Read The Quest for a Memex 2022-07-31 by Kevin MarksKevin Marks (kevinmarks.com)
This week John Borthwick put out a call for Tools for Thinking: People want better tools for thinking — ones that take the mass of notes that you have and organize them, that help extend your second brain into a knowledge or interest graph and that enable open sharing and ownership of the “knowl...
I got stuck over the weekend, so I totally missed Kevin Marks’ memex demo at IndieWebCamp’s Create Day, but it is an interesting little UI experiment.

I’ll always maintain that Vannevar Bush really harmed the first few generations of web development by not mentioning the word commonplace book in his conceptualization. Marks heals some of this wound by explicitly tying the idea of memex to that of the zettelkasten however. John Borthwick even mentions the idea of “networked commonplace books”. [I suspect a little birdie may have nudged this perspective as catnip to grab my attention—a ruse which is highly effective.]

Some of Kevin’s conceptualization reminds me a bit of Jerry Michalski’s use of The Brain which provides a specific visual branching of ideas based on the links and their positions on the page: the main idea in the center, parent ideas above it, sibling ideas to the right/left and child ideas below it. I don’t think it’s got the idea of incoming or outgoing links, but having a visual location on the page for incoming links (my own site has incoming ones at the bottom as comments or responses) can be valuable.

I’m also reminded a bit of Kartik Prabhu’s experiments with marginalia and webmention on his website which plays around with these ideas as well as their visual placement on the page in different methods.

MIT MediaLab’s Fold site (details) was also an interesting sort of UI experiment in this space.

It also seems a bit reminiscent of Kevin Mark’s experiments with hovercards in the past as well, which might be an interesting way to do the outgoing links part.

Next up, I’d love to see larger branching visualizations of these sorts of things across multiple sites… Who will show us those “associative trails”?

Another potential framing for what we’re all really doing is building digital versions of Indigenous Australian’s songlines across the web. Perhaps this may help realize Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly’s dream for a “third archive”?

Replied to a tweet by Tudor Girba (Twitter)
Mostly for want of the mention of a single idea in Vannevar Bush’s As We May Think: commonplace books. He got so dewy-eyed about the technology that he forgot about the 2000+ years of prior tradition. Many are now re-discovering what we’ve lost.
Replied to The Memex, the Manhatten Project, and the month of July 1945 by Matt WebbMatt Webb (Interconnected)
I wonder about these two legacies, the Memex and the Manhatten Project, and which has had the greater influence on the world.
Some revisionist history here glorifying Bush and the Memex without any mention of the long historical precedent of the commonplace book.

So for Bush’s greatest legacy, my answer would have to be his supervision and support of Claude Shannon’s work at MIT.

Replied to a tweet by rachel symerachel syme (Twitter)
I find myself regularly revisiting Vannevar Bush’s July 1945 essay As We May Think from The Atlantic.

 

Five: The Memex

This is just what Vannevar Bush suggests in his famous article As We May Think in the July 1945 issue of The Atlantic. Here he posits the Memex, and opens up the idea of networked information.

#HeyPresstoConf20


The internet itself could be though of as a massive living and ever-growing commonplace book which can be digitally queried to provide the answers to nearly every conceivable question.

(Some may forget that Bush was the thesis advisor of Claude Shannon, the father of the modern digital age.)

 

Replied to a thread by Timoni West, Trevor Flowers, Tantek Çelik (Twitter)
A concept closely related to the memex, but which significantly predated it is the commonplace book and definitely has some examples of that:
https://indieweb.org/commonplace_book

👓 The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral | Hopgood

Read The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral by Mike Caulfield (Hapgood)
Opening keynote for dLRN 2015. Delivered October 16th @ Stanford. Actual keynote may have gone on significant tangents… 1 | a year in the garden A week or so ago, I was reading about the Oreg…
A fantastic read. This makes me want to supplement my commonplace book here on the web with a wiki instance.

📖 Read pages 16-55 of A Mind at Play by Jimmy Soni & Rob Goodman

📖 Read pages 16-55 of A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age by Jimmy Soni & Rob Goodman

Knowing that I’ve read a lot about Shannon and even Vannevar Bush over the years, I’m pleasantly surprised to read some interesting tidbits about them that I’ve not previously come across.  I was a bit worried that this text wouldn’t provide me with much or anything new on the subjects at hand.

I’m really appreciating some of the prose and writing structure, particularly given that it’s a collaborative work between two authors. At times there are some really nonstandard sentence structures, but they’re wonderful in their rule breaking.

They’re doing an excellent job so far of explaining the more difficult pieces of science relating to information theory. In fact, some of the intro was as good as I think I’ve ever seen simple explanations of what is going on within the topic. I’m also pleased that they’ve made some interesting forays into topics like eugenics and the background role it played in the story for Shannon.

They had a chance to do a broader view of the history of computing, but opted against it, or at least must have made a conscious choice to leave out Babbage/Lovelace within the greater pantheon. I can see narratively why they may have done this knowing what is to come later in the text, but a few sentences as a nod would have been welcome.

The book does, however, get on my nerves with one of my personal pet peeves in popular science and biographical works like this: while there are reasonable notes at the end, absolutely no proper footnotes appear at the bottoms of pages or even indicators within the text other than pieces of text with quotation marks. I’m glad the notes even exist in the back, but it just drives me crazy that publishers blatantly hide them this way. The text could at least have had markers indicating where to find the notes. What are we? Animals?

Nota bene: I’m currently reading an advanced reader copy of this; the book won’t be out until mid-July 2017.