I got through another amazing Long New Seminar (long dog walks are great for that). This one was by Alex Wright, author of ‘Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages’.
What I thought was really well done is how he charts the course of the evolution of social systems from bacteria to humans today and showed how such evolution influenced information systems. Very interesting. He also reveals some lost nuggets of history, re-introducing some information systems visionaries that are not well known (particularly Otlet’s Mundaneum).
One other interesting thread of his talk was a discussion of literal and oral culture and information. In one of those Long Now kinda of twists, he points out that literal culture is actually not too old. But also, the way the Web is going, there are plenty of analogies to oral culture in terms of how we share and communicate in social networks.
That’s the pattern for the evolution of information, Alex Wright
said. Networks coalesce into heirarchies, which then form a new
level of networks, which coalesce again, and so on. Thus an unending
series of information explosions is finessed.