Adema
The Ethics of Emergent Creativity: Can We Move Beyond Writing as Human Enterprise, Commodity and Innovation?
2019


# 3\. The Ethics of Emergent Creativity: Can We Move Beyond Writing as Human
Enterprise, Commodity and Innovation?

Janneke Adema

© 2019 Janneke Adema, CC BY 4.0
[https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0159.03](https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0159.03)

In 2013, the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society
(ALCS)[1](ch3.xhtml#footnote-152) commissioned a survey of its members to
explore writers’ earnings and contractual issues in the UK. The survey, the
results of which were published in the summary booklet ‘What Are Words Worth
Now?’, was carried out by Queen Mary, University of London. Almost 2,500
writers — from literary authors to academics and screenwriters — responded.
‘What Are Words Worth Now?’ summarises the findings of a larger study titled
‘The Business Of Being An Author: A Survey Of Authors’ Earnings And
Contracts’, carried out by Johanna Gibson, Phillip Johnson and Gaetano Dimita
and published in April 2015 by Queen Mary University of
London.[2](ch3.xhtml#footnote-151) The ALCS press release that accompanies the
study states that this ‘shocking’ new research into authors’ earnings finds a
‘dramatic fall, both in incomes, and the number of those working full-time as
writers’.[3](ch3.xhtml#footnote-150) Indeed, two of the main findings of the
study are that, first of all, the income of a professional author (which the
research defines as those who dedicate the majority of their time to writing)
has dropped 29% between 2005 and 2013, from £12,330 (£15,450 in real terms) to
just £11,000. Furthermore, the research found that in 2005 40% of professional
authors earned their incomes solely from writing, where in 2013 this figure
had dropped to just 11.5%.[4](ch3.xhtml#footnote-149)

It seems that one of the primary reasons for the ALCS to conduct this survey
was to collect ‘accurate, independent data’ on writers’ earnings and
contractual issues, in order for the ALCS to ‘make the case for authors’
rights’ — at least, that is what the ALCS Chief Executive Owen Atkinson writes
in the introduction accompanying the survey, which was sent out to all ALCS
members.[5](ch3.xhtml#footnote-148) Yet although this research was conducted
independently and the researchers did not draw conclusions based on the data
collected — in the form of policy recommendations for example — the ALCS did
frame the data and findings in a very specific way, as I will outline in what
follows; this framing includes both the introduction to the survey and the
press release that accompanies the survey’s findings. Yet to some extent this
framing, as I will argue, is already apparent in the methodology used to
produce the data underlying the research report.

First of all, let me provide an example of how the research findings have been
framed in a specific way. Chief Executive Atkinson mentions in his
introduction to the survey that the ALCS ‘exists to ensure that writers are
treated fairly and remunerated appropriately’. He continues that the ALCS
commissioned the survey to collect ‘accurate, independent data,’ in order to
‘make the case for writers’ rights’.[6](ch3.xhtml#footnote-147) Now this focus
on rights in combination with remuneration is all the more noteworthy if we
look at an earlier ALCS funded report from 2007, ‘Authors’ Earnings from
Copyright and Non-Copyright Sources: a Survey of 25,000 British and German
Writers’. This report is based on the findings of a 2006 writers’ survey,
which the 2013 survey updates. The 2007 report argues conclusively that
current copyright law has empirically failed to ensure that authors receive
appropriate reward or remuneration for the use of their
work.[7](ch3.xhtml#footnote-146) The data from the subsequent 2013 survey show
an even bleaker picture as regards the earnings of writers. Yet Atkinson
argues in the press release accompanying the findings of the 2013 survey that
‘if writers are to continue making their irreplaceable contribution to the UK
economy, they need to be paid fairly for their work. This means ensuring
clear, fair contracts with equitable terms and a copyright regime that support
creators and their ability to earn a living from their
creations’.[8](ch3.xhtml#footnote-145) Atkinson does not outline what this
copyright regime should be, nor does he draw attention to how this model could
be improved. More importantly, the fact that a copyright model is needed to
ensure fair pay stands uncontested for Atkinson and the ALCS — not surprising
perhaps, as protecting and promoting the rights of authors is the primary
mission of this member society. If there is any culprit to be held responsible
for the study’s ‘shocking’ findings, it is the elusive and further undefined
notion of ‘the digital’. According to Atkinson, digital technology is
increasingly challenging the mission of the ALCS to ensure fair remuneration
for writers, since it is ‘driving new markets and leading the copyright
debate’.[9](ch3.xhtml#footnote-144) The 2013 study is therefore, as Atkinson
states ‘the first to capture the impact of the digital revolution on writers’
working lives’.[10](ch3.xhtml#footnote-143) This statement is all the more
striking if we take into consideration that none of the questions in the 2013
survey focus specifically on digital publishing.[11](ch3.xhtml#footnote-142)
It therefore seems that — despite earlier findings — the ALCS has already
decided in advance what ‘the digital’ is and that a copyright regime is the
only way to ensure fair remuneration for writers in a digital context.

## Creative Industries

This strong uncontested link between copyright and remuneration can be traced
back to various other aspects of the 2015 report and its release. For example,
the press release draws a strong connection between the findings of the report
and the development of the creative industries in the UK. Again, Atkinson
states in the press release:

These are concerning times for writers. This rapid decline in both author
incomes and in the numbers of those writing full-time could have serious
implications for the economic success of the creative industries in the
UK.[12](ch3.xhtml#footnote-141)

This connection to the creative industries — ‘which are now worth £71.4
billion per year to the UK economy’,[13](ch3.xhtml#footnote-140) Atkinson
points out — is not surprising where the discourse around creative industries
maintains a clear bond between intellectual property rights and creative
labour. As Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter state in their MyCreativity Reader,
the creative industries consist of ‘the generation and exploitation of
intellectual property’.[14](ch3.xhtml#footnote-139) Here they refer to a
definition created as part of the UK Government’s Creative Industries Mapping
Document,[15](ch3.xhtml#footnote-138) which states that the creative
industries are ‘those industries which have their origin in individual
creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job
creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property’.
Lovink and Rossiter point out that the relationship between IP and creative
labour lies at the basis of the definition of the creative industries where,
as they argue, this model of creativity assumes people only create to produce
economic value. This is part of a larger trend Wendy Brown has described as
being quintessentially neoliberal, where ‘neoliberal rationality disseminates
the model of the market to all domains and activities’ — and this includes the
realm of politics and rights.[16](ch3.xhtml#footnote-137) In this sense the
economization of culture and the concept of creativity is something that has
become increasingly embedded and naturalised. The exploitation of intellectual
property stands at the basis of the creative industries model, in which
cultural value — which can be seen as intricate, complex and manifold —
becomes subordinated to the model of the market; it becomes economic
value.[17](ch3.xhtml#footnote-136)

This direct association of cultural value and creativity with economic value
is apparent in various other facets of the ALCS commissioned research and
report. Obviously, the title of the initial summary booklet, as a form of
wordplay, asks ‘What are words worth?’. It becomes clear from the context of
the survey that the ‘worth’ of words will only be measured in a monetary
sense, i.e. as economic value. Perhaps even more important to understand in
this context, however, is how this economic worth of words is measured and
determined by focusing on two fixed and predetermined entities in advance.
First of all, the study focuses on individual human agents of creativity (i.e.
creators contributing economic value): the value of writing is established by
collecting data and making measurements at the level of individual authorship,
addressing authors/writers as singular individuals throughout the survey.
Secondly, economic worth is further determined by focusing on the fixed and
stable creative objects authors produce, in other words the study establishes
from the outset a clear link between the worth and value of writing and
economic remuneration based on individual works of
writing.[18](ch3.xhtml#footnote-135) Therefore in this process of determining
the economic worth of words, ‘writers’ and/or ‘authors’ are described and
positioned in a certain way in this study (i.e. as the central agents and
originators of creative objects), as is the form their creativity takes in the
shape of quantifiable outputs or commodities. The value of both these units of
measurement (the creator and the creative objects) are then set off against
the growth of the creative industries in the press release.

The ALCS commissioned survey provides some important insights into how
authorship, cultural works and remuneration — and ultimately, creativity — is
currently valued, specifically in the context of the creative industries
discourse in the UK. What I have tried to point out — without wanting to
downplay the importance either of writers receiving fair remuneration for
their work or of issues related to the sustainability of creative processes —
is that the findings from this survey have both been extracted and
subsequently framed based on a very specific economic model of creativity (and
authorship). According to this model, writing and creativity are sustained
most clearly by an individual original creator (an author) who extracts value
from the work s/he creates and distributes, aided by an intellectual property
rights regime. As I will outline more in depth in what follows, the enduring
liberal and humanist presumptions that underlie this survey continuously
reinforce the links between the value of writing and established IP and
remuneration regimes, and support a vision in which authorship and creativity
are dependent on economic incentives and ownership of works. By working within
this framework and with these predetermined concepts of authorship and
creativity (and ‘the digital’) the ALCS is strongly committed to the upkeep of
a specific model and discourse of creativity connected to the creative
industries. The ALCS does not attempt to complicate this model, nor does it
search for alternatives even when, as the 2007 report already implies, the
existing IP model has empirically failed to support the remuneration of
writers appropriately.

I want to use this ALCS survey as a reference point to start problematising
existing constructions of creativity, authorship, ownership, and
sustainability in relation to the ethics of publishing. To explore what ‘words
are worth’ and to challenge the hegemonic liberal humanist model of creativity
— to which the ALCS adheres — I will examine a selection of theoretical and
practical publishing and writing alternatives, from relational and posthuman
authorship to radical open access and uncreative writing. These alternatives
do not deny the importance of fair remuneration and sustainability for the
creative process; however, they want to foreground and explore creative
relationalities that move beyond the individual author and her ownership of
creative objects as the only model to support creativity and cultural
exchange. By looking at alternatives while at the same time complicating the
values and assumptions underlying the dominant narrative for IP expansion, I
want to start imagining what more ethical, fair and emergent forms of
creativity might entail. Forms that take into consideration the various
distributed and entangled agencies involved in the creation of cultural
content — which are presently not being included in the ALCS survey on fair
remuneration, for example. As I will argue, a reconsideration of the liberal
and humanist model of creativity might actually create new possibilities to
consider the value of words, and with that perhaps new solutions to the
problems pointed out in the ALCS study.

## Relational and Distributed Authorship

One of the main critiques of the liberal humanist model of authorship concerns
how it privileges the author as the sole source and origin of creativity. Yet
the argument has been made, both from a historical perspective and in relation
to today’s networked digital environment, that authorship and creativity, and
with that the value and worth of that creativity, are heavily
distributed.[19](ch3.xhtml#footnote-134) Should we therefore think about how
we can distribute notions of authorship and creativity more ethically when
defining the worth and value of words too? Would this perhaps mean a more
thorough investigation of what and who the specific agencies involved in
creative production are? This seems all the more important given that, today,
‘the value of words’ is arguably connected not to (distributed) authors or
creative agencies, but to rights holders (or their intermediaries such as
agents).[20](ch3.xhtml#footnote-133) From this perspective, the problem with
the copyright model as it currently functions is that the creators of
copyright don’t necessarily end up benefiting from it — a point that was also
implied by the authors of the 2007 ALCS commissioned report. Copyright
benefits rights holders, and rights holders are not necessarily, and often not
at all, involved in the production of creative work.

Yet copyright and the work as object are knit tightly to the authorship
construct. In this respect, the above criticism notwithstanding, in a liberal
vision of creativity and ownership the typical unit remains either the author
or the work. This ‘solid and fundamental unit of the author and the work’ as
Foucault has qualified it, albeit challenged, still retains a privileged
position.[21](ch3.xhtml#footnote-132) As Mark Rose argues, authorship — as a
relatively recent cultural formation — can be directly connected to the
commodification of writing and to proprietorship. Even more it developed in
tandem with the societal principle of possessive individualism, in which
individual property rights are protected by the social
order.[22](ch3.xhtml#footnote-131)

Some of the more interesting recent critiques of these constructs of
authorship and proprietorship have come from critical and feminist legal
studies, where scholars such as Carys Craig have started to question these
connections further. As Craig, Turcotte and Coombe argue, IP and copyright are
premised on liberal and neoliberal assumptions and constructs, such as
ownership, private rights, self-interest and
individualism.[23](ch3.xhtml#footnote-130) In this sense copyright,
authorship, the work as object, and related discourses around creativity
continuously re-establish and strengthen each other as part of a self-
sustaining system. We have seen this with the discourse around creative
industries, as part of which economic value comes to stand in for the creative
process itself, which, according to this narrative, can only be sustained
through an IP regime. Furthermore, from a feminist new materialist position,
the current discourse on creativity is very much a material expression of
creativity rather than merely its representation, where this discourse has
been classifying, constructing, and situating creativity (and with that,
authorship) within a neoliberal framework of creative industries.

Moving away from an individual construct of creativity therefore immediately
affects the question of the value of words. In our current copyright model
emphasis lies on the individual original author, but in a more distributed
vision the value of words and of creative production can be connected to a
broader context of creative agencies. Historically there has been a great
discursive shift from a valuing of imitation or derivation to a valuing of
originality in determining what counts as creativity or creative output.
Similar to Rose, Craig, Turcotte and Coombe argue that the individuality and
originality of authorship in its modern form established a simple route
towards individual ownership and the propertisation of creative achievement:
the original work is the author’s ownership whereas the imitator or pirate is
a trespasser of thief. In this sense original authorship is
‘disproportionately valued against other forms of cultural expression and
creative play’, where copyright upholds, maintains and strengthens the binary
between imitator and creator — defined by Craig, Turcotte and Coombe as a
‘moral divide’.[24](ch3.xhtml#footnote-129) This also presupposes a notion of
creativity that sees individuals as autonomous, living in isolation from each
other, ignoring their relationality. Yet as Craig, Turcotte and Coombe argue,
‘the act of writing involves not origination, but rather the adaptation,
derivation, translation and recombination of “raw material” taken from
previously existing texts’.[25](ch3.xhtml#footnote-128) This position has also
been explored extensively from within remix studies and fan culture, where the
adaptation and remixing of cultural content stands at the basis of creativity
(what Lawrence Lessig has called Read/Write culture, opposed to Read/Only
culture).[26](ch3.xhtml#footnote-127) From the perspective of access to
culture — instead of ownership of cultural goods or objects — one could also
argue that its value would increase when we are able to freely distribute it
and with that to adapt and remix it to create new cultural content and with
that cultural and social value — this within a context in which, as Craig,
Turcotte and Coombe point out, ‘the continuous expansion of intellectual
property rights has produced legal regimes that restrict access and downstream
use of information resources far beyond what is required to encourage their
creation’[27](ch3.xhtml#footnote-126)

To move beyond Enlightenment ideals of individuation, detachment and unity of
author and work, which determine the author-owner in the copyright model,
Craig puts forward a post-structuralist vision of relational authorship. This
sees the individual as socially situated and constituted — based also on
feminist scholarship into the socially situated self — where authorship in
this vision is situated within the communities in which it exists, but also in
relation to the texts and discourses that constitute it. Here creativity takes
place from within a network of social relations and the social dimensions of
authorship are recognised, as connectivity goes hand in hand with individual
autonomy. Craig argues that copyright should not be defined out of clashing
rights and interests but should instead focus on the kinds of relationships
this right would structure; it should be understood in relational terms: ‘it
structures relationships between authors and users, allocating powers and
responsibilities amongst members of cultural communities, and establishing the
rules of communication and exchange’.[28](ch3.xhtml#footnote-125) Cultural
value is then defined within these relationships.

## Open Access and the Ethics of Care

Craig, Turcotte and Coombe draw a clear connection between relational
authorship, feminism and (the ideals of) the open access movement, where as
they state, ‘rather than adhering to the individuated form of authorship that
intellectual property laws presuppose, open access initiatives take into
account varying forms of collaboration, creativity and
development’.[29](ch3.xhtml#footnote-124) Yet as I and others have argued
elsewhere,[30](ch3.xhtml#footnote-123) open access or open access publishing
is not a solid ideological block or model; it is made up of disparate groups,
visions and ethics. In this sense there is nothing intrinsically political or
democratic about open access, practitioners of open access can just as well be
seen to support and encourage open access in connection with the neoliberal
knowledge economy, with possessive individualism — even with CC licenses,
which can be seen as strengthening individualism —[31](ch3.xhtml#footnote-122)
and with the unity of author and work.[32](ch3.xhtml#footnote-121)

Nevertheless, there are those within the loosely defined and connected
‘radical open access community’, that do envision their publishing outlook and
relationship towards copyright, openness and authorship within and as part of
a relational ethics of care.[33](ch3.xhtml#footnote-120) For example Mattering
Press, a scholar-led open access book publishing initiative founded in 2012
and launched in 2016, publishes in the field of Science and Technology Studies
(STS) and works with a production model based on cooperation and shared
scholarship. As part of its publishing politics, ethos and ideology, Mattering
Press is therefore keen to include various agencies involved in the production
of scholarship, including ‘authors, reviewers, editors, copy editors, proof
readers, typesetters, distributers, designers, web developers and
readers’.[34](ch3.xhtml#footnote-119) They work with two interrelated feminist
(new materialist) and STS concepts to structure and perform this ethos:
mattering[35](ch3.xhtml#footnote-118) and care.[36](ch3.xhtml#footnote-117)
Where it concerns mattering, Mattering Press is conscious of how their
experiment in knowledge production, being inherently situated, puts new
relationships and configurations into the world. What therefore matters for
them are not so much the ‘author’ or the ‘outcome’ (the object), but the
process and the relationships that make up publishing:

[…] the way academic texts are produced matters — both analytically and
politically. Dominant publishing practices work with assumptions about the
conditions of academic knowledge production that rarely reflect what goes on
in laboratories, field sites, university offices, libraries, and various
workshops and conferences. They tend to deal with almost complete manuscripts
and a small number of authors, who are greatly dependent on the politics of
the publishing industry.[37](ch3.xhtml#footnote-116)

For Mattering Press care is something that extends not only to authors but to
the many other actants involved in knowledge production, who often provide
free volunteer labour within a gift economy context. As Mattering Press
emphasises, the ethics of care ‘mark vital relations and practices whose value
cannot be calculated and thus often goes unacknowledged where logics of
calculation are dominant’.[38](ch3.xhtml#footnote-115) For Mattering Press,
care can help offset and engage with the calculative logic that permeates
academic publishing:

[…] the concept of care can help to engage with calculative logics, such as
those of costs, without granting them dominance. How do we calculate so that
calculations do not dominate our considerations? What would it be to care for
rather than to calculate the cost of a book? This is but one and arguably a
relatively conservative strategy for allowing other logics than those of
calculation to take centre stage in publishing.[39](ch3.xhtml#footnote-114)

This logic of care refers, in part, to making visible the ‘unseen others’ as
Joe Deville (one of Mattering Press’s editors) calls them, who exemplify the
plethora of hidden labour that goes unnoticed within this object and author-
focused (academic) publishing model. As Endre Danyi, another Mattering Press
editor, remarks, quoting Susan Leigh Star: ‘This is, in the end, a profoundly
political process, since so many forms of social control rely on the erasure
or silencing of various workers, on deleting their work from representations
of the work’.[40](ch3.xhtml#footnote-113)

## Posthuman Authorship

Authorship is also being reconsidered as a polyvocal and collaborative
endeavour by reflecting on the agentic role of technology in authoring
content. Within digital literature, hypertext and computer-generated poetry,
media studies scholars have explored the role played by technology and the
materiality of text in the creation process, where in many ways writing can be
seen as a shared act between reader, writer and computer. Lori Emerson
emphasises that machines, media or technology are not neutral in this respect,
which complicates the idea of human subjectivity. Emerson explores this
through the notion of ‘cyborg authorship’, which examines the relation between
machine and human with a focus on the potentiality of in-
betweenness.[41](ch3.xhtml#footnote-112) Dani Spinosa talks about
‘collaboration with an external force (the computer, MacProse, technology in
general)’.[42](ch3.xhtml#footnote-111) Extending from the author, the text
itself, and the reader as meaning-writer (and hence playing a part in the
author function), technology, she states, is a fourth term in this
collaborative meaning-making. As Spinosa argues, in computer-generated texts
the computer is more than a technological tool and becomes a co-producer,
where it can occur that ‘the poet herself merges with the machine in order to
place her own subjectivity in flux’.[43](ch3.xhtml#footnote-110) Emerson calls
this a ‘break from the model of the poet/writer as divinely inspired human
exemplar’, which is exemplified for her in hypertext, computer-generated
poetry, and digital poetry.[44](ch3.xhtml#footnote-109)

Yet in many ways, as Emerson and Spinosa also note, these forms of posthuman
authorship should be seen as part of a larger trend, what Rolf Hughes calls an
‘anti-authorship’ tradition focused on auto-poesis (self-making), generative
systems and automatic writing. As Hughes argues, we see this tradition in
print forms such as Oulipo and in Dada experiments and surrealist games
too.[45](ch3.xhtml#footnote-108) But there are connections here with broader
theories that focus on distributed agency too, especially where it concerns
the influence of the materiality of the text. Media theorists such as N.
Katherine Hayles and Johanna Drucker have extensively argued that the
materiality of the page is entangled with the intentionality of the author as
a further agency; Drucker conceptualises this through a focus on ‘conditional
texts’ and ‘performative materiality’ with respect to the agency of the
material medium (be it the printed page or the digital
screen).[46](ch3.xhtml#footnote-107)

Where, however, does the redistribution of value creation end in these
narratives? As Nick Montfort states with respect to the agency of technology,
‘should other important and inspirational mechanisms — my CD player, for
instance, and my bookshelves — get cut in on the action as
well?’[47](ch3.xhtml#footnote-106) These distributed forms of authorship do
not solve issues related to authorship or remuneration but further complicate
them. Nevertheless Montfort is interested in describing the processes involved
in these types of (posthuman) co-authorship, to explore the (previously
unexplored) relationships and processes involved in the authoring of texts
more clearly. As he states, this ‘can help us understand the role of the
different participants more fully’.[48](ch3.xhtml#footnote-105) In this
respect a focus on posthuman authorship and on the various distributed
agencies that play a part in creative processes is not only a means to disrupt
the hegemonic focus on a romantic single and original authorship model, but it
is also about a sensibility to (machinic) co-authorship, to the different
agencies involved in the creation of art, and playing a role in creativity
itself. As Emerson remarks in this respect: ‘we must be wary of granting a
(romantic) specialness to human intentionality — after all, the point of
dividing the responsibility for the creation of the poems between human and
machine is to disrupt the singularity of human identity, to force human
identity to intermingle with machine identity’.[49](ch3.xhtml#footnote-104)

## Emergent Creativity

This more relational notion of rights and the wider appreciation of the
various (posthuman) agencies involved in creative processes based on an ethics
of care, challenges the vision of the single individualised and original
author/owner who stands at the basis of our copyright and IP regime — a vision
that, it is worth emphasising, can be seen as a historical (and Western)
anomaly, where collaborative, anonymous, and more polyvocal models of
authorship have historically prevailed.[50](ch3.xhtml#footnote-103) The other
side of the Foucauldian double bind, i.e. the fixed cultural object that
functions as a commodity, has however been similarly critiqued from several
angles. As stated before, and as also apparent from the way the ALCS report
has been framed, currently our copyright and remuneration regime is based on
ownership of cultural objects. Yet as many have already made clear, this
regime and discourse is very much based on physical objects and on a print-
based context.[51](ch3.xhtml#footnote-102) As such the idea of ‘text’ (be it
print or digital) has not been sufficiently problematised as versioned,
processual and materially changing within an IP context. In other words, text
and works are mostly perceived as fixed and stable objects and commodities
instead of material and creative processes and entangled relationalities. As
Craig et al. state, ‘the copyright system is unfortunately employed to
reinforce the norms of the analog world’.[52](ch3.xhtml#footnote-101) In
contrast to a more relational perspective, the current copyright regime views
culture through a proprietary lens. And it is very much this discursive
positioning, or as Craig et al. argue ‘the language of “ownership,”
“property,” and “commodity”’, which ‘obfuscates the nature of copyright’s
subject matter, and cloaks the social and cultural conditions of its
production and the implications of its
protection’.[53](ch3.xhtml#footnote-100) How can we approach creativity in
context, as socially and culturally situated, and not as the free-standing,
stable product of a transcendent author, which is very much how it is being
positioned within an economic and copyright framework? This hegemonic
conception of creativity as property fails to acknowledge or take into
consideration the manifold, distributed, derivative and messy realities of
culture and creativity.

