Weekly Reading Response, Anna Murphy

Paul Otlet’s impressiveness, to me, lies in his understanding that information is social. Wright is hesitant to admit Otlet outright influenced the creation of the web; both he and Rayward emphasize Otlet’s predictive, ambitious-beyond-his-era talents. He understood that information is relative and linked and he created concepts for information retrieval and networks. Yet while this eerily supernatural premonition of the internet is exciting to read about, I was most drawn to the way Otlet incorporated humanity into his mundaneum. He articulated that information is best understood in context, including the reader’s relationship to the document. Not only does Otlet’s project allow the reader to find what to read, the reader can interact with the document, inherently changing “the social space” of a document by reading it. Wright refers to Otlet’s desire to create a “new ‘world city'”, a world in which information is shared and created across borders and languages. That Otlet frames his proposed information sharing network as a society illustrates to me the important characteristic of information: it is how everyone communicates with each other. Information is no longer experts communicating to lay people, or experts communicating to other experts. It includes everyone. The idea of reader contribution is no more evident than in the myriad of ways readers, writers, consumers, producers interact on a daily basis online today. It is Otlet’s inclusiveness and understanding of the social aspect of information that impresses me most.

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