Nugget#1 “As We May Think”


The chunk of text that captured my attention from V. Bush “As We May Think” is from Section 6 in the description of the Memex:

Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, “memex” will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.

More importantly for my focus question, V. Bush observes:

There is, of course, provision for consultation of the record by the usual scheme of indexing. If the user wishes to consult a certain book, he taps its code on the keyboard, and the title page of the book promptly appears before him, projected onto one of his viewing positions. Frequently-used codes are mnemonic, so that he seldom consults his code book; but when he does, a single tap of a key projects it for his use…A special button transfers him immediately to the first page of the index. Any given book of his library can thus be called up and consulted with far greater facility than if it were taken from a shelf. As he has several projection positions, he can leave one item in position while he calls up another.

Wikipedia first came to mind as realizing what Bush imagined as a repository where “material could be entered freely and links to physical items that had been gathered together from widely separated sources could be bound together to form a new book.”  As a finding aid to help individuals unfamiliar with a wide range of new topics, this online encyclopedia seems to support Bush’s concept of accessing information without overtaxing one’s memory.  I have worked in public, school, academic, and special (medical) libraries providing instructional guidance about information literacy to assist users with locating credible resources.  When I started graduate school in 2004, Wikipedia considered “Es ist verboten”, never recommended as a source for school work.  I was always surprised when judging Chicago History Fair and Illinois State Science Fair that classroom teachers permitted students to include Wikipedia in subject bibliographies.  Wikipedia Encyclopedia has it’s own guidelines for Academic Use:   Certainly it is the preferred starting point for most students and typically appears at the top of Google Search results.

The end of the M Wesch Digital Ethnography Youtube video Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us lists a series of issues that online instructors and students need to re-think: privacy, copyright, citation, authorship, identity, rhetorics, ethics, aesthetics, governance, commerce, and ourselves.  Most of these issues are considered by library staff providing information literacy instruction.  But today, the new buzz is Digital Literacy that assumes that information resources are to be considered transparent, transliterate, and transformative.  Clearly mobile hand-held devices are students preferred Memex whether instruction is blended or online.  Integrated To improve discovery, Library Systems have recently overhauled their cataloging and classification systems to include a wide range of formats and linked data.  Typical student research starts with Google and Wikipedia and only involves library databases when students cannot freely access the content online.  Unfortunately students limit their reference choices to items that are freely accessible full-text.  Hopefully new discovery layers in library systems will link open educational resources in a wide range of formats accessible on mobile devices.

I think that indexing by subject experts in various disciplines can be associated with more familiar tagging and ranking by students to improve findability and increase use of credible sources.  Notetaking, and highlighting tools are other ways to personalize one’s memex by creating and sharing conversations around original content (properly cited and annotated).

Did you know that WorldCat, a cloud-based bibliographic database used by libraries, currently has over 264 million individual bibliographic records making up 1.8 billion individual holdings?  Worldcat is currently working on algorithms to create links to extensive,  existing repositories in  global information system to support research in the Internet of Things.



3 thoughts on “Nugget#1 “As We May Think”

  1. I love that the Memex image you’ve shared affords the possibility of getting rick-rolled.

    I feel I’ve benefitted greatly from your thinking about the Memex from the perspective of a librarian. I’d never considererd how desirable to have an indexing system that is a hybrid of subject experts’ categorization and tagging and ranking provided by ‘ordinary’ users that you raise in the last paragraph.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. It is very cool that something we so take for granted such as Wikipedia was such a far off idea when Bush originally wrote about it. It is a marvel to see an essay which juxtaposes the ingenuity of people on a global scale and the foresight of one man.

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