David Weinberger, a fellow at Harvard’s Institute for Internet and Society, had just finished telling his audience that knowledge mirrors the media through which it is communicated. Libraries and academic departments, for example, reflect our belief in knowledge by category. But according to Weinberger, all of this is changing as knowledge becomes “social, shifting, transparent, complex, and connected.”
Don’t feel bad if your lips are moving or if you had to read that paragraph twice. There’s a lot to ponder there. As Weinberger left the stage, Alan November, the convenor of our group, thanked him and then pointed to a screen which revealed that over 30 members of the audience had “twittered” about Weinberger’s talk — WHILE he was talking. November didn’t reprimand anyone; he just wanted to point out how people now process, work, and share information. November was in mid-sentence himself, when he blurted out, “Hey, that’s not fair! ” (in evident response to a member of the audience who had “tweeted” him while he was talking.)
My head may be spinning in part because I had just finished reading William Manchester’s book about the Middle Ages, “A World Lit Only By Fire.” Manchester points out that, in the year 1500, the best roads in Europe were a thousand years old. (Take a bow, Ancient Rome.) And that between 500 and 1500 the most significant inventions were the waterwheel (8th century) and the windmill (11th.)
I confess I like libraries and academic departments and even Ancient Rome — for lots of reasons. But I buy the argument that the rate of change is now exponential, and I’m left wondering what impact all of this will have on schools and how we teach and raise our boys.