David Weinberger is most famous as Howard Dean's Internet guru. His new book, Everything is Miscellaneous, sings the praises of big piles of miscellaneous information. Information free from intrinsic hierarchies is now more valuable to us now than the pre-sorted: Think Dewey Decimal versus Amazon.com, albums versus iTunes, Aristotle versus The Encyclopedia of Life.
We have entire industries and institutions built on the fact that the paper order severely limits how things can be organized. Museums, educational curricula, newspapers, the travel industry, and television schedules are all based on the assumption that in the second-order world, we need experts to go through information, ideas, and knowledge and put them neatly away.
But now we—the customers, the employees, anyone—can route around the second order. We can confront the miscellaneous directly in all its unfulfilled glory. We can do it ourselves and, more significantly, we can do it together, figuring out the arrangements that make sense for us now and the new arrangements that make sense a minute later. Not only can we find what we need faster, but traditional authorities cannot maintain themselves by insisting that we have to go to them. The miscellaneous order is not transforming only business. It is changing how we think the world itself is organized and—perhaps more important—who we think has the authority to tell us so.
Update: Stay tuned for an interview with Weinberger in the next print issue.