Early Modern Information Overload

“[Ann Blair] argues that historians have paid disproportionate attention to what she calls “literary reading” and not enough to other modes of encountering and engaging textual materials ranging from browsing and skimming to buying and collecting to annotating, cutting and pasting, and dog-earing. For Blair these other modes of acting upon texts are important in all historical moments, but in situations where readers feel themselves overwhelmed by information, they become all that much more crucial and telling.” p. 1

“According to her [Ann Blair] argument, an explosion of book production during the early modern period led to the development of a broad discourse on modes of textual practice. In some instances the problem of “information overload” led to a new emphasis on readerly “diligence” as in the cases of the theologians Francesco Sacchini and Johann Heinrich Alsted. In other instances, the same problem led to new theories and practices of consultative and instrumental reading such as those of Francis Bacon or Samuel Johnson.” p. 1/2

“In a world of rapid change, quick access to knowledge becomes as important as knowledge itself. During the early modern period, the encyclopedia survived by adaptation. If the Medieval encyclopedia aimed to reflect the universe itself, more and more, the early modern encyclopedia aimed to reflect the possibilities of knowing a changing universe of representation.” p. 4

“… during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries factors such as an increasing production and dissemination of books, developing networks of scientific communication, discoveries and innovations in the sciences, and new economic relationships all conspired to produce such quantities of new information that a substantial reorganization of the intellectual world was required. (…) by the end of the seventeenth century, it was widely understood that “representing and ordering the world” would be “impossible unless the representations themselves were put in order.”” p. 6

From Daniel Rosenberg, ‘Early Modern Information Overload’, in Journal of the History of Ideas 64.1 (2003) p. 1-9

en,quotations,research,ubiscribe | August 10, 2006 | 16:56 | Comments Off on Early Modern Information Overload |


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