A forgotten prophet: Paul Otlet (1868-1944) and the quest for an Universal Book
Paul is gaining recognition from all over the world. Slowly, but still.
“Paul Otlet openly admitted in his Traité de documentation that his quest to create a Universal Book was a radical assumption. He was driven in his bibliographical interests by the ever-expanding volume of printed matter that began to accumulate globally from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. Its sheer size frustrated Otlet, as did the possibility of all this information, unnecessarily duplicating itself and thereby stalling the inevitable march of progress across wide areas of knowledge and research.”
Bun ós coinn ★
An afterword to ‘Indexing it all’: The subject in the age of documentation, information and data
The aboutness of content as a new type or category of metadata.
“For his book Indexing It All: The Subject in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data, Ronald E. Day was honored with the 2015 ASIS&T Best Information Science Book award. In this afterword, Day explains that the book examines the concept of ‘aboutness’ in the modern documentary tradition covering information science and data science. In writing the book, Day wanted to sort out the relationship between subject and object, between user and document, the core of information science and prelude to information retrieval. He considers the transition of a text serving a group audience to a document serving individual user needs, facilitated by an array of digital technologies. Referencing historical precursors Paul Otlet and Suzanne Briet, he considers documentation as evidence that, depending on the viewpoint chosen, may be a construction or a representation of a concept. Day considers his book a dystopian work, asserting that information technology has been charged with answering both information and cultural needs and has given rise to users’ addiction to technology. He anticipates data and documents to both influence and be influenced by evolving technologies, cultural forms and social norms with the document form persisting, though transformed.”
ASIS&T Bulletin Dec/Jan 2016 ★
Tracing the Dynabook: A study of technocultural transformations
Know thy history!
“This work is a historical study of the Dynabook project and vision, which began as a blue-sky project to define personal and educational computing at Xerox PARC in the 1970s. It traces the idea through the three intervening decades, noting the transformations which occur as the vision and its artifacts meet varying contexts. The dissertation was for a PhD in education; the focus of this work is mostly educational, though I’ve tried to do justice to the technology throughout. I defended it successfully before a committee of profs from education and compsci on Halloween 2006.”
John W. Maxwell a.k.a. @jmaxsfu (courtesy of @worrydream) ★
From the vault: Watching (and re-watching) The Mother of All Demos
On giants and shoulders.
“To give an idea of the scope of the demo, Engelbart demonstrated an early look at word processing, windowing, hypertext, and dynamic file linking, as well as using graphics in a computer program. It was also the first time many of the attendees had seen a mouse, although work on the mouse began in 1963.”
(Megan Geuss a.k.a. @MeganGeuss ~ Ars Technica) ★
The future of the Web is 100 years old
The ideas are not new, the implementations are.
In the debate between structure and openness, 19th-century ideas are making a comeback ~ “The web has played such a powerful role in shaping our world that it can sometimes seem like a fait accompli – the inevitable result of progress and enlightened thinking. A deeper look into the historical record, though, reveals a different story: The web in its current state was by no means inevitable. Not only were there competing visions for how a global knowledge network might work, divided along cultural and philosophical lines, but some of those discarded hypotheses are coming back into focus as researchers start to envision the possibilities of a more structured, less volatile web.”
(Alex Wright a.k.a. @alexgrantwright ~ Nautilus Issue 21) ★
Episode 149: Of Mice and Men
Never too much attention for one of our giants: Douglas Engelbart.
“If you are looking at a computer screen, your right hand is probably resting on a mouse. To the left of that mouse (or above, if you’re on a laptop) is your keyboard. As you work on the computer, your right hand moves back and forth from keyboard to mouse. You can’t do everything you need to do on a computer without constantly moving between input devices. There is another way.”
(Roman Mars a.k.a. @romanmars ~ 99%invisible)
Tablet UX research from the pioneer days
“Always learn from history. Predicting the future is a waste of time.
InfoDesign gem #6,800 ~ “The PenPoint tablet was ahead of its time and too expensive and heavy, but had gestural syntax and personal-productivity benefits that we can still learn from.”
(Jakob Nielsen ~ Nielsen Norman Group) ★
Cascading Style Sheets: Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor Philosophiœ
Always go to the source to read the real intensions.
“The topic of this thesis is style sheet languages for structured documents on the web. Due to characteristics of the web – including a screen-centric publishing model, a multitude of output devices, uncertain delivery, strong user preferences, and the possibility for later binding between content and style – the hypothesis is that the web calls for different style sheet languages than does traditional electronic publishing. Style sheet languages that were developed and used prior to the web are analyzed and compared with style sheet proposals for the web between 1993-1996. The dissertation describes the design of a web-centric style sheet language known as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS has several notable features including: cascading, pseudo-classes and pseudo-elements, forward-compatible parsing rules, support for different media types, and a strong emphasis on selectors. Problems in CSS are analyzed, and recommended future research is described.”
(Håkon Wium Lie, 1994-2005)
The man who envisioned the internet before computers, without computers
Alex’ book really works as a catalyst for our giant Paul Otlet.
“But then there’s the story of Paul Otlet. Born long enough ago that he lived in an imperial Belgium, the problems Otlet, a visionary and entrepreneur, hacked away on are the same we deal with today: nationalism, war, and information overload. The solutions Otlet worked for also resonate today, perhaps nowhere more surprisingly than the means by which you’re reading this very article.”
