Keynote: Knowledge in the Networked Age

Knowledge isn’t what it used to be. Over and over we hear that the Internet is driving out good information with lies, errors, and bullying. We are told that experts are being ignored in favor of the noise of the rabble.  Those are fair criticisms but they obscure what’s really happening: a new way of knowing is emerging. It turns out that the traditional ways worked well when the medium of knowledge–print–was so limited. But our new medium has unlimited capacity, and, more important, makes it absurdly easy to link content and people. As a result, for the first time we’re able to let knowledge get as big as it has always wanted to be. While experts are always going to be invaluable, we’re seeing that we can’t always predict who they’ll be or what we’ll need to know about.

Perhaps most important, we’re learning that knowledge is too big for even the most knowledgeable and trustworthy experts. If we want learning to get as big, as deep, and as wide as it can be, we need to develop networks of all the stakeholders in knowledge: the professionals, the amateurs, the seekers, the beginners, the skeptics, and even the fools. Networked knowledge may not look like traditional knowledge because it’s sprawling, it contains disagreement and even errors, it’s social and filled with personality, and it goes wherever it wants. But it is doing the job that traditional knowledge always wanted: to enable us to understand and deal with a world that is infinitely complex and infinitely interesting.

Meet the presenter

David-shorenstein-highresDavid Weinberger, Ph.D., a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, is a best-selling author who in a series of thoughtful and influential books has explored how the Internet is not only transforming our major institutions—business, government, journalism, libraries, education, and more—but is changing how we understand ourselves and our world.

After a career as a philosophy professor (Ph.D. from U. of Toronto), an early Web entrepreneur, and a strategic marketing consultant, in 1999 he co-authored a seminal work in Internet business, The Cluetrain Manifesto, which foresaw the rise of social media. He then wrote Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web, and Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. This led to an appointment as co-director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab where for five years he worked on transformative concepts and technologies for libraries. He recently was a journalism fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. His latest book, Too Big to Know, looks at  the networking of knowledge.

Dr. Weinberger has written many times for Harvard Business Review, Wired, and commentaries for NPR. His work has appeared in journals as diverse as Scientific American, The Atlantic.com, The Chronicle of Higher Ed, Salon, Smithsonian, USAToday, and TV Guide. He blogs for CNN.com, The Boston Globe, KMWorld, and United’s business class inflight magazine, as well as at his own site (JohoTheBlog.com), and has been an advisor to four presidential campaigns. He was a Franklin Fellow at the U.S. State Department 2009-2011. He lives in Boston.

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