Thursday, May 29, 2008

SSP2008 – The Deep History of the Information Age

Alex Wright - New York Times

{From his website I learned that Alex Wright is speaking at Tilburg University in the Netherlands this August. I spoke there last year! Cool. This talk was quite good. I'm going to have to pick up his book Glut soon.}

Old habits from old technology often get transferred to new technology. Library online catalogs are based on same principles as old card catalog.

People tend to think in hierarchies like folk taxonomy from oral traditions of past. Top down, nested systems as opposed to networks/ lateral associations. People also think in and create networks, New tech makes tensions bet hierarchy and networks – Internet creates tension/disruption to hierarchies.

Ice Age Info Explosion – mythic systems from hierarchies/ symbols beget wider networks/ release from social proximity

Age of Alphabets – writing began for accounting purposes and developed into other uses/ institutions developed around lists of stuff (laws, rituals etc)/ schism between oral and literate cultures

The Codex – networked book/ random access, pagination, index/ early mass production

Gutenberg – proliferation of books/ rise of secular literacy/ schism between “book” and “work”/ disruption of old institutional hierarchies/ period of drastic change

Industrial Info Explosion – development of what we think of as libraries (volume of books led to new framework of organization)/ mass literacy

Post-Industrial Web – look further back in history than last 15-20 years to understand development of web
*Cutter article in LJ from 1883 – describes something like Internet
*World Brain (HG Wells)
*Teilhard de Chardin – described info sharing membrane that would cover earth, work banned as being heretical (he was Jesuit), big influence on McLuhan
*Paul Otlet – universal decimal classification, Monde: Traite de documentation, Mundaneum (1934 installation in Belgium meant to be new library type, tried to make world depository of all human knowledge available to all, destroyed by Nazis and replaced by exhibit of 3rd Reich art). {He showed a clip from a video about the Mundaneum. The whole video seems to be available on the Internet Archive.}
*Vannevar Bush – “As We May Think” (1945 article in Atlantic) – Memex=desktop system that allowed associations between documents, blur distinction between reader and writer, election by association, two way links, visible pathways {There's an open source Memex simulation program available on Source Forge.}
*Eugene Garfield – citation ranking, SCI
*Doug Englebart – oNLine System (NLS), “Augmenting Human Intelligence”, tools for small group collaboration
*Xerox PARC
*Ted Nelson – inspiration for Berners-Lee, coined “hypertext” (1965), “Literary Machines,” today’s web=”vacuous victory of typesetters over authors” (he’s not a fan)

Today’s web has lots of rhythms/ patterns of oral cultures (additive, aggregative, participatory, situational).Wikipedia is literate object (encyclopedia) edited in oral way w/ discussions over edits etc. Same with online newspaper sites like (readers have voice) and Amazon (editorial and user reviews).

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At 3:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LJW again - dang, this sounds fascinating! And so does that book.

Sorta like how Gutenberg paved the way for heretics to question authority (and be subsequently torched).

It's amazing how free access to info makes people in power flip the hell out.

At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

u suck

but i love your name... david is a cool name


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