October 9: Intellectual Furnishings & Containers

Paul Otlet, Mondotheque

IN-CLASS ACTIVITY: Epistemological Fieldwork: you’ll be observing how people use the material environment, and the material objects in it, to structure their engagement with media and their intellectual labor. More directions to come. – Or, depending upon our class enrollment: PRESENTATIONS: Tress, James, Tim

READINGS: It’s a long list, but it’s really just half an academic article (Chun); three good-sized magazine-y articles (Mattern, Springfield, Bush); a short essay (Stewart); a short blog post (Tarrish); and a couple websites.

  • Susan Stewart, “Wunderkammer: An After as Before” in Deep Storage: Collecting, Storing, and Archiving in Art, eds. Ingrid Schaffner & Matthias Winzen (New York: Prestel, 1998): 291-5.
  • Shannon Mattern, “Before BILLY,” Harvard Design Magazine 43: Shelf Life (2016).
  • Laura Tarrish, “Hunter/Gatherer,” Design Observer (March 4, 2015) [on xylotheques].

Paul Otlet

  • Molly Springfield, “Inside the Mundaneum,” Triple Canopy 8.
  • See the Google Cultural Institute’s Mundaneum Collection, and especially their “The Origins of the Internet in Europe: 1895-2013” exhibition. And consider what it means that Google is collating resources from the world’s cultural institutions, and positioning itself in relation to Otlet’s legacy.
  • We’ll also talk in class a bit about Suzanne Briet, who, in advancing Otlet’s work, argued that even stars and rocks and antelopes, within the right epistemological “container,” can constitute “documents.”

Vannevar Bush

George Nelson, Storagewall


*Suzanne Briet, What is Documentation? trans. Ronald E. Day, Laurent Martinet & Hermina G. B. Anghelescu (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2006); Alberto Cevolini, “Knowledge Management Evolution in Modern Europe: An Introduction” in Cevolini, ed., Forgetting Machines: Knowledge Management Evolution in MOdern Europe (Boston: Brill, 2016): 1-36; Melanie Feinberg, “Information System Design for Communication: The Use of Genre as a Design Element” [unpublished manuscript; on Prelinger & Warburg libraries]; Nina Katchadourian, “Sorted Books Project”; Alberto Manguel, “The Library as Order,” The Library at Night (Toronto Knopf Canada, 2006): 36-63; Shannon Mattern, “Cabinet Logic,” IKKM Talk, Bauhaus University, Weimar, Germany (January 20, 2016); Jennifer & Kevin McCoy, “Every Shot, Every Episode”; Henry Petroski, The Book on the Bookshelf (New York: Vintage, 1999); Storage Techniques for Art, Science and History; the work of Craig Roberson, Lynn Spigel and Nader Vossoughian.

ON MEMORY THEATERS, WUNDERKAMMER, STUDIOLI: Robert Kirkbride, Architecture and Memory: The Reanissance Studioli of Federico da Montefeltro [interactive]; Shannon Mattern, “500 Years of Wunderkammern from Cabinets to the Cloud,” Words in Space (January 31, 213); Museum of Modern Art, “Wunderkammern: A Century of Curiosities,” July 30 – November 10, 2008; see also the work of Hannelore Baron, Jason Rhodes, Sarah Sze; Anke Te Hessen, The World in a Box: The Story of an Eighteenth Century Picture Encyclopedia, trans. Ann M. Hentschel (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2002).

OTLET: W. Boyd Rayward, “The Case of Paul Otlet, Pioneer of Information Science, Internationalist, visionary: Reflections on Biography,” Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 23:3 (September 1991): 135-45; Charles van den Heuvel, “Mundaneum” Volume 15 “Destination Library” (2008): 48-53; Alex Wright, Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Brith of the Information Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Alex Wright, “The Forgotten Forefather,” Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008): 184-92; Alex Wright, “Forgotten Forefather: Paul Otlet,” Boxes and Arrows (November 10, 2003); Alex Wright, “The Web Time ForgotNew York Times (June 17, 2008).

BUSH: Vannevar Bush, “Memex Revisited” (1967) Reprinted in Wendy Hui Kyong Chun & Thomas Keenan, Eds., New Media Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (New York: Routledge, 2006): 85-95; J. C. R. Licklider, Libraries of the Future (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1965); Alex Wright, “Memex Redux,” Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008): 192-203.


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