“An enquire program capable of external hypertext links was the difference between imprisonnment and freedom, dark and light.”
– Tim Berners-Lee
The breakthrough by Berners-Lee, creating the key components of the World Wide Web, including a systematic means by which computers can “communicate” with each other (HTTP) and an “address system” (URI) which allowed for the infinite expansion of the Internet, meant that Vannebar Bush’s hypothetical dream of the memex materialized. The implications of this is that both the user and the world’s information was “freed” from the confines of a solitary library or database. In fact, it has made a “library” of the world omnipresent, allowing for unparalleled cooperation, access, and growth.
The “trail” has been a word aptly used by both Vannabear Bush and Edward L. Ayers in order to describe the revolutionary new form of viewing, organizing, and transforming of information which “hyperlinks” (and the Internet at large) has afforded the world. I do not believe that the impact of the “trail”, the way in which users can seamlessly go from topic to topic (made possible by the collaboration by others), can be emphasized enough. In a sense, it solves one of Bush’s initial concerns- that the ever-increasing mass of information would become inconsequential because access to it would become worse as the body of knowledge broadened. In addition to the infinite pathways that hyperlinks grant the the user, the world wide web has made the retrieving of a single article of interest, even from a database of millions, easier than making pasta (or helps them make pasta too apparently…). Like Ayers explains, not only what but also how information is conveyed has allowed for the building of new kinds of narratives and thus the advent of collaborative works like Wikipedia, Youtube, and historical websites like the one showed in class.
From the readings more generally I felt a sense of overwhelming optimism, and with some reservations not mentioned in the earlier works (namely those frisky providers, censorship, and net neutrality) I would agree with them. Like the Ancient Library of Alexandria, the Internet has become a hub in which great minds can find, exchange, and preserve their works and that of others- although the contents of the world wide web has become infinetly more voluminous than the legendary Library of Alexandria.