Computers, Writing, & Productive Mess

Just got back from Detriot and Computers & Writing, our talk went well. Three of us presented on wiring classrooms together for massive forum discussions (80 students participating in one discussion on the history of the higher education in the west). Here's a link to my Computers & Writing ppt.

Wired recently published an excerpt of David Weinberger's book Everything is Micellaneous. Weinberger introduces the selection, I really like the succinctness of this passage:

Until we started digitizing everything, we organized either the physical things themselves (what Everything Is Miscellaneous refers to as the first order of order) or we physically separated the information about the things and organized that (the second order): Think of books and card catalogs, or merchandise on racks and a catalog of products. With the third order, for the first time we can organize information, ideas and knowledge free of the limitations of the physical. And that enables us to get past the notion that there must a single right order, whether it's Aristotle's, God's, or Linnaeus' best guess.

I'm particularly fond of Weinberger's use of "messy"--in our C&W talk a coined the term "productive mess" to describe the chaotic kinds of rhetorical encounters students experience in online forums. Ideas don't necessarily synthesize cleanly or develop into neat and polished arguments. As student ideas come together, they break apart--encountering other opinions and the sharp edge of scrutiny. But these kinds of encounters are productive, depsite being messy than traditional (lets call it analog) writing.

Of course, my attraction to Weinberger is rooted in the similarity of our projects: the relationship between dynamic communication technologies and metaphysics of differAnce/Otherness over universalism and synthesis. Yup, that's my language, not his. But, our freedom from the imposed singularity of the physical will likely affect more than just information taxonomy, it will likely affect how we understand the subject who taxonomizes. New thinking will engender a new subject, hopefully one more connected to her social network and more responsible for her actions.

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