Tag Archives: Small Pieces Loosely Joined

The internet is messy, fun and imperfect, just like us

Last October 23rd David Weinberger gave the 2008 Bertha Bassam Lecture at the University of Toronto. I happened to be in Toronto but only found out about the lecture on the 24th. Fortunately Taylor pointed out that the lecture is online.

I’ve never met David Weinberger (his blog is here) but I hope to one day. I maintain his book – Small Pieces Loosely Joined – remains one of, if not the best book written about the internet and society. Everything is Miscellaneous is a fantastic read as well.

The Bertha Bassam lecture is classic Weinberger: smart, accessible, argumentative and fun. But what I love most about Weinberger is how he constantly reminds us that the internet is us…  and that, as a result, it is profoundly human: messy, fun, argumentative, and above all imperfect. Indeed, the point is so beautifully made in this lecture I felt a little emotional listening to it.

Contrast that to the experience of listening to someone like Andrew Keen, a Weinberger critic who this lecture again throws into stark relief. After reflecting on Weinberger, Keen dislikes the internet and web 2.0 mostly because I think he dislikes people. It may sound harsh but if you ever hear him speak – or even read his writing – it is smart, argumentative and interesting, but it oozes with an anger and condescension that is definitely contemptuous and sometimes even borders on hatred. If the debate is reduced to whether or not we should, however imperfectly, try to connect to and learn from one another or whether we should just hold others in contempt, I think Weinberger is going to win every time. At least, I know where I stand.

Indeed, this blog is a triumph of Weinberger’s internet humanism. It is a small effort to write, to share, and to celebrate the complexity and opportunity of the world with those I know and those I don’t, but who share a similar sense of possibility. Will millions read this blog. No. But I enjoy the connections, old and new, I make with the much more modest number of people who do.

I hope you’ll watch this lecture or, if you haven’t the time, download the audio to your ipod and listen to it during your commute home. (lacking the slides won’t have a big impact)

Small piece from small pieces

After being side tracked by the final Harry Potter book (which was excellent), weddings (congrats to Irfhan and Gen) and work (Chicago is a good a place as any to find oneself)… I’m finally back to reading David Weinberger’s Small Pieces Loosely Joined and it is fantastic.

Favourite line so far:

It is no accident that the web is distracting. It is the Web’s hyperlinked nature to pull our attention here and there. But it is not at all clear that a new distractedness represents a weakening of our culture’s intellectual powers, a lack of focus, a diversion from the important work that needs to be done, a disruption of our very important schedule. Distraction may instead represent our interests finally finding the type of time that suits it best. Maybe when set free in a field of abundance, our hunger moves us from three meals a day to day-long grazing. Our experience of time on the Web, its ungluing and re-gluing of threads, may be less an artifact of the Web than the Web’s enabling our interest to find its own rhythm. Perhaps the Web isn’t shortening our attention span. Perhaps the world is just getting more interesting.

Amen.

Check out Weinberger’s blogs: Everything is Miscellaneous and Joho the Blog

Speaking of hyperlinked… Harley Y., a frequent reader and a fellow open-source affectionado noticed in Monday’s post that I was in Chicago. Being in town himself by chance he dropped me and email and we met up for dinner. Good times and conversation ensued… welcome to the world of the web, it’s not just online anymore.