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Monday, May 28, 2007

Dis-order and re-orderliness: Weinberger's miscellany...

One way I kept my sanity while grading all those previously mentioned student posts and essays over the last week or so was to take a break by reading David Weinberger's Everything is Miscellaneous. And as it happens, it was worth every spare moment I could devote to it.

I originally heard about the book on Radio OpenSource, and I have to say that the hour did not do justice to the book's argument -- and this time it is not all Christopher Lydon's fault. Weinberger (who writes Joho the Blog) is attempting to present a pretty sophisticated thesis (that cries out for a more scholarly explication) through a popular lens (see his book's web site here), and he does so in a way that avoids allowing knee-jerk critics to dismissively label him as just another "postmodernist" (although he does acknowledge that risky connection later in his presentation, and it was a hint of postmodernism which did seem to get to Lydon late in his conversation with Weinberger). Nevertheless, this is Foucauldian postmodernism at its subtle best -- but with the underlying presence of Borges (who inspired Foucault) and perhaps Hacking (who was inspired by Foucault).

There are so many ways that Weinberger's miscellany view touches on my work that I can't help but predict I will be citing it over and over again in future blog postings. Its postmodernist theme is not ideological or fadish, but rather comes packaged in a coherent and useful presentation of our post-modern condition which entails the movement toward a metadata-based "third order of order". Weinberger is a philosopher with McLuhanistic insight (interesting that he received his PhD from University of Toronto) into the radically altered relationship between information and knowing -- and therefore knowledge-as-understanding.

I'd definitely put this on the must read list for anyone who wants to understand what the future holds for our major educational and economic institutions as the net-nurtured generation makes its way into the power mainstream....

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