Thursday, September 27, 2007

Everything is Miscellaneous

Having finished reading Everything is Miscellaneous some time ago, I have had the book sitting around with some passages marked for a blog post. My personal and work life has been careening along the road at such a rapid pace that I have not had the time to sit and write. Today, I am carving out that time.

One part which caught my attention was in the chapter "Messiness as a Virtue." (pages 173 - 198) He talks about the issue which so many of us face with our digital photos. He uses the analogy of a shoe box of physical photos as a "first-order mess." If you create an index of the photos, you have a "second-order mess" because you can only find photos if you look under a term which has been assigned. Digital photos (with or without metadata attached) are a "third-order mess" only because there is no physical item which can be in only one place. It is an interesting concept.

As we digitize more and more, I think that we may be creating a "third-order mess" -- which is not a bad thing. Having just had the newspapers for Eau Claire digitized up until 1923 (copyright rules, you know), we are taking our "first-order" mess of microfilm, and skipping the "second-order mess" of an index and gone straight to a "third-order mess" (well, if I understand David Weinberger correctly). It is an interesting concept to ponder.

1 comment:

  1. That's funny you are archived your local paper. We are doing the exact same thing with the same company for our local paper. It is really awesome to provide the content online when, in the past, its use has been extremely difficult. Some interesting concepts. I will have to get the book.