Friday, November 09, 2007

Future Reading: Digitization and its discontent

This five-page article byAnthony Grafton is about how the computer and the Internet have transformed reading. Even if you skim it, you'll find your eyes drawn to text that will make you think. Two passages that stood out to me were (page 1):
In fact, the Internet will not bring us a universal library, much less an encyclopedic record of human experience. None of the firms now engaged in digitization projects claim that it will create anything of the kind. The hype and rhetoric make it hard to grasp what Google and Microsoft and their partner libraries are actually doing. We have clearly reached a new point in the history of text production. On many fronts, traditional periodicals and books are making way for blogs and other electronic formats. But magazines and books still sell a lot of copies. The rush to digitize the written record is one of a number of critical moments in the long saga of our drive to accumulate, store, and retrieve information efficiently. It will result not in the infotopia that the prophets conjure up but in one in a long series of new information ecologies, all of them challenging, in which readers, writers, and producers of text have learned to survive.
And on page 3:
Poverty, in other words, is embodied in lack of print as well as in lack of food. The Internet will do much to redress this imbalance, by providing Western books for non-Western readers. What it will do for non-Western books is less clear.
Go that last blurb again.

We're digitizing materials from rich nations. What about the materials created by poor, less technically advanced nations and cultures? The World Digital Library is digitizing materials from around the world, but others need to join in to ensure that our digital collection is skewed to one area of the world or to a specific socio-economic class.

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1 comment:

Varese2002 said...

There is also action on the non-Western language collections (Sanskrit) by Google. Look at the Hindustan Times at


Kees Kort