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The Web That Wasn't



Alex Wright's presentation from the 2007 Information Architecture Summit, exploring the history of early hypertext and other networked information systems. Focuses on the work of Paul Otlet, Vannevar ...

Alex Wright's presentation from the 2007 Information Architecture Summit, exploring the history of early hypertext and other networked information systems. Focuses on the work of Paul Otlet, Vannevar Bush, Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson and Andries Van Dam, in search of clues about how the Web might have turned out differently.



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18 of 8 previous next Post a comment

  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
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  • There you go - I remember watching your Talk@Google - now I find the presentation as related to my http://www.slideshare.net/haraldf/this-is-paul-otlet - I love those historical topics ;)
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  • Impressive presentation on ’The Web That Wasn't'. You’ve shown your credibility on presentation with this slideshow. This one deserves thumbs up. I’m John, owner of www.freeringtones.ws/ . Hope to see more quality slides from you.

    Best wishes.
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  • The usage of imagery in this slideshow is very effective. You have done a fantastic job here friend.
    http://financejedi.com http://healthjedi.com
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  • In response to CRM's question: here’s a paper by Nelson that goes into further depth, contrasting his vision of hypertext vs. today's Web:

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  • The video clip I showed was from a film called 'The Man Who Wanted to Classify the World' by Francoise Levie. It's available for order here: http://www.filmakers.com/indivs/Man_classify.htm
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    The Web That Wasn't The Web That Wasn't Presentation Transcript

    • The Web That Wasn’t Alex Wright alex@agwright.com www.agwright.com
    • Charles Cutter “The desks had ... a little key-board at each, connected by a wire. The reader had only to find the mark of his book in the catalog, touch a few lettered or numbered keys, and [the book] appeared after an astonishingly short interval. Charles Cutter, “The Bualo Public Library of 1983” (Library Journal, 1883)
    • H.G. Wells The whole human memory can be, and probably in a short time will be, made accessible to every individual. [T]his new all-human cerebrum ... can have at once, the concentration of a craniate animal and the diused vitality of an amoeba..." H.G. Wells, World Brain, 1938
    • Teilhard de Chardin “A sort of ‘etherised’ human consciousness... a single, organized, unbroken membrane over the earth” that will “pave the way for a revolution.”
    • Paul Otlet • Creator of Universal Decimal Classification • Founder of Mundaneum • Author of Monde, Traité de documentation
    • QuickTime clip from The Man Who Wanted to Classify the World by Francoise Levie (removed due to file size)
    • Otlet
    • How the UDC works • Universal Decimal Classification for top- down categorization • Auxiliary Tables to mark relationships between topics (e.g., “+” “/” “:”) • Constructing the “social space” of a document
    • What would Otlet’s Web have looked like? • Marriage of top-down classification with bottom-up categorization • Gradations of links, e.g.: • Agree / Disagree / Approve / Disapprove
    • Vannevar Bush • Science advisor to FDR • President of Carnegie Institution • Author of “As We May Think”
    • Vannevar Bush “Thus [the user] goes, building a trail of many items. Occasionally he inserts a comment of his own, either linking it to the main trail or joining it by a side trail to a particular item… Thus he builds a trail of his interest through the maze of materials available to him.”
    • Vannevar Bush “Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready-made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the Memex and there amplified.”
    • How the Memex worked • “Selection by association, rather than indexing” (associative trails) • Two-way links • Visible pathways
    • Beyond the Memex • Biological computing • Crystal data storage • ESP • “Learning machines”
    • Eugene Garfield • Founder of Science Citation Index • Inventor of citation ranking • Forefather of PageRank
    • Doug Engelbart • Former SRI Researcher • Creator of oNLine System (NLS) • Author of “Augmenting Human Intelligence”
    • Doug Engelbart • 1968 NLS Demo
    • What would Engelbart’s Web have looked like? • Tools for small group collaboration • Process hierarchies • Built-in audio/video conferencing
    • Xerox PARC • Founded by Alan Kay and several early Engelbart collaborators • Mission: “The Architecture of Information” • Invented the GUI, precursors of the modern PC
    • Ted Nelson • Coined the term “hypertext” (1965) • Author of Literary Machines, Dream Machines, Computer Lib • Creator of Xanadu
    • Ted Nelson “I mean non-sequential writing- text that branches and allows choices to the reader… a series of text chunks connected by links which offer the reader different pathways.”
    • Nelson-isms • Collateral • Transclusion • Stretchtext hypertext • Humbers • Zippered lists • Thinkertoys • Window sandwiches • Fresh hyperbooks • Indexing vortexes • Anthropological • Part-pounces • Tumblers hyperbooks • Grand systems
    • I Don’t Buy In The Web isn’t hypertext, it’s DECORATED DIRECTORIES! What we have instead is the vacuous victory of typesetters over authors, and the most trivial form of hypertext that could have been imagined… There is an alternative. Markup must not be embedded. Hierarchies and files must not be part of the mental structure of documents. Links must go both ways. All these fundamental errors of the Web must be repaired. But the geeks have tried to lock the door behind them to make nothing else possible. We fight on. More later. - Ted Nelson
    • Andries Van Dam • Early collaborator with Ted Nelson • Created the first working hypertext systems: • Hypertext Editing System (HES) • File Retrieval and Editing System (FRESS) • Intermedia
    • Intermedia
    • Other precursors • ZOG - CMU • KMS - McCracken and Akscyn • Notecard - Xerox PARC • Hypercard - Apple • Hypertext Editing System - Rada
    • Tim Berners-Lee • Former researcher at CERN Laboratory • Built first version of Enquire in 1980 • Released WorldWideWeb in 1989
    • In Search of the Web That Wasn’t • Marrying top-down classification with bottom-up “social space” • Two-way linking • Visible pathways • Gradations of links • Integrating authoring tools • Process hierarchies • Embedding hypermedia in the GUI
    • Reading list • H.G. Wells, “World Brain” • Teilhard de Chardin, Phenomenon of Man • Boyd Rayward, “Visions of Xanadu” • Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” • Ted Nelson, Literary Machines • Doug Engelbart, “Augmenting Human Intelligence” • Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web
    • Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages by Alex Wright Coming in June 2007 from Joseph Henry Press http://alexwright.org/glut/
    • Thank you Alex Wright alex@agwright.com | www.agwright.com