(Ben Richmond a.k.a. a_ben_richmond ~ Motherboard)
Transclusion: A term coined by hypertext pioneer Ted Nelson
Document thinking is still alive and kicking.
“In computer science, transclusion is the inclusion of a document or part of a document into another document by reference. Rather than copying the included data and storing it in two places, a transclusion embodies modular design, by allowing it to be stored only once (and perhaps corrected and updated if the link type supported that) and viewed in different contexts.”
The secret history of hypertext: The conventional history of computing leaves out some key thinkers
Great to see this article appear in the publication where it all started, according to US history. Finally, some historical truth being added.
“Historians of technology often cite Bush’s essay as the conceptual forerunner of the Web. And hypertext pioneers like Douglas Engelbart, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee have all acknowledged their debt to Bush’s vision. But for all his lasting influence, Bush was not the first person to imagine something like the Web. (…) For all his remarkable prescience, Bush never predicted anything like the Internet. That credit rightly goes to Otlet.”
(Alex Wright a.k.a. @alexgrantwright ~ The Atlantic)
Organizing the world: How hypermedia looked in 1934
So pleased with this information graphics from Paula and her team.
“Sharing the dream of Paul Otlet about Mundaneum – a kind of
hypermedia system that allowed the management and sharing of all human knowledge in the 30’s. (…) Systems, principles and machines created by Otlet and La Fontaine to organize the huge documents and index cards in the RBU. The creation of a highly flexible language management system for databases: The Universal Decimal Classification (UCD), the first modern faceted classification system, in opposition of Melvil Dewey’s Decimal Classification.”
(Paula Azevedo Macedo a.k.a. @paulamacedo, Seth Pérez, and Larissa Braga)
The woman behind Apple’s first icons
Honoring our historical roots is what makes us more mature as a relevant domain in world history. Even though is still three decades old, sort of.
“Thirty years ago, as tech titans battled for real estate in the personal computer market, an inconspicuous young artist gave the Macintosh a smile. Susan Kare was the type of kid who always loved art. As a child, she lost herself in drawings, paintings, and crafts; as a young woman, she dove into art history and had grandeur dreams of being a world-renowned fine artist.”
(Zachary Crockett a.k.a. @zzcrockett ~ Priceonomics)
Web at 25: Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the invention of the Web
A moment to remember.
“Twenty-five years ago today, I filed the proposal for what was to become the World Wide Web. My boss dubbed it ‘vague but exciting’. Luckily, he thought enough of the idea to allow me to quietly work on it on the side.”
(Sir Tim Berners-Lee)
The society of mind
Read it when AI was hot, but then I switched to IA.
“This book tries to explain how minds work. How can intelligence emerge from non-intelligence? To answer that, we’ll show that you can build a mind from many little parts, each mindless by itself.”
Fritz Kahn: The little-known godfather of infographics
Every current field has its longtime history. You should only look for connections, inspiration and influences.
“Around the time when Austrian sociologist, philosopher, and curator Otto Neurath was building his ISOTYPE visual language, which laid the foundation for pictogram-based infographics, another infographic pioneer was doing something even more ambitious: The German polymath Fritz Kahn – amateur astronomer, medical scientist by training, gynecologist by early occupation, artist by inclination, writer, educator and humanist by calling – was developing innovative visual metaphors for understanding science and the human body, seeking to strip scientific ideas of their alienating complexity and engage a popular audience with those essential tenets of how life works.”
(Maria Popova ~ Brainpickings)
Intuitive equals familiar
How qualities of UIs become used in UX.
“One of the most common terms of praise for an interface is to say that it is “intuitive” (the word should have been “intuitable” but we will bow to convention). Yet the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) literature rarely mentions the word, and for good reason. This note attempts to clarify the meaning of “intuitive” for non-HCI specialists.”
(Jef Raskin 1994)
Douglas Engelbart’s unfinished revolution
History will show the meaning of some people, not today.
Computing pioneer Doug Engelbart’s inventions transformed computing, but he intended them to transform humans. ~ “(…) Engelbart never sought to own what he contributed to the world’s ability to know. But he was frustrated to the end by the way so many people had adopted, developed, and profited from the digital media he had helped create, while failing to pursue the important tasks he had created them to do.”
(Howard Rheingold a.k.a. @hrheingold ~ MIT Technology Review)
The message gets the medium it deserves
I have always been fascinated about how the unique characteristics of a medium define its design space.
“I see this as a core principle of higher order UX; to use the medium in such a way that the medium facilitates the delivery of the message instead of polluting it. It’s that pollution that brings about unanticipated consequences in what the user experiences. This is just as much a holistic experience problem as well as a nitty-gritty design and interaction problem.”
(Erik Flowers a.k.a. @Erik_UX)
The hut where the internet began
Same magazine as ‘As We May Think’. No coincidence.
“In a hut like this — and maybe even one of these huts specifically — Engelbart opened up that issue of LIFE and read Bush’s Atlantic article. The ideas in the story plowed new intellectual terrain for Engelbart, and the seeds that he planted and nurtured there over the next twenty years grew, with the help of millions of others, into the Internet you see today.”