It is therefore important to put forward and promote another more emergent
vision of creativity, where creativity is seen as both processual and only
ever temporarily fixed, and where the work itself is seen as being the product
of a variety of (posthuman) agencies. Interestingly, someone who has written
very elaborately about a different form of creativity relevant to this context
is one of the authors of the ALCS commissioned report, Johanna Gibson. Similar
to Craig, who focuses on the relationality of copyright, Gibson wants to pay
more attention to the networking of creativity, moving it beyond a focus on
traditional models of producers and consumers in exchange for a ‘many-to-many’
model of creativity. For Gibson, IP as a system aligns with a corporate model
of creativity, one which oversimplifies what it means to be creative and
measures it against economic parameters alone.[54](ch3.xhtml#footnote-099) In
many ways in policy driven visions, IP has come to stand in for the creative
process itself, Gibson argues, and is assimilated within corporate models of
innovation. It has thus become a synonym for creativity, as we have seen in
the creative industries discourse. As Gibson explains, this simplified model
of creativity is very much a ‘discursive strategy’ in which the creator is
mythologised and output comes in the form of commodified
objects.[55](ch3.xhtml#footnote-098) In this sense we need to re-appropriate
creativity as an inherently fluid and uncertain concept and practice.

Yet this mimicry of creativity by IP and innovation at the same time means
that any re-appropriation of creativity from the stance of access and reuse is
targeted as anti-IP and thus as standing outside of formal creativity. Other,
more emergent forms of creativity have trouble existing within this self-
defining and sustaining hegemonic system. This is similar to what Craig
remarked with respect to remixed, counterfeit and pirated, and un-original
works, which are seen as standing outside the system. Gibson uses actor
network theory (ANT) as a framework to construct her network-based model of
creativity, where for her ANT allows for a vision that does not fix creativity
within a product, but focuses more on the material relationships and
interactions between users and producers. In this sense, she argues, a network
model allows for plural agencies to be attributed to creativity, including
those of users.[56](ch3.xhtml#footnote-097)

An interesting example of how the hegemonic object-based discourse of
creativity can be re-appropriated comes from the conceptual poet Kenneth
Goldsmith, who, in what could be seen as a direct response to this dominant
narrative, tries to emphasise that exactly what this discourse classifies as
‘uncreative’, should be seen as valuable in itself. Goldsmith points out that
appropriating is creative and that he uses it as a pedagogical method in his
classes on ‘Uncreative Writing’ (which he defines as ‘the art of managing
information and representing it as writing’[57](ch3.xhtml#footnote-096)). Here
‘uncreative writing’ is something to strive for and stealing, copying, and
patchwriting are elevated as important and valuable tools for writing. For
Goldsmith the digital environment has fostered new skills and notions of
writing beyond the print-based concepts of originality and authorship: next to
copying, editing, reusing and remixing texts, the management and manipulation
of information becomes an essential aspect of
creativity.[58](ch3.xhtml#footnote-095) Uncreative writing involves a
repurposing and appropriation of existing texts and works, which then become
materials or building blocks for further works. In this sense Goldsmith
critiques the idea of texts or works as being fixed when asking, ‘if artefacts
are always in flux, when is a historical work determined to be
“finished”?’[59](ch3.xhtml#footnote-094) At the same time, he argues, our
identities are also in flux and ever shifting, turning creative writing into a
post-identity literature.[60](ch3.xhtml#footnote-093) Machines play important
roles in uncreative writing, as active agents in the ‘managing of
information’, which is then again represented as writing, and is seen by
Goldsmith as a bridge between human-centred writing and full-blown
‘robopoetics’ (literature written by machines, for machines). Yet Goldsmith is
keen to emphasise that these forms of uncreative writing are not beholden to
the digital medium, and that pre-digital examples are plentiful in conceptual
literature and poetry. He points out — again by a discursive re-appropriation
of what creativity is or can be — that sampling, remixing and appropriation
have been the norm in other artistic and creative media for decades. The
literary world is lagging behind in this respect, where, despite the
experiments by modernist writers, it continues neatly to delineate avant-garde
from more general forms of writing. Yet as Goldsmith argues the digital has
started to disrupt this distinction again, moving beyond ‘analogue’ notions of
writing, and has fuelled with it the idea that there might be alternative
notions of writing: those currently perceived as
uncreative.[61](ch3.xhtml#footnote-092)

## Conclusion

There are two addendums to the argument I have outlined above that I would
like to include here. First of all, I would like to complicate and further
critique some of the preconceptions still inherent in the relational and
networked copyright models as put forward by Craig et al. and Gibson. Both are
in many ways reformist and ‘responsive’ models. Gibson, for example, does not
want to do away with IP rights, she wants them to develop and adapt to mirror
society more accurately according to a networked model of creativity. For her,
the law is out of tune with its public, and she wants to promote a more
inclusive networked (copy) rights model.[62](ch3.xhtml#footnote-091) For Craig
too, relationalities are established and structured by rights first and
foremost. Yet from a posthuman perspective we need to be conscious of how the
other actants involved in creativity would fall outside such a humanist and
subjective rights model.[63](ch3.xhtml#footnote-090) From texts and
technologies themselves to the wider environmental context and to other
nonhuman entities and objects: in what sense will a copyright model be able to
extend such a network beyond an individualised liberal humanist human subject?
What do these models exclude in this respect and in what sense are they still
limited by their adherence to a rights model that continues to rely on
humanist nodes in a networked or relational model? As Anna Munster has argued
in a talk about the case of the monkey selfie, copyright is based on a logic
of exclusion that does not line up with the assemblages of agentic processes
that make up creativity and creative expression.[64](ch3.xhtml#footnote-089)
How can we appreciate the relational and processual aspects of identity, which
both Craig and Gibson seem to want to promote, if we hold on to an inherently
humanist concept of subjectification, rights and creativity?

Secondly, I want to highlight that we need to remain cautious of a movement
away from copyright and the copyright industries, to a context of free culture
in which free content — and the often free labour it is based upon — ends up
servicing the content industries (i.e. Facebook, Google, Amazon). We must be
wary when access or the narrative around (open) access becomes dominated by
access to or for big business, benefitting the creative industries and the
knowledge economy. The danger of updating and adapting IP law to fit a
changing digital context and to new technologies, of making it more inclusive
in this sense — which is something both Craig and Gibson want to do as part of
their reformative models — is that this tends to be based on a very simplified
and deterministic vision of technology, as something requiring access and an
open market to foster innovation. As Sarah Kember argues, this technocratic
rationale, which is what unites pro-and anti-copyright activists in this
sense, essentially de-politicises the debate around IP; it is still a question
of determining the value of creativity through an economic perspective, based
on a calculative lobby.[65](ch3.xhtml#footnote-088) The challenge here is to
redefine the discourse in such a way that our focus moves away from a dominant
market vision, and — as Gibson and Craig have also tried to do — to emphasise
a non-calculative ethics of relations, processes and care instead.

I would like to return at this point to the ALCS report and the way its
results have been framed within a creative industries discourse.
Notwithstanding the fact that fair remuneration and incentives for literary
production and creativity in general are of the utmost importance, what I have
tried to argue here is that the ‘solution’ proposed by the ALCS does not do
justice to the complexities of creativity. When discussing remuneration of
authors, the ALCS seems to prefer a simple solution in which copyright is seen
as a given, the digital is pointed out as a generalised scapegoat, and
binaries between print and digital are maintained and strengthened.
Furthermore, fair remuneration is encapsulated by the ALCS within an economic
calculative logic and rhetoric, sustained by and connected to a creative
industries discourse, which continuously recreates the idea that creativity
and innovation are one. Instead I have tried to put forward various
alternative visions and practices, from radical open access to posthuman
authorship and uncreative writing, based on vital relationships and on an
ethics of care and responsibility. These alternatives highlight distributed
and relational authorship and/or showcase a sensibility that embraces
posthuman agencies and processual publishing as part of a more complex,
emergent vision of creativity, open to different ideas of what creativity is
and can become. In this vision creativity is thus seen as relational, fluid
and processual and only ever temporarily fixed as part of our ethical decision
making: a decision-making process that is contingent on the contexts and
relationships with which we find ourselves entangled. This involves asking
questions about what writing is and does, and how creativity expands beyond
our established, static, or given concepts, which include copyright and a
focus on the author as a ‘homo economicus’, writing as inherently an
enterprise, and culture as commodified. As I have argued, the value of words,
indeed the economic worth and sustainability of words and of the ‘creative
industries’, can and should be defined within a different narrative. Opening
up from the hegemonic creative industries discourse and the way we perform it
through our writing practices might therefore enable us to explore extended
relationalities of emergent creativity, open-ended publishing processes, and a
feminist ethics of care and responsibility.

This contribution has showcased examples of experimental, hybrid and posthuman
writing and publishing practices that are intervening in this established
discourse on creativity. How, through them, can we start to performatively
explore a new discourse and reconfigure the relationships that underlie our
writing processes? How can the worth of writing be reflected in different
ways?

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adema-pdsc14/>

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(Lueneburg: Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC)),


— and Gary Hall (2013) ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books
and Radical Open Access’, New Formations 78.1, 138–56,


— and Samuel Moore (2018) ‘Collectivity and Collaboration: Imagining New Forms
of Communality to Create Resilience in Scholar-Led Publishing’, Insights 31.3,


ALCS, Press Release (8 July 2014) ‘What Are Words Worth Now? Not Enough’,


Barad, Karen (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the
Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, N.C., and London: Duke University
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Boon, Marcus (2010) In Praise of Copying (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
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Brown, Wendy (2015) Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

Chartier, Roger (1994) The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in
Europe Between the 14th and 18th Centuries, 1st ed. (Stanford, CA: Stanford
University Press).

Craig, Carys J. (2011) Copyright, Communication and Culture: Towards a
Relational Theory of Copyright Law (Cheltenham, UK, and Northampton, MA:
Edward Elgar Publishing).

— Joseph F. Turcotte, and Rosemary J. Coombe (2011) ‘What’s Feminist About
Open Access? A Relational Approach to Copyright in the Academy’, Feminists@law
1.1,

Cramer, Florian (2013) Anti-Media: Ephemera on Speculative Arts (Rotterdam and
New York, NY: nai010 publishers).

Drucker, Johanna (2015) ‘Humanist Computing at the End of the Individual Voice
and the Authoritative Text’, in Patrik Svensson and David Theo Goldberg
(eds.), Between Humanities and the Digital (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), pp.
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— (2014) ‘Distributed and Conditional Documents: Conceptualizing
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Materialidades da Literatura 2.1, 11–29.

— (2013) ‘Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface’,
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Ede, Lisa, and Andrea A. Lunsford (2001) ‘Collaboration and Concepts of
Authorship’, PMLA 116.2, 354–69.

Emerson, Lori (2008) ‘Materiality, Intentionality, and the Computer-Generated
Poem: Reading Walter Benn Michaels with Erin Moureacute’s Pillage Land’, ESC:
English Studies in Canada 34, 45–69.

— (2003) ‘Digital Poetry as Reflexive Embodiment’, in Markku Eskelinen, Raine
Koskimaa, Loss Pequeño Glazier and John Cayley (eds.), CyberText Yearbook
2002–2003, 88–106,

Foucault, Michel, ‘What Is an Author?’ (1998) in James D. Faubion (ed.),
Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984, Volume Two: Aesthetics, Method, and
Epistemology (New York: The New Press).

Gibson, Johanna (2007) Creating Selves: Intellectual Property and the
Narration of Culture (Aldershot, England and Burlington, VT: Routledge).

— Phillip Johnson and Gaetano Dimita (2015) The Business of Being an Author: A
Survey of Author’s Earnings and Contracts (London: Queen Mary University of
London), [https://orca.cf.ac.uk/72431/1/Final Report - For Web
Publication.pdf](https://orca.cf.ac.uk/72431/1/Final%20Report%20-%20For%20Web%20Publication.pdf)

Goldsmith, Kenneth (2011) Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital
Age (New York: Columbia University Press).

Hall, Gary (2010) ‘Radical Open Access in the Humanities’ (presented at the
Research Without Borders, Columbia University),
humanities/>

— (2008) Digitize This Book!: The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open
Access Now (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press).

Hayles, N. Katherine (2004) ‘Print Is Flat, Code Is Deep: The Importance of
Media-Specific Analysis’, Poetics Today 25.1, 67–90,


Hughes, Rolf (2005) ‘Orderly Disorder: Post-Human Creativity’, in Proceedings
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Jenkins, Henry, and Owen Gallagher (2008) ‘“What Is Remix Culture?”: An
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Johns, Adrian (1998) The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making
(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).

Kember, Sarah (2016) ‘Why Publish?’, Learned Publishing 29, 348–53,


— (2014) ‘Why Write?: Feminism, Publishing and the Politics of Communication’,
New Formations: A Journal of Culture/Theory/Politics 83.1, 99–116.

Kretschmer, M., and P. Hardwick (2007) Authors’ Earnings from Copyright and
Non-Copyright Sources : A Survey of 25,000 British and German Writers (Poole,
UK: CIPPM/ALCS Bournemouth University),
[https://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/cippm/files/2007/07/ALCS-Full-
report.pdf](https://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/cippm/files/2007/07/ACLS-
Full-report.pdf)

Lessig, Lawrence (2008) Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid
Economy (New York: Penguin Press).

Lovink, Geert, and Ned Rossiter (eds.) (2007) MyCreativity Reader: A Critique
of Creative Industries (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures),


McGann, Jerome J. (1992) A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism
(Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press).

McHardy, Julien (2014) ‘Why Books Matter: There Is Value in What Cannot Be
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Mol, Annemarie (2008) The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient
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Montfort, Nick (2003) ‘The Coding and Execution of the Author’, in Markku
Eskelinen, Raine Kosimaa, Loss Pequeño Glazier and John Cayley (eds.),
CyberText Yearbook 2002–2003, 2003, 201–17,
, pp. 201–17.

Moore, Samuel A. (2017) ‘A Genealogy of Open Access: Negotiations between
Openness and Access to Research’, Revue Française des Sciences de
l’information et de la Communication 11,

Munster, Anna (2016) ‘Techno-Animalities — the Case of the Monkey Selfie’
(presented at the Goldsmiths University, London),


Navas, Eduardo (2012) Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling (Vienna and New
York: Springer).

Parikka, Jussi, and Mercedes Bunz (11 July 2014) ‘A Mini-Interview: Mercedes
Bunz Explains Meson Press’, Machinology,
meson-press/>

Richards, Victoria (7 January 2016) ‘Monkey Selfie: Judge Rules Macaque Who
Took Grinning Photograph of Himself “Cannot Own Copyright”’, The Independent,
macaque-who-took-grinning-photograph-of-himself-cannot-own-
copyright-a6800471.html>

Robbins, Sarah (2003) ‘Distributed Authorship: A Feminist Case-Study Framework
for Studying Intellectual Property’, College English 66.2, 155–71,


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Spinosa, Dani (14 May 2014) ‘“My Line (Article) Has Sighed”: Authorial
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Star, Susan Leigh (1991) ‘The Sociology of the Invisible: The Primacy of Work
in the Writings of Anselm Strauss’, in Anselm Leonard Strauss and David R.
Maines (eds.), Social Organization and Social Process: Essays in Honor of
Anselm Strauss (New York: A. de Grutyer).

* * *

[1](ch3.xhtml#footnote-152-backlink) The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting
Society is a [British](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom)
membership organisation for writers, established in 1977 with over 87,000
members, focused on protecting and promoting authors’ rights. ALCS collects
and pays out money due to members for secondary uses of their work (copying,
broadcasting, recording etc.).

[2](ch3.xhtml#footnote-151-backlink) This survey was an update of an earlier
survey conducted in 2006 by the Centre of Intellectual Property Policy and
Management (CIPPM) at Bournemouth University.

[3](ch3.xhtml#footnote-150-backlink) ‘New Research into Authors’ Earnings
Released’, Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, 2014,
Us/News/News/What-are-words-worth-now-not-much.aspx>

[4](ch3.xhtml#footnote-149-backlink) Johanna Gibson, Phillip Johnson, and
Gaetano Dimita, The Business of Being an Author: A Survey of Author’s Earnings
and Contracts (London: Queen Mary University of London, 2015), p. 9,
[https://orca.cf.ac.uk/72431/1/Final Report - For Web Publication.pdf
](https://orca.cf.ac.uk/72431/1/Final%20Report%20-%20For%20Web%20Publication.pdf)

[5](ch3.xhtml#footnote-148-backlink) ALCS, Press Release. What Are Words Worth
Now? Not Enough, 8 July 2014, worth-now-not-enough>

[6](ch3.xhtml#footnote-147-backlink) Gibson, Johnson, and Dimita, The Business
of Being an Author, p. 35.

[7](ch3.xhtml#footnote-146-backlink) M. Kretschmer and P. Hardwick, Authors’
Earnings from Copyright and Non-Copyright Sources: A Survey of 25,000 British
and German Writers (Poole: CIPPM/ALCS Bournemouth University, 2007), p. 3,
[https://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/cippm/files/2007/07/ALCS-Full-
report.pdf](https://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/cippm/files/2007/07/ACLS-
Full-report.pdf)

[8](ch3.xhtml#footnote-145-backlink) ALCS, Press Release, 8 July 2014,
[https://www.alcs.co.uk/news/what-are-words-](https://www.alcs.co.uk/news
/what-are-words-worth-now-not-enough)
worth-now-not-enough

[9](ch3.xhtml#footnote-144-backlink) Gibson, Johnson, and Dimita, The Business
of Being an Author, p. 35.

[10](ch3.xhtml#footnote-143-backlink) Ibid.

[11](ch3.xhtml#footnote-142-backlink) In the survey, three questions that
focus on various sources of remuneration do list digital publishing and/or
online uses as an option (questions 8, 11, and 15). Yet the data tables
provided in the appendix to the report do not provide the findings for
questions 11 and 15 nor do they differentiate according to type of media for
other tables related to remuneration. The only data table we find in the
report related to digital publishing is table 3.3, which lists ‘Earnings
ranked (1 to 7) in relation to categories of work’, where digital publishing
ranks third after books and magazines/periodicals, but before newspapers,
audio/audio-visual productions and theatre. This lack of focus on the effect
of digital publishing on writers’ incomes, for a survey that is ‘the first to
capture the impact of the digital revolution on writers’ working lives’, is
quite remarkable. Gibson, Johnson, and Dimita, The Business of Being an
Author, Appendix 2.

[12](ch3.xhtml#footnote-141-backlink) Ibid., p. 35.

[13](ch3.xhtml#footnote-140-backlink) Ibid.

[14](ch3.xhtml#footnote-139-backlink) Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter (eds.),
MyCreativity Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries (Amsterdam: Institute
of Network Cultures, 2007), p. 14,


[15](ch3.xhtml#footnote-138-backlink) See:
estimates-january-2015/creative-industries-economic-estimates-january-2015
-key-findings>

[16](ch3.xhtml#footnote-137-backlink) Wendy Brown, Undoing the Demos:
Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), p. 31.

[17](ch3.xhtml#footnote-136-backlink) Therefore Lovink and Rossiter make a
plea to, ‘redefine creative industries outside of IP generation’. Lovink and
Rossiter, MyCreativity Reader, p. 14.

[18](ch3.xhtml#footnote-135-backlink) Next to earnings made from writing more
in general, the survey on various occasions asks questions about earnings
arising from specific categories of works and related to the amount of works
exploited (published/broadcast) during certain periods. Gibson, Johnson, and
Dimita, The Business of Being an Author, Appendix 2.

[19](ch3.xhtml#footnote-134-backlink) Roger Chartier, The Order of Books:
Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe Between the 14th and 18th Centuries,
1st ed. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994); Lisa Ede and Andrea A.
Lunsford, ‘Collaboration and Concepts of Authorship’, PMLA 116.2 (2001),
354–69; Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the
Making (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998); Jerome J. McGann, A
Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Charlottesville, VA, University of
Virginia Press, 1992); Sarah Robbins, ‘Distributed Authorship: A Feminist
Case-Study Framework for Studying Intellectual Property’, College English 66.2
(2003), 155–71,

[20](ch3.xhtml#footnote-133-backlink) The ALCS survey addresses this problem,
of course, and tries to lobby on behalf of its authors for fair contracts with
publishers and intermediaries. That said, the survey findings show that only
42% of writers always retain their copyright. Gibson, Johnson, and Dimita, The
Business of Being an Author, p. 12.

[21](ch3.xhtml#footnote-132-backlink) Michel Foucault, ‘What Is an Author?’,
in James D. Faubion (ed.), Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984, Volume Two:
Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology (New York: The New Press, 1998), p. 205.

[22](ch3.xhtml#footnote-131-backlink) Mark Rose, Authors and Owners: The
Invention of Copyright (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993).

[23](ch3.xhtml#footnote-130-backlink) Carys J. Craig, Joseph F. Turcotte, and
Rosemary J. Coombe, ‘What’s Feminist About Open Access? A Relational Approach
to Copyright in the Academy’, Feminists@law 1.1 (2011),


[24](ch3.xhtml#footnote-129-backlink) Ibid., p. 8.

[25](ch3.xhtml#footnote-128-backlink) Ibid., p. 9.

[26](ch3.xhtml#footnote-127-backlink) Lawrence Lessig, Remix: Making Art and
Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (New York: Penguin Press, 2008); Eduardo
Navas, Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling (Vienna and New York:
Springer, 2012); Henry Jenkins and Owen Gallagher, ‘“What Is Remix Culture?”:
An Interview with Total Recut’s Owen Gallagher’, Confessions of an Aca-Fan,
2008,

[27](ch3.xhtml#footnote-126-backlink) Craig, Turcotte, and Coombe, ‘What’s
Feminist About Open Access?, p. 27.

[28](ch3.xhtml#footnote-125-backlink) Ibid., p. 14.

[29](ch3.xhtml#footnote-124-backlink) Ibid., p. 26.

[30](ch3.xhtml#footnote-123-backlink) Janneke Adema, ‘Open Access’, in
Critical Keywords for the Digital Humanities (Lueneburg: Centre for Digital
Cultures (CDC), 2014), ; Janneke Adema,
‘Embracing Messiness’, LSE Impact of Social Sciences, 2014,
adema-pdsc14/>; Gary Hall, Digitize This Book!: The Politics of New Media, or
Why We Need Open Access Now (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press,
2008), p. 197; Sarah Kember, ‘Why Write?: Feminism, Publishing and the
Politics of Communication’, New Formations: A Journal of
Culture/Theory/Politics 83.1 (2014), 99–116; Samuel A. Moore, ‘A Genealogy of
Open Access: Negotiations between Openness and Access to Research’, Revue
Française des Sciences de l’information et de la Communication, 2017,


[31](ch3.xhtml#footnote-122-backlink) Florian Cramer, Anti-Media: Ephemera on
Speculative Arts (Rotterdam and New York: nai010 publishers, 2013).

[32](ch3.xhtml#footnote-121-backlink) Especially within humanities publishing
there is a reluctance to allow derivative uses of one’s work in an open access
setting.

[33](ch3.xhtml#footnote-120-backlink) In 2015 the Radical Open Access
Conference took place at Coventry University, which brought together a large
array of presses and publishing initiatives (often academic-led) in support of
an ‘alternative’ vision of open access and scholarly communication.
Participants in this conference subsequently formed the loosely allied Radical
Open Access Collective: [radicaloa.co.uk](https://radicaloa.co.uk/). As the
conference concept outlines, radical open access entails ‘a vision of open
access that is characterised by a spirit of on-going creative experimentation,
and a willingness to subject some of our most established scholarly
communication and publishing practices, together with the institutions that
sustain them (the library, publishing house etc.), to rigorous critique.
Included in the latter will be the asking of important questions about our
notions of authorship, authority, originality, quality, credibility,
sustainability, intellectual property, fixity and the book — questions that
lie at the heart of what scholarship is and what the university can be in the
21st century’. Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, ‘The Political Nature of the Book:
On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’, New Formations 78.1 (2013),
138–56, ; Janneke Adema and Samuel
Moore, ‘Collectivity and Collaboration: Imagining New Forms of Communality to
Create Resilience In Scholar-Led Publishing’, Insights 31.3 (2018),
; Gary Hall, ‘Radical Open Access in the
Humanities’ (presented at the Research Without Borders, Columbia University,
2010), humanities/>; Janneke Adema, ‘Knowledge Production Beyond The Book? Performing
the Scholarly Monograph in Contemporary Digital Culture’ (PhD dissertation,
Coventry University, 2015),
f4c62c77ac86/1/ademacomb.pdf>

[34](ch3.xhtml#footnote-119-backlink) Julien McHardy, ‘Why Books Matter: There
Is Value in What Cannot Be Evaluated’, Impact of Social Sciences, 2014, n.p.,
[http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocial sciences/2014/09/30/why-books-
matter/](http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/09/30/why-books-
matter/)

[35](ch3.xhtml#footnote-118-backlink) Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe
Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham,
N.C. and London: Duke University Press, 2007).

[36](ch3.xhtml#footnote-117-backlink) Annemarie Mol, The Logic of Care: Health
and the Problem of Patient Choice, 1st ed. (London and New York: Routledge,
2008).

[37](ch3.xhtml#footnote-116-backlink) Sebastian Abrahamsson and others,
‘Mattering Press: New Forms of Care for STS Books’, The EASST Review 32.4
(2013), press-new-forms-of-care-for-sts-books/>

[38](ch3.xhtml#footnote-115-backlink) McHardy, ‘Why Books Matter’.

[39](ch3.xhtml#footnote-114-backlink) Ibid.

[40](ch3.xhtml#footnote-113-backlink) Susan Leigh Star, ‘The Sociology of the
Invisible: The Primacy of Work in the Writings of Anselm Strauss’, in Anselm
Leonard Strauss and David R. Maines (eds.), Social Organization and Social
Process: Essays in Honor of Anselm Strauss (New York: A. de Gruyter, 1991).
Mattering Press is not alone in exploring an ethics of care in relation to
(academic) publishing. Sarah Kember, director of Goldsmiths Press is also
adamant in her desire to make the underlying processes of publishing (i.e.
peer review, citation practices) more transparent and accountable Sarah
Kember, ‘Why Publish?’, Learned Publishing 29 (2016), 348–53,
. Mercedes Bunz, one of the editors running
Meson Press, argues that a sociology of the invisible would incorporate
‘infrastructure work’, the work of accounting for, and literally crediting
everybody involved in producing a book: ‘A book isn’t just a product that
starts a dialogue between author and reader. It is accompanied by lots of
other academic conversations — peer review, co-authors, copy editors — and
these conversations deserve to be taken more serious’. Jussi Parikka and
Mercedes Bunz, ‘A Mini-Interview: Mercedes Bunz Explains Meson Press’,
Machinology, 2014, mercedes-bunz-explains-meson-press/>. For Open Humanities Press authorship is
collaborative and even often anonymous: for example, they are experimenting
with research published in wikis to further complicate the focus on single
authorship and a static marketable book object within academia (see their
living and liquid books series).

[41](ch3.xhtml#footnote-112-backlink) Lori Emerson, ‘Digital Poetry as
Reflexive Embodiment’, in Markku Eskelinen, Raine Koskimaa, Loss Pequeño
Glazier and John Cayley (eds.), CyberText Yearbook 2002–2003, 2003, 88–106,


[42](ch3.xhtml#footnote-111-backlink) Dani Spinosa, ‘“My Line (Article) Has
Sighed”: Authorial Subjectivity and Technology’, Generic Pronoun, 2014,


[43](ch3.xhtml#footnote-110-backlink) Spinosa, ‘My Line (Article) Has Sighed’.

[44](ch3.xhtml#footnote-109-backlink) Emerson, ‘Digital Poetry as Reflexive
Embodiment’, p. 89.

[45](ch3.xhtml#footnote-108-backlink) Rolf Hughes, ‘Orderly Disorder: Post-
Human Creativity’, in Proceedings of the Linköping Electronic Conference
(Linköpings universitet: University Electronic Press, 2005).

[46](ch3.xhtml#footnote-107-backlink) N. Katherine Hayles, ‘Print Is Flat,
Code Is Deep: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis’, Poetics Today 25.1
(2004), 67–90, ; Johanna Drucker,
‘Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface’, Digital
Humanities Quarterly 7.1 (2013),
; Johanna
Drucker, ‘Distributed and Conditional Documents: Conceptualizing
Bibliographical Alterities’, MATLIT: Revista do Programa de Doutoramento em
Materialidades da Literatura 2.1 (2014), 11–29.

[47](ch3.xhtml#footnote-106-backlink) Nick Montfort, ‘The Coding and Execution
of the Author’, in Markku Eskelinen, Raine Kosimaa, Loss Pequeño Glazier and
John Cayley (eds.), CyberText Yearbook 2002–2003, 2003, 201–17 (p. 201),


[48](ch3.xhtml#footnote-105-backlink) Montfort, ‘The Coding and Execution of
the Author’, p. 202.

[49](ch3.xhtml#footnote-104-backlink) Lori Emerson, ‘Materiality,
Intentionality, and the Computer-Generated Poem: Reading Walter Benn Michaels
with Erin Moureacute’s Pillage Land’, ESC: English Studies in Canada 34
(2008), 66.

[50](ch3.xhtml#footnote-103-backlink) Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); Johanna Drucker, ‘Humanist
Computing at the End of the Individual Voice and the Authoritative Text’, in
Patrik Svensson and David Theo Goldberg (eds.), Between Humanities and the
Digital (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), pp. 83–94.

[51](ch3.xhtml#footnote-102-backlink) We have to take into consideration here
that print-based cultural products were never fixed or static; the dominant
discourses constructed around them just perceive them to be so.

[52](ch3.xhtml#footnote-101-backlink) Craig, Turcotte, and Coombe, ‘What’s
Feminist About Open Access?’, p. 2.

[53](ch3.xhtml#footnote-100-backlink) Ibid.

[54](ch3.xhtml#footnote-099-backlink) Johanna Gibson, Creating Selves:
Intellectual Property and the Narration of Culture (Aldershot, UK, and
Burlington: Routledge, 2007), p. 7.

[55](ch3.xhtml#footnote-098-backlink) Gibson, Creating Selves, p. 7.

[56](ch3.xhtml#footnote-097-backlink) Ibid.

[57](ch3.xhtml#footnote-096-backlink) Kenneth Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing:
Managing Language in the Digital Age (New York: Columbia University Press,
2011), p. 227.

[58](ch3.xhtml#footnote-095-backlink) Ibid., p. 15.

[59](ch3.xhtml#footnote-094-backlink) Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing, p. 81.

[60](ch3.xhtml#footnote-093-backlink) Ibid.

[61](ch3.xhtml#footnote-092-backlink) It is worth emphasising that what
Goldsmith perceives as ‘uncreative’ notions of writing (including
appropriation, pastiche, and copying), have a prehistory that can be traced
back to antiquity (thanks go out to this chapter’s reviewer for pointing this
out). One example of this, which uses the method of cutting and pasting —
something I have outlined more in depth elsewhere — concerns the early modern
commonplace book. Commonplacing as ‘a method or approach to reading and
writing involved the gathering and repurposing of meaningful quotes, passages
or other clippings from published books by copying and/or pasting them into a
blank book.’ Janneke Adema, ‘Cut-Up’, in Eduardo Navas (ed.), Keywords in
Remix Studies (New York and London: Routledge, 2017), pp. 104–14,


[62](ch3.xhtml#footnote-091-backlink) Gibson, Creating Selves, p. 27.

[63](ch3.xhtml#footnote-090-backlink) For example, animals cannot own
copyright. See the case of Naruto, the macaque monkey that took a ‘selfie’
photograph of itself. Victoria Richards, ‘Monkey Selfie: Judge Rules Macaque
Who Took Grinning Photograph of Himself “Cannot Own Copyright”’, The
Independent, 7 January 2016, /monkey-selfie-judge-rules-macaque-who-took-grinning-photograph-of-himself-
cannot-own-copyright-a6800471.html>

[64](ch3.xhtml#footnote-089-backlink) Anna Munster, ‘Techno-Animalities — the
Case of the Monkey Selfie’ (presented at the Goldsmiths University, London,
2016),

[65](ch3.xhtml#footnote-088-backlink) Sarah Kember, ‘Why Write?: Feminism,
Publishing and the Politics of Communication’, New Formations: A Journal of
Culture/Theory/Politics 83.1 (2014), 99–116.

Thylstrup
The Politics of Mass Digitization
2019


The Politics of Mass Digitization

Nanna Bonde Thylstrup

The MIT Press

Cambridge, Massachusetts

London, England

# Table of Contents

1. Acknowledgments
2. I Framing Mass Digitization
1. 1 Understanding Mass Digitization
3. II Mapping Mass Digitization
1. 2 The Trials, Tribulations, and Transformations of Google Books
2. 3 Sovereign Soul Searching: The Politics of Europeana
3. 4 The Licit and Illicit Nature of Mass Digitization
4. III Diagnosing Mass Digitization
1. 5 Lost in Mass Digitization
2. 6 Concluding Remarks
5. References
6. Index

## List of figures

1. Figure 2.1 François-Marie Lefevere and Marin Saric. “Detection of grooves in scanned images.” U.S. Patent 7508978B1. Assigned to Google LLC.
2. Figure 2.2 Joseph K. O’Sullivan, Alexander Proudfooot, and Christopher R. Uhlik. “Pacing and error monitoring of manual page turning operator.” U.S. Patent 7619784B1. Assigned to Google LLC, Google Technology Holdings LLC.

#
Acknowledgments

I am very grateful to all those who have contributed to this book in various
ways. I owe special thanks to Bjarki Valtysson, Frederik Tygstrup, and Peter
Duelund, for their supervision and help thinking through this project, its
questions, and its forms. I also wish to thank Andrew Prescott, Tobias Olsson,
and Rune Gade for making my dissertation defense a memorable and thoroughly
enjoyable day of constructive critique and lively discussions. Important parts
of the research for this book further took place during three visiting stays
at Cornell University, Duke University, and Columbia University. I am very
grateful to N. Katherine Hayles, Andreas Huyssen, Timothy Brennan, Lydia
Goehr, Rodney Benson, and Fredric Jameson, who generously welcomed me across
the Atlantic and provided me with invaluable new perspectives, as well as
theoretical insights and challenges. Beyond the aforementioned, three people
in particular have been instrumental in terms of reading through drafts and in
providing constructive challenges, intellectual critique, moral support, and
fun times in equal proportions—thank you so much Kristin Veel, Henriette
Steiner, and Daniela Agostinho. Marianne Ping-Huang has further offered
invaluable support to this project and her theoretical and practical
engagement with digital archives and academic infrastructures continues to be
a source of inspiration. I am also immensely grateful to all the people
working on or with mass digitization who generously volunteered their time to
share with me their visions for, and perspectives on, mass digitization.

This book has further benefited greatly from dialogues taking place within the
framework of two larger research projects, which I have been fortunate enough
to be involved in: Uncertain Archives and The Past’s Future. I am very
grateful to all my colleagues in both these research projects: Kristin Veel,
Daniela Agostinho, Annie Ring, Katrine Dirkinck-Holmfeldt, Pepita Hesselberth,
Kristoffer Ørum, Ekaterina Kalinina Anders Søgaard as well as Helle Porsdam,
Jeppe Eimose, Stina Teilmann, John Naughton, Jeffrey Schnapp, Matthew Battles,
and Fiona McMillan. I am further indebted to La Vaughn Belle, George Tyson,
Temi Odumosu, Mathias Danbolt, Mette Kia, Lene Asp, Marie Blønd, Mace Ojala,
Renee Ridgway, and many others for our conversations on the ethical issues of
the mass digitization of colonial material. I have also benefitted from the
support and insights offered by other colleagues at the Department of Arts and
Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen.

A big part of writing a book is also about keeping sane, and for this you need
great colleagues that can pull you out of your own circuit and launch you into
other realms of inquiry through collaboration, conversation, or just good
times. Thank you Mikkel Flyverbom, Rasmus Helles, Stine Lomborg, Helene
Ratner, Anders Koed Madsen, Ulrik Ekman, Solveig Gade, Anna Leander, Mareile
Kaufmann, Holger Schulze, Jakob Kreutzfeld, Jens Hauser, Nan Gerdes, Kerry
Greaves, Mikkel Thelle, Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, Knut Ove Eliassen, Jens-Erik
Mai, Rikke Frank Jørgensen, Klaus Bruhn Jensen, Marisa Cohn, Rachel Douglas-
Jones, Taina Bucher, and Baki Cakici. To this end you also need good
friends—thank you Thomas Lindquist Winther-Schmidt, Mira Jargil, Christian
Sønderby Jepsen, Agnete Sylvest, Louise Michaëlis, Jakob Westh, Gyrith Ravn,
Søren Porse, Jesper Værn, Jacob Thorsen, Maia Kahlke, Josephine Michau, Lærke
Vindahl, Chris Pedersen, Marianne Kiertzner, Rebecca Adler-Nissen, Stig
Helveg, Ida Vammen, Alejandro Savio, Lasse Folke Henriksen, Siine Jannsen,
Rens van Munster, Stephan Alsman, Sayuri Alsman, Henrik Moltke, Sean Treadway,
and many others. I also have to thank Christer and all the people at
Alimentari and CUB Coffee who kept my caffeine levels replenished when I tired
of the ivory tower.

I am furthermore very grateful for the wonderful guidance and support from MIT
Press, including Noah Springer, Marcy Ross, and Susan Clark—and of course for
the many inspiring conversations with and feedback from Doug Sery. I also want
to thank the anonymous peer reviewers whose insightful and constructive
comments helped improve this book immensely. Research for this book was
supported by grants from the Danish Research Council and the Velux Foundation.

Last, but not least, I wish to thank my loving partner Thomas Gammeltoft-
Hansen for his invaluable and critical input, optimistic outlook, and perfect
morning cappuccinos; my son Georg and daughter Liv for their general
awesomeness; and my extended family—Susanne, Bodil, and Hans—for their support
and encouragement.

I dedicate this book to my parents, Karen Lise Bonde Thylstrup and Asger
Thylstrup, without whom neither this book nor I would have materialized.

# I
Framing Mass Digitization

# 1
Understanding Mass Digitization

## Introduction

Mass digitization is first and foremost a professional concept. While it has
become a disciplinary buzzword used to describe large-scale digitization
projects of varying scope, it enjoys little circulation beyond the confines of
information science and such projects themselves. Yet, as this book argues, it
has also become a defining concept of our time. Indeed, it has even attained
the status of a cultural and moral imperative and obligation.1 Today, anyone
with an Internet connection can access hundreds of millions of digitized
cultural artifacts from the comfort of their desk—or many other locations—and
cultural institutions and private bodies add thousands of new cultural works
to the digital sphere every day. The practice of mass digitization is forming
new nexuses of knowledge, and new ways of engaging with that knowledge. What
at first glance appears to be a simple act of digitization (the transformation
of singular books from boundary objects to open sets of data), reveals, on
closer examination, a complex process teeming with diverse political, legal,
and cultural investments and controversies.

This volume asks why mass digitization has become such a “matter of concern,”2
and explores its implications for the politics of cultural memory. In
practical terms, mass digitization is digitization on an industrial scale. But
in cultural terms, mass digitization is much more than this. It is the promise
of heightened access to—and better preservation of—the past, and of more
original scholarship and better funding opportunities. It also promises
entirely new ways of reading, viewing, and structuring archives, new forms of
value and their extraction, and new infrastructures of control. This volume
argues that the shape-shifting quality of mass digitization, and its social
dynamics, alters the politics of cultural memory institutions. Two movements
simultaneously drive mass digitization programs: the relatively new phenomenon
of big data gold rushes, and the historically more familiar archival
accumulative imperative. Yet despite these prospects, mass digitization
projects are also uphill battles. They are costly and speculative processes,
with no guaranteed rate of return, and they are constantly faced by numerous
limitations and contestations on legal, social, and cultural levels.
Nevertheless, both public and private institutions adamantly emphasize the
need to digitize on a massive scale, motivating initiatives around the
globe—from China to Russia, Africa to Europe, South America to North America.
Some of these initiatives are bottom-up projects driven by highly motivated
individuals, while others are top-down and governed by complex bureaucratic
apparatuses. Some are backed by private money, others publically funded. Some
exist as actual archives, while others figure only as projections in policy
papers. As the ideal of mass digitization filters into different global
empirical situations, the concept of mass digitization attains nuanced
political hues. While all projects formally seek to serve the public interest,
they are in fact infused with much more diverse, and often conflicting,
political and commercial motives and dynamics. The same mass digitization
project can even be imbued with different and/or contradictory investments,
and can change purpose and function over time, sometimes rapidly.

Mass digitization projects are, then, highly political. But they are not
political in the sense that they transfer the politics of analog cultural
memory institutions into the digital sphere 1:1, or even liberate cultural
memory artifacts from the cultural politics of analog cultural memory
institutions. Rather, mass digitization presents a new political cultural
memory paradigm, one in which we see strands of technical and ideological
continuities combine with new ideals and opportunities; a political cultural
memory paradigm that is arguably even more complex—or at least appears more
messy to us now—than that of analog institutions, whose politics we have had
time to get used to. In order to grasp the political stakes of mass
digitization, therefore, we need to approach mass digitization projects not as
a continuation of the existing politics of cultural memory, or as purely
technical endeavors, but rather as emerging sociopolitical and sociotechnical
phenomena that introduce new forms of cultural memory politics.

## Framing, Mapping, and Diagnosing Mass Digitization

Interrogating the phenomenon of mass digitization, this book asks the question
of how mass digitization affects the politics of cultural memory institutions.
As a matter of practice, something is clearly changing in the conversion of
bounded—and scarce—historical material into ubiquitous ephemeral data. In
addition to the technical aspects of digitization, mass digitization is also
changing the political territory of cultural memory objects. Global commercial
platforms are increasingly administering and operating their scanning
activities in favor of the digital content they reap from the national “data
tombs” of museums and libraries and the feedback loops these generate. This
integration of commercial platforms into the otherwise primarily public
institutional set-up of cultural memory has produced a reconfiguration of the
political landscape of cultural memory from the traditional symbolic politics
of scarcity, sovereignty, and cultural capital to the late-sovereign
infrapolitics of standardization and subversion.

The empirical outlook of the present book is predominantly Western. Yet, the
overarching dynamics that have been pursued are far from limited to any one
region or continent, nor limited solely to the field of cultural memory.
Digitization is a global phenomenon and its reliance on late-sovereign
politics and subpolitical governance forms are shared across the globe.

The central argument of this book is that mass digitization heralds a new kind
of politics in the regime of cultural memory. Mass digitization of cultural
memory is neither a neutral technical process nor a transposition of the
politics of analog cultural heritage to the digital realm on a 1:1 scale. The
limitations of using conventional cultural-political frameworks for
understanding mass digitization projects become clear when working through the
concepts and regimes of mass digitization. Mass digitization brings together
so many disparate interests and elements that any mono-theoretical lens would
fail to account for the numerous political issues arising within the framework
of mass digitization. Rather, mass digitization should be approached as an
_infrapolitical_ process that brings together a multiplicity of interests
hitherto foreign to the realm of cultural memory.

The first part of the book, “framing,” outlines the theoretical arguments in
the book—that the political dynamics of mass digitization organize themselves
around the development of the technical infrastructures of mass digitization
in late-sovereign frameworks. Fusing infrastructure theory and theories on the
political dynamics of late sovereignty allows us to understand mass
digitization projects as cultural phenomena that are highly dependent on
standardization and globalization processes, while also recognizing that their
resultant infrapolitics can operate as forms of both control and subversion.

The second part of the book, “mapping,” offers an analysis of three different
mass digitization phenomena and how they relate to the late-sovereign politics
that gave rise to them. The part thus examines the historical foundation,
technical infrastructures, and (il)licit status and ideological underpinnings
of three variations of mass digitization projects: primarily corporate,
primarily public, and primarily private. While these variations may come
across as reproductions of more conventional societal structures, the chapters
in part two nevertheless also present us with a paradox: while the different
mass digitization projects that appear in this book—from Google’s privatized
endeavor to Europeana’s supranational politics to the unofficial initiatives
of shadow libraries—have different historical and cultural-political
trajectories and conventional regimes of governance, they also undermine these
conventional categories as they morph and merge into new infrastructures and
produce a new form of infrapolitics. The case studies featured in this book
are not to be taken as exhaustive examples, but rather as distinct, yet
nevertheless entangled, examples of how analog cultural memory is taken online
on a digital scale. They have been chosen with the aim of showing the
diversity of mass digitization, but also how it, as a phenomenon, ultimately
places the user in the dilemma of digital capitalism with its ethos of access,
speed, and participation (in varying degrees). The choices also have their
limitations, however. In their Western bias, which is partly rooted in this
author’s lack of language skills (specifically in Russian and Chinese), for
instance, they fail to capture the breadth and particularities of the
infrapolitics of mass digitization in other parts of the world. Much more
research is needed in this area.

The final part of the book, “diagnosing,” zooms in on the pathologies of mass
digitization in relation to affective questions of desire and uncertainty.
This part argues that instead of approaching mass digitization projects as
rationalized and instrumental projects, we should rather acknowledge them as
ambivalent spatio-temporal projects of desire and uncertainty. Indeed, as the
third part concludes, it is exactly uncertainty and desire that organizes the
new spatio-temporal infrastructures of cultural memory institutions, where
notions such as serendipity and the infrapolitics of platforms have taken
precedence over accuracy and sovereign institutional politics. The third part
thus calls into question arguments that imagine mass digitization as
instrumentalized projects that either undermine or produce values of
serendipity, as well as overarching narratives of how mass digitization
produces uncomplicated forms of individualized empowerment and freedom.
Instead, the chapter draws attention to the new cultural logics of platforms
that affect the cultural politics of mass digitization projects.

Crucially, then, this book seeks neither to condemn nor celebrate mass
digitization, but rather to unpack the phenomenon and anchor it in its
contemporary political reality. It offers a story of the ways in which mass
digitization produces new cultural memory institutions online that may be
entwined in the cultural politics of their analog origins, but also raises new
political questions to the collections.

## Setting the Stage: Assembling the Motley Crew of Mass Digitization

The dream and practice of mass digitizing cultural works has been around for
decades and, as this section attests, the projects vary significantly in
shape, size, and form. While rudimentary and nonexhaustive, this section
gathers a motley collection of mass digitization initiatives, from some of the
earliest digitization programs to later initiatives. The goal of this section
is thus not so much to meticulously map mass digitization programs, but rather
to provide examples of projects that might illuminate the purpose of this book
and its efforts to highlight the infrastructural politics of mass
digitization. As the section attests, mass digitization is anything but a
streamlined process. Rather, it is a painstakingly complex process mired in
legal, technical, personal, and political challenges and problems, and it is a
vision whose grand rhetoric often works to conceal its messy reality.

It is pertinent to note that mass digitization suffers from the combined
gendered and racialized reality of cultural institutions, tech corporations,
and infrastructural projects: save a few exceptions, there is precious little
diversity in the official map of mass digitization, even in those projects
that emerge bottom-up. This does not mean that women and minorities have not
formed a crucial part of mass digitization, selecting cultural objects,
prepping them (for instance ironing newspapers to ensure that they are flat),
scanning them, and constructing their digital infrastructures. However, more
often than not, their contributions fade into the background as tenders of the
infrastructures of mass digitization rather than as the (predominantly white,
male) “face” of mass digitization. As such, an important dimension of the
politics of these infrastructural projects is their reproduction of
established gendered and racialized infrastructures already present in both
cultural institutions and the tech industry.3 This book hints at these crucial
dimensions of mass digitization, but much more work is needed to change the
familiar cast of cultural memory institutions, both in the analog and digital
realms.

With these introductory remarks in place, let us now turn to the long and
winding road to mass digitization as we know it today. Locating the exact
origins of this road is a subjective task that often ends up trapping the
explorer in the mirror halls of technology. But it is worth noting that of
course there existed, before the Internet, numerous attempts at capturing and
remediating books in scalable forms, for the purposes both of preservation and
of extending the reach of library collections. One of the most revolutionary
of such technologies before the digital computer or the Internet was
microfilm, which was first held forth as a promising technology of
preservation and remediation in the middle of the 1800s.4 At the beginning of
the twentieth century, the Belgian author, entrepreneur, visionary, lawyer,
peace activist, and one of the founders of information science, Paul Otlet,
brought the possibilities of microfilm to bear directly on the world of
libraries. Otlet authored two influential think pieces that outlined the
benefits of microfilm as a stable and long-term remediation format that could,
ultimately, also be used to extend the reach of literature, just as he and his
collaborator, inventor and engineer Robert Goldschmidt, co-authored a work on
the new form of the book through microphotography, _Sur une forme nouvelle du
livre: le livre microphotographique_. 5 In his analyses, Otlet suggested that
the most important transformations would not take place in the book itself,
but in substitutes for it. Some years later, beginning in 1927 with the
Library of Congress microfilming more than three million pages of books and
manuscripts in the British Library, the remediation of cultural works in
microformat became a widespread practice across the world, and microfilm is
still in use to this day.6 Otlet did not confine himself to thinking only
about microphotography, however, but also pursued a more speculative vein,
inspired by contemporary experiments with electromagnetic waves, arguing that
the most radical change of the book would be wireless technology. Moreover, he
also envisioned and partly realized a physical space, _Mundaneum_ , for his
dreams of a universal archive. Paul Otlet and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Henri
La Fontaine conceived of Mundaneum in 1895 as part of their work on
documentation science. Otlet called the Mundaneum “… an Idea, an Institution,
a Method, a Body of work materials and collections, a Building, a Network.” In
more concrete, but no less ambitious terms, the Mundaneum was to gather
together all the world’s knowledge and classify it according to a universal
system they developed called the “Universal Decimal Classification.” In 1910,
Otlet and Fontaine found a place for their work in the Palais du
Cinquantenaire, a government building in Brussels. Later, Otlet commissioned
Le Corbusier to design a building for the Mundaneum in Geneva. The cooperation
ended unsuccesfully, however, and it later led a nomadic life, moving from The
Hague to Brussels and then in 1993 to the city of Mons in Belgium, where it
now exists as a museum called the Mundaneum Archive Center. Fatefully, Mons, a
former mining district, also houses Google’s largest data center in Europe and
it did not take Google long to recognize the cultural value in entering a
partnership with the Mundaneum, the two parties signing a contract in 2013.
The contract entailed among other things that Google would sponsor a traveling
exhibit on the Mundaneum, as well as a series of talks on Internet issues at
the museum and the university, and that the Mundaneum would use Google’s
social networking service, Google Plus, as a promotional tool. An article in
the _New York Times_ described the partnership as “part of a broader campaign
by Google to demonstrate that it is a friend of European culture, at a time
when its services are being investigated by regulators on a variety of
fronts.” 7 The collaboration not only spurred international interest, but also
inspired a group of influential tech activists and artists closely associated
with the creative work of shadow libraries to create the critical archival
project Mondotheque.be, a platform for “discussing and exploring the way
knowledge is managed and distributed today in a way that allows us to invent
other futures and different narrations of the past,”8 and a resulting digital
publication project, _The Radiated Book,_ authored by an assembly of
activists, artists, and scholars such as Femke Snelting, Tomislav Medak,
Dusan Barok, Geraldine Juarez, Shin Joung Yeo, and Matthew Fuller. 9

Another early precursor of mass digitization emerged with Project Gutenberg,
often referred to as the world’s oldest digital library. Project Gutenberg was
the brainchild of author Michael S. Hart, who in 1971, using technologies such
as ARPANET, Bulletin Board Systems (BSS), and Gopher protocols, experimented
with publishing and distributing books in digital form. As Hart reminisced in
his later text, “The History and Philosophy of Project Gutenberg,”10 Project
Gutenberg emerged out of a donation he received as an undergraduate in 1971,
which consisted of $100 million worth of computing time on the Xerox Sigma V
mainframe at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Wanting to make
good use of the donation, Hart, in his own words, “announced that the greatest
value created by computers would not be computing, but would be the storage,
retrieval, and searching of what was stored in our libraries.”11 He therefore
committed himself to converting analog cultural works into digital text in a
format not only available to, but also accessible/readable to, almost all
computer systems: “Plain Vanilla ASCII” (ASCII for “American Standard Code for
Information Interchange”). While Project Gutenberg only converted about 50
works into digital text in the 1970s and the 1980s (the first was the
Declaration of Independence), it today hosts up to 56,000 texts in its
distinctly lo-fi manner.12 Interestingly, Michael S. Hart noted very early on
that the intention of the project was never to reproduce authoritative
editions of works for readers—“who cares whether a certain phrase in
Shakespeare has a ‘:’ or a ‘;’ between its clauses”—but rather to “release
etexts that are 99.9% accurate in the eyes of the general reader.”13 As the
present book attests, this early statement captures one of the central points
of contestation in mass digitization: the trade-off between accuracy and
accessibility, raising questions both of the limits of commercialized
accelerated digitization processes (see chapter 2 on Google Books) and of
class-based and postcolonial implications (see chapter 4 on shadow libraries).

If Project Gutenberg spearheaded the efforts of bringing cultural works into
the digital sphere through manual conversion of analog text into lo-fi digital
text, a French mass digitization project affiliated with the construction of
the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) initiated in 1989 could be
considered one of the earliest examples of actually digitizing cultural works
on an industrial scale.14 The French were thus working on blueprints of mass
digitization programs before mass digitization became a widespread practice __
as part of the construction of a new national library, under the guidance of
Alain Giffard and initiated by François Mitterand. In a letter sent in 1990 to
Prime Minister Michel Rocard, President Mitterand outlined his vision of a
digital library, noting that “the novelty will be in the possibility of using
the most modern computer techniques for access to catalogs and documents of
the Bibliothèque nationale de France.”15 The project managed to digitize a
body of 70,000–80,000 titles, a sizeable amount of works for its time. As
Alain Giffard noted in hindsight, “the main difficulty for a digitization
program is to choose the books, and to choose the people to choose the
books.”16 Explaining in a conversation with me how he went about this task,
Giffard emphasized that he chose “not librarians but critics, researchers,
etc.” This choice, he underlined, could be made only because the digitization
program was “the last project of the president and a special mission” and thus
not formally a civil service program.17 The work process was thus as follows:

> I asked them to prepare a list. I told them, “Don’t think about what exists.
I ask of you a list of books that would be logical in this concept of a
library of France.” I had the first list and we showed it to the national
library, which was always fighting internally. So I told them, “I want this
book to be digitized.” But they would never give it to us because of
territory. Their ship was not my ship. So I said to them, “If you don’t give
me the books I shall buy the books.” They said I could never buy them, but
then I started buying the books from antiques suppliers because I earned a lot
of money at that time. So in the end I had a lot of books. And I said to them,
“If you want the books digitized you must give me the books.” But of the
80,000 books that were digitized, half were not in the collection. I used the
staff’s garages for the books, 80,000 books. It is an incredible story.18

Incredible indeed. And a wonderful anecdote that makes clear that mass
digitization, rather than being just a technical challenge, is also a
politically contingent process that raises fundamental questions of territory
(institutional as well as national), materiality, and culture. The integration
of the digital _très grande bibliothèque_ into the French national mass
digitization project Gallica, later in 1997, also foregrounds the
infrastructural trajectory of early national digitization programs into later
glocal initiatives. 19

The question of pan-national digitization programs was precisely at the
forefront of another early prominent mass digitization project, namely the
Universal Digital Library (UDL), which was launched in 1995 by Carnegie Mellon
computer scientist Raj Reddy and developed by linguist Jaime Carbonell,
physicist Michael Shamos, and Carnegie Mellon Foundation dean of libraries
Gloriana St. Clair. In 1998, the project launched the Thousand Book Project.
Later, the UDL scaled its initial efforts up to the Million Book Project,
which they successfully completed in 2007.20 Organizationally, the UDL stood
out from many of the other digitization projects by including initial
participation from three non-Western entities in addition to the Carnegie
Mellon Foundation—the governments of India, China, and Egypt.21 Indeed, India
and China invested about $10 million in the initial phase, employing several
hundred people to find books, bring them in, and take them back. While the
project ambitiously aimed to provide access “to all human knowledge, anytime,
anywhere,” it ended its scanning activities 2008. As such, the Universal
Digital Library points to another central infrastructural dimension of mass
digitization: its highly contingent spatio-temporal configurations that are
often posed in direct contradistinction to the universalizing discourse of
mass digitization. Across the board, mass digitization projects, while
confining themselves in practice to a limited target of how many books they
will digitize, employ a discourse of universality, perhaps alluding vaguely to
how long such an endeavor will take but in highly uncertain terms (see
chapters 3 and 5 in particular).

No exception from the universalizing discourse, another highly significant
mass digitization project, the Internet Archive, emerged around the same time
as the Universal Digital Library. The Internet Archive was founded by open
access activist and computer engineer Brewster Kahle in 1996, and although it
was primarily oriented toward preserving born-digital material, in particular
the Internet ( _Wired_ calls Brewster Kahle “the Internet’s de facto
librarian” 22), the Archive also began digitizing books in 2005, supported by
a grant from the Alfred Sloan Foundation. Later that year, the Internet
Archive created the infrastructural initiative, Open Content Alliance (OCA),
and was now embedded in an infrastructure that included over 30 major US
libraries, as well as major search engines (by Yahoo! and Microsoft),
technology companies (Adobe and Xerox), a commercial publisher (O’Reilly
Media, Inc.), and a not-for-profit membership organization of more than 150
institutions, including universities, research libraries, archives, museums,
and historical societies.23 The Internet Archive’s mass digitization
infrastructure was thus from the beginning a mesh of public and private
cooperation, where libraries made their collections available to the Alliance
for scanning, and corporate sponsors or the Internet Archive conversely funded
the digitization processes. As such, the infrastructures of the Internet
Archive and Google Books were rather similar in their set-ups.24 Nevertheless,
the initiative of the Internet Archive’s mass digitization project and its
attendant infrastructural alliance, OCA, should be read as both a technical
infrastructure responding to the question of _how_ to mass digitize in
technical terms, and as an infrapolitical reaction in response to the forces
of the commercial world that were beginning to gather around mass
digitization, such as Amazon 25 and Google. The Internet Archive thus
positioned itself as a transparent open source alternative to the closed doors
of corporate and commercial initiatives. Yet, as Kalev Leetaru notes, the case
was more complex than that. Indeed, while the OCA was often foregrounded as
more transparent than Google, their technical infrastructural components and
practices were in fact often just as shrouded in secrecy.26 As such, the
Internet Archive and the OCA draw attention to the important infrapolitical
question in mass digitization, namely how, why, and when to manage
visibilities in mass digitization projects.

Although the media sometimes picked up stories on mass digitization projects
already outlined, it wasn’t until Google entered the scene that mass
digitization became a headline-grabbing enterprise. In 2004, Google founders
Larry Page and Sergey Brin traveled to Frankfurt to make a rare appearance at
the Frankfurt Book Fair. Google was at that time still considered a “scrappy”
Internet company in some quarters, as compared with tech giants such as
Microsoft.27 Yet Page and Brin went to Frankfurt to deliver a monumental
announcement: Google would launch a ten-year plan to make available
approximately 15 million digitized books, both in- and out-of-copyright
works.28 They baptized the program “Google Print,” a project that consisted of
a series of partnerships between Google and five English-language libraries:
the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Stanford, Harvard, Oxford (Bodleian
Library), and the New York City Public Library. While Page’s and Brin’s
announcement was surprising to some, many had anticipated it; as already
noted, advances toward mass digitization proper had already been made, and
some of the partnership institutions had been negotiating with Google since
2002.29 As with many of the previous mass digitization projects, Google found
inspiration for their digitization project in the long-lived utopian ideal of
the universal library, and in particular the mythic library of Alexandria.30
As with other Google endeavors, it seemed that Page was intent on realizing a
utopian ideal that scholars (and others) had long dreamed of: a library
containing everything ever written. It would be realized, however, not with
traditional human-centered means drawn from the world of libraries, but rather
with an AI approach. Google Books would exceed human constraints, taking the
seemingly impossible vision of digitizing all the books in the world as a
starting point for constructing an omniscient Artificial Intelligence that
would know the entire human symbol system and allow flexible and intuitive
recollection. These constraints were physical (how to digitize and organize
all this knowledge in physical form); legal (how to do it in a way that
suspends existing regulation); and political (how to transgress territorial
systems). The invocation of the notion of the universal library was not a
neutral action. Rather, the image of Google Books as a library worked as a
symbolic form in a cultural scheme that situated Google as a utopian, and even
ethical, idealist project. Google Books seemingly existed by virtue of
Goethe’s famous maxim that “To live in the ideal world is to treat the
impossible as if it were possible.”31 At the time, the industry magazine
_Bookseller_ wrote in response to Google’s digitization plans: “The prospect
is both thrilling and frightening for the book industry, raising a host of
technical and theoretical issues.” 32 And indeed, while some reacted with
enthusiasm and relief to the prospect of an organization being willing to
suffer the cost of mass digitization, others expressed economic and ethical
concerns. The Authors Guild, a New York–based association, promptly filed a
copyright infringement suit against Google. And librarians were forced to
revisit core ethical principles such as privacy and public access.

The controversies of Google Books initially played out only in US territory.
However, another set of concerns of a more territorial and political nature
soon came to light. The French President at the time, Jacques Chirac, called
France to cultural-political arms, urging his culture minister, Renaud
Donnedieu de Vabres, and Jean-Noël Jeanneney, then-head of France’s
Bibliothèque nationale, to do the same with French texts as Google planned to
do with their partner libraries, but by means of a French search engine.33
Jeanneney initially framed this French cultural-political endeavor as a
European “contre-attaque” against Google Books, which, according to Jeanneney,
could pose “une domination écrasante de l'Amérique dans la définition de
l'idée que les prochaines générations se feront du monde.” (“a crushing
American domination of the formation of future generations’ ideas about the
world”)34 Other French officials insisted that the French digitization project
should be seen not primarily as a cultural-political reaction _against_
Google, but rather as a cultural-political incentive within France and Europe
to make European information available online. “I really stress that it's not
anti-American,” an official at France’s Ministry of Culture and Communication,
speaking on the condition of anonymity, noted in an interview. “It is not a
reaction. The objective is to make more material relevant to European heritage
available. … Everybody is working on digitization projects.” Furthermore, the
official did not rule out potential cooperation between Google and the
European project. 35 There was no doubt, however, that the move to mass
digitization “was a political drive by the French,” as Stephen Bury, head of
European and American collections at the British Library, emphasized.36

Despite its mixed messages, the French reaction nevertheless underscored the
controversial nature of mass digitization as a symbolic, as well as technical,
aspiration: mass digitization was a process that not only neutrally scanned
and represented books but could also produce a new mode of world-making,
actively structuring archives as well as their users.37 Now questions began to
surface about where, or with whom, to place governance over this new archive:
who would be the custodian of the keys to this new library? And who would be
the librarians? A series of related questions could also be asked: who would
determine the archival limits, the relations between the secret and the non-
secret or the private and the public, and whether these might involve property
or access rights, publication or reproduction rights, classification, and
putting into order? France soon managed to rally other EU countries (Spain,
Poland, Hungary, Italy, and Germany) to back its recommendation to the
European Commission (EC) to construct a European alternative to Google’s
search engine and archive and to set this out in writing. Occasioned by the
French recommendation, the EC promptly adopted the idea of Europeana—the name
of the proposed alternative—as a “flagship project” for the budding EU
cultural policy.38 Soon after, in 2008, the EC launched Europeana, giving
access to some 4.5 million digital objects from more than 1,000 institutions.

Europeana’s Europeanizing discourse presents a territorializing approach to
mass digitization that stands in contrast to the more universalizing tone of
Mundaneum, Gutenberg, Google Books, and the Universal Digital Library. As
such, it ties in with our final examples, namely the sovereign mass
digitization projects that have in fact always been one of the primary drivers
in mass digitization efforts. To this day, the map of mass digitization is
populated with sovereign mass digitization efforts from Holland and Norway to
France and the United States. One of the most impressive projects is the
Norwegian mass digitization project at the National Library of Norway, which
since 2004 has worked systematically to develop a digital National Library
that encompasses text, audio, video, image, and websites. Impressively, the
National Library of Norway offers digital library services that provide online
access (to all with a Norwegian IP address) to full-text versions of all books
published in Norway up until the year 2001, access to digital newspaper
collections from the major national and regional newspapers in all libraries
in the country, and opportunities for everyone with Internet access to search
and listen to more than 40,000 radio programs recorded between 1933 and the
present day.39 Another ambitious national mass digitization project is the
Dutch National Library’s effort to digitize all printed publications since
1470 and to create a National Platform for Digital Publications, which is to
act both as a content delivery platform for its mass digitization output and
as a national aggregator for publications. To this end, the Dutch National
Library made deals with Google Books and Proquest to digitize 42 million pages
just as it entered into partnerships with cross-domain aggregators such as
Europeana.40 Finally, it is imperative to mention the Digital Public Library
of America (DPLA), a national digital library conceived of in 2010 and
launched in 2013, which aggregates digital collections of metadata from around
the United States, pulling in content from large institutions like the
National Archives and Records Administration and HathiTrust, as well as from
smaller archives. The DPLA is in great part the fruit of the intellectual work
of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the work
of its Steering Committee, which consisted of influential names from the
digital, legal, and library worlds, such as Robert Darnton, Maura Marx, and
John Palfrey from Harvard University; Paul Courant of the University of
Michigan; Carla Hayden, then of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library and
subsequently the Librarian of Congress; Brewster Kahle; Jerome McGann; Amy
Ryan of the Boston Public Library; and Doron Weber of the Sloan Foundation.
Key figures in the DPLA have often to great rhetorical effect positioned DPLA
vis-à-vis Google Books, partly as a question of public versus private
infrastructures.41 Yet, as the then-Chairman of DPLA John Palfrey conceded,
the question of what constitutes “public” in a mass digitization context
remains a critical issue: “The Digital Public Library of America has its
critics. One counterargument is that investments in digital infrastructures at
scale will undermine support for the traditional and the local. As the
chairman of the DPLA, I hear this critique in the question-and-answer period
of nearly every presentation I give. … The concern is that support for the
DPLA will undercut already eroding support for small, local public
libraries.”42 While Palfrey offers good arguments for why the DPLA could
easily work in unison with, rather than jeopardize, smaller public libraries,
and while the DPLA is building infrastructures to support this claim,43 the
discussion nevertheless highlights the difficulties with determining when
something is “public,” and even national.

While the highly publicized and institutionalized projects I have just
recounted have taken center stage in the early and later years of mass
digitization, they neither constitute the full cast, nor the whole machinery,
of mass digitization assemblages. Indeed, as chapter 4 in this book charts, at
the margins of mass digitization another set of actors have been at work
building new digital cultural memory assemblages, including projects such as
Monoskop and Lib.ru. These actors, referred to in this book as shadow library
projects (see chapter 4), at once both challenge and confirm the broader
infrapolitical dimensions of mass digitization, including its logics of
digital capitalism, network power, and territorial reconfigurations of
cultural memory between universalizing and glocalizing discourses. Within this
new “ecosystem of access,” unauthorized archives as Libgen, Gigapedia, and
Sci-Hub have successfully built “shadow libraries” with global reach,
containing massive aggregations of downloadable text material of both
scholarly and fictional character.44 As chapter 4 shows, these initiatives
further challenge our notions of public good, licit and illicit mass
digitization, and the territorial borders of mass digitization, just as they
add another layer of complexity to the question of the politics of mass
digitization.

Today, then, the landscape of mass digitization has evolved considerably, and
we can now begin to make out the political contours that have shaped, and
continue to shape, the emergent contemporary knowledge infrastructures of mass
digitization, ripe as they are with contestation, cooperation, and
competition. From this perspective, mass digitization appears as a preeminent
example of how knowledge politics are configured in today’s world of
“assemblages” as “multisited, transboundary networks” that connect
subnational, national, supranational, and global infrastructures and actors,
without, however, necessarily doing so through formal interstate systems.45 We
can also see that mass digitization projects did not arise as a result of a
sovereign decision, but rather emerged through a series of contingencies
shaped by late-capitalist and late-sovereign forces. Furthermore, mass
digitization presents us with an entirely new cultural memory paradigm—a
paradigm that requires a shift in thinking about cultural works, collections,
and contexts, from cultural records to be preserved and read by humans, to
ephemeral machine-readable entities. This change requires a shift in thinking
about the economy of cultural works, collections, and contexts, from scarce
institutional objects to ubiquitous flexible information. Finally, it requires
a shift in thinking about these same issues as belonging to national-global
domains to conceiving them in terms of a set of political processes that may
well be placed in national settings, but are oriented toward global agendas
and systems.

## Interrogating Mass Digitization

Mass digitization is often elastic in definition and elusive in practice.
Concrete attempts have been made to delimit what mass digitization is, but
these rarely go into specifics. The two characteristics most commonly
associated with mass digitization are the relative lack of selectivity of
materials, as compared to smaller-scale digitization projects, and the high
speed and high volume of the process in terms of both digital conversion and
metadata creation, which are made possible through a high level of
automation.46 Mass digitization is thus concerned not only with preservation,
but also with what kind of knowledge practices and values technology allows
for and encourages, for example, in relation to de- and recontextualization,
automation, and scale.47

Studies of mass digitization are commonly oriented toward technology or
information policy issues close to libraries, such as copyright, the quality
of digital imagery, long-term preservation responsibility, standards and
interoperability, and economic models for libraries, publishers, and
booksellers, rather than, as here, the exploration of theory.48 This is not to
say that existing work on mass digitization is not informed by theoretical
considerations, but rather that the majority of research emphasizes policy and
technical implementation at the expense of a more fundamental understanding of
the cultural implications of mass digitization. In part, the reason for this
is the relative novelty of mass digitization as an identifiable field of
practice and policy, and its significant ramifications in the fields of law
and information science.49 In addition to scholarly elucidations, mass
digitization has also given rise to more ideologically fuelled critical books
and articles on the topic.50

Despite its disciplinary branching, work on mass digitization has mainly taken
place in the fields of information science, law, and computer science, and has
primarily problematized the “hows” of mass digitization and not the “whys.”51
As with technical work on mass digitization, most nontechnical studies of mass
digitization are “problem-solving” rather than “critical,” and this applies in
particular to work originating from within the policy analysis community. This
body seeks to solve problems within the existing social order—for example,
copyright or metadata—rather than to interrogate the assumptions that underlie
mass digitization programs, which would include asking what kinds of knowledge
production mass digitization gives rise to. How does mass digitization change
the ideological infrastructures of cultural heritage institutions? And from
what political context does the urge to digitize on an industrial scale
emerge? While the technical and problem-solving corpus on mass digitization is
highly valuable in terms of outlining the most important stakeholders and
technical issues of the field, it does not provide insight into the deeper
structures, social mechanisms, and political implications of mass
digitization. Moreover, it often fails to account for digitization as a force
that is deeply entwined with other dynamics that shape its development and
uses. It is this lack that the present volume seeks to mitigate.

## Assembling Mass Digitization

Mass digitization is a composite and fluctuating infrastructure of
disciplines, interests, and forces rooted in public-private assemblages,
driven by ideas of value extraction and distribution, and supported by new
forms of social organization. Google Books, for instance, is both a commercial
project covered by nondisclosure agreements _and_ an academic scholarly
project open for all to see. Similarly, Europeana is both a public
digitization project directed at “citizens” _and_ a public-private partnership
enterprise ripe with profit motives. Nevertheless, while it is tempting to
speak about specific mass digitization projects such as Google Books and
Europeana in monolithic and contrastive terms, mass digitization projects are
anything but tightly organized, institutionally delineated, coherent wholes
that produce one dominant reading. We do not find one “essence” in mass
digitized archives. They are not “enlightenment projects,” “library services,”
“software applications,” “interfaces,” or “corporations.” Nor are they rooted
in one central location or single ideology. Rather, mass digitization is a
complex material and social infrastructure performed by a diverse
constellation of cultural memory professionals, computer scientists,
information specialists, policy personnel, politicians, scanners, and
scholars. Hence, this volume approaches mass digitization projects as
“assemblages,” that is, as contingent arrangements consisting of humans,
machines, objects, subjects, spaces and places, habits, norms, laws, politics,
and so on. These arrangements cross national-global and public-private lines,
producing what this volume calls “late-sovereign,” “posthuman,” and “late-
capitalist” assemblages.

To give an example, we can look at how the national and global aspects of
cultural memory institutions change with mass digitization. The national
museums and libraries we frequent today were largely erected during eras of
high nationalism, as supreme acts of cultural and national territoriality.
“The early establishment of a national collection,” as Belinda Tiffen notes,
“was an important step in the birth of the new nation,” since it signified
“the legitimacy of the nation as a political and cultural entity with its own
heritage and culture worthy of being recorded and preserved.”52 Today, as the
initial French incentive to build Europeana shows, we find similar
nationalization processes in mass digitization projects. However,
nationalizing a digital collection often remains a performative gesture than a
practical feat, partly because the information environment in the digital
sphere differs significantly from that of the analog world in terms of
territory and materiality, and partly because the dichotomy between national
and global, an agreed-upon construction for centuries, is becoming more and
more difficult to uphold in theory and practice.53 Thus, both Google Books and
Europeana link to sovereign frameworks such as citizens and national
representation, while also undermining them with late-capitalist transnational
economic agreements.

A related example is the posthuman aspect of cultural memory politics.
Cultural memory artifacts have always been thought of as profoundly human
collections, in the sense that they were created by and for human minds and
human meaning-making. Previously, humans also organized collections. But with
the invention of computers, most cultural memory institutions also introduced
a machine element to the management of accelerating amounts of information,
such as computerized catalog systems and recollection systems. With the advent
of mass digitization, machines have gained a whole new role in the cultural
memory ecosystem, not only as managers, but also as interpreters. Thus,
collections are increasingly digitized to be read by machines instead of
humans, just as metadata is now becoming a question of machine analysis rather
than of human contextualization. Machines are taking on more and more tasks in
the realm of cultural memory that require a substantial amount of cognitive
insight (just as mass digitization has created the need for new robot-like,
and often poorly paid, human tasks, such as the monotonous work of book
scanning). Mass digitization has thereby given rise to an entirely new
cultural-legal category titled “non-consumptive research,” a term used to
describe the large-scale analysis of texts, and which has been formalized by
the Google Books Settlement, for instance, in the following way: “research in
which computational analysis is performed on one or more books, but not
research in which a researcher reads or displays.”54

Lastly, mass digitization connects the politics of cultural memory to
transnational late capitalism, and to one of its expressions in particular:
digital capitalism.55 Of course, cultural memory collections have a long
history with capitalism. The nineteenth century held very fuzzy boundaries
between the cultural functions of libraries and the commercial interests that
surrounded them, and, as historian of libraries Francis Miksa notes, Melvin
Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, was a great admirer of the
corporate ideal, and was eager to apply it to the library system.56 Indeed,
library development in the United States was greatly advanced by the
philanthropy of capitalism, most notably by Andrew Carnegie.57 The question,
then, is not so much whether mass digitization has brought cultural memory
institutions, and their collections and users, into a capitalist system, but
_what kind_ of capitalist system mass digitization has introduced cultural
memory to: digital capitalism.

Today, elements of the politics of cultural memory are being reassembled into
novel knowledge configurations. As a consequence, their connections and
conjugations are being transformed, as are their institutional embeddings.
Indeed, mass digitization assemblages are a product of our time. They are new
forms of knowledge institutions arising from a sociopolitical environment
where vertical territorial hierarchies and horizontal networks entwine in a
new political mesh: where solid things melt into air, and clouds materialize
as material infrastructures, where boundaries between experts and laypeople
disintegrate, and where machine cognition operates on a par with human
cognition on an increasingly large scale. These assemblages enable new types
of political actors—networked assemblages—which hold particular forms of power
despite their informality vis-à-vis the formal political system; and in turn,
through their practices, these actors partly build and shape those
assemblages.

Since concepts always respond to “a specific social and historical situation
of which an intellectual occasion is part,”58 it is instructive to revisit the
1980s, when the theoretical notion of assemblage emerged and slowly gained
cross-disciplinary purchase.59 Around this time, the stable structures of
modernist institutions began to give ground to postmodern forces: sovereign
systems entered into supra-, trans-, and international structures,
“globalization” became a buzzword, and privatizing initiatives drove wedges
into the foundations of state structures. The centralized power exercised by
disciplinary institutions was increasingly distributed along more and more
lines, weakening the walls of circumscribed centralized authority.60 This
disciplinary decomposition took place on all levels and across all fields of
society, including institutional cultural memory containers such as libraries
and museums. The forces of privatization, globalization, and digitization put
pressures not only on the authority of these institutions but also on a host
of related authoritative cultural memory elements, such as “librarians,”
“cultural works,” and “taxonomies,” and cultural memory practices such as
“curating,” “reading,” and “ownership.” Librarians were “disintermediated” by
technology, cultural works fragmented into flexible data, and curatorial
principles were revised and restructured just as reading was now beginning to
take place in front of screens, meaning-making to be performed by machines,
and ownership of works to be substituted by contractual renewals.

Thinking about mass digitization as an “assemblage” allows us to abandon the
image of a circumscribed entity in favor of approaching it as an aggregate of
many highly varied components and their contingent connections: scanners,
servers, reading devices, cables, algorithms; national, EU, and US
policymakers; corporate CEOs and employees; cultural heritage professionals
and laypeople; software developers, engineers, lobby organizations, and
unsalaried labor; legal settlements, academic conferences, position papers,
and so on. It gives us pause—every time we say “Google” or “Europeana,” we
might reflect on what we actually mean. Does the researcher employed by a
university library and working with Google Books also belong to Google Books?
Do the underpaid scanners? Do the users of Google? Or, when we refer to Google
Books, do we rather only mean to include the founders and CEOs of Google? Or
has Google in fact become a metaphor that expresses certain characteristics of
our time? The present volume suggests that all these components enter into the
new phenomenon of mass digitization and produce a new field of potentiality,
while at the same time they retain their original qualities and value systems,
at least to some extent. No assemblage is whole and imperturbable, nor
entirely reducible to its parts, but is simultaneously an accumulation of
smaller assemblages and a member of larger ones.61 Thus Google Books, for
example, is both an aggregation of smaller assemblages such as university
libraries, scanners (both humans and machines), and books, _and_ a member of
larger assemblages such as Google, Silicon Valley, neoliberal lobbies, and the
Internet, to name but a few.

While representations of assemblages such as the analyses performed in this
volume are always doomed to misrepresent empirical reality on some level, this
approach nevertheless provides a tool for grasping at least some of mass
digitization’s internal heterogeneity, and the mechanisms and processes that
enable each project’s continued assembled existence. The concept of the
assemblage allows us to grasp mass digitization as comprised of ephemeral
projects that are uncertain by nature, and sometimes even made up of
contradictory components.62 It also allows us to recognize that they are more
than mere networks: while ephemeral and networked, something enables them to
cohere. Bruno Latour writes, “Groups are not silent things, but rather the
provisional product of a constant uproar made by the millions of contradictory
voices about what is a group and who pertains to what.”63 It is the “taming
and constraining of this multivocality,” in particular by communities of
knowledge and everyday practices, that enables something like mass
digitization to cohere as an assemblage.64 This book is, among other things,
about those communities and practices, and the politics they produce and are
produced by. In particular, it addresses the politics of mass digitization as
an infrapolitical activity that retreats into, and emanates from, digital
infrastructures and the network effects they produce.

## Politics in Mass Digitization: Infrastructure and Infrapolitics

If the concept of “assemblage” allows us to see the relational set-up of mass
digitization, it also allows us to inquire into its political infrastructures.
In political terms, assemblage thinking is partly driven by dissatisfaction
with state-centric dominant ontologies, including reified units such as state,
society, or capitalism, and the unilinear focus on state-centric politics over
other forms of politics.65 The assemblage perspective is therefore especially
useful for understanding the politics of late-sovereign and late-capitalist
data projects such as mass digitization. As we will see in part 2, the
epistemic frame of sovereignty continues to offer an organizing frame for the
constitution and regulation of mass digitization and the virtues associated
with it (such as national representation and citizen engagement). However, at
the same time, mass digitization projects are in direct correspondence with
neoliberal values such as privatization, consumerism, globalization, and
acceleration, and its technological features allow for a complete
restructuring of the disciplinary spaces of libraries to form vaster and even
global scales of integration and economic organization on a multinational
stage.

Mass digitization is a concrete example of what cultural memory projects look
like in a “late-sovereign” age, where globalization tests the political and
symbolic authority of sovereign cultural memory politics to its limits, while
sovereignty as an epistemic organizing principle for the politics of cultural
memory nonetheless persists.66 The politics of cultural memory, in particular
those practiced by cultural heritage institutions, often still cling to fixed
sovereign taxonomies and epistemic frameworks. This focus is partly determined
by their institutional anchoring in the framework of national cultural
policies. In mass digitization, however, the formal political apparatus of
cultural heritage institutions is adjoined by a politics that plays out in the
margins: in lobbies, software industries, universities, social media, etc.
Those evaluating mass digitization assemblages in macropolitical terms, that
is, those who are concerned with political categories, will glean little of
the real politics of mass digitization, since such politics at the margins
would escape this analytic matrix.67 Assemblage thinking, by contrast, allows
us to acknowledge the political mechanisms of mass digitization beyond
disciplinary regulatory models, in societies where “where forces … not
categories, clash.”68

As Ian Hacking and many others have noted, the capacious usage of the notion
of “politics” threatens to strip the word of meaning.69 But talk of a politics
of mass digitization is no conceptual gimmick, since what is taking place in
the construction and practice of mass digitization assemblages plainly is
political. The question, then, is how best to describe the politics at work in
mass digitization assemblages. The answer advanced by the present volume is to
think of the politics of mass digitization as “infrapolitics.”

The notion of infrapolitics has until now primarily and profoundly been
advanced as a concept of hidden dissent or contestation (Scott, 1990).70 This
volume suggests shifting the lens to focus on a different kind of
infrapolitics, however, one that not only takes the shape of resistance but
also of maintenance and conformity, since the story of mass digitization is
both the story of contestation _and_ the politics of mundane and standard-
seeking practices. 71 The infrapolitics of mass digitization is, then, a kind
of politics “premised not on a subject, but on the infra,” that is, the
“underlying rules of the world,” organized around glocal infrastructures.72
The infrapolitics of mass digitization is the building and living of
infrastructures, both as spaces of contestation and processes of
naturalization.

Geoffrey Bowker and Susan Leigh Star have argued that the establishment of
standards, categories, and infrastructures “should be recognized as the
significant site of political and ethical work that they are.”73 This applies
not least in the construction and development of knowledge infrastructures
such as mass digitization assemblages, structures that are upheld by
increasingly complex sets of protocols and standards. Attaching “politics” to
“infrastructure” endows the term—and hence mass digitization under this
rubric—with a distinct organizational form that connects various stages and
levels of politics, as well as a distinct temporality that relates mass
digitization to the forces and ideas of industrialization and globalization.

The notion of infrastructure has a surprisingly brief etymology. It first
entered the French language in 1875 in relation to the excavation of
railways.74 Over the following decades, it primarily designated fixed
installations designed to facilitate and foster mobility. It did not enter
English vocabulary until 1927, and as late as 1951, the word was still
described by English sources as “new” (OED).75 When NATO adopted the term in
the 1950s, it gained a military tinge. Since then, “infrastructure” has
proliferated into ever more contexts and disciplines, becoming a “plastic
word”76 often used to signify any vital and widely shared human-constructed
resource.77

What makes infrastructures central for understanding the politics of mass
digitization? Primarily, they are crucial to understanding how industrialism
has affected the ways in which we organize and engage with knowledge, but the
politics of infrastructures are also becoming increasingly significant in the
late-sovereign, late-capitalist landscape.

The infrastructures of mass digitization mediate, combine, connect, and
converge upon different institutions, social networks, and devices, augmenting
the actors that take part in them with new agential possibilities by expanding
the radius of their action, strengthening and prolonging the reach of their
performance, and setting them free for other activities through their
accelerating effects, time often reinvested in other infrastructures, such as,
for instance, social media activities. The infrastructures of mass
digitization also increase the demand for globalization and mobility, since
they expand the radius of using/reading/working.

The infrastructures of mass digitization are thus media of polities and
politics, at times visible and at others barely legible or felt, and home both
to dissent as well as to standardizing measures. These include legal
infrastructures such as copyright, privacy, and trade law; material
infrastructures such as books, wires, scanners, screens, server parks, and
shelving systems; disciplinary infrastructures such as metadata, knowledge
organization, and standards; cultural infrastructures such as algorithms,
searching, reading, and downloading; societal infrastructures such as the
realms of the public and private, national and global. These infrastructures
are, depending, both the prerequisites for and the results of interactions
between the spatial, temporal, and social classes that take part in the
construction of mass digitization. The infrapolitics of mass digitization is
thus geared toward both interoperability and standardization, as well as
toward variation.78

Often when thinking of infrastructures, we conceive of them in terms of
durability and stability. Yet, while some infrastructures, such as railways
and Internet cables, are fairly solid and rigid constructions, others—such as
semantic links, time-limited contracts, and research projects—are more
contingent entities which operate not as “fully coherent, deliberately
engineered, end-to-end processes,” but rather as morphous contingent
assemblages, as “ecologies or complex adaptive systems” consisting of
“numerous systems, each with unique origins and goals, which are made to
interoperate by means of standards, socket layers, social practices, norms,
and individual behaviors that smooth out the connections among them.”79 This
contingency has direct implications for infrapolitics, which become equally
flexible and adaptive. These characteristics endow mass digitization
infrastructures with vulnerabilities but also with tremendous cultural power,
allowing them to distribute agency, and to create and facilitate new forms of
sociality and culture.

Building mass digitization infrastructures is a costly endeavor, and hence
mass digitization infrastructures are often backed by public-private
partnerships. Indeed infrastructures—and mass digitization infrastructures are
no exceptions—are often so costly that a certain mixture of political or
individual megalomania, state reach, and private capital is present in their
construction.80 This mixed foundation means that a lot of the political
decisions regarding mass digitization literally take place _beneath_ the radar
of “the representative institutions of the political system of nation-states,”
while also more or less aggressively filling out “gaps” in nation-state
systems, and even creating transnational zones with their own policies. 81
Hence the notion of “infra”: the infrapolitics of mass digitization hover at a
frequency that lies _below_ and beyond formal sovereign state apparatus,
organized, as they are, around glocal—and often private or privatized—material
and social infrastructures.

While distinct from the formalized sovereign political system, infrapolitical
assemblages nevertheless often perform as late-sovereign actors by engaging in
various forms of “sovereignty games.”82 Take Google, for instance, a private
corporation that often defines itself as at odds with state practice, yet also
often more or less informally meets with state leaders, engages in diplomatic
discussions, and enters into agreements with state agencies and local
political councils. The infrapolitical forces of Google in these sovereignty
games can on the one hand exert political pressure on states—for instance in
the name of civic freedom—but in Google’s embrace of politics, its
infrapolitical forces can on the other hand also squeeze the life out of
existing parliamentary ways, promoting instead various forms of apolitical or
libertarian modes of life. The infrapolitical apparatus thus stands apart from
more formalized politics, not only in terms of political arena, but also the
constraints that are placed upon them in the form, for instance, of public
accountability.83 What is described here can in general terms be called the
infrapolitics of neoliberalism, whose scenery consists of lobby rooms, policy-
making headquarters, financial zones, public-private spheres, and is populated
by lobbyists, bureaucrats, lawyers, and CEOs.

But the infrapolitical dynamics of mass digitization also operate in more
mundane and less obvious settings, such as software design offices and
standardization agencies, and are enacted by engineers, statisticians,
designers, and even users. Infrastructures are—increasingly—essential parts of
our everyday lives, not only in mass digitization contexts, but in all walks
of life, from file formats and software programs to converging transportation
systems, payment systems, and knowledge infrastructures. Yet, what is most
significant about the majority of infrapolitical institutions is that they are
so mundane; if we notice them at all, they appear to us as boring “lists of
numbers and technical specifications.”84 And their maintenance and
construction often occurs “behind the scenes.”85 There is a politics to these
naturalizing processes, since they influence and frame our moral, scientific,
and aesthetic choices. This is to say that these kinds of infrapolitical
activities often retire or withdraw into a kind of self-evidence in which the
values, choices, and influences of infrastructures are taken for granted and
accorded a kind of obviousness, which is universally accepted. It is therefore
all the more “politically and ethically crucial”86 to recognize the
infrapolitics of mass digitization, not only as contestation and privatized
power games, but also as a mode of existence that values professionalized
standardization measures and mundane routines, not least because these
infrapolitical modes of existence often outlast their material circumstances
(“software outlasts hardware” as John Durham Peters notes).87 In sum,
infrastructures and the infrapolitics they produce yield subtle but
significant world-making powers.

## Power in Mass Digitization

If mass digitization is a product of a particular social configuration and
political infrastructure, it is also, ultimately, a site and an instrument of
power. In a sense, mass digitization is an event that stages a fundamental
confrontation between state and corporate power, while pointing to the
reconfigurations of both as they become increasingly embedded in digital
infrastructures. For instance, such confrontation takes place at the
negotiating table, where cultural heritage directors face the seductive and
awe-inspiring riches of Silicon Valley, as well as its overwhelmingly
intricate contractual layouts and its intimidating entourage of lawyers.
Confrontation also takes place at the level of infrastructural ideology, in
the meeting between twentieth-century standardization ideals and the playful
and flexible network dynamics of the twenty-first century, as seen for
instance in the conjunction of institutionally fixed taxonomies and
algorithmic retrieval systems that include feedback mechanisms. And it takes
place at the level of users, as they experience a gain in some powers and the
loss of others in their identity transition from national patrons of cultural
memory institutions to globalized users of mass digitization assemblages.

These transformations are partly the results of society’s increasing reliance
on network power and its effects. Political theorists Michael Hardt and
Antonio Negri suggested almost two decades ago that among other things, global
digital systems enabled a shift in power infrastructures from robust national
economies and core industrial sectors to interactive networks and flexible
accumulation, creating a “form of network power, which requires the wide
collaboration of dominant nation-states, major corporations, supra-national
economic and political institutions, various NGOs, media conglomerates and a
series of other powers.”88 From this landscape, according to their argument,
emerged a new system of power in which morphing networks took precedence over
reliable blocs. Hardt and Negri’s diagnosis was one of several similar
arguments across the political spectrum that were formed within such a short
interval that “the network” arguably became the “defining concept of our
epoch.”89 Within this new epoch, the old centralized blocs of power crumbled
to make room for new forms of decentralized “bastard” power phenomena, such as
the extensive corporate/state mass surveillance systems revealed by Edward
Snowden and others, and new forms of human rights such as “the right to be
forgotten,” a right for which a more appropriate name would be “the right to
not be found by Google.”90 Network power and network effects are therefore
central to understanding how mass digitization assemblages operate, and why
some mass digitization assemblages are more powerful than others.

The power dynamics we find in Google Books, for instance, are directly related
to the ways in which digital technologies harness network effects: the power
of Google Books grows exponentially as its network expands.91 Indeed, as Siva
Vaidhyanathan noted in his critical work on Google’s role in society, what he
referred to as the “Googlization of books” was ultimately deeply intertwined
with the “Googlization of everything.”92 The networks of Google thus weren’t
external to both the success and the challenges of Google, but deeply endemic
to it, from portals and ranking systems to anchoring (elite) institutions, and
so on. The better Google Books becomes at harnessing network effects, the more
fundamental its influence is in the digital sphere. And Google Books is very
good at harnessing digital network power. Indeed, Google Books reached its
“tipping point” almost before it launched: it had by then already attracted so
many stakeholders that its mere existence decreased the power of any competing
entities—and the fact that its heavy user traffic is embedded in Google only
strengthened its network effects. Google Books’s tipping point tells us little
about its quality in an abstract sense: “tipping points” are more often
attained by proprietary measures, lobbying, expansion, and most typically by a
mixture of all of the above, than by sheer quality.93 This explains not only
the success of Google Books, but also its traction with even its critics:
although Google Books was initially criticized heavily for its poor imagery
and faulty metadata,94 its possible harmful impact on the public sphere,95 and
later, over privacy concerns,96 it had already created a power hub to which,
although they could have navigated around it, masses of people were
nevertheless increasingly drawn.

Network power is endemic not only to concrete digital networks, but also to
globalization at large as a process that simultaneously gives rise to feelings
of freedom of choice and loss of choice.97 Mass digitization assemblages, and
their globalization of knowledge infrastructures, thus crystalize the more
general tendencies of globalization as a process in which people participate
by choice, but not necessarily voluntarily; one in which we are increasingly
pushed into a game of social coordination, where common standards allow more
effective coordination yet also entrap us in their pull for convergence.
Standardization is therefore a key technique of network power: on the one
hand, standardization is linked with globalization (and various neoliberal
regimes) and the attendant widespread contraction of the state, while on the
other hand, standardization implies a reconfiguration of everyday life.98
Standards allow for both minute data analytics and overarching political
systems that “govern at a distance.”99 Standardization understood in this way
is thus a mode of capturing, conceptualizing, and configuring reality, rather
than simply an economic instrument or lubricant. In a sense, standardization
could even be said to be habit forming: through standardization, “inventions
become commonplace, novelties become mundane, and the local becomes
universal.”100

To be sure, standardization has long been a crucial tool of world-making
power, spanning both the early and late-capitalist eras.101 “Standard time,”
as John Durham Peters notes, “is a sine qua non for international
capitalism.”102 Without the standardized infrastructure of time there would be
no global transportation networks, no global trade channels, and no global
communication networks. Indeed, globalization is premised on standardization
processes.

What kind of standardization processes do we find, then, in mass digitization
assemblages? Internet use alone involves direct engagement with hundreds of
global standards, from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi standards, from protocol standards
to file standards such as Word and MP4 and HTTP.103 Moreover, mass
digitization assemblages confront users with a series of additional standards,
from cultural standards of tagging to technical standards of interoperability,
such as the European Data Model (EDM) and Google’s schema.org, or legal
standards such as copyright and privacy regulations. Yet, while these
standards share affinities with the standardization processes of
industrialization, in many respects they also deviate from them. Instead, we
experience in mass digitization “a new form of standardization,”104 in which
differentiation and flexibility gain increasing influence without, however,
dispensing with standardization processes.

Today’s standardization is increasingly coupled with demands for flexibility
and interoperability. Flexibility, as Joyce Kolko has shown, is a term that
gained traction in the 1970s, when it was employed to describe putative
solutions to the problems of Fordism.105 It was seen as an antidote to Fordist
“rigidity”—a serious offense in the neoliberal regime. Thus, while the digital
networks underlying mass digitization are geared toward standardization and
expansion, since “information technology rewards scale, but only to the extent
that practices are standardized,”106 they are also becoming increasingly
flexible, since too-rigid standards hinder network effects, that is, the
growth of additional networks. This is one reason why mass digitization
assemblages increasingly and intentionally break down the so-called “silo”
thinking of cultural memory institutions, and implement standard flexibility
and interoperability to increase their range.107 One area of such
reconfiguration in mass digitization is the taxonomic field, where stable
institutional taxonomic structures are converted to new flexible modes of
knowledge organization like linked data.108 Linked data can connect cultural
memory artifacts as well as metadata in new ways, and the move from a cultural
memory web of interlinked documents to a cultural memory web of interlinked
data can potentially “amplify the impact of the work of libraries and
archives.”109 However, in order to work effectively, linked data demands
standards and shared protocols.

Flexibility allows the user a freer range of actions, and thus potentially
also the possibility of innovation. These affordances often translate into
user freedom or empowerment. Yet flexibility does not necessarily equal
fundamental user autonomy or control. On the contrary, flexibility is often
achieved through decomposition, modularization, and black-boxing, allowing
some components to remain stable while others are changed without implications
for the rest of the system.110 These components are made “fluid” in the sense
that they are dispersed of clear boundaries and allowed multiple identities,
and in that they enable continuity and dissolution.

While these new flexible standard-setting mechanisms are often localized in
national and subnational settings, they are also globalized systems “oriented
towards global agendas and systems.”111 Indeed, they are “glocal”
configurations with digital networks at their cores. The increasing
significance of these glocal configurations has not only cultural but also
democratic consequences, since they often leave users powerless when it comes
to influencing their cores.112 This more fundamental problematic also pertains
to mass digitization, a phenomenon that operates in an environment that
constructs and encourages less Habermasian public spheres than “relations of
sociability,” from which “aggregate outcomes emerge not from an act of
collective decision-making, but through the accumulation of decentralized,
individual decisions that, taken together, nonetheless conduce to a
circumstance that affects the entire group.”113 For example, despite the
flexibility Google Books allows us in terms of search and correlation, we have
very little sway over its construction, even though we arguably influence its
dynamics. The limitations of our influence on the cores of mass digitization
assemblages have implications not only for how we conceive of institutional
power, but also for our own power within these matrixes.

## Notes

1. Borghi 2012, 420. 2. Latour 2008. 3. For more on this, see Hicks 2018;
Abbate 2012; Ensmenger 2012. In the case of libraries, (white) women still
make out the majority of the workforce, but there is a disproportionate amount
of men in senior positions, in comparison with their overall representation;
see, for example, Schonfeld and Sweeney 2017. 4. Meckler 1982. 5. Otlet and
Rayward 1990, chaps. 6 and 15. 6. For a historical and contemporary overview
over some milestones in the use of microfilms in a library context, see Canepi
et al. 2013, specifically “Historic Overview.” See also chap. 10 in Baker
2002. 7. Pfanner 2012. 8.
. 9. Medak et al.
2016. 10. Michael S. Hart, “The History and Philosophy of Project Gutenberg,”
Project Gutenberg, August 1992,
.
11. Ibid. 12. . 13. Ibid. 14. Bruno Delorme,
“Digitization at the Bibliotheque Nationale De France, Including an Interview
with Bruno Delorme,” _Serials_ 24 (3) (2011): 261–265. 15. Alain Giffard,
“Dilemmas of Digitization in Oxford,” _AlainGiffard’s Weblog_ , posted May 29,
2008, in-oxford>. 16. Ibid. 17. Author’s interview with Alain Giffard, Paris, 2010.
18. Ibid. 19. Later, in 1997, François Mitterrand demanded that the digitized
books should be brought online, accessible as text from everywhere. This,
then, was what became known as Gallica, the digital library of BnF, which was
launched in 1997. Gallica contains documents primarily out of copyright from
the Middle Ages to the 1930s, with priority given to French-speaking culture,
hosting about 4 million documents. 20. Imerito 2009. 21. Ambati et al. 2006;
Chen 2005. 22. Ryan Singel, “Stop the Google Library, Net’s Librarian Says,”
_Wired_ , May 19, 2009, library-nets-librarian-says>. 23. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Annual Report,
2006,
.
24. Leetaru 2008. 25. Amazon was also a major player in the early years of
mass digitization. In 2003 they gave access to a digital archive of more than
120,000 books with the professed goal of adding Amazon’s multimillion-title
catalog in the following years. As with all other mass digitization
initiatives, Jeff Bezos faced a series of copyright and technological
challenges. He met these with legal rhetorical ingenuity and the technical
skills of Udi Manber, who later became the lead engineer with Google, see, for
example, Wolf 2003. 26. Leetaru 2008. 27. John Markoff, “The Coming Search
Wars,” _New York Times_ , February 1, 2004,
. 28.
Google press release, “Google Checks out Library Books,” December 14, 2004,
.
29. Vise and Malseed 2005, chap. 21. 30. Auletta 2009, 96. 31. Johann Wolfgang
Goethe, _Sprüche in Prosa_ , “Werke” (Weimer edition), vol. 42, pt. 2, 141;
cited in Cassirer 1944. 32. Philip Jones, “Writ to the Future,” _The
Bookseller_ , October 22, 2015, future-315153>. 33. “Jacques Chirac donne l’impulsion à la création d’une
bibliothèque numérique,” _Le Monde_ , March 16, 2005,
donne-l-impulsion-a-la-creation-d-une-bibliotheque-
numerique_401857_3246.html>. 34. “An overwhelming American dominance in
defining future generations’ conception about the world” (author’s own
translation). Ibid. 35. Labi 2005; “The worst scenario we could achieve would
be that we had two big digital libraries that don’t communicate. The idea is
not to do the same thing, so maybe we could cooperate, I don’t know. Frankly,
I’m not sure they would be interested in digitizing our patrimony. The idea is
to bring something that is complementary, to bring diversity. But this doesn’t
mean that Google is an enemy of diversity.” 36. Chrisafis 2008. 37. Béquet
2009. For more on the political potential of archives, see Foucault 2002;
Derrida 1996; and Tygstrup 2014. 38. “Comme vous soulignez, nos bibliothèques
et nos archives contiennent la mémoire de nos culture européenne et de
société. La numérisation de leur collection—manuscrits, livres, images et
sons—constitue un défi culturel et économique auquel il serait bon que
l’Europe réponde de manière concertée.” (As you point out, our libraries and
archives contain the memory of our European culture and society. Digitization
of their collections—manuscripts, books, images, and sounds—is a cultural and
economic challenge it would be good for Europe to meets in a concerted
manner.) Manuel Barroso, open letter to Jacques Chirac, July 7, 2007,
[http://www.peps.cfwb.be/index.php?eID=tx_nawsecuredl&u=0&file=fileadmin/sites/numpat/upload/numpat_super_editor/numpat_editor/documents/Europe/Bibliotheques_numeriques/2005.07.07reponse_de_la_Commission_europeenne.pdf&hash=fe7d7c5faf2d7befd0894fd998abffdf101eecf1](http://www.peps.cfwb.be/index.php?eID=tx_nawsecuredl&u=0&file=fileadmin/sites/numpat/upload/numpat_super_editor/numpat_editor/documents/Europe/Bibliotheques_numeriques/2005.07.07reponse_de_la_Commission_europeenne.pdf&hash=fe7d7c5faf2d7befd0894fd998abffdf101eecf1).
39. Jøsevold 2016. 40. Janssen 2011. 41. Robert Darnton, “Google’s Loss: The
Public’s Gain,” _New York Review of Books_ , April 28, 2011,
. 42.
Palfrey 2015, __ 104. 43. See, for example, DPLA’s Public Library
Partnership’s Project, partnerships>. 44. Karaganis, 2018. 45. Sassen 2008, 3. 46. Coyle 2006; Borghi
and Karapapa, _Copyright and Mass Digitization_ ; Patra, Kumar, and Pani,
_Progressive Trends in Electronic Resource Management in Libraries_. 47.
Borghi 2012. 48. Beagle et al. 2003; Lavoie and Dempsey 2004; Courant 2006;
Earnshaw and Vince 2007; Rieger 2008; Leetaru 2008; Deegan and Sutherland
2009; Conway 2010; Samuelson 2014. 49. The earliest textual reference to the
mass digitization of books dates to the early 1990s. Richard de Gennaro,
Librarian of Harvard College, in a panel on funding strategies, argued that an
existing preservation program called “brittle books” should take precedence
over other preservation strategies such as mass deacidification; see Sparks,
_A Roundtable on Mass Deacidification_ , 46. Later the word began to attain
the sense we recognize today, as referring to digitization on a large scale.
In 2010 a new word popped up, “ultramass digitization,” a concept used to
describe the efforts of Google vis-à-vis more modest large-scale digitization
projects; see Greene 2010 _._ 50. Kevin Kelly, “Scan This Book!,” _New York
Times_ , May 14, 2006, ; Hall 2008; Darnton 2009;
Palfrey 2015. 51. As Alain Giffard notes, “I am not very confident with the
programs of digitization full of technical and economical considerations, but
curiously silent on the intellectual aspects” (Alain Giffard, “Dilemmas of
Digitization in Oxford,” _AlainGiffard’s Weblog_ , posted May 29, 2008,
oxford>). 52. Tiffen 2007. 344. See also Peatling 2004. 53. Sassen 2008. 54.
See _The Authors Guild et al. vs. Google, Inc._ , Amended Settlement Agreement
05 CV 8136, United States District Court, Southern District of New York,
(2009) sec 7(2)(d) (research corpus), sec. 1.91, 14. 55. Informational
capitalism is a variant of late capitalism, which is based on cognitive,
communicative, and cooperative labor. See Christian Fuchs, _Digital Labour and
Karl Marx_ (New York: Routledge, 2014), 135–152. 56. Miksa 1983, 93. 57.
Midbon 1980. 58. Said 1983, 237. 59. For example, the diverse body of
scholarship that employed the notion of “assemblage” as a heuristic and/or
ontological device for grasping and formulating these changing relations of
power and control; in sociology: Haggerty and Ericson 2000; Rabinow 2003; Ong
and Collier 2005; Callon et al. 2016; in geography: Anderson and McFarlane
2011, 124–127; in philosophy: Deleuze and Guattari 1987; DeLanda 2006; in
cultural studies: Puar 2007; in political science: Sassen 2008. The
theoretical scope of these works ranged from close readings of and ontological
alignments with Deleuze and Guattari’s work (e.g., DeLanda), to more
straightforward descriptive employments of the term as outlined in the OED
(e.g., Sassen). What the various approaches held in common was the effort to
steer readers away from thinking in terms of essences and stability toward
thinking about more complex and unstable structures. Indeed, the “assemblage”
seems to have become a prescriptive as much as a diagnostic tool (Galloway
2013b; Weizman 2006). 60. Deleuze 1997; Foucault 2009; Hardt and Negri 2007.
61. DeLanda 2006; Paul Rabinow, “Collaborations, Concepts, Assemblages,” in
Rabinow and Foucault 2011, 113–126, at 123. 62. Latour 2005, __ 28. 63. Ibid.,
35. 64. Tim Stevens, _Cyber Security and the Politics of Time_ (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2015), 33. 65. Abrahamsen and Williams 2011. 66.
Walker 2003. 67. Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 116. 68. Parisi 2004, 37. 69.
Hacking 1995, 210. 70. Scott 2009. In James C. Scott’s formulation,
infrapolitics is a form of micropolitics, that is, the term refers to
political acts that evade the formal political apparatus. This understanding
was later taken up by Robin D. G. Kelley and Alberto Moreires, and more
recently by Stevphen Shukaitis and Angela Mitropolous. See Kelley 1994;
Shukaitis 2009; Mitropoulos 2012; Alterbo Moreiras, _Infrapolitics: the
Project and Its Politics. Allegory and Denarrativization. A Note on
Posthegemony_. eScholarship, University of California, 2015. 71. James C.
Scott also concedes as much when he briefly links his notion of infrapolitics
to infrastructure, as the “cultural and structural underpinning of the more
visible political action on which our attention has generally been focused”;
Scott 2009, 184. 72. Mitropoulos 2012, 115. 73. Bowker and Star 1999, 319. 74.
Centre National de Ressource Textuelle et Lexicales,
. 75. For an English
etymological examination, see also Batt 1984, 1–6. 76. This is on account of
their malleability and the uncanny way they are used to fit every
circumstance. For more on the potentials and problems of plastic words, see
Pörksen 1995. 77. Edwards 2003, 186–187. 78. Mitropoulos 2012, 117. 79.
Edwards et al. 2012. 80. Peters 2015, at 31. 81. Beck 1996, 1–32, at 18;
Easterling 2014. 82. Adler-Nissen and Gammeltoft-Hansen 2008. 83. Holzer and
Mads 2003. 84. Star 1999, 377. 85. Ibid. 86. Bowker and Star 1999, 326. 87.
Peters 2015, 35. 88. Hardt and Negri 2009, 205. 89. Chun 2017. 90. As argued
by John Naughton at the _Negotiating Cultural Rights_ conference, National
Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 13–14, 2015,
.
91. The “tipping point” is a metaphor for sudden change first introduced by
Morton Grodzins in 1960, later used by sociologists such as Thomas Schelling
(for explaining demographic changes in mixed-race neighborhoods), before
becoming more generally familiar in urbanist studies (used by Saskia Sassen,
for instance, in her analysis of global cities), and finally popularized by
mass psychologists and trend analysts such as Malcolm Gladwell, in his
bestseller of that name; see Gladwell 2000. 92. “Those of us who take
liberalism and Enlightenment values seriously often quote Sir Francis Bacon’s
aphorism that ‘knowledge is power.’ But, as the historian Stephen Gaukroger
argues, this is not a claim about knowledge: it is a claim about power.
‘Knowledge plays a hitherto unrecognized role in power,’ Gaukroger writes.
‘The model is not Plato but Machiavelli.’1 Knowledge, in other words, is an
instrument of the powerful. Access to knowledge gives access to that
instrument of power, but merely having knowledge or using it does not
automatically confer power. The powerful always have the ways and means to use
knowledge toward their own ends. … How can we connect the most people with the
best knowledge? Google, of course, offers answers to those questions. It’s up
to us to decide whether Google’s answers are good enough.” See Vaidhyanathan
2011, 149–150. 93. Easley and Kleinberg 2010, 528. 94. Duguid 2007; Geoffrey
Nunberg, “Google’s Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars,” _Chronicle of Higher
Education,_ August 31, 2009; _The Idea of Order: Transforming Research
Collections for 21st Century Scholarship_ (Washington, DC: Council on Library
and Information Resources, 2010), 106–115. 95. Robert Darnton, “Google’s Loss:
The Public’s Gain,” _New York Review of Books_ , April 28, 2011,
. 96.
Jones and Janes 2010. 97. David S. Grewal, _Network Power: The Social Dynamics
of Globalization_ (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008). 98. Higgins and
Larner, _Calculating the Social: Standards and the Reconfiguration of
Governing_ (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). 99. Ponte, Gibbon, and
Vestergaard 2011; Gibbon and Henriksen 2012. 100. Russell 2014. See also Wendy
Chun on the correlation between habit and standardization: Chun 2017. 101.
Busch 2011. 102. Peters 2015, 224. 103. DeNardis 2011. 104. Hall and Jameson
1990. 105. Kolko 1988. 106. Agre 2000. 107. For more on the importance of
standard flexibility in digital networks, see Paulheim 2015. 108. Linked data
captures the intellectual information users add to information resources when
they describe, annotate, organize, select, and use these resources, as well as
social information about their patterns of usage. On one hand, linked data
allows users and institutions to create taxonomic categories for works on a
par with cultural memory experts—and often in conflict with such experts—for
instance by linking classical nudes with porn; and on the other hand, it
allows users and institutions to harness social information about patterns of
use. Linked data has ideological and economic underpinnings as much as
technical ones. 109.  _The National Digital Platform: for Libraries, Archives
and Museums_ , 2015, report-national-digital-platform>. 110. Petter Nielsen and Ole Hanseth, “Fluid
Standards. A Case Study of a Norwegian Standard for Mobile Content Services,”
under review,
.
111. Sassen 2008, 3. 112. Grewal 2008. 113. Ibid., 9.

# II
Mapping Mass Digitization

# 2
The Trials, Tribulations, and Transformations of Google Books

## Introduction

In a 2004 article in the cultural theory journal _Critical Inquiry_ , book
historian Roger Chartier argued that the electronic world had created a triple
rupture in the world of text: by providing new techniques for inscribing and
disseminating the written word, by inspiring new relationships with texts, and
by imposing new forms of organization onto them. Indeed, Chartier foresaw that
“the originality and the importance of the digital revolution must therefore
not be underestimated insofar as it forces the contemporary reader to
abandon—consciously or not—the various legacies that formed it.”1 Chartier’s
premonition was inspired by the ripples that digitization was already
spreading across the sea of texts. People were increasingly writing and
distributing electronically, interacting with texts in new ways, and operating
and implementing new textual economies.2 These textual transformations __ gave
rise to a range of emotional reactions in readers and publishers, from
catastrophizing attititudes and pessimism about “the end of the book” to the
triumphalist mythologizing of liquid virtual books that were shedding their
analog ties like butterflies shedding their cocoons.

The most widely publicized mass digitization project to date, Google Books,
precipitated the entire emotional spectrum that could arise from these textual
transversals: from fears that control over culture was slipping from authors
and publishers into the hands of large tech companies, to hopeful ideas about
the democratizing potential of bringing knowledge that was once locked up in
dusty tomes at places like Harvard and Stanford, and to a utopian
mythologizing of the transcendent potential of mass digitization. Moreover,
Google Books also affected legal and professional transformations of the
infrastructural set-up of the book, creating new precedents and a new
professional ethos. The cultural, legal, and political significance of Google
Books, whether positive or negative, not only emphasizes its fundamental role
in shaping current knowledge landscapes, it also allows us to see Google Books
as a prism that reflects more general political tendencies toward
globalization, privatization, and digitization, such as modulations in
institutional infrastructures, legal landscapes, and aesthetic and political
conventions. But how did the unlikely marriage between a tech company and
cultural memory institutions even come about? Who drove it forward, and around
and within which infrastructures? And what kind of cultural memory politics
did it produce? The following sections of this chapter will address some of
these problematics.

## The New Librarians

It was in the midst of a turbulent restructuring of the world of text, in
October 2004 at the Frankfurt International Book Fair, that Larry Page and
Sergey Brin of Google announced the launch of Google Print, a cooperation
between Google and leading Anglophone publishers. Google Print, which later
became Google Partner Program, would significantly alter the landscape and
experience of cultural memory, as well as its regulatory infrastructures. A
decade later, the traditional practices of reading, and the guardianship of
text and cultural works, had acquired entirely new meanings. In October 2004,
however, the publishing world was still unaware of Google’s pending influence
on the institutional world of cultural memory. Indeed, at that time, Amazon’s
mounting dominance in the field of books, which began a decade earlier in
1995, appeared to pose much more significant implications. The majority of
publishers therefore greeted Google’s plans in Frankfurt as a welcome
alternative to Jeff Bezos’s growing online behemoth.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin withheld a few details from their announcement at
Frankfurt, however; Google’s digitization plans would involve not only
cooperation with publishers, but also with libraries. As such, what would
later become Google Books would in fact consist of two separate, yet
interrelated, programs: Google Print (which would later become Google Partner
Program) and Google Library Project. In all secrecy, Google had for many
months prior to the Frankfurt Book Fair worked with select libraries in the US
and the UK to digitize their holdings. And in December 2004 the true scope of
Google’s mass digitization plans were revealed: what Page and Brin were
building was the foundation of a groundbreaking cultural memory archive,
inspired by the myth of Alexandria.3 The invocation of Alexandria situated the
nascent Google Books project in a cultural schema that historicized the
project as a utopian, even moral and idealist, project that could finally,
thanks to technology, exceed existing human constraints—legal, political, and
physical.4

Google’s utopian discourse was not foreign to mass digitization enthusiasts.
Indeed, it was the _langue du jour_ underpinning most large-scale digitization
projects, a discourse nurtured and influenced by the seemingly borderless
infrastructure of the web itself (which was often referred to in
universalizing terms). 5 Yet, while the universalizing discourse of mass
digitization was familiar, it had until then seemed like aspirational talk at
best, and strategic policy talk in the face of limited public funding, complex
copyright landscapes, and lumbering infrastructures, at worst. Google,
however, faced the task with a fresh attitude of determination and a will to
disrupt, as well as a very different form of leverage in terms of
infrastructural set-up. Google was already the world’s preferred search
engine, having mastered the tactical skill of navigating its users through
increasingly complex information landscapes on the web, and harvesting their
metadata in the process to continuously improve Google’s feedback systems.
Essentially ever-larger amounts of information (understood here as “users”)
were passing through Google’s crawling engines, and as the masses of
information in Google’s server parks grew, so did their computational power.
Google Books, then, as opposed to most existing digitization projects, which
were conceived mainly in terms of “access,” was embedded in the larger system
of Google that understood the power and value of “feedback,” collecting
information and entering it into feedback loops between users, machines, and
engineers. Google also understood that information power didn’t necessarily
lie in owning all the information they gave access to, but rather in
controlling the informational processes themselves.

Yet, despite Google’s advances in information seeking behaviors, the idea of
Google Books appeared as an odd marriage. Why was a private company in Silicon
Valley, working in the futuristic and accelerating world of software and fluid
information streams, intent on partnering up with the slow-paced world of
cultural memory institutions, traditionally more concerned with the past?
Despite the apparent clash of temporal and cultural regimes, however, Google
was in fact returning home to its point of inception. Google was born of a
research project titled the Stanford Integrated Digital Library Project, which
was part of the NSF’s Digital Libraries Initiative (1994–1999). Larry Page and
Sergey Brin were students then, working on the Stanford component of this
project, intending to develop the base technologies required to overcome the
most critical barriers to effective digital libraries, of which there were
many.6 Page’s and Brin’s specific project, titled Google, was presented as a
technical solution to the increasing amount of information on the World Wide
Web.7 At Stanford, Larry Page also tried to facilitate a serious discussion of
mass digitization at Stanford, and of whether or not it was feasible. But his
ideas received little support, and he was forced to leave the idea on the
drawing board in favor of developing search technologies.8

In September 1998, Sergey Brin and Larry Page left the library project to
found Google as a company and became immersed in search engine technologies.
However, a few years later, Page resuscitated the idea of mass digitization as
a part of their larger self-professed goal to change the world of information
by increasing access, scaling the amount of information available, and
improving computational power. They convinced Eric Schmidt, the new CEO of
Google, that the mass digitization of cultural works made sense not only from
a information perspective, but also from a business perspective, since the
vast amounts of information Google could extract from books would improve
Google’s ability to deliver information that was hitherto lacking, and this
new content would eventually also result in an increase in traffic and clicks
on ads.9

## The Scaling Techniques of Mass Digitization

A series of experiments followed on how to best approach the daunting task.
The emergence and decay of these experiments highlight the ways in which mass
digitization assemblages consist not only of thoughts, ideals, and materials,
but also a series of cultural techniques that entwine temporality,
materiality, and even corporeality. This perspective on mass digitization
emphasizes the mixed nature of mass digitization assemblages: what at first
glance appears as a relatively straightforward story about new technical
inventions, at a closer look emerges as complex entanglements of human and
nonhuman actors, with implications not only for how we approach it as a legal-
technical entity but also an infrapolitical phenomenon. As the following
section shows, attending to the complex cultural techniques of mass
digitization (its “how”) enables us to see that its “minor” techniques are not
excluded from or irrelevant to, but rather are endemic to, larger questions of
the infrapolitics of digital capitalism. Thus, Google’s simple technique of
scaling scanning to make the digitization processes go faster becomes
entangled in the creation of new habits and techniques of acceleration and
rationalization that tie in with the politics of digital culture and digital
devices. The industrial scaling of mass digitization becomes a crucial part of
the industrial apparatus of big data, which provide new modes of inscription
for both individuals and digital industries that in turn can be capitalized on
via data-mining, just as it raises questions of digital labor and copyright.

Yet, what kinds of scaling techniques—and what kinds of investments—Google
would have to leverage to achieve its initial goals were still unclear to
Google in those early years. Larry Page and co-worker Marissa Mayer therefore
began to experiment with the best ways to proceed. First, they created a
makeshift scanning device, whereby Marissa Mayer would turn the page and Larry
Page would click the shutter of the camera, guided by the pace of a
metronome.10 These initial mass digitization experiments signaled the
industrial nature of the mass digitization process, providing a metronomic
rhythm governed by the implacable regularity of the machine, in addition to
the temporal horizon of eternity in cultural memory institutions (or at least
of material decay).11 After some experimentation with scale and time, Google
bought a consignment of books from a second-hand book store in Arizona. They
scanned them and subsequently experimented with how to best index these works
not only by using information from the book, but also by pulling data about
the books from various other sources on the web. These extractions allowed
them to calculate a work’s relevance and importance, for instance by looking
at the number of times it had been referred to.12

In 2004 Google was also granted patent rights to a scanner that would be able
to scan the pages of works without destroying them, and which would make them
searchable thanks to sophisticated 3D scanning and complex algorithms.13
Google’s new scanner used infrared camera technology that detected the three-
dimensional shape and angle of book pages when the book was placed in the
scanner. The information from the book was then transmitted to Optical
Character Recognition (OCR), which adjusted image focus and allowed the OCR
software to read images of curved surfaces more accurately.

![11404_002_fig_001.jpg](images/11404_002_fig_001.jpg)

Figure 2.1 François-Marie Lefevere and Marin Saric. “Detection of grooves in
scanned images.” U.S. Patent 7508978B1. Assigned to Google LLC.

These new scanning technologies allowed Google to unsettle the fixed content
of cultural works on an industrial scale and enter them into new distribution
systems. The untethering and circulation of text already existed, of course,
but now text would mutate on an industrial scale, bringing into coexistence a
multiplicity of archiving modes and textual accumulation. Indeed, Google’s
systematic scaling-up of already existing technologies on an industrial and
accelerated scale posed a new paradigm in mass digitization, to a much larger
extent than, for instance, inventions of new technologies.14 Thus, while
Google’s new book scanners did expand the possibilities of capturing
information, Google couldn’t solve the problem of automating the process of
turning the pages of the books. For that they had to hire human scanners who
were asked to manually turn pages. The work of these human scanners was
largely invisible to the public, who could only see the books magically
appearing online as the digital archive accumulated. The scanners nevertheless
left ghostly traces, in the form of scanning errors such as pink fingers and
missing and crumbled pages—visual traces that underlined the historically
crucial role of human labor in industrializing and automating processes.15
Indeed, the question of how to solve human errors in the book scanning process
led to a series of inventive systems, such as the patent granted to Google in
2009 (filed in 2003), which describes a system that would minimize scanning
errors with the help of music.16 Later, Google open sourced plans for a book
scanner named “Linear Book Scanner” that would turn the pages automatically
with the help of a vacuum cleaner and a cleverly designed sheet metal
structure, after passing them over two image sensors taken from a desktop
scanner.17

Eventually, after much experimentation, Google consolidated its mass
digitization efforts in collaboration with select libraries.18 While some
institutions immediately and enthusiastically welcomed Google’s aspirations as
aligning with their own mission to improve access to information, others were
more hesitant, an institutional vacillation that hinted ominously at
controversy to come. Some libraries, such as the University of Michigan,
greeted the initiative with enthusiasm, whereas others, such as the Library of
Congress, saw a red flag pop up: copyright, one of the most fundamental
elements in the rights of texts and authors.19 The Library of Congress
questioned whether it was legal to scan and index books without a rights
holder’s permission. Google, in response, argued that it was within the fair
use provisions of the law, but the argument was speculative in so far as there
was no precedent for what Google was going to do. While some universities
agreed with Google’s views on copyright and shared its desire to disrupt
existing copyright practices, others allowed Google to make digital copies of
their holdings (a precondition for creating an index of it). Hence, some
libraries gave full access, others allowed only the scanning of books in the
public domain (published before 1923), and still others denied access
altogether. While the reticence of libraries was scattered, it was also a
precursor of a much more zealous resistance to Google Books, an opposition
that was mounted by powerful voices in the cultural world, namely publishers
and authors, and other commercial infrastructures of cultural memory.

![11404_002_fig_002.jpg](images/11404_002_fig_002.jpg)

Figure 2.2 Joseph K. O’Sullivan, Alexander Proudfooot, and Christopher R.
Uhlik. “Pacing and error monitoring of manual page turning operator.” U.S.
Patent 7619784B1. Assigned to Google LLC, Google Technology Holdings LLC.

While Google’s announcement of its cooperation with publishers at the
Frankfurt Book Fair was received without drama—even welcomed by many—the
announcement of its cooperation with libraries a few months later caused a
commercial uproar. The most publicized point of contestation was the fact that
Google was now not only displaying books in cooperation with publishers, but
also building a library of its own, without remunerating publishers and
authors. Why would readers buy books if they could read them free online?
Moreover, the Authors Guild worried that Google’s digital library would
increase the risk of piracy. At a deeper level, the case also emphasized
authors’ and publishers’ desire to retain control over their copyrighted works
in the face of the threat that the Library Project (unlike the Partner
Program) was posing: Google was digitizing without the copyright holder’s
permission. Thus, to them, the Library Project fundamentally threatened their
copyrights and, on a more fundamental level, existing copyright systems. Both
factors, they argued, would make book buying a superfluous activity.20 The
harsher criticisms framed Google Books as a book thief rather than as a global
philanthropist.21 Google, on its behalf, launched a defense of their actions
based on the notion of “fair use,” which as the following section shows,
eventually became the fundamental legal question.

## Infrastructural Transformations

Google Books became the symbol of the painful confusion and territorial
battles that marred the publishing world as it underwent a transformation from
analog to digital. The mounting and diverse opposition to Google Books was
thus not an isolated affair, but rather a persistent symptom—increasingly loud
stress signals emitting from the infrastructural joints of the analog realm of
books as it buckled under the strain of digital logic. As media theorist John
Durham Peters (drawing on media theorist Harold Innis) notes, the history of
media is also an “occupational history” that tells the tales of craftspeople
mastering medium-specific skills tactically battling for monopolies of
knowledge and guarding their access.22 And in the occupational history of
Google Books, the craftspeople of the printed book were being challenged by a
new breed of artificers who were excelling not so much in how to print, which
book sellers to negotiate with, or how to sell books to people, but rather in
the medium-specific tactical skills of the digital, such as building software
and devising search technologies, skills they were leveraging to their own
gain to create new “monopolies of knowledge” in the process.

As previously mentioned, the concerns expressed by publishers and authors in
regards to remuneration was accompanied by a more abstract sense of a loss of
control over their works and how this loss of control would affect the
copyrights. These concerns did not arise out of thin air, but were part of a
more general discourse on digital information as something that _cannot_ be
secured and controlled in the same way as analog commodities can. Indeed, it
seemed that authors and publishers were part of a world entirely different
from Google Books: while publishers and authors were still living in and
defending a “regime of scarcity,” 23 Google Books, by contrast, was busy
building a “realm of plenitude and infinite replenishment.” As such, the clash
between the traditional infrastructures of the analog book and the new
infrastructures of Google Books was symptomatic of the underlying radical
reorganization of information from a state of trade and exchange to a state of
constant transmission and contagion.24

Foregrounding the fair use defense25, Google argued that the public benefits
of scanning outweighed the negative consequences for authors.26 Influential
legal scholars such as Lawrence Lessig, among others, supported this argument,
suggesting that inclusion in a search engine in a way that does not erode the
value of the book was of such societal importance that it should be deemed
legal.27 The copyright owners, however, insisted that the burden should be on
Google to request permission to scan each work.28

Google and copyright owners reached a proposed settlement on October 28, 2008.
The proposal would allow Google not only to continue its scanning activities
and to show free snippets online, but would also give Google exclusive rights
to sell digital copies of out-of-print books. In return, Google would provide
all libraries in the United States with one free subscription to the digital
database, but Google could also sell additional subscriptions. Moreover,
Google was to pay $125 million, part of which would go to the construction of
a Book Rights Registry that identified rights holders and handled payments to
lawyers.29 Yet before the settlement was even formally treated, a mounting
opposition to it was launched in public.

The proposed settlement was received with harsh words, for instance by
Internet archivist Brewster Kahle and legal scholar Lawrence Lessig, who
opposed the settlement with words ranging from “insanity” to “cultural
asphyxiation” and “information monopoly.”30 Privacy proponents also spoke out
against Google Books, bringing attention to the implications of Google being
able to follow and track reading habits, among other things.31 The
organization Privacy Authors, including writers such as Jonathan Lethem, Bruce
Schneier, and Michael Chabon, and publishers, argued that although Google
Books was an “extremely exciting” project, it failed in its current form to
protect the privacy of readers, thus creating a “real risk of disclosure” of
sensitive information to “prying governmental entities and private litigants,”
potentially giving rise to a “chilling effect,” hurting not only readers but
also authors and publishers, not least those writing about sensitive or
controversial topics.32 The Association of Libraries also raised a set of
concerns, such as the cost of library subscriptions and privacy.33 And most
predictably, companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, who also had a stake in
mass digitization, opposed the settlement; Microsoft even funded some nuanced
research efforts into its implications.34 Finally, and most damningly, the
Department of Justice decided to get involved with an antitrust argument.

By this point, opposition to the Google Books project, as it was outlined in
the proposed settlement, wasn’t only motivated by commercial concerns; it was
now also motivated by a public that framed Google’s mass digitization project
as a parasitical threat to the public sphere itself. The framing of Google as
a potential menace was a jarring image that stood in stark contrast to Larry
Page’s and Sergey Brin’s philanthropic attitudes and to Google’s famous “Don’t
be evil” slogan. The public reaction thus signaled a change in Google’s
reputation as the company metamorphosed in the public eye from a small
underdog company to a multinational corporation with a near-monopoly in the
search industry. Google’s initially inspiring approach to information as a
realm of plenitude now appeared in the public view more similar to the actions
of megalomaniac land-grabbers.

Google, however, while maintaining its universalizing mission regarding
information, also countered the accusations of monopoly building, arguing that
potential competitors could just step up, since nothing in the agreements
entered into by the libraries and Google “precludes any other company or
organization from pursuing their own similar effort.”35 Nevertheless Judge
Denny Chin denied the settlement in March 2011 with the following statement:
“The question presented is whether the ASA is fair, adequate, and reasonable.
I conclude that it is not.”36 Google left the proposed settlement behind, and
appealed the decision of their initial case with new amicus briefs focusing on
their argument that book scanning was fair use. They argued that they were not
demanding exclusivity on the information they scanned, that they didn’t
prohibit other actors from digitizing the works they were digitizing, and that
their main goal was to enrich the public sphere with more information, not to
build an information monopoly. In July 2013 Judge Denny Chin issued a new
opinion confirming that Google Books was indeed fair use.37 Chin’s opinion was
later consolidated in a major victory for Google in 2015 when Judge Pierre
Leval in the Second Circuit Court legalized Google Books with the words
“Google’s unauthorized digitizing of copyright-protected works, creation of a
search functionality, and display of snippets from those works are non-
infringing fair uses.“38 Leval’s decision marked a new direction, not only for
Google Books, but also for mass digitization in general, as it signaled a
shift in cultural expectations about what it means to experience and
disseminate cultural artifacts.

Once again, the story of Google Books took a new turn. What was first
presented as a gift to cultural memory institutions and the public, and later
as theft from and threat to these same entities, on closer inspection revealed
itself as a much more complex circulatory system of expectations, promises,
risks, and blame. Google Books thus instigated a dynamic and forceful
connection between Google and cultural memory institutions, where the roles of
giver and receiver, and the first giver and second giver/returner, were
difficult to decode. Indeed, the binding nature of the relationship between
Google Books and cultural memory institutions proved to be much more complex
than the simple physical exchange of books and digital files. As the next
section outlines, this complex system of cultural production was held together
by contractual arrangement—central joints, as it were, connecting data and
works, public and private, local and global, in increasingly complex ways. For
Google Books, these contractual relations appear as the connective tissues
that make these assemblages possible, and which are therefore fundamental to
their affective dimensions.

## The Infrapolitics of Contract

In common parlance a contract is a legal tool that formalizes a “mutual
agreement between two or more parties that something shall be done or forborne
by one or both,” often enforceable by law.39 Contractual systems emerged with
the medieval merchant regime, and later evolved with classical liberalism into
an ideological revolt against paternalist systems as nothing less than
freedom, a legal construct that could destroy the sentimental bonds of
personal dependence.40 As the classic liberal social scientist William Graham
Sumner argued, “[c]ontract … is rational … realistic, cold, and matter-of-
fact.” The rational nature of contracts also affected their temporality, since
a contract endures only “so long as the reason for it endures,” and their
spatiality, relegating any form of sentiment from the public sphere to “the
sphere of private and personal relations.”41

Sentiments prevailed, however, as the contracts tying together Google and
cultural memory institutions emerged. Indeed, public and professional
evaluations of the agreements often took an affective, even sexualized, form.
The economist Paul Courant situated libraries “in bed with Google”42; library
consultant and media experts Jeff Ubois and Peter B. Kaufman recounted _how_
they got in bed with Google—“[w]e were approached singly, charmed in
confidence, the stranger was beguiling, and we embraced” 43; communication
scholar Evelyn Bottando announced that “libraries not only got in bed with
Google. They got married”44; and librarian Jessamyn West finally pondered on
the relationship ruins, “[s]till not sure, after all that, how we got this all
so wrong. Didn’t we both want the same thing? Maybe it really wasn’t us, it
was them. Most days it’s hard to remember what we saw in Google. Why did we
think we’d make good partners?”45

The evaluative discourse around Google Books dispels the idea of contracts as
dispassionate transactions for services and labor, showing rather that
contracts are infrapolitical apparatuses that give rise to emotions and
affect; and that, moreover, they are systems of doctrines, relations, and
social artifacts that organize around specific ideologies, temporalities,
materialities, and techniques.46 First and foremost, contracts give rise to
new kinds of infrastructures in the field of cultural memory: they mediate,
connect, and converge cultural memory institutions globally, giving rise to
new institutional networks, in some cases increasing globalization and
mobility for both users and objects, and in other cases restricting the same.
The Google Books contracts display both technical and symbolic aspects: as
technical artifacts they establish intricate frameworks of procedures,
commitments, rights, and incentives for governing the transactions of cultural
memory artifacts and their digitized copies. As symbolic artifacts they evoke
normative principles, expressing different measures of good will toward
libraries, but also—as all contracts do—introduce the possibility of distrust,
conflict and betrayal.47

Despite their centrality to mass digitization assemblages, and although some
of them have been made available to the public,48 the content of these
particular contracts still suffer from the epistemic gap incurred in practical
and symbolic form by Google’s Agreements and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA),
a kind of agreement most libraries are required to sign when entering the
agreement. Like all contracts, the individual contracts signed by the
partnership libraries vary in nature and have different implications. While
many of Google’s agreements may be publically available, they have often only
been made public through requests and transparency mechanisms such as the
Freedom of Information Act. As the Open Rights Alliance notes in their
publication of the agreement entered between the British Library and Google,
“We asked the British Library for a copy of the agreement with Google, which
was not uploaded to their transparency website with other similar contracts,
as it didn’t involve monetary exchange. This may be a loophole transparency
activists want to look at. After some toing and froing with the Freedom of
Information Act we got a copy.”49

While the culture of contractual secrecy is native to the business world, with
its safeguarding of business processes, and is easily navigated by business
partners, it is often opposed to the ethos of state-subsidized cultural
institutions who “draw their financial and moral support from a public that
expects transparency in their activities, ranging from their materials
acquisitions to their business deals.”50 For these reasons, library
organizations have recommended that nondisclosure agreements should be avoided
if possible, and minimized if they are necessary.51 Google, in response, noted
on its website that: “[t]hough not all of the library contracts have been made
public, we can say that all of them are non-exclusive, meaning that all of our
library partners are free to continue their own scanning projects or work with
others while they work with Google to digitize their books.”52

Regardless of their contractual content and later publication, the contracts
are a vital instrument in Google’s broader management of visibility. As Mikkel
Flyverbom, Clare Birchall, and others have argued, this practice of visibility
management—which they define as “the many ways in which organizations seek to
curate and control their presence, relations, and comprehension vis-à-vis
their surroundings” through practices of transparency, secrecy, opacity,
surveillance, and disclosure—is in the digital age a complex issue closely
tied to the question of governance and power. While each publication act may
serve to create an uncomplicated picture of transparency, it nevertheless
happens in a paradoxical global regulatory environment that on the one hand
encourages “sunshine” laws that demand that governments, corporations, and
civil-sector organizations provide access to information, yet on the other
hand also harbors regulatory agencies that seek mechanisms and rules by which
to keep information hidden. Thus, as Flyverbom et al. conclude, the “everyday
practices of organizing invariably implicate visibility management,” whose
valences are “attached to transparency and opacity” that are not simple and
straightforward, but rather remain “dependent upon the actor, the context, and
the purpose of organizations and individuals.”53

Steven Levy recounts how Google began its scanning operations in “near-total
stealth,” a “cloak-and-dagger” approach that stood in contrast to Google’s
public promotion of transparency as a new mode of existence. As Levy argues,
“[t]he secrecy was yet another expression of the paradox of a company that
sometimes embraced transparency and other times seemed to model itself on the
NSA.”54 Yet, while secrecy practices may have suited some of Google’s
operations, they sit much more uneasily with their book scanning programs: “If
Google had a more efficient way to scan books, sharing the improved techniques
could benefit the company in the long run—inevitably, much of the output would
find its way onto the web, bolstering Google’s indexes. But in this case,
paranoia and a focus on short-term gain kept the machines under wraps.”55 The
nondisclosure agreements show that while boundaries may be blurred between
Google Books and libraries, we may still identify different regulatory models
and modes of existence within their networks, including the explicit _library
ethos_ (in the Weberian sense of the term) of public access, not only to the
front end but also to some areas of the back end, and the business world’s
secrecy practices. 56

Entering into a mass digitization public-private partnership (PPP) with a
corporation such as Google is thus not only a logical and pragmatic next step
for cultural memory institutions, it is also a political step. As already
noted, Google Books, through its embedding in Google, injects cultural memory
objects into new economic and cultural infrastructures. These infrastructures
are governed less by the hierarchical world of curators, historians, and
politicians, and more by feedback networks of tech companies, users, and
algorithms. Moreover, they forge ever closer connections to data-driven market
logics, where computational rather than representational power counts. Mass
digitization PPPs such as Google Books are thus also symptoms of a much more
pervasive infrapolitical situation, in which cultural memory institutions are
increasingly forced to alter their identities from public caretakers of
cultural heritage to economic actors in the EU internal market, controlled by
the framework of competition law, time-limited contracts, and rules on state
aid.57 Moreover, mastering the rules of these new infrastructures is not
necessarily an easy feat for public institutions.58 Thus, while Google claims
to hold a core commitment regarding free digital access to information, and
while its financial apparatus could be construed as making Google an eligible
partner in accordance with the EU’s policy objectives toward furthering
public-private partnerships in Europe,59 it is nevertheless, as legal scholar
Maurizio Borghi notes, relevant to take into account Google’s previous
monopoly-building history.60

## The Politics of Google Books

A final aspect of Google Books relates to the universal aspiration of Google
Books’s collection, its infrapolitics, and what it empirically produces in
territorial terms. As this chapter’s previous sections have outlined, it was
an aspiration of Google Books to transcend the cultural and political
limitations of physical cultural memory collections by gathering the written
material of cultural memory institutions into one massive digitized
collection. Yet, while the collection spans millions of works in hundreds of
languages from hundreds of countries,61 it is also clear that even large-scale
mass digitization processes still entail procedures of selection on multiple
levels from libraries to works. These decisions produce a political reality
that in some respects reproduces and accentuates the existing politics of
cultural memory institutions in terms of territorial and class-based
representations, and in other respects give rise to new forms of cultural
memory politics that part ways with the political regimes of traditional
curatorial apparatuses.

One obvious area in which to examine the politics produced by the Google Books
assemblage is in the selection of libraries that Google chooses to partner
with.62 While the full list of Google Books partners is not disclosed on
Google’s own webpage, it is clear from the available list that, up to now,
Google Books has mainly partnered with “great libraries,” such as elite
university libraries and national libraries. The rationale for choosing these
libraries has no doubt been to partner up with cultural memory institutions
that preside over as much material as possible, and which are therefore able
to provide more pieces of the puzzle than, say, a small-town public library
that only presides over a fraction of their collections. Yet, while these
libraries provide Google Books with an impressive and extensive collection of
rare and valuable artifacts that give the impression of a near-universal
collection, they nevertheless also contain epistemological and historical
gaps. Historian and digital humanist Andrew Prescott notes, for example, the
limited collections of literature written by workers and other lower-class
people in the early eighteenth century in elite libraries. This institutional
lack creates a pre-filtered collection in Google Books, favoring “[t]hose
writers of working class origins who had a success story to report, who had
become distinguished statesmen, successful businessmen, religious leaders and
so on,” that is, the people who were “able to find commercial publishers who
were interested in their story.”63 Google’s decision to partner with elite
libraries thus inadvertently reproduces the class-based biases of analog
cultural memory institutions.

In addition to the reproduction of analog class-based bias in its digital
collection, the Google Books corpus also displays a genre bias, veering
heavily toward scientific publications. As mathematicians Eitan Pechenik et
al. show, the contents of the Google Books corpus in the period of the 1900s
is “increasingly dominated by scientific publications rather than popular
works,” and “even the first data set specifically labeled as fiction appears
to be saturated with medical literature.”64 The fact that Google Books is
constellated in such a manner thus challenges a “vast majority of existing
claims drawn from the Google Books corpus,” just as it points to the need “to
fully characterize the dynamics of the corpus before using these data sets to
draw broad conclusions about cultural and linguistic evolution.”65

Last but not least, Google Books’s collection still bespeaks its beginnings:
it still primarily covers Anglophone ground. There is hardly any literature
that reviews the geographic scope in Google Books, but existing work does
suggest that Google is still heavily oriented toward US-based libraries.66
This orientation does not necessarily give rise to an Anglophone linguistic
hegemony, as some have feared, since many of the Anglophone libraries hold
considerable collections of foreign language books. But it does invariably
limit its collections to the works in foreign languages that the elite
libraries deemed worthy of preserving. The gaps and biases of Google Books
reveal it to be less of a universal and monolithic collection, and more of an
impressive, but also specific and contingent, assemblage of works, texts, and
relations that is determined by the relations Google Books has entered into in
terms of class, discipline, and geographical scope.

Google Books is not only the result of selection processes on the level of
partnering institutions, but also on the level of organizational
infrastructure. While the infrastructures of Google Books in fact depart from
those of its parent company in many regards to avoid copyright infringement
charges, there is little doubt, however, that people working actively on
Google’s digitization activities (included here are both users and Google
employees) are also globally distributed in networked constellations. The
central organization for cultural digitization, the Google Cultural Institute,
is located in Paris, France. Yet the people affiliated with this hub are
working across several countries. Moreover, people working on various aspects
of Google Books, from marketing to language technology, to software
developments and manual scanning processes, are dispersed across the globe.
And it is perhaps in this way that we tend to think of Google in general—as a
networked global company—and for good reasons. Google has been operating
internationally almost for as long as it has been around. It has offices in
countries all over the globe, and works in numerous languages. Today it is one
of the most important global information institutions, and as more and more
people turn to Google for its services, Google also increasingly reflects
them—indeed they enter into a complex cognitive feedback mechanism system.
Google depends on the growing diversity of its “inhabitants” and on its
financial and cultural leverage on a global scale, and to this effect it is
continuously fine-tuning its glocalization strategies, blending the universal
and the particular. This glocal strategy does not necessarily create a
universal company, however; it would be more correct to say that Google’s
glocality brings the globe to Google, redefining it as an “American”
company.67 Hence, while there is little doubt that Google, and in effect
Google Books, increasingly tailors to specific consumers,68 and that this
tailoring allows for a more complex global representation generated by
feedback systems, Google’s core nevertheless remains lodged on American soil.
This is underlined by the fact that Google Books still effectively belongs to
US jurisdiction.69 Google Books is thus on the one hand a globalized company
in terms of both content and institutional framework; yet it also remains an
_American_ multinational corporation, constrained by US regulation and social
standards, and ultimately reinforcing the capacities of the American state.
While Google Books operates as a networked glocal project with universal
aspirations, then, it also remains fenced in by its legal and cultural
apparatuses.

In sum, just as a country’s regulatory and political apparatus affects the
politics of its cultural memory institutions in the analog world, so is the
politics of Google Books co-determined by the operations of Google. Thus,
curatorial choices are made not only on the basis of content, but also of the
location of server parks, existing company units, lobbying efforts, public
policy concerns, and so on. And the institutional identity of Google Books is
profoundly late-sovereign in this regard: on one hand it thrives on and
operates with horizontal network formations; on the other, it still takes into
account and has to operate with, and around, sovereign epistemologies and
political apparatuses. These vertical and horizontal lines ultimately rewire
the politics of cultural memory, shifting the stakes from sovereign
territorial possessions to more functional, complex, and effective means of
control.

## Notes

1. Chartier 2004. 2. As philosopher Jacques Derrida noted anecdotally on his
colleagues’ way of reading, “some of my American colleagues come along to
seminars or to lecture theaters with their little laptops. They don’t print
out; they read out directly, in public, from the screen. I saw it being done
as well at the Pompidou Center [in Paris] a few days ago. A friend was giving
a talk there on American photography. He had this little Macintosh laptop
there where he could see it, like a prompter: he pressed a button to scroll
down his text. This assumed a high degree of confidence in this strange
whisperer. I’m not yet at that point, but it does happen.” (Derrida 2005, 27).
3. As Ken Auletta recounts, Eric Schmidt remembers when Page surprised him in
the early 2000s by showing off a book scanner he had built which was inspired
by the great library of Alexandria, claiming that “We’re going to scan all the
books in the world,” and explaining that for search to be truly comprehensive
“it must include every book ever published.” Page literally wanted Google to
be a “super librarian” (Auletta 2009, __ 96). 4. Constraints of a physical
character (how to digitize and organize all this knowledge in physical form);
legal character (how to do it in a way that suspends existing regulation); and
political character (how to transgress territorial systems). 5. Take, for
instance, project Bibliotheca Universalis, comprising American, Japanese,
German, and British libraries among others, whose professed aim was “to
exploit existing digitization programs in order to … make the major works of
the world’s scientific and cultural heritage accessible to a vast public via
multimedia technologies, thus fostering … exchange of knowledge and dialogue
over national and international borders.” It was a joint project of the French
Ministry of Culture, the National Library of France, the Japanese National
Diet Library, the Library of Congress, the National Library of Canada,
Discoteca di Stato, Deutsche Bibliothek, and the British Library:
. The project took its name
from the groundbreaking Medieval publication _Bibliotecha Universalis_
(1545–1549), a four-volume alphabetical bibliography that listed all the known
books printed in Latin, Greek, or Hebrew. Obviously, the dream of the total
archive is not limited to the realm of cultural memory institutions, but has a
much longer and more generalized lineage; for a contemporary exploration of
these dreams see, for instance, issue six of _Limn Magazine_ , March 2016,
. 6. As the project noted in its research summary,
“One of these barriers is the heterogeneity of information and services.
Another impediment is the lack of powerful filtering mechanisms that let users
find truly valuable information. The continuous access to information is
restricted by the unavailability of library interfaces and tools that
effectively operate on portable devices. A fourth barrier is the lack of a
solid economic infrastructure that encourages providers to make information
available, and give users privacy guarantees”; Summary of the Stanford Digital
Library Technologies Project,
. 7. Brin and Page
1998. 8. Levy 2011, 347. 9. Levy 2011, 349. 10. Levy 2011, 349. 11. Young
1988. 12. They had a hard time, however, creating a new PageRank-like
algorithm for books; see Levy 2011, 349. 13. Google Inc., “Detection of
Grooves in Scanned Images,” March 24, 2009,
[https://www.google.ch/patents/US7508978?dq=Detection+Of+Grooves+In+Scanned+Images&hl=da&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjWqJbV3arMAhXRJSwKHVhBD0sQ6AEIHDAA](https://www.google.ch/patents/US7508978?dq=Detection+Of+Grooves+In+Scanned+Images&hl=da&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjWqJbV3arMAhXRJSwKHVhBD0sQ6AEIHDAA).
14. See, for example, Jeffrey Toobin. “Google’s Moon Shot,” _New Yorker_ ,
February 4, 2007, shot>. 15. Scanners whose ghostly traces are still found in digitized books
today are evidenced by a curious little blog collecting the artful mistakes of
scanners, _The Art of Google Books_ , .
For a more thorough and general introduction to the historical relationship
between humans and machines in labor processes, see Kang 2011. 16. The
abstract from the patent reads as follows: “Systems and methods for pacing and
error monitoring of a manual page turning operator of a system for capturing
images of a bound document are disclosed. The system includes a speaker for
playing music having a tempo and a controller for controlling the tempo based
on an imaging rate and/or an error rate. The operator is influenced by the
music tempo to capture images at a given rate. Alternative or in addition to
audio, error detection may be implemented using OCR to determine page numbers
to track page sequence and/or a sensor to detect errors such as object
intrusion in the image frame and insufficient light. The operator may be
alerted of an error with audio signals and signaled to turn back a certain
number of pages to be recaptured. When music is played, the tempo can be
adjusted in response to the error rate to reduce operator errors and increase
overall throughput of the image capturing system. The tempo may be limited to
a maximum tempo based on the maximum image capture rate.” See Google Inc.,
“Pacing and Error Monitoring of Manual Page Turning Operator,” November 17,
2009, . 17. Google, “linear-book-
scanner,” _Google Code Archive_ , August 22, 2012,
. 18. The libraries of
Harvard, the University of Michigan, Oxford, Stanford, and the New York Public
Library. 19. Levy 2011, 351. 20.  _The Authors Guild et al. vs. Google, Inc._
, Class Action Complaint 05 CV 8136, United States District Court, Southern
District of New York, September 20, 2005,
/settlement-resources.attachment/authors-
guild-v-google/Authors%20Guild%20v%20Google%2009202005.pdf>. 21. As the
Authors Guild notes, “The problem is that before Google created Book Search,
it digitized and made many digital copies of millions of copyrighted books,
which the company never paid for. It never even bought a single book. That, in
itself, was an act of theft. If you did it with a single book, you’d be
infringing.” Authors Guild v. Google: Questions and Answers,
. 22.
Peters 2015, 21. 23. Hayles 2005. 24. Purdon 2016, 4. 25. Fair use constitutes
an exception to the exclusive right of the copyright holder under the United
States Copyright Act; if the use of a copyright work is a “fair use,” no
permission is required. For a court to determine if a use of a copyright work
is fair use, four factors must be considered: (1) the purpose and character of
the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for
nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3)
the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the
copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential
market for or value of the copyrighted work. 26. “Do you really want … the
whole world not to have access to human knowledge as contained in books,
because you really want opt out rather than opt in?” as quoted in Levy 2011,
360. 27. “It is an astonishing opportunity to revive our cultural past, and
make it accessible. Sure, Google will profit from it. Good for them. But if
the law requires Google (or anyone else) to ask permission before they make
knowledge available like this, then Google Print can’t exist” (Farhad Manjoo,
“Indexing the Planet: Throwing Google at the Book,” _Spiegel Online
International_ , November 9, 2005, /indexing-the-planet-throwing-google-at-the-book-a-383978.html>.) Technology
lawyer Jonathan Band also expressed his support: Jonathan Band, “The Google
Print Library Project: A Copyright Analysis,” _Journal of Internet Banking and
Commerce_ , December 2005, google-print-library-project-a-copyright-analysis.php?aid=38606>. 28.
According to Patricia Schroeder, the Association of American Publishers (AAP)
President, Google’s opt-out procedure “shifts the responsibility for
preventing infringement to the copyright owner rather than the user, turning
every principle of copyright law on its ear.” BBC News, “Google Pauses Online
Books Plan,” _BBC News_ , August 12, 2005,
. 29. Professor of law,
Pamela Samuelson, has conducted numerous progressive and detailed academic and
popular analyses of the legal implications of the copyright discussions; see,
for instance, Pamela Samuelson, “Why Is the Antitrust Division Investigating
the Google Book Search Settlement?,” _Huffington Post_ , September 19, 2009,
divi_b_258997.html>; Samuelson 2010; Samuelson 2011; Samuelson 2014. 30. Levy
2011, 362; Lessig 2010; Brewster Kahle, “How Google Threatens Books,”
_Washington Post_ , May 19, 2009, dyn/content/article/2009/05/18/AR2009051802637.html>. 31. EFF, “Google Book
Search Settlement and Reader Privacy,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, n.d.,
. 32.  _The Authors Guild et
al. vs. Google Inc_., 05 Civ. 8136-DC, United States Southern District of New
York, March 22, 2011,
[http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=115](http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=115).
33. Brief of Amicus Curiae, American Library Association et al. in relation to
_The Authors Guild et al. vs. Google Inc_., 05 Civ. 8136-DC, filed on August 1
2012,
.
34. Steven Levy, “Who’s Messing with the Google Books Settlement? Hint:
They’re in Redmond, Washington,” _Wired_ , March 3, 2009,
. 35. Sergey Brin, “A Library
to Last Forever,” _New York Times_ , October 8, 2009,
. 36.  _The Authors
Guild et al. vs. Google Inc_., 05 Civ. 8136-DC, United States Southern
District of New York, March 22, 2011,
[http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=115](http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=115).
37. “Google does, of course, benefit commercially in the sense that users are
drawn to the Google websites by the ability to search Google Books. While this
is a consideration to be acknowledged in weighing all the factors, even
assuming Google’s principal motivation is profit, the fact is that Google
Books serves several important educational purposes. Accordingly, I conclude
that the first factor strongly favors a finding of fair use.” _The Authors
Guild et al. vs. Google Inc_., 05 Civ. 8136-DC, United States Southern
District of New York, November 14, 2013,
[http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=355](http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=355).
38.  _Authors Guild v. Google, Inc_., 13–4829-cv, December 16, 2015,
81c0-23db25f3b301/1/doc/13-4829_opn.pdf>. In the aftermath of Pierre Leval’s
decision the Authors Guild has yet again filed yet another petition for the
Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court decision, and has publically
reiterated the framing of Google as a parasite rather than a benefactor. A
brief supporting the Guild’s petition and signed by a diverse group of authors
such as Malcolm Gladwell, Margaret Atwood, J. M. Coetzee, Ursula Le Guin, and
Yann Martel noted that the legal framework used to assess Google knew nothing
about “the digital reproduction of copyrighted works and their communication
on the Internet or the phenomenon of ‘mass digitization’ of vast collections