David Weinberger – Unsettling Knowledge

“Chaotic. Unpredictable. Randomn. Very useful.” This is how David Weinberger, author, technologist and philosopher, describes flickr – a wonderful example of social knowledge. In his closing keynote at NEXT Berlin 2012 he explains how the internet changed knowledge and why our old institutions of knowledge fell apart.

“They were supporting a set of ideas (about knowledge) that were not human. Beyond human. A hope for humans, but not possibly achievable.” The internet allows a much more human form of knowledge which is “unbounded, overwhelming, unsettled, messy and linked […] – just like human life on this planet”, Weinberger states.

The traditional medium of knowledge has been paper – a disconnected medium, “a set of stopping points”, as Weinberger puts it. In contrast, the internet is a connected medium allowing its users to ask questions and get more information right away. Thereby, Weinberger argues, the internet and networked knowledge is making us smarter.

Along with the opportunity for everyone to share his opinion, comes also a lot of dissension and indifference. “We need to find ways in which we can preserve and benefit from this disagreement – as opposed to just yelling at each other.” Weinberger asserts that the internet changes knowledge, culture and society – and it is a topic he knows very well: He is currently working at Harvard University’s prestigious Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and can be regarded as one of the keenest observers of the internet’s impact on our culture.