instant messaging Google
The book comes with its own web site, for updates and additions, at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/googlehks/. The book and the site are wonderful resources for determined searchers and hackers alike.
Small Pieces Loosely Joined, on the other hand, is an exploration of what the net is, and how it is changing our ideas about what reality is, what space is, what time is, what knowledge is. It is teaching us new ways of being social, and by exposing us to so many people's different ideas, is letting us consider a huge range of new whys and why nots.
Weinberger talks about our old concept of reality, our default definition of the world that matters as those things which are fixed and static. That definition allows the development of a particular way of knowing: science. Scientists prefer to describe individuals rather than groups, because groups are always in flux. The advantage, he says, is that science allows us to exercise control over our environment. The drawback is that it forces us to ignore the reality of human ideas and human relationships.
And yet, Weinberger says, those relationships determine who we are and what ideas and realities we can perceive. Deprive us of relationships, and we are not ourselves, cannot become ourselves. Change our relationships, and you change our ideas. And what the web is above all, is the greatest tool for expanding relationships across arbitrary boundaries ever invented, the greatest device for allowing members of a mass society to express themselves as individuals.
For example, he points out that "the kids who are posting reviews at Amazon...are implicitly seeing the world as a collection of people grouped by what they like to read. This is the opposite of thinking about the world as land masses that group people through the tyranny of distance." And this is bound to have consequences for their view of nations and nationalities.
I'm not at all sure I've grasped everything Weinberger is saying here. It's as hard to pin down and as evocative as poetry, and like poetry, it requires a lot of thinking, a lot of questioning about whether what he's saying matches our own experiences of the net. But I'm quite sure that it's an exercise well worth doing. I recommend the book.
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The fact that time spins impossible paradoxes every time we take a look at it, we should take as a hint that something is seriously wrong with our Western thinking on this topic. We break time into moments and then try to stick them back together by stringing them like beads on a necklace. We've even built an economy around uniform moments in which hourly workers sell their time in units of an hour and white-collar workers march to the beat of their Palm computers. Deadlines, schedules, meetings, the workday itself -- all move to the ticking of time's moments. The Web, on the other hand, reminds us that the fundamental unit of time isn't a moment, it's a story, and the string that holds time together isn't the mere proximity of moments but our interest in the story.
Yet the Web works. It grows without much maintenance. It invents at insane speeds. We can get done what we want, although usually only after clicking down some dead ends. Beyond any reasonable expectation, it works. But it works only bcause it has remained true to its founding decision: remove the controls and we'll have to put up with a lot of broken links and awful information, but in return we'll get a vibrant new world, accessible to everyone and constantly in the throes of self-invention. The Web works because it's broken.
both from David Weinberger. Small Pieces Loosely Joined. Perseus, 2002
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