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Meanland extract – What is it that makes the web so amazing?

‘Fess up: who remembers a time when there was no internet?

Once upon a time, if a child, student, writer or reader wanted to know something, they would have to march off to the library* – a day’s hike to the great metropolis on the horizon, for some – and physically track down obscure and tangled information that lay hidden between pages, at the back of shelves and relied primarily on one’s ability to navigate the Dewey decimal card catalogue and microfiche machines. It was often laborious, sometimes frustrating and could result in getting lost for days in the wrong terrain.

What is it that makes the web – a living library – so amazing? First and foremost, the answer would have to be information, and an almost universal access to that information. Traditional libraries also offer this, but the beauty of the internet is the ability to link to a resource, and immediately see it, providing the reader with a knowledge architecture that the singular text from the library can never have.

The book – even if accompanied by a generous list of additional reading material – is static. It is bound to its form as flat, unchanging text on a page that leads nowhere but to the following page. The internet offers the capacity to connect data – that is, make data meaningful.

Read the rest of the post over at Meanland.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Jacinda Woodhead is the editor of Overland. Her PhD research examined abortion politics in Australia and nonfiction as political intervention.

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Comments

  1. But the book is a wonderful package. a super-cool thing that has used a new-fangled gadget such as a mass-producing printer, for you to have when the power is out.

    not only that, you get one person’s perspective for long enough to consider it properly.

    the library and the book cannot be thrown into antiquity. kids who don’t have the Net at home go to the library for a quick game and check of the emails, the artworks for ‘waste2art’, the building of the post office history exhibition (plus tonnes of other stuff), the librarian who hosts the school holiday activities, nicole kidman’s advocacy, the atmosphere of the wonder of words, and the funky objects without applications or wireless internet which nourish us, exist there… for free! no electricity or facebook status required.

    long live the book and the library

    xxxx

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