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The New Shape of Knowledge: From Trees to Piles of Leaves

30 Nov 2005

The digital revolution is enabling knowledge to slip the bonds of the physical which had, silently, shaped it. Now we get to see its ‘natural’ shape. What does it look like? How big are topics when they aren’t determined by the economics of paper? Who gets to organize it? What are the new principles we’re using to organize it?

David Weinberger proposes that in the digital world, the most ‘natural,’ efficient and responsive way to manage knowledge is to create huge, distributed piles of leaves, each tagged with as much metadata as possible – including treating the content as metadata – and postponing until the last minute the taxonomizing of the information.

What will be the social effects as we move from trees to piles of leaves?


Dr David Weinberger

Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University

Dr David Weinberger is co-author of the bestseller, ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto’ and the author of ‘Small Pieces Loosely Joined’; he writes the well-known blog Joho. He is a Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society. His work has appeared in Harvard Business Review, USA Today, Wired, Salon, The Guardian, Esther Dyson’s Release 1.0 and many others. He is a commentator on National Public Radio and is a columnist for Worthwhile, KMWorld and Il Sole 24 ore (the leading financial daily newspaper in Italy). He is on the advisory boards of Technorati, ITConversations,SocialText, BlogBridge, the Information Architecture association and the Christopher Reeve Foundation. As a marketing consultant he has has worked with many companies, from startups to Fortune 500. He has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto. His book ‘Everything Is Miscellaneous’ about the social effect of the new digital ways of organizing knowledge will be published by Times Books in winter, 2007.