It took me a while to get around to reading David Weinberger’s book, Everything is Miscellaneous, but when I finally did, boy howdy, did my head and the world get rearranged. He’s one of those few writers who makes simple and funny explanations of complex phenomena look easy. And he’s onto something important. It’s not just a new story and a big picture, it’s a new picture and a big story. I think he’s right that most knowledge has been structured and so many institutions has been arranged according to taxonomies and hierarchical file structures simply because we have been arranging knowledge for thousands of years, but we only got search engines recently. Search engines are not just search engines in Weinberger’s new picture, and tagging is not just tagging. When it comes to answering the question about whether there is any importance to our quotidian online behaviors, he says it better than I can say it for him:
That humans play a role in categorizing the world is not news. There is a difference now, though. For the first time, we have an infrastructure that allows us to hop over and around established categorizations with ease. We can make connections and relationships at a pace never before imagined. We are doing so together. We are doing so in public. Every hyperlink and every playlist enriches our shared miscellany, creating potential connections that we can’t often anticipate. Each connection tell us something about the connected things, about the person who made the connection, about the culture in which a person could make such a connection, about the sorts of people who find that connection worth noticing. This is how meaning grows. Whether we’re doing it on purpose or simply by leaving tracks behind us, the public construction of meaning is the most important project of the next hundred years.