The Deep History of the Information Age


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Presentation from a talk given via videoconference at the TEDx 2010 conference in Warwick, UK.

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  • Tzeltal-speaking tribes in Chiapas, Mexico
  • Rooted in caudex - wood
  • we’
  • Roman de Troie, by permission of Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
  • Adam naming the animals from The Aberdeen Bestiary, c.1 by permission of University of Edinburgh 20D
  • Canon Table / by permission of Corpus Christi College
  • Role of technology and social change... networks and hierarchies.
  • cf. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change
  • Public domain 19th century periodical covers - various
  • Document nation - cf. ??
  • Personal photo, property of Alex Wright
  • Facebook - screenshot
  • Amazon screenshot
  • Amazon screenshot
  • Wikipedia screenshot
  • New York Times / Blogrunner screenshot
  • Semantic Web
  • The Deep History of the Information Age

    1. 1. The Deep History of the Information Age <ul><li>Alex Wright </li></ul><ul><li> | </li></ul>
    2. 3. <ul><li>Some people dismiss taxonomies as .... a kind of glorified stamp collecting. No view could be more false and more inappropriately arrogant. Taxonomies are reflections of human thought; they express our most fundamental concepts about the objects of our universe.” </li></ul><ul><li>- Stephen Jay Gould </li></ul>
    3. 5. Cat
    4. 6. Mammal Cat
    5. 7. Animal Mammal Cat
    6. 8. Animal Mammal Cat Tabby cat
    7. 9. Animal Mammal Cat Tabby cat Brown mackerel tabby domestic longhair
    8. 10. Animal Mammal Cat Tabby cat Brown mackerel tabby domestic longhair See also: Pets
    9. 11. Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae Felis Catus Felis catus (“Cat”) Kingdom: Phylum: Class: Order: Family: Genus: Species:
    10. 13. Laptop
    11. 14. Personal computer Laptop
    12. 15. Computer Personal computer Laptop
    13. 16. Computer Personal computer Laptop Apple laptop
    14. 17. Computer Personal computer Laptop Apple laptop Apple Macbook Pro
    15. 18. Computer Personal computer Laptop Apple laptop Apple Macbook Pro See also: Mobile devices
    16. 19. Source: Berlin Name Description Example 1 Unique Beginner Highest level of inclusion Animals 2 Life Form First order of division, always “polytopic” Mammals 3 Generic Psychologically primary Cat 4 Specific Secondary name, usually involving a qualifier Tabby cat 5 Varietal Most granular level of description Brown mackerel tabby domestic longhair 6 “ Affiliate” class Horizontal or “meta” category Pets
    17. 24. “ When gods are considered, genealogy becomes a means of understanding the cosmos. When mortals are considered, it becomes an encyclopedic framework.” - Hobart and Schiffman
    18. 25. The Ice Age Information Explosion
    19. 28. Symbol networks <ul><li>Externalized displays of trust </li></ul><ul><li>Encoding status and social relationships </li></ul><ul><li>A “release from social proximity” </li></ul>
    20. 29. The Age of Alphabets
    21. 33. Alphabet networks <ul><li>Counting begets writing </li></ul><ul><li>Birth of the “knowledge bureau” </li></ul><ul><li>Schism between oral and literate cultures </li></ul>
    22. 34. cf. Ong Orality Literacy Additive Subordinative Aggregative Analytic Participatory Objective Situational Abstract
    23. 35. The Codex
    24. 39. The codex <ul><li>Portable, reproducible </li></ul><ul><li>Random access, pagination and indexing </li></ul><ul><li>Early mass production techniques </li></ul>
    25. 40. Gutenberg
    26. 43. Print networks <ul><li>Transition from hand-made manuscripts to standardized texts </li></ul><ul><li>Rise of secular literacy </li></ul><ul><li>Disruption of old institutional hierarchies </li></ul>
    27. 44. The Industrial Information Explosion
    28. 48. Industrial knowledge networks <ul><li>Steam-powered printing presses fuel rapid proliferation of published literature </li></ul><ul><li>Growing urban centers and public education creates growing demand for reading material </li></ul><ul><li>Rise of large-scale classification systems </li></ul>
    29. 49. The Post-Industrial Network
    30. 51. <ul><li>Facebook </li></ul>
    31. 57. Conclusions
    32. 58. <ul><li>Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages </li></ul><ul><li>by Alex Wright </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    33. 59. Questions?
    34. 60. Thank you <ul><li>Alex Wright </li></ul><ul><li> | </li></ul>