We've been in a number of discussions with librarians over the past
year, and one question that we're frequently asked is "Does Peter
talk this rapidly all the time?". The answer to that question is
"Yes". But another question we are frequently asked is "If all these
electronic resources are going to be created, supplanting books and
journals, what's left for the librarians?". The answer to that is
slightly more complex, but just as straightforward. Librarians have
excelled at obtaining resources, classifying them so that users can
find them, weeding out resources that don't serve their communities,
and helping users navigate the library itself. None of these roles
are supplanted by this architecture. The only differences are that
instead of scanning publisher's announcements for new resources their
users might be interested in, they will have to scan the
announcements on the net. Once they see something interesting, they
can retrieve it (perhaps buying a copy just as they do now), classify
it, set up a navigation system for their classification scheme, show
users how to use it, and provide pointers (or actual copies) of the
resource to their users. The classification and selection processes
in particular are services which will be badly needed on a net with a
million new 'publications' a day, and many will be willing to pay for
this highly value added service.
I was on a panel with [Brewster] Kahle a few years ago, discussing the relationship between material and digital archives. When I met him, I was struck by a story he told about how he once put the entire World Wide Web into a shipping container. He just wanted to see if it would fit. How big is the Web? It turns out, he said, that it’s twenty feet by eight feet by eight feet, or, at least, it was on the day he measured it. How much did it weigh? Twenty-six thousand pounds. He thought that meant something. He thought people needed to know that.
A quote by Ted Nelson, the man who invented hypertext.
“The world is not yet finished, but everyone is behaving as if everything was known. This is not true. In fact, the computer world as we know it is based upon one tradition that has been waddling along for the last fifty years, growing in size and ungainliness, and is essentially defining the way we do everything. My view is that today’s computer world is based on techie misunderstandings of human thought and human life. And the imposition of inappropriate structures throughout the computer is the imposition of inappropriate structures on the things we want to do in the human world.”
He is saying technology is shining back on us. We made it, and now it is making us. The abstractions we created have distortions that hurt and reduce us.
People believe there’s an essence to the computer, that there’s something true and real and a correct way to do things. But—there is no right way. We get to choose how to aim the technology we build. At least for now, because increasingly, technology feels like something that happens to you instead of something you use.
What screens want needs to match up with what we want.