Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder

~by David Weinberger

Tim Spalding, founder of LibraryThing, has declared David Weinberger to be its patron saint. And I, as a self professed LibraryThing addict, of course had to read his book Everything Is Miscellaneous. Plus, it's right up my professional alley of information science. In fact, it could have very well been an overview of many of the concepts covered in my foundation courses at the University of Michigan's School of Information. That being said, it isn't really an introduction to those concepts; unless readers already have some subject familiarity, they probably won't find the book to be particularly enlightening, but instead confusing (especially as he doesn't always define his language very well).

Weinberger outlines three "orders of order." The first order is how we organize objects themselves; where and how they are placed physically. The second order is select information about those objects that is gathered and organized physically (an example being the good ol' library card catalog). In the third order, this information has become digital and is no longer subject to physical constraints; it has become dynamic.

From the book's title, I expected Weinberger to focus more on this third order than he did. Although it was helpful, and even important, to explain and give concrete (and anecdotal, for that matter) examples of the first and second orders, he seemed to get kind of stuck there. All very interesting, rest assured, but not exactly what I was hoping for or expecting. Instead of giving in-depth information on what the third order can do, it seemed to me that he spent most of his time detailing what the second order could not. He also isn't very specific in how the third order is accomplished in a useful way. He does give some general examples, and alludes to what it could all mean, but I didn't find much new or concrete in his arguments.

I wouldn't describe his writing as witty, but it was certainly approachable and at times even amusing. A fairly decent overview, certainly nothing too terribly in-depth, and fairly quick and easy to read. I had a little trouble at times knowing exactly what he was talking about because he didn't always define the terms he was using very well. Overall though, pretty good and worthwhile; I'll be holding onto my copy.