October 3: Intellectual Furnishings + Containers

Alister Babb, Shannon Filing Cabinet, via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

IN-CLASS ACTIVITY: Epistemological Fieldwork: you’ll be observing how people use the material environment, and the material objects in it, to structure their engagement with media and their intellectual labor. More directions to come.


  • Susan Stewart, “Wunderkammer: An After as Before” in Deep Storage: Collecting, Storing, and Archiving in Art, eds. Ingrid Schaffner & Matthias Winzen (New York: Prestel, 1998): 291-5.
  • Shannon Mattern, “Before BILLY,” Harvard Design Magazine 43: Shelf Life (2016).
  • Laura Tarrish, “Hunter/Gatherer,” Design Observer (March 4, 2015) [on xylotheques].

Paul Otlet

  • Molly Springfield, “Inside the Mundaneum,” Triple Canopy
  • See the Google Cultural Institute’s Mundaneum Collection, and especially their “The Origins of the Internet in Europe: 1895-2013” exhibition [consider what it means that Google is collating resources from the world’s cultural institutions, and positioning itself in relation to Otlet’s legacy].
  • We’ll also talk in class a bit about Suzanne Briet, who, in advancing Otlet’s work, argued that even stars and rocks and antelopes, within the right epistemological “container,” can constitute “documents.”

Vannevar Bush

Paul Otlet, Mondotheque, via Google Arts & Culture


*Suzanne Briet, What is Documentation? Trans. Ronald E. Day, Laurent Martinet & Hermina G. B. Anghelescu (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2006); Melanie Feinberg, “Information System Design for Communication: The Use of Genre as a Design Element” [unpublished manuscript; on Prelinger & Warburg libraries]; Nina Katchadourian, “Sorted Books Project”; Alberto Manguel, “The Library as Order” The Library at Night (Toronto Knopf Canada, 2006): 36-63; Shannon Mattern, “Cabinet Logic,” IKKM Talk, Bauhaus University, Weimar, Germany (January 20, 2016); Jennifer & Kevin McCoy, “Every Shot, Every Episode”; Henry Petroski, The Book on the Bookshelf (New York: Vintage, 1999); Storage Techniques for Art, Science and History; the work of Lynn Spigel and Nader Vossoughian.

ON MEMORY THEATERS, WUNDERKAMMER, STUDIOLI: Robert Kirkbride, Architecture and Memory: The Reanissance Studioli of Federico da Montefeltro [interactive]; Shannon Mattern, “500 Years of Wunderkammern from Cabinets to the Cloud,” Words in Space (January 31, 213); Museum of Modern Art, “Wunderkammern: A Century of Curiosities,” July 30 – November 10, 2008; see also the work of Hannelore Baron, Jason Rhodes, Sarah Sze; Anke Te Hessen, The World in a Box: The Story of an Eighteenth Century Picture Encyclopedia, trans. Ann M. Hentschel (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2002).

OTLET: W. Boyd Rayward, “The Case of Paul Otlet, Pioneer of Information Science, Internationalist, visionary: Reflections on Biography” Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 23:3 (September 1991): 135-45; Charles van den Heuvel, “Mundaneum” Volume 15 “Destination Library” (2008): 48-53; Alex Wright, Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Brith of the Information Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Alex Wright, “The Forgotten Forefather,” Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008): 184-92; Alex Wright, “Forgotten Forefather: Paul Otlet,” Boxes and Arrows (November 10, 2003); Alex Wright, “The Web Time ForgotNew York Times (June 17, 2008).

BUSH: Vannevar Bush, “Memex Revisited” (1967) Reprinted in Wendy Hui Kyong Chun & Thomas Keenan, Eds., New Media Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (New York: Routledge, 2006): 85-95; J. C. R. Licklider, Libraries of the Future (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1965); Alex Wright, “Memex Redux,” Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008): 192-203.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.