Intertwingled – a new book from Peter Morville

by | Aug 27, 2014 | Information Management, Intranets, Reviews

Water is a very strange chemical. Most people see it as a colourless liquid that is essential to life. As a chemist I am fascinated by its physical and chemical properties and how these give water its distinctive features. After all solid water floats on liquid water. Do you know why? Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for water and I think you will see what I mean. Over forty years ago I moved from chemical science to information science and have never regretted it. As you start to look carefully at information you begin to understand the vast scope of information science and how information, like water, is essential to life. That is not an overstatement. Your DNA, the information about everything you are, is based around the information in a unique coded sequence of just four different amino acids.

Very few people have attempted to explain why and how we create information, and how and why we use it. Alex Wright, James Gleick and Luciano Floridi have made important contributions and now they are joined by Peter Morville with Intertwingled. This book will not help you build a better enterprise social network or design a new information architecture for your website. The key to understanding why you should read Intertwingled is the tag line of “Information Changes Everything”. Peter seeks to explain why this is so and what the implications are for originators and users of information.  He takes the reader on a journey that is only matched by a London taxi driver explaining the street architecture of London and getting you to a destination by a route you will certainly enjoy but would never have thought of using. Along the way you will see both familiar and unfamiliar buildings and spaces.

So it is with this book. I’m not even going to list out the chapter headings. You won’t understand them out of context and you don’t need them to understand the book or justify its purchase. It is a intertwining of Peter’s personal and professional journeys. I know just why he wrote it and have great admiration for his generosity in doing so. This could not have been an easy book to write. It is written by someone with the gifts of a renaissance writer, able to bring together seemingly very disparate elements in creating an illuminating (though not illuminated!) manuscript. You should plan on reading this book several times at the outset of your ownership, and then again at intervals in the future. It will make you think time and time again about how you are using information to communicate and inform and whether there is a better way.  Indirectly you may well end up with a better social network or information architecture.

Peter draws on the work of many writers, thinkers and practitioners in his journey through a world of intertwingled facets of information. I strongly recommend you take the journey with him. So many of us live in the information silos we have created for ourselves, each a “sceptred isle”.  This book will offer you a different perspective on everything that you do because information changes everything.

Martin White