Digitization And Its Discontents

In the recent New Yorker is an excellent article by Grafton on creating the Universal Library with our modern digital tools. (sent in by Long Now member Bryan Campen) Most interesting is its historical survey of the universal library idea, which reminded me of Alex Wright’s work. The article shows how fraught with pitfalls this idea is and does a good job of teasing out which of those perils may or may not be helped by the mass digitization and web accessibility of data.

The rush to digitize the written record is one of a number of critical moments in the long saga of our drive to accumulate, store, and retrieve information efficiently. It will result not in the infotopia that the prophets conjure up but in one in a long series of new information ecologies, all of them challenging, in which readers, writers, and producers of text have learned to survive.

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