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Cynthia gets miscellaneous

I really liked Weinberger’s book (part the first half), “Everything is Miscellaneous,” and the big theme of it – how information changes given the transcendence of limited space on the Internet – I’ve thought a lot about in my own work. My work, of course, revolves around the idea of time, or temporally-bound information. Did you know that 60 hours of videos are uploaded onto YouTube per minute? Certainly no one is sitting there categorizing each video – rather, the videos are tagged by the uploader, and organized and searchable via YouTube’s algorithm.

I was very drawn to the idea of social constructivists, and wonder how social constructivism plays in the digital era. Who draws these lines? Who says what is important or not? I keep coming back to this idea of Google’s algorithms – those that decide which websites get pushed to the top of the search list, which become most visible. I also wonder, in the age of Facebook and social networking sites, which lines are drawn in terms of what we see, what we read, and things that shape our knowledge and perception. I feel like I’ve brought it up in the class before, but the seemingly democratized ways of knowledge-gathering in social networking sites can be deceptively not. Isn’t it true that we tend to be closest to those who share our values and political views? Probably more the former, less the latter, but nonetheless, if you’re a Democrat, chances are, a lot of your friends are as well, and the articles they post will confirm and reinforce your own party ideologies, or liberal-mindedness, or whatnot. For example, I rarely find posts that celebrate the passage of laws that ban gay marriage. Why? Because I’m not really Facebook friends with people who think gay marriage should be banned.

In terms of this idea of miscellany, I think gmail does this very well. Weinberger brought up the idea that things aren’t physically stored in one place, and gmail allows one to label each piece of mail with different labels to ease the process of searching later. This was something that was a transition for me. I used to use an email client whereby I had folders into which I could file pieces of email, much like how I would file physical pieces of paper. I recently had to switch to just using the Internet version of gmail because of technical problems, and I found that with gmail, everything is searchable. Everything can be labeled for easy access. The only tool I need is the search bar. I don’t even have to remember where I filed particular pieces of email. This makes me wonder, then, how lazy we get in digital organization, where everything is searchable. Do we not organize anything digitally anymore because everything exists in a pot of miscellany and is searchable with a few clicks of the keyboard? Is this necessarily bad?

 

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