The Secret History of Hypertext
Friday, March 13
12:30PM - 1:30PM
110 E 2nd St
In 1934, a little-known Belgian bibliographer named Paul Otlet described something very much like the Internet, sketching out plans for a network of "electric telescopes" connecting people to a vast collection of documents, images, and audio-visual material. He dubbed the whole thing the Mundaneum, describing it as a "réseau mondial" - a worldwide web.
Why should anyone care about the failed schemes of a long-dead Belgian bibliographer? Otlet's work matters today not just as a kind of historical curio, but because he envisioned a radically different kind of network: one driven not by corporate profit and personal vanity, but by a utopian vision of intellectual progress, social egalitarianism, and even spiritual liberation.
This presentation will delve deep into Otlet's alternative vision of a global network, in search of useful lessons that could reshape our understanding of what the Internet could yet become.
Cataloging the World
Alex Wright is a Brooklyn-based writer, researcher, and designer whose most recent book is Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age. His first book Glut: Mastering Info...Show the rest
Alex Wright is a Brooklyn-based writer, researcher, and designer whose most recent book is Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age. His first book Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages, was hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "a penetrating and highly entertaining meditation on our information age and its historical roots."
Alex's articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Believer, Salon.com, The Wilson Quarterly, The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard Magazine, and Library Journal, among others.
Alex is a graduate faculty member at the School of Visual Arts' MFA program in Interaction Design. From 2009-2013, he was the Director of User Experience at The New York Times. He has also led research and design projects for Etsy, Yahoo!, Microsoft, IBM, The Long Now Foundation, Harvard University, the Internet Archive, and Yahoo!, among others.Hide the rest