Book Review Tuesday

Curious about how the Internet has changed how we view facts, knowledge, and expert opinion?

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts aren’t the Facts, Experts and Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger is an interesting and accessible optimist’s view of how the Internet has changed our understanding of information.  David Weinberger highlights new knowledge gathering concepts such as “crowd sourcing” research, appealing to “citizen-experts,” and the benefits and risks in allowing everyone an equal voice in the conversation.  Weinberger acknowledges that this last attribute can be both populist and unsettling when trying to determine an expert opinion on a topic.

Weinberger takes the time to place these new knowledge concepts within historical context.  I appreciated Weinberger’s explanation of the concept of long form thought.  In the past, when communicating with colleagues was more difficult and print media limited the ability to correct mistakes or offer clarification on a topic, experts tended to write long form arguments.  This is where one would try to think of all the arguments that could be made against one’s theory and offer a clarification or rebuttal to this imagined argument.  Weinberger offers Darwin’s On the Origin of Species as an example of this, saying, “Darwin spends a full six out of fifteen chapters addressing objections he imagines his readers may have” (p. 94).  I also enjoyed the section where Weinberger admits, and explicates his reasoning for, writing a long form argument – this book – about web form knowledge.  While I am not sure I agree with the cover flap’s claim that “this groundbreaking book shakes the foundations of our concept of knowledge,” the context that Weinberger put around how information “works” in the digital age is well worth reading.

The library call number for this item is HM851.W4297 2011.

-Carrie Fry, Electronic Services/Systems Librarian, Librarian for Health Sciences

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