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knowledge that has no knower

Social knowing, in chapter 7, starts off with a description of “middle-aged white men� in an editorial meeting, deciding what goes on the front page of a newspaper. I just read the chat I missed before spring break…you were having a Web 2.0 editorial meeting!

Everything is Miscellaneous goes on to talk about how obsolete the old style meeting it because of sites such as Digg, where readers rank articles to decide what will be on the front page of the website.

But the overall theme in each chapter of this book seems to be that knowledge and how you get it and how you organize it, is in upheaval because of the internet and its social interaction. For those who have been critical of the upheaval, this quote sums it up: “If these experts of the second order sound a bit hysterical, it is understandable. The change they’re facing from the miscellaneous is deep and real. Authorities have long filtered and organized information for us, protecting us from what isn’t worth our time and helping us find what we need to give our beliefs a sturdy foundation. But with the miscellaneous, it’s all available to us, unfiltered� (Weinberger, 132).

It’s obvious Weinberger thinks Wikipedia is fabulous, because he gives us yet another Wikipedia example. The Encyclopedia Britannica claims to be written by “Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winner, the leading scholars, writers, artists, public servants, and activists who are at the top of their fields� (134). Wikipedia is written by anyone. Jimmy Wales, the founder, says they are more concerned with an author’s contribution, not their credentials. “We care about pseudoidentity, not identity� (135), so Zocky, a prolific contributor, has a great reputation and no one knows who this person really is.

But the whole point of being successful as a Wikipedia contributor, according to Wales, is to be neutral. “Wikipedia insists that authors talk and negotiate because it’s deadly serious about achieving a neutral point of view� (136). He also said that he considers an article neutral when people stop editing it. Weinberger calls this a “brilliant operational definition of neutrality� because it makes it a social interaction.

I haven’t come across any of the neutrality notices (Weinberger, 140) Wikipedia posts on some of its most disputed pages, but I can imagine many are on pages that are politically oriented. And, as everyone knows, politics makes for some heated discussion that is rarely neutral. It’s hard to negotiate someone to your political viewpoint.

Anyway, Weinberger goes on to talk about the back and forth of negotiation between contributors and this isn’t something I’ve wrapped my head around entirely…so two people negotiate their differences on a page and are done working on it, “Yet the page they’ve negotiated may not represent either person’s point of view precisely. The knowing happened not in either one’s brain but in their conversation. The knowledge exists between the contributors. It is knowledge that has no knower. Social knowing changes who does the knowing and how, more than it changes the what of knowledge� (144). This makes me want to say, “huh?�, but I think I get it. In social knowing, we learn things by actively working to make it understandable. We work with others to get their knowledge and pass along ours to make knowledge that is everyone’s. Anyone else want to chime in?

Comments

I certainly want to chime in! You have selected some amazing quotes. The concept of neutrality being the key objective of Wikipedia is interesting. At first, it seems somewhat contradictory. Afterall, doesn't PostModernism indicate that there is no such thing? Weinberger has a good answer for that and it's perfectly consistent with PoMo philosophy. I plan to keep that in mind as I continue to ponder these issues... His writing also gave me a new appreciation for professional editing. It is enormously valuable if for no other reason than efficiency. Trying to find just one decent YouTube video for our wiki took me hours! And you must watch every one because you have no credentials to go on.

Weinberger's argument about knowledge having no knower makes sense intuitively but maybe we've been taught otherwise. How can it be that loose and transient? Isn't knowledge supposed to be rock solid and verifiable? It isn't. As with the research of Rosch demonstrates, prototypes don't categorize or define anything sharply. We all kind of sort of know what they mean and somehow that's sufficient.