David Weinberger’s Everything Is Miscellaneous tackles issues of organization with respect to digital content. He begins by outlining three orders of organization and provides a history of organization rooted in the physical. The three orders of organization are as follows: The first in which physical items are physically ordered, the second in which a catalog or written index (separate from the items) is used to list and find physical items, and the third order consisting of digital items organized by digital means (Weinberger, 2007, pp. 18-19). The notions of order, freedom of information, and the ever-evolving format of information are all topics closely related to the participatory nature of the Hyperlinked Library and covered extensively in our initial readings.
As the title might suggest, Weinberger is primarily concerned with a new approach to order, less rooted in the inflexible, rule-governed methods tied to physical assets. Rather, Weinberger illustrates the tendency for digital information to fall into randomness and advocates for digital information to be ordered as each individual user sees fit (Weinberger, p. 7). This can be accomplished by leaving information in its raw form and creating an infinite array of filters to process it—endless, highly personalized customization. Per Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk’s Framework for Change in Library 2.0: A Guide To Participatory Service, change requires the following elements: “ reaching out to new users  building new services; and  responding rapidly to changing customer demands (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007, p. 37).” This is in essence what Weinberger insists on given the speed and unbundling of information in the digital age.
Chapter 7, Social Knowing, deals specifically with the power of the participatory in ordering, creating, and honing information. Weinberger touches on several examples of user-generated content (UGC) and user-based approaches to knowledge management. Weinberger refers to social-aggregation sites such as Digg, Rollyo.com, and Tailrank as powerful and effective means of information curation. Though some of the references are dated and the author himself acknowledges that “Not all of these [sites] will survive (2007, p. 130),” social aggregation decentralizes the stranglehold on information by authorities and empowers everyday people to immerse themselves in information and make it their own. “We’re molecularizing, forming groups that create a local culture (Weinberger, p. 131).” What this means in relation to the Hyperlinked Library, is that UGC and crowdsourcing form a pillar of user engagement. By soliciting user’s opinions and reflecting that back out into the world in the form of user-based rankings, user-driven news, and a web based truly on the zeitgeist, information is moving away from the traditionally highly localized knowledge of the first and second order of information and toward a community-driven format that ideally favors no view and reflects all views. Casey and Savastinuk neatly summarize their own version of social knowing in which “The participatory Web seeks to harness the power of its users in order to enhance content (2007, p. 59).”
For all the attempts to bring order to the universe, there will always be exceptions and disputes as to the most objective form or order of things. Humans search in vain for patterns to make sense of things, but often impose arbitrary delineations. Often, those arbitrary delineations serve a select few individuals and regardless of intent, order can cause exclusion. In her now famous non-manifesto from 2006, K.G. Schneider makes the following proclamations: “The user is the sun…the user is not broken… If you block a tool the users want, users will go elsewhere to find it…[and] you cannot change the user, but you can transform the user experience to meet the user.” Here, Schneider insists on a user-centric model of information management, flipping the tables from a model in which the institution dictated the means by which users would receive information. Like Weinberger, she makes no bones about the great shifts in service and authority that have occurred and will continue to affect our perceptions of order.
Weinberger poses the following central question–why expend so much energy organizing information according to a set standard? Those standards are fragile and biased. Fragile in that they often do not account for changes or additions to knowledge and biased in that the architect of any given system controls what information is prioritized or ignored. Information should remain decentralized and filtered in any way an information seeker chooses–notions paramount to the existence and implementation of the Hyperlinked Library.
And by way of example, please enjoy this Everything Is Miscellaneous Spotify playlist. User-created and available for your listening and filtering pleasure. Please feel free to contribute!
Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service Information Today, Inc.
Schneider, K. G. (2006). The user is not broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto. Retrieved from http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/06/03/the-user-is-not-broken-a-meme-masquerading-as-a-manifesto/
Weinberger, D. (2007). Everything is miscellaneous: The power of the new digital disorder Macmillan.