Trainer-teacher-learners are, in many ways, the hunter-gatherers of our times. We love to find nourishing new pieces of information, transform them into knowledge, and share them with the other members of our global learning tribe. Which, if we are to believe David Weinberger in Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, makes us among the richest people in the world.
“It’s not what you know, and it’s not even who you know. It’s how much knowledge you give away. Hoarding knowledge diminishes your power because it diminishes your presence,” he writes near the end of the book (p. 230). And who among us would argue with that sentiment?
Weinberger’s charm lies in his ability to make us think, initially, about how information is organized or dis-organized, and then to nudge us along a path which makes it more likely that we’ll find more of what we’re seeking and then be willing to share it. He proposes, in the first chapter of his book, that there are three orders of order: physical objects which themselves can be organized (books, for example); physical catalogs and other forms of inventory which help to organize our access to the first-level objects being ordered; and the third order comprised of those things which appear to be in more than one place at a time (digital items which can be accessed online through messy yet effective ordering systems such as user-created tagging).
By the time we reach the final sections of Everything Is Miscellaneous, we’re happily flying high in messiness and miscellany with Weinberger. He reports that network analysts “have found that innovation happens at the intersections” —as we interact with colleagues from other fields of study or with backgrounds much different than our own, we are most likely to have the breakthrough moments in learning and creativity. It is, he suggests, similar to standing at a busy intersection in a city: “at those messy crossroads you’re more likely to get splashed” (pp. 181-182), and this leads to the enviable and disorderly position in which we now find ourselves: “We can make connections and relationships at a pace never before imagined” (p. 221).
We can almost feel the trainer-teacher-learner community growing as we read Weinberger’s words and think of other similar treatises. In Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures, for example, we find a similar world of crossroads and intersections—the Intersection which develops through meetings of dissimilar yet inquisitive minds. And there is even more encouragement to be found in Kevin Kelly’s WIRED magazine article “We Are the Web” (published in August 2005), which suggests that our collective efforts at creating and sharing networks makes us more than a “part” of the Web; it actually makes us the Web as we all contribute to what could be the first real example of artificial intelligence through the digital community we help build every time we create and/or post something on the Internet and make it accessible through tagging/folksonomy.
The truism that knowledge is power, and the selfish corollary that we must hoard rather than share that knowledge, seems to be quickly evolving into the Everything is Miscellaneous and “We Are the Web” world where giving knowledge away is the greatest indicator of wealth. And we couldn’t be more lucky than to be part of it through the CLENE/CE Buzz community.