Remembering the Memex
The opening chapter takes Vannevar Bush’s 1945 essay “As We May Think” as a tutor text that helps us to understand the transformation of writing as it moves into the age of computing. Instead of celebrating Bush’s foresight, Punday treats this essay as providing a diagnosis of the difficulties that arise when we try to use writing as a model for knowledge production and dissemination in a digital age. Bush’s essay is profoundly ambivalent about the relationship between the consumption of prior knowledge through reading documents and the production of new knowledge. Bush clearly explains how we move through an archive of prior research by creating a “trail” that is uniquely our own, but he is not at all clear about how this trail produces new research. Chapter 1 reveals that writing means two different things both in Bush’s essay and in contemporary culture in general: it can mean work produced in a professional, academic, or corporate context that engages with shared resources, or it can mean an activity broadly literary in nature that allows an individual to produce a work creatively using accessible, mundane tools.
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