The Past and Who Has Access to It

What we know about the past—and who has access to such knowledge—has changed dramatically with each such change. The changes run far deeper than the mere proliferation of data points. As written records of large estates held in monasteries in France achieved legal and social dominance, the role of women as the tellers of the past fell into decline (Geary, 1994): The technological and the social were deeply intertwined. The outcome was that different kinds of records were kept. With the invention of the printing press, the progenitor of modern computing Charles Babbage (1837) proclaimed that, until the invention of printing, “the mass of mankind were in many respects almost the creatures of instinct” (p. 59). Now, the great were encouraged to write, knowing that “they may accelerate the approaching dawn of that day which shall pour a flood of light over the darkened intellects of their thankless countrymen,” seeking “that higher homage, alike independent of space and time, which their memory shall for ever receive from the good and the gifted of all countries and all ages” (p. 54). Since printing, the rate of progress of humanity has “vastly accelerated”; over the past three or four centuries “man, considered as a species, has commenced the development of his intellectual faculties” (ibid.). The language is overblown, but the possibility of conversations across the ages (Landor, 1882) through access to table talk in salons as well as philosophical tracts has indeed changed our relationship with the past.


The past was once only available through memory, then only available to those who had access to records, and now available to everyone.

Folksonomies: history heirarchy

/art and entertainment/music/recording industry/record labels (0.559120)
/technology and computing/software/databases (0.376296)
/technology and computing/hardware/computer (0.335786)

computing Charles Babbage (0.970598 (positive:0.334556)), mere proliferation (0.761157 (negative:-0.323819)), social dominance (0.721593 (neutral:0.000000)), thankless countrymen (0.721089 (neutral:0.000000)), data points (0.719676 (negative:-0.323819)), darkened intellects (0.717040 (neutral:0.000000)), large estates (0.716311 (neutral:0.000000)), different kinds (0.708428 (neutral:0.000000)), higher homage (0.698987 (positive:0.616023)), intellectual faculties (0.692659 (neutral:0.000000)), philosophical tracts (0.687874 (positive:0.353494)), table talk (0.685980 (positive:0.353494)), access (0.627005 (positive:0.078699)), past (0.589225 (negative:-0.074888)), records (0.577977 (negative:-0.274795)), invention (0.523951 (positive:0.329853)), memory (0.512459 (positive:0.661108)), p. (0.492548 (neutral:0.000000)), ages (0.490929 (positive:0.259990)), progenitor (0.478089 (positive:0.334556)), Geary (0.475436 (neutral:0.000000)), respects (0.475261 (neutral:0.000000)), tellers (0.474824 (negative:-0.428382)), printing (0.473719 (positive:0.274874)), instinct (0.465601 (neutral:0.000000)), outcome (0.465202 (neutral:0.000000)), monasteries (0.464594 (neutral:0.000000)), mankind (0.463164 (neutral:0.000000)), gifted (0.462842 (positive:0.661108)), decline (0.462834 (negative:-0.428382))

Charles Babbage:Person (0.898835 (positive:0.334556)), Geary:Person (0.781615 (neutral:0.000000)), France:Country (0.745693 (neutral:0.000000)), Landor:Person (0.740003 (neutral:0.000000)), four centuries:Quantity (0.740003 (neutral:0.000000))

Printing press (0.935375): dbpedia | freebase
Printing (0.789734): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Charles Babbage (0.787098): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Movable type (0.764534): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Johannes Gutenberg (0.742041): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Change (0.724040): dbpedia
Time (0.713575): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Computer (0.709189): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The Past and the Internet
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book Chapter:  Bowker, Geoffrey C. (2007), The Past and the Internet, Retrieved on 2013-06-29
Folksonomies: information post modernism