Organization via Megamachine
What surprised me in David Weinberger‘s “The New Order of Order” from “Everything is Miscellaneous” was that although he attempts to show the difference between the three orders of order, he doesn’t elaborate enough on the third order – the order that “removes the limitations we’ve assumed were inevitable in how we organize information” – that the large numbers of users rather than professionals make it so unique and so much more efficient than the previous two orders.
The first order is organizing physical things in physical space, wherein lies the problem – creating an index of all your belongings is time-consuming and not terribly efficient. The second order is somewhat more advanced, where you can organize things on your computer. This method overcomes other problems of the problems of the previous one in that it allows you to store larger the user can only assign each object to just one category.
I am one of those people Weinberger congratulates on keeping their photos organized (or attempting to), but not without problems. When I go to concerts I like to take pictures and videos to commemorate the event. When I start organizing the media I have two choices – put photos in the My Pictures folder, filed under the appropriate concert name, and videos in the My Videos folder, or bunch the videos together with the photos since there aren’t that many of them. I could duplicate the videos and put one copy in “pictures” and one in “videos,” but that’s redundant my hard drive can only handle so much data (and I’d rather reserve it for something more useful than duplicate videos).
The reason the third-order of order is so revolutionary is the same one for which Gmail was so popular when it first came out (no, not the 1 gig mail box) – it allows the user to apply multiple labels to objects and doesn’t limit them to just one folder. It also solves another problem of the previous orders – it allows each and every user to share his data – in Weinberg’s example, his photographs – with millions of other users, who will arrange and organize it in a way so it can be found more easily and more efficiently by everyone. Not to mention that space is a non-issue.
If you don’t have time to organize your photos and rename them, simply upload them to Flickr and suddenly the photos are “magically” organized for you by being assigned tags. The idea of magamachine used by Egyptians in pyramid building is carried on to the internet where completing a huge, time-consuming task of naming and arranging photos is achieved by having a large number of people contribute just a little of their time, and in the end, completing a huge body of work.
That’s the idea that Weinberger should have emphasized more in order to distinguish the old ways of organization and the new way of “tagging” our information to make it more readily available for ourselves and for the masses.