Saturday, January 22, 2011

Too Much To Know

For those who think that Google Books, Wikipedia, and various forms of social computing are new challenges, Ann M. Blair, Too Much To Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010) may come as a surprise. Blair, a historian at Harvard University, contends that every age faced information overload, a point others have made. Blair focuses on the period up to 1700, examining various approaches to managing information, including sorting and storing, summarization, note-taking, dictionaries, sentence collections, commonplace books, indices, bibliographies, and encyclopedias. Blair pushes back on the claims for the influence of printing on the creation and use of scholarly references, arguing that most of the methods of scholarly reference were in place before the advent of printing. She weaves through her narrative, rich in detail about the techniques of early information management, political, educational, religious, cultural traditions, and technological influences and issues.

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