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Page history last edited by Mary Maguire 12 years, 7 months ago

The premise of a Librocentric society is that as a society we validate knowledge once it is in a book, and further in a library due to the idea that the physical books are representations of the knowledge they contain.  Jacques Derrida talks about "the book to come" in the sense that the book is not pages, print, and binding, but the knowledge contained within and our "librocentric" society will shift to whatever format will replace the bound pages of the current book.


The idea of a "book of the world" is that you can put everything into it, collect all knowledge into one place, and from that one book understand the world. In abstract, our vision of the internet. The idea that everything important can be put into a container, free for dispersal.




Wikipedia can be seen as this potential new format of the "book" since it is a large collection of knowledge.  It is like an entire library worth of knowledge contained within an internet browser that is constantly growing. While the information in Wikipedia is growing rapidly there are some questions to its accuracy given the way this information is collected. This unstable and dynamic nature of Wikipedia goes against our idea that knowledge should be stored in a physically stable environment - such as a book in a library - to be valued. Wikipedia is judged based on the criteria derived from the existence of the book.


The Book and the Library 

Another contradiction to the idea of the Librocentric world is found when we look into our history before the book. The Library of Alexandria was one of the wonders of the ancient world. This library is thought to have been the depository for most of human knowledge in its time, approximately 300 B.C., but you would not find many, if any, books inside it. The knowledge stored in this great complex was mostly handwritten original works recorded on scrolls and papers made of animal skins, papyrus, or other materials. These scrolls and papers at the Library of Alexandria further back


One of the reasons that the book format is still preferred by most to that of the hard drive or the internet is that there is its physicality and therefore a notion that somehow the book is more stable, and in turn more reliable. 


Even today, the book still has a quasi-religious or sacred compontent to it, which is no coincidence. Books developed parallel to the rise of religion and the Bible was the first book printed by the printing press. This quasi-sacred componenet is where people get the notion that a book is "cleansed" when it is burned, obviously one shared by the religious protestors of the "Harry Potter" books. Also, burning a book is a more powerful jesture of disapproval than say deleting a webpage, again, due to its physicality, the amount of work put into the creation process, and the time it takes to both make and destroy that solid object. A digital article can be simply copied and pasted into a differnet space, but a book takes more time and resources to produce.



The idea of the library works because it is in the human nature (or habit) to group similar objects together. Books are a gathering of pages, and the library is a gathering of books. The library would not function if it did not allow for dispersion of the books - for the readers to be able to check them out of the library. Fortunately, Wikipedia does allow for dispersion without the risk of losing the knowledge if the "book" (or the article in this case) is not returned.



Before the Book

Going further back into our own history there was a time when writing, in any medium, was not the way people preserved knowledge. Most societies evolved from an oral tradition. Storytelling was the way that history and knowledge were passed from person to person and generation to generation. Knowledge was stored in the minds of the people and the relating of this knowledge was interactive. The storyteller and the audience interacted to shape, change, and enhance the narrative. Furthermore, each storyteller brought to the telling his own input and style.


(Dave: Good start, but perhaps reference and develop a bit more, especially now that we have covered Derrida's the book to come from where this came. Include examples--Wikipedia, the Book of Nature, also discuss relation to library and how this is a specific way of thinking about knowledge.)


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