It’s going to be called Too Big to Know and over the last year or two he’s blogged quite a bit of the thought processes that have gone into the writing of the book.
Here’s a brief sort-of description of what the book’s going to be about from way back in December 2009:
The opening looks at the history of information overload, going back to the book Future Shock, and pointing to the coining of “sensory overload” in 1950. I look at how pathetically small was the amount of info that seemed threatening to us back then. And I point at research (especially by Ann Blair and Richard Yeo) on information overload in the 16th-18th centuries. (Yes, I have the Seneca quote as well). All this is in service of the point that information overload has changed now that it’s gone exponentially exponential [thanks for the link, Linda Stone] and is so much a part of our ordinary context.
Next, I think I want to gesture at one way of understanding the change: We now face “knowledge overload.” But, the point of the book is that knowledge is no longer what it once was, so I don’t want to point to ordinary cases of knowing things; I fundamentally disagree with the idea that knowledge is to information as information is to data. So, I’m thinking that I might here use an example that will show the reader that this is a real, concrete issue, and it is not exactly the issue that she probably assumes it is from the fact that I’m talking about “knowledge.”
It’s an incredibly interesting bibliography and I can’t wait to read the book itself. It’s also interesting to note that he does cite some of the usual science suspects like Jean Claude Bradley and Jennifer Ouellette but I admit to being a bit surprised not to see a few more.
Quibbling aside, the bibliography is full of interesting stuff and is well worth checking out.
At the end of the post, Weinberger does raise a question, although not explicitly:
I’m planning on not including it in the book itself, although I’m open to Tim’s advice. In any case, I will put it up at the TooBigToKnow website (which currently consists of nothing but posts tagged here). If you want to see the current version of the bibliography, it’s available as a Google Docs spreadsheet here. I’m thinking that making it available as a spreadsheet online makes it more useful. Also, I plan on annotating it.
In other words, is it worth including the bibliography in the book itself if it’s also going to be available in a possibly annotated version online?
I have a couple of opinions on this:
- Most of all, YES. The online version of the bibliography may not be preserved online in the same way as the version that’s part of the book itself. In 50 or 100 or 500 years, will someone who has the book (print or e-) be able to find the bibliography easily? Maybe, maybe not. But the librarian in me says I’d rather they be together in some form for the sake of those people in the far future looking at the history of what we thought about the internet.
- I recognize that making the bibliography available serves as a kind of advertisement for the book itself and that’s a good thing. But I don’t see that as separate from having the bibliography in the book itself. Of course, making an annotated bibliography as an enticement to purchase would be even better.
- Once again, speaking in my librarian persona, when I’m in a bookstore trying to decide whether or not to buy a non-fiction book, I’ll often glance at the bibliography to see if the author refers to the kinds of things I would expect for the topic. Weinberger clearly does and that’s great, but it’d be nice to be able to see that in the real or virtual bookstore as well.
- Once again, in my librarian persona, I often use bibliographies at the back of books as collection development tools. In other words, if Weinberger uses cool stuff to write a great book, maybe people here at York might want to read the same cool stuff. Having the bibliography as part of the book itself makes it easier for me to note the cool stuff and remember to order it. At that point, having it online is a bit easier for the mechanical part of the process of checking to see if we already have the books and ordering them if we don’t.
And I can’t wait to read the book when it comes out!