Udell on what we don't have: Shared Context
Hugh McGuire, Interview: Jon Udell, DataLibre.ca, August 5, 2007. Excerpt:
While the idea of shared context seems to go against the drift of David Weinberger's sense of things in Everything is Miscellaneous, there is, I think, a deep affinity. After all, what Weinberger is talking about is the breakdown not so much of shared contexts as of traditional, factitious, arbitrary contexts imposed by middlemen, media, Aristotle fetishists, etc.
2. what do you think is the most compelling argument for making public data available to citizens?
Well it’s ours, our taxes paid for it, so we should have it. But the compelling reason is that we need more eyeballs, hands, and brains figuring out what’s going on in the world, so that when we debate courses of action we can ground our thinking in the best facts and interpretations....
8. what do you think are the connections between open access to public data and other similar movements - free culture, free software etc?
There’s an arc that runs from free and open-source software, to open data, to Web 2.0-style participation, and now to the collaborative use of software, services, and public data in order to understand and influence public policy.
9. with your crystal ball, where do you think the confluence of these movements will take us in, say, 5 years?
I’m sure it won’t happen that soon, but here’s what I’d like to see. Imagine some local, state, or national debate. The facts and interpretations at issue are rarely attached to URLs, much less to to primary sources of data at those URLs and to interactive visualizations of the data. We spend lots of time arguing about facts and interpretations, but mostly in a vacuum with no real shared context, which is wildly unproductive. If we could establish shared context, maybe we could argue more productively, and get more stuff done more quickly and more sanely.
While I don't think Weinberger devotes enough attention to the new middleman, Google,* I think it's pretty sure that the breakdown of the bogus contexts he envisions is part of a reconstruction of a far richer sharedness of things.
Elsewhere in the interview Udell says:
Here’s an argument I don’t buy: That amateur analysts will do more harm than good. I don’t buy it because there will be checks and balances. Those who don’t cite data will be laughed at. Those who do cite data but interpret it incorrectly will be corrected.A reasonably Weinbergerian sentiment, it seems to me.
*I noticed after writing the above that David addresses this very criticism here.