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Facts and Frameworks in Paul Otlet’s and Julius Otto Kaiser’s Theories of Knowledge Organization

“In this article, I sketch Otlet’s and Kaiser’s ideas about information analysis and compare the types of knowledge organization systems (KOSs) that they constructed on the basis of these ideas. As we shall see, Otlet and Kaiser held very similar views about the possibility – and desirability – of disaggregating documents into information units and organizing the latter into indexed information files. Both men also agreed on the technological means to implement their information-analytic approach.” (Thomas M. Dousa – ASIS&T Bulletin Dec/Jan 2010)

How Xanadu Works: Technical Overview

“Pause for a moment and think about the history here. 1993 is 16 years ago as I write this, about the same span of time between Vannevar Bush’s groundbreaking 1945 article ‘As We May Think’ and Nelson’s initial work in 1960 on what would become the Xanadu project. As far as software projects go, this one has some serious history.” (Micah DubinkoMicahpedia) – courtesy of markbernstein

European Modernism and the Information Society: Informing the Present, Understanding the Past

“Uniting a team of international and interdisciplinary scholars, this volume considers the views of early twentieth-century European thinkers on the creation, dissemination and management of publicly available information. Interdisciplinary in perspective, the volume reflects the nature of the thinkers discussed, including Otto Neurath, Patrick Geddes, the English Fabians, Paul Otlet, Wilhelm Ostwald and H. G. Wells. The work also charts the interest since the latter part of the nineteenth century in finding new ways to think about and to manage the growing body of available information in order to achieve aims such as the advancement of Western civilization, the alleviation of inequalities across classes and countries, and the promotion of peaceful coexistence between nations. In doing so, the contributors provide a novel historical context for assessing widely-held assumptions about today’s globalized, ‘post modern’ information society. This volume will interest all who are curious about the creation of a modern networked information society.” (W. Boyd Rayward) – Introduction chapter available for download


“If I have seen farther, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants…and then I looked down at those giants and saw the silly videos they made back in the day. CHI Video Showcase 2009.”

Engelbart and the Dawn of Interactive Computing

Event videos available – “On December 9, 2008 at Stanford University’s Memorial Auditorium, SRI International commemorated the 40th anniversary of the world debut of personal and interactive computing by Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart and the SRI Augmentation Research Center (…) Speakers at the 2008 event included original participants in the 1968 demo and presentations on Doug Engelbart’s vision to use computing to augment society’s collective intellect and ability to solve the complex issues of our time.” (A 40th Anniversary Celebration)

Architectures of Global Knowledge PDF Logo

“The Mundaneum, a series of museums, was meant to promote international understanding. The concept was conceived by Paul Otlet (1868-1944), an information theorist and librarian, who commissioned Le Corbusier to design a ‘cité mondiale’, an institution for all the world’s knowledge. Charles van den Heuvel discusses how Otlet’s thinking about distributive networks resonates in Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Wide.” (Charles van den Heuvel)

One Dead Media

“It is hard to find an old technology that is not available in any form any where on earth. But today I may have found one. Alex Wright’s story in the New York Times about Paul Otlet, the little-known Belgian who worked out an early version of hypertext (…) prompted a reader to point out a system similar to Otlet’s that was once available commercially in the US.” (Kevin KellyThe Technium)

The Web Time Forgot

“On a fog-drizzled Monday afternoon, this fading medieval city feels like a forgotten place. Apart from the obligatory Gothic cathedral, there is not much to see here except for a tiny storefront museum called the Mundaneum, tucked down a narrow street in the northeast corner of town. It feels like a fittingly secluded home for the legacy of one of technology’s lost pioneers: Paul Otlet.” (Alex WrightThe New York Times)

International organisation and dissemination of knowledge : Selected essays of Paul Otlet

Translated and edited with an introduction by W. Boyd Rayword (1990) – “We must bring together a collection of machines which simultaneously or sequentially can perform the following operations: (1) The transformation of sound into writing; (2) The reproduction of this writing in as many copies as are useful; (3) The creation of documents in such a way that each item of information has its own identity and, in its relationships with those items comprising any collection, can be retrieved as necessary; (4) A Classification number assigned to each item of information; the perforation of documents correlated with these numbers; (5) Automatic classification and filing of documents; (6) Automatic retrieval of documents for consultation and presented either direct to the enquirer or via machine enabling written additions to be made to them; (7) Mechanical manipulation at will of all the listed items of information in order to obtain new combinations of facts, new relationships of ideas, and new operations carried out with the help of numbers. The technology fulfilling these seven requirements would indeed be a mechanical, collective brain.” (internet archive)

The Real Computer Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet PDF Logo

“32 years ago in 1975 I was one of several lucky Americans who were invited to Pisa to help celebrate 20 years of computer science in Italy. I presented a paper on the first fruits of our attempts to invent personal computing at Xerox PARC. Over the years I somehow lost that paper, but Porfessor Attardi, who was more organized than I, was able to locate his copy and it has been republished as part of our cderemonies today. It is tempting in this talk to go through that paper and see how this past work influenced today.” (Alan KayVRI)

Stewart Brand Meets The Cybernetic Counterculture

Book excerpt – “Like a cross between a touring rock entourage and a commune, USCO was more than a performance team. It was a social system unto itself. Through it, Brand encountered the works of Norbert Wiener, Marshall McLuhan, and Buckminster Fuller – all of whom would become key influences on the Whole Earth community – and began to imagine a new synthesis of cybernetic theory and countercultural politics.” (Fred Turner – EDGE)

Emanuel Goldberg, Electronic Document Retrieval, And Vannevar Bush’s Memex

“Vannevar Bush’s famous paper ‘As We May Think’ (1945) described an imaginary information retrieval machine, the Memex. The Memex is usually viewed, unhistorically, in relation to subsequent developments using digital computers. This paper attempts to reconstruct the little-known background of information retrieval in and before 1939 when ‘As We May Think’ was originally written. The Memex was based on Bush’s work during 1938-1940 developing an improved photoelectric microfilm selector, an electronic retrieval technology pioneered by Emanuel Goldberg of Zeiss Ikon, Dresden, in the 1920s. Visionary statements by Paul Otlet (1934) and Walter Schuermeyer (1935) and the development of electronic document retrieval technology before Bush are examined.” (Michael K. Buckland)

It’s the journey and the destination: Shape and the emergent property of genre in evaluating digital documents

“(…) this paper will extend the analysis of ‘user navigation’ to the evaluation of user behaviour in web environments. In so doing, the present authors will attempt to unify work in the area of structural representation of content with models of navigation based on physical movement.” (Andrew Dillon and Misha W. Vaughan 1997) – courtesy of petermorville

What is Documentation?

“Suzanne Briet (‘Madame Documentation’) was an important French Documentalist just before and following the Second World War. Though others preceded her, Briet was unique in so strongly attributing to documentation and to documentary signs a cultural origin and function. In this she followed the founder of European Documentation, Paul Otlet, but she differed from Otlet in that she understood ‘science’, ‘culture’, and thus documentation more in the context of military-industrial post-war capitalist economies and in terms of the global ‘development’ of the time than in terms of the harmonious world of global ‘knowledge’ that Otlet had envisioned. In this way, Briet stands between Otlet’s information utopia (reminiscent of the world industrial exhibitions of the 19th and early 20th centuries) and information theory and cybernetics in the United States which saw human culture and language as troublesome mediums for successful communication and information transmission.” (Translated by Ron Day and Laurent Martinet)