The only difference between data and metadata is functional,” Weinberger said.

Tags are one example that can help organize information that people are looking for. It allows multiple meanings, sharing, and analysis of data.

To make sense of things people can connect to hyperlinks that bring them to the content they may be searching for. Those links are both content based but can also express attitudes, he said.

“It’s an incredibly rich and connected world,” Weinberger said.

Semantic tech can also help make pieces of information reusable and understandable to machines and humans.

Linked open data, knowledge graphs, and ML models are increasingly important when structuring the organization of data, he said.

“Far more often than before we are learning in public,” Weinberger said. “If I post  a question and get an answer, it’s available all over the world. That is a way we make sense of something together.”

Making things more interoperable is important so ideas and services that have been created for one application can be used for different purposes.

“We are doing more sense-making and doing it together than any other time in human history,” Weinberger said.

Humans are good at disbelieving things, yet bad at coming to belief because of the internet. There is emphasis on critical thinking but it’s not enough, he said. It teaches us how to disbelieve but coming to a belief is a different skill.

In the past, information was largely brought to people in a homogenous way, he explained. Now, people can become separated by echo chambers. However, Weinberger disagreed that echo chambers are the ultimate problem. The problem is that there are people who are convinced they are right when they are wrong.

Two people who disagree fundamentally can further understand each other through conversing without pressure to convert someone to the other side, he explained. This is how discussions can be held respectfully. When it comes to slowing the spread of misinformation, however, Weinberger admits there is no easy solution.

“These are educational problems,” Weinberger said. “This is a generational issue. I think it’s going to be a long struggle.”

Though we are moving toward a more miscellaneous world, it becomes more complex, less binary, and humans become more fluid and intersectional.

Replays of KMWorld Connect webinars will be made available for on-demand viewing on or about November 24.

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