AlterNet: Myth of the Universal Digital Library

AlterNet: Myth of the Universal Digital Library:
Sorry, but we can’t digitize everything. Here’s why …

A lot of Web geeks believe that one day everything ever created by humans will be available online. Call it the myth of the universal library. Here’s how the myth goes: Because there is unlimited real estate in cyberspace and because media can be digitized, we can fill cyberspace with all human knowledge and give everyone access to it. Without further ado, I present to you three arguments for eliminating the myth of the universal library.


It is true, we can’t… do it… but then… that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do something.

0 comments on “AlterNet: Myth of the Universal Digital Library

  1. Rochelle says:

    La plus ça change…the medieval europeans planted gardens to encompass all of human experience; the renaissance europeans thought they could gather together the sum of human knowledge by filling their libraries with the works of the greeks and romans..and now here’s someone taking the idea a bit too far again and trying to make a presumption about “all knowledge”. We know you can digitize all human knowledge, come on! Some of it is exclusively in my head, and you can’t digitize that (yet). Drop the word “all” and drop the word “knowledge”, squint, and look at the whole issue again. What are we actually doing? Making materials publicly available, as many as we can get our hands on. And someone will always do the choosing (who still thinks libraries are not hand-chosen?), and since objectivity is impossible someone will always be subjective and pick what they think is “right”. And then someone else will come and redefine “right” and we’ll add more elements to the digial world. It will never be over. There will always be jobs for people in the “knowledge” industry.

    This part in particular annoys me: My point is that computer networks are not space and they are not real estate. They are data storage and manipulation devices connected together by wires and radio waves.

    Your favourite metaphor sucks, man! And you’re an ugly bag of mostly water. Deal.