Cataloging the world Paul Otlet and the birth of Information age


Alex Wright, professor of interaction design at the School of Visual Arts and a regular contributor to The New York Times has published (Oxford UP) the story the story of Paul Otlet (1868-1944), a  Belgian librarian and utopian visionary, who, long before the digital age, dreamed of a worldwide repository of media accessible to all. A selection of reviews: 


"Alex Wright's beautifully written book illuminates the life and work of Paul Otlet, one of a group of information theorists and utopians whose achievements during the early part of the last century prefigure the digital world, and whose innovation underpin the 'information society' in which we live. Cataloging the World is a lively, sympathetic but rigorous exploration of the ways in which what might seem merely of historical interest proves of immediate and engrossing relevance." --W. Boyd Rayward, University of Illinois and University of New South Wales


"With profound insight, Alex Wright reveals that within the labyrinth of Paul Otlet's Mundaneum lies hidden an anticipation of the hyperlinked structure of today's Web. This is not only a captivating biography of Otlet's prophetic vision of a global networked information system but a vivid account of how similar systems took shape in the minds of Conrad Gessner, Leibniz, Vannevar Bush, Tim Berners-Lee, and many others." --Wouter Van Acker, Griffith University


"Finally a historical study of the Information Age not starting with Vannevar Bush. Alex Wright's balanced study of Paul Otlet's dream to catalogue the world as one of the many successive projects of unifying knowledge on a global level is a joy to read after the autohagiographies of engineers that claimed their share in the 'invention' of the Internet and World Wide Web in purely computer-and-information-technical terms." --Dr. Charles van den Heuvel, University of Amsterdam



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