• Anticipating the Internet: how the predictions of Paul Otlet, H.G. Wells and Vannevar Bush shaped the Digital Information Age

    Dominic Allington-Smith (see profile)
    CityLIS, Library & Information Science
    Science--Philosophy, Technology--Philosophy, Science, Technology, History, Information science, Library science
    Item Type:
    City University London
    H. G. Wells, Internet, Paul Otlet, utopianisim, Vannevar Bush, Futurism, History and philosophy of science and technology, Library and information science
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    This is an historical research project that investigates predictions of future information technology made by Paul Otlet, H.G. Wells and Vannevar Bush, specifically those described in the Mundaneum, World Brain and Memex respectively. It is carried out by means of an extended review of the relevant Library and Information Science literature and aims to determine the reasons for their predictions, the relationship (if any) between them, and their influence upon the development of the modern-day Internet. After investigating the work of each figure in turn, further investigation is undertaken through a comparative analysis. It concludes that, although there are differences in approach and emphasis between the predictions, each of them was made in reaction to a common problem – the proliferation of published information – and each of them aimed to solve this problem by applying scientific means to improve the free flow of information throughout society, thus improving it for the benefit of all. Furthermore, their ideas stemmed from the same intellectual traditions of positivism and utopianism, and were expressed through technology, that although advanced for its time, was rapidly superseded by the rise of digital computing during the second half of the twentieth century. Finally, although the technology they used to express their predictions is now obsolete, and had little direct influence on the practical workings of the contemporary Internet, the works, concepts and ideas of Otlet, Wells and Bush remain highly relevant in today’s ever-increasingly Digital Age.
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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