David Weinberger / Peter Kruse – The entire conversation

Finally the entire conversation between Peter Kruse and David Weinberger on “data”. It was last year, late September at Petersberg. A very warm and sunny day. Actually 4 month before David’s book Too Big to Know was published.

All in all 7 videos:

part 1: Warm-up;-)
part 2:Peter and David are “warming up” and trying to find out what the other one is meaning when he talks about data, knowledge and understanding.
part 3: The impact of technology on culture and the question if the internet is capable of “building” a new culture.
part 4: The responsibly of the ME and the WE within the network and how narratives can help to create a better understanding between different cultures.
Is it possible to tell a story if it includes a hyperlink?
part 5: On politics
part 6: What can WE do?
part 7: 140 characters on DATA

Too Big to Know – Part 2

The first part of the conversation between Peter Kruse and David Weinberger started out with a more general discussion on data and how data is related to networks, especially the internet.

In this second part they are talking about the impacts of technology on culture and the question if the internet is capable of “building” a new culture.

Too Big to Know?

I have to admit it’s been a while since we videotaped this conversation between Peter Kruse and David Weinberger on “data”. It was last year, late September at Petersberg. A very warm and sunny day. Actually 4 month before David’s book Too Big to Know was published.

For me, as an observer more or less, it was very interesting to see the different approaches both of them took when they were talking about data. Peter, who spent great parts of his life in the field of brain research, always in search for a higher order (pattern recognition, understanding) within all these networks; David, embracing the messiness of the web and open data, was arguing from the side that knowledge (data) itself is becoming the network.

So let me start with the very end. After a two hour converstaion we asked both of them to “squeeze” the most essential about data in a tweet – here is what they came up with:

In this first part of the conversation Peter and David are “warming up” and trying to find out what the other one is meaning when he talks about data, knowledge and understanding:

Please stay tuned, more to come!

Too Big To Know

This interview with David Weinberger was conducted by Olaf Kohlbrück, horizont. I helped Olaf to arrange this interview while David was at Petersberger Gespräche at the end of September 2011.

I think it’s a very informative interview and worth reading!


People that are talking about the Cluetrain Manifest mostly just remember the first sentence: Markets are conversations. Does this make you a little bit sad?

No. I am happy that anyone remembers that it was in it. The sentence is a real good one.

For a while it looked like social networks could enforce the dialogue between companies and customers in the spirit of this sentence. But what seems to work best in social networks are funny videos and discount promotions?

I think markets are conversations is right, but it never meant that marketing is conversation. Sometimes this is the right approach, but not every marketing campaign should be a conversation. And when companies do it, it is very hard not to be intrusive. Sometimes marketing through conversations can be embarrassing.


Markets are conversations, but these conversations happen on networks. So there is value of thinking of markets as networks. If you are interested to buy a car, you talk to your networks. So the activity on the internet is a representation of the actual market, of the things people are actually interested in buying and exploring. One of the reasons to talk to this market is, that the conversations are made of shared interests. Every link is en expression of an interest I want to share with others. Therefore the internet is an almost pure expression of human interest. But the old relationship between business and markets is not exactly that of shared interests. You want to buy a car for a lot of different reasons, but the business has one single interest: to sell a car and make money. So there is no alignment between companies and markets. An Agent who enters the conversation with a different set of interests can be difficult and dangerous, because intruding a conversion with a sales pitch is as bothering in networks as it would be in real life. But engaging in a form of advertorial marketing may make sense for a company. Perhaps when they explain their motive and link to further evidence. This is not particular conversational, it is more like a political campaign. This can be usefull, even if it is no conversation.

So Networks are better tool for costumers to organize their influence and to claim their needs?

These instances of concerted consumer action are relatively rare. Far more common is the rapidly spreading information that causes a company to act. You usually don’t have to create participation or to organize to get a company to change its behaviour. Just spreading words about a topic has this effect. It’s the transparency. Even before that, the first thing that the internet did, was to enable the costumer to get better a advise about products from one another than they ever got from the company. If you want to get an answer that is both frank and perhaps specific to your circumstances, the first place to go is the internet and often the last place is the company.

Can this lead to some kind of objectivity?

Objectivity is a difficult word. I would try to stay away from it. We get answer s that are specific to our situation and less influenced by business interests. It does not mean we get objective information.

What else do we get?

Now you can get a mass of information about politics and everything else. Newsreports get contextualized by everybody who has something to say. This changes the power between the massmedia and the audience. This illustrates, by the way, why the internet is not a medium, we are the medium., we are the ones who pass the information. What moves through the medium is what interests us, not what people from broadcasters or somebody else is interested in. Things will not pass through the medium to us unless we think it is interesting. I am not going to send your commercial message until I think it is interesting.

So, journalists are losing their power?

The internet can be an amplifier for a journalist, but the journalist have to earn their transmission through the internet. We will only pass around what interests us. Not all things that interest us come from journalists, sometimes they come from bloggers, stars or managers. If the story has a maximum effect on us, it will be passed around.

How shall we evaluate those information?

Transparency helps us to manage one the basic problems of the internet: context. Somebody posted something, and you know nothing about him. Transparency provides Metadata that we need, in order to weigh – either rationally or emotionally – what someone is saying. So transparency ultimately enables us to see authority with the help of some type of metadata, without having to rely on traditional credential institutions.

On the other hand transparency could transform the Web into a very repressive environment, because everything can be tracked?

People that run early in the internet are already surprised about what they were posting earlier, and our children certainly will be by what they are posting nowadays. Everybody will find something that he believed in the past what will be embarrassing in later years.
This happens, because we cant take that information back. I hope we will become more forgettable. We cant take away the embarrassing photos. When an entire culture finds itself embarrassed its going to change its values. We cannot survive as a culture when we continue to accuse each other of being young.

In Germany there is a very broad debate about data protection and privacy on the Web: Can you understand that the Germans are concerned about a post-privacy world, while mega-corporations like Google, Apple and Facebook collect quantities of information, interpret them, and in the end keep a social power in their hands?

Personal data held by private companies – we should worry about it. I do worry about it, but it is not a simple problem at all. For one thing, we are agreeing to this through out behaviour and almost everybody does. In know that Google, Facebook and Amazon and so far are maintaining records of me. But i get some benefit from their services and recommendations. I have – to some degree – fear what they do with their knowledge, but not enough to stop using their services. Furthermore our sense of privacy and publicness is changing radically – and its a generational thing. This is nothing we can decide by policy, it is something you live with. And its not just the internet. There is more surveillance in the real world. 15 years ago it would have shocked people, nowadays we don’t care very much. If you want to predict where this ends up, it seems like everything is moving towards less privacy – not just online.

You next book will be called “Too Big to Know” you will show how business, science, education, and the government are learning to use networked knowledge to understand more than ever and to make smarter decisions. At first hand that sounds contradicting?

The hypothesis oft the book is that there’s more knowledge than ever and there is always to much know. But we have varity of tactics for reducing and managing the world. And this is changing the nature of knowledge. Its moving from what is inside our head to be a property of networks itself. Knowledge exists on the network and I want to make sure that the network is smart.
Networks can be stupid, networks can make us stupider, if it is a network where everybody agrees and all say the same thing. But networks can make you smarter. Not only because there a people that are smarter than you, but because there can be interesting discussions. So, if knowledge becomes a property of the networks , just as it was a property of books before, one of the most important properties of the networks is, that Networks are connecting the differences. You don’t link to a webpage that is exactly the same as yours, you link to a page that is different in some way. That’s useful.
I give you an example, there a more consulting firms nowadays that are getting hired, not for the report in the end but to give access to a network of very smart people who disagree with one another to some extent. As a business you get pulled in very useful conversations. This is not as comfortable as getting a final answer. It is more holistic and opens you up to more possibilities.

Critics like as the FAZ publisher Frank Schirrmacher fear, that if we outsource the information to the Web, we are outsourcing our memory to the grid. No further need to remember anything?

Humans have always externalized knowledge and conscience. Writing is form of externalization of our memory. That is a good thing, so we can look up fact and figures. Now we have this remarkable tool, that allows us to know much more. Externalizing is how humans progress. This is a part of our species skill, that we are able to use tool. Its hard for me to see any negative aspect in having an always on, always available community-built repository of information, ideas and conversations. If we think with our tools its an evolutionary step.

David Weinberger on Reboot_D – Digital Democracy

In preparation for Reboot_D – Digital Democracy – I had a brief interview with David Weinberger yesterday. David will be SKYPED in at Reboot_D to continue the discussion …

Our topics – thanks to Martin Lindner have been:

“Transparency is the new Objectivity”

(1) You have coined the slogan “Transparency is the new Objectivity”, and added that the digital media are enabling us to lay open not only “objective results” but instead give us insight into a whole rich process that is leading to certain results, or political standpoints.
Could you explain that further?

(2) Your transparency-quote has been aimed at the claim for objectivity of the media. Beyond the media, what would be the consequences for a new web-driven “digital democracy” if we would try to design an ecosystem of web applications in that spirit?

(3) “Information Overload”
– But at the same time this principle of transparency seems to lead to a kind of “Information Overload”, as the never-ending RSS reader crisis of the web avant-gardists is constantly reminding us …

How do you think can a web-driven “Digital Democracy” save that problem? And not only for digitalliterates, but for the mainstream too?

– You once said something like: “The solution to Information Overload? More Information! (But in different forms and different channels.” How would that work? What would be the consequences for “citizen experience design” in Democracy 2.0-applications?

(4) Conversation, Voices, and the Crisis of Representation
– In Germany, we seem to have a crisis of representation. Citizens are not really feeling represented by politicians anymore. They don’t really know how to communicate. Can you envision new, technology-enabled forms of a “political conversation”?

(5) Third Places
– It has been said that the “Third Places” have been dying out, that is, all the places where would people would gather and informally meet between the workplace and the private home.

– Can the Web in some way take the function of these “Third Places”? Does it privide a space for the “Big Murmur” of the crowds that is a precondition of more specific democratic discourse and discussions?


At LeWeb in Paris David Weinberger and Itay Talgam gave inspiring talks about leadership. While David was setting up a frameset for leadership in a social media world in which “leaders” only make decisions if the crowd fails, Itay pointed out different “models” of leadership by showing us how famous conductors play with their role of leading an orchestra.

With both of them we will start a discussion about leadership on our DNAdigital platform addressing digital natives and managers.

To start with, here is David’s talk: