Recent posts

Digital Scholarship: Ha-Ha Funny or Just Funny?

4 minute read

In a recent New York Review of Books piece, “The Library in the New Age”, Robert Darnton offers his thoughts on the research library in the digital age. Darnton argues persuasively against any real displacement of traditional media by digital resources, suggesting instead that these two should complement each other rather than converge. As a historian who relies almost exclusively on printed and handwritten materials that stand little chance of seeing a scanner anytime soon, I sympathize with Darnton’s position. And Darnton’s elucidation of his chief concern, that of textual stability, is well informed by his expertise in the history of print, especially of the underground kind. But Darnton’s otherwise cogent argument is undercut by his general distrust of digital...

The Semantic Web, circa 1934

2 minute read

The Times has a great story today by Alex Wright on Paul Otlet’s early efforts to create a network of the information akin to today’s Web. In spite of bloviating along the lines of “The hyperlink is one of the most underappreciated inventions of the last century” (Kelvin Kelly, quoted for the article, apparently both asleep during the technology boom and never having read his own magazine, Wired), Wright’s piece treats Otlet’s work surprisingly fairly and is sensitive to the promise and limits of his analog approach. On the delivery side, Otlet imagined amalgamating the cutting-edge media technology of the day: telephone, radio, television. The glue for all this data would be the laborious human-directed cataloging and organization of information....