Essential Knowledge


The Networking of Knowledge and Storytelling

“Western culture’s traditional system of knowledge is a stunning achievement,” says author and Harvard Internet scholar David Weinberger at the outset of this thought-provoking video. “It made us the dominant species on the planet.” But it was constructed as a series of stopping points: you asked a question, and you got an answer—on the page of a book or newspaper, say, or from an expert or a teacher. That system worked well when knowledge was put down on paper. Now knowledge lives on the hyperlinked Net, and links offer a never-ending invitation to go further, to know more. What are the implications of a future in which human knowledge is no longer a finite compendium of scholarly works but rather a limitless, intricately connected network of people, ideas, and works? What happens when knowledge consists of all those pieces, connected in discussion and disagreement? What happens, to quote Dr. Weinberger, when “the smartest person in the room is the room”? And what does all this mean for the storyteller? In venturing to answer that last question, Dr. Weinberger identifies the cardinal challenge of the storyteller in the age of networked knowledge: the duty to expose us to points of view other than our own, to free us from the “echo chamber” of narratives that merely reinforce what we already know or believe. The best stories should honor a simple yet stubbornly elusive truth: that different people start from different places, and that what happens to them matters just as much to them as what happens to us matters to us. True, stories that tell us about our own beginnings, our own history, and our own families have a place in our moral universe. But the future of storytelling lies in the hands of tellers who can, in the words of Dr. Weinberger, “show us how the world unfurls from a beginning other than our own.”

Share this knowledge

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email