the Web has been underhyped. That's right, underhyped.
In his book Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web (Perseus Books, 2002), David Weinberger argues that, if anything, the World Wide Web hasn't been hyped enough. The importance of the Web, he writes, isn't about dot-com riches; it's about fundamentally changing the way we behave. Here are his five essential theses:
1. On the Web, all fame is local. Fame on the Web is similar to the nature of craftwork, reaching fewer people than those who engage in mass manufacturing, but providing a type of focused celebrity: Local craftspeople are known in their communities for and by their work. On the Web, of course, the community is defined by interest, not geography, and there is no natural boundary around how large the circle of fame can grow. And there is an intimacy to Web fame not typically found in the world of crafts.
2. The Web is all about groups. The Internet is the opposite of a hand grenade thrown into a market: It's almost as disruptive, but it brings people together rather than tearing them apart. People don't join the Internet just to send an e-mail to this or that person. They join to participate in the hundreds of different ways people associate. In this new social clearing, types of associations are being created with a rapidity unequalled in our history. The Web is a hotbed of experimental couplings.
3. Knowledge on the Web is a social activity. The Web is a hodgepodge of ideas that violates every rule of epistemological etiquette. Much of what's posted is wrong. It's expressed ambiguously. But it also returns knowledge to its roots in the heated arguments in the passageways of Athens. Knowledge is what happens when people say things that matter to them, others reply, and a conversation ensues. In many Web conversations, we've given up certainty. But certainty isn't a requirement for believing something.