In my many conversations about the web, blogging, social networking and (if I can bring myself to say the phrase) Knowledge Management I have always had a deep suspicion of too mechanical and dehumanised an approach. This can come in many forms from the tightsuited language of business systems to the geeky fascism of the new media elite.
I have always been drawn to David Weinberger's love of messiness and of the imperfections in systems which are what inevitably allow them to grow. As Jon Husband put it "Bending the rules, tolerating and accommodating imperfection, is what allows us to function effectively and get things done."
I have been reading Ken Wilbur's A Brief History Of Everything in which he divides the world into four quadrants I, We, It and Its. He chafes away at the reductionism of modernists and keeps going when he points out that even holistic approaches such as systems thinking are merely an extension of the materialistic view of the world as its - just joined up its now.
Wilbur feels that the four quadrants have to be balanced to achieve the ideal world view and he feels that the its are dominant at the moment with the subjective, interpretative and spiritual views of the world being outcast:
Yes the brain is part of nature, but the mind is not part of the brain. The mind or consciousness, is the interior dimension, the exterior correlate of which is the objective brain. The mind is an I, the brain is an it. So as we discussed earlier, the brain like anything else in empirical nature, can be known by the monological gaze, by empiric-analytic investigation, but the mind can only be known by introspection, communication, and interpretation. You can look at a brain but you must talk to a mind, and that requires not just observation but interpretation
I have just got to the part of the book where he finally puts his finger on why I have felt so suspicious of mechanical approaches to people sharing on the web when he quotes Foucault:
Foucault beautifully summarized the monological madness with a perfect phrase: men and women he said became "objects of information, never subjects in communication." Foucault gave a perfect, one-sentence summary of the entire nightmare of modernity. That is, human beings, like all holons, were studied only in the empirical and objective dimensions, and thus were reduced to mere its in the great interwoven web, with no depth and no intentionality and no personhood to speak of. The brutal world of the lab technician, slabs of meat each and all