Everything is Miscellaneous

Senior Researcher, David Weinberger, explains that there are “three orders” of order and he describes them as:

  1. 1st Order – The organization of physical objects (e.g. books on a shelf)
  2. 2nd Order – Extraction of the metadata about the object (e.g. card catalogue with various sort orders – author, title, and subject)
  3. 3rd Order – Data and Metadata coexist in the digital environment

In light of the third order, Weinberger explains why he believes that the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system is flawed. Under the DDC system, there is the limit of 10 numbers and 10 subcategories within those numbers. He explains that someone (or group) must exercise authority when it comes to deciding how a resource is classified. Furthermore, a resource can exist in only one physical location.

Enter the 3rd order where data and metadata are digital and thus can be used to easily locate each other. For example, one can type in the phrase “the fault is not in our stars” and discover that the author is William Shakespeare, the play is Julius Caesar, and that the play is downloadable for free from http://www.guttenberg.org, http://www.books.google.com, www.nypl.org – and many more sites.

Weinberger underscores three points:

  1. In the digital world, an object can be placed in as many categories as desired. (He uses Amazon as an example where cameras can be placed in electronics, photography, cameras, hobbies, etc.)
  2. Messiness is a virtue since this ability to categorize more freely and to link to other categories actually makes it easier for a user to find things. We are asked to think of faceted classification, tagging, and folksonomies that give the reader/searcher more power and autonomy. Weinberger says that “we own the organization of resources.”
  3. Metadata can be used to locate data – and vice versa.

Weinberger posits that at this moment, there is no difference between data and metadata.

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