As We May Think 50th Anniversary Symposium
September 11, 2010 9:21 AM   Subscribe

/fires up the Memex.
posted by Artw at 9:49 AM on September 11, 2010

That's fantastic!

Modern document systems have been shaped by three very different figures:

- Vannevar Bush, who fought the Good War, was one of the men behind the Bomb, and whose imaginary information system was aimed at improving cultural preservation/understanding for world peace.

- Ted Nelson, a pioneer of personal freedom through personal computing. His book featured a clenched fist, and demanded, "you can and must understand computers NOW!"

- Doug Engelbart, a good friend of Ted's, who pursued optimal human functioning in organisations (and was well funded for it-- for a time). He developed the mouse, videoconferencing on computers, and many other basic user interface principles.

** *** **

The Association for Computing Machinery held a second retrospective on Bush's influence this June, a 65th anniversary panel at the SIGWEB Hypertext conference at the University of Toronto (video here).

I was one of the speakers on the panel. I highlighted the broad issues which set the context for Bush's article, and looked at how they appear today:
- online information labor markets such as Mechanical Turk and Samasource
- the role of software in preserving expertise
- the balkanization of the web across class, ideology, and nationalism
- online education
- the creative arts

Here is a screenshot of notes from my talk. Here is a screenshot of my visual notes of "As We May Think".

Mark Bernstein has alluded to his talk as "designated heretic" in his excellent post, A Logic Named Joe.

Frank Tompa, the man behind the project to computerize the Oxford English Dictionary, spoke about recent developments in the web unforeseen by Bush.

And Cathy Marshall, who is wonderful and down to earth, gave a delightful overview of hypertext research in the last 25 years.
posted by honest knave at 9:54 AM on September 11, 2010 [8 favorites]

Also, I strongly recommend From Memex to Hypertext, by Nyce and Kahn.

Half of the book is historical commentary. The other half is a collection of letters and documents which illustrate the history of Bush's interest in information machines.
posted by honest knave at 9:59 AM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've long been curious about where the title for Bush's piece came from. Coming from and English and Education background into technology, I theorized in grad school that it was an explicit response and articulation of the ideas in "How We Think" by Dewey, which came out in a second edition in 1933 (iirc, which was when Bush started to develop the ideas in his article). I never really followed up on the connection, but I'd be curious if there's anything in the archives about who came up with the title and why.
posted by idb at 11:01 AM on September 11, 2010

I have often wondered about the influence of the library at Trantor...
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:34 AM on September 11, 2010

eh? looks like the main link is toast. The videos are all still ok on though.
posted by juv3nal at 11:50 AM on September 11, 2010

Mod note: added the link to the main post.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:59 AM on September 11, 2010

thanks, jessamyn
posted by juv3nal at 12:02 PM on September 11, 2010

This is really cool, thanks juv3nal (and honest knave). It's really neat to see all these folks in one room talking about Bush and the Memex.
posted by carter at 1:50 PM on September 11, 2010

« Older Royal Observatory Photo Contest Winners   |   Xenophobia is UnAmerican Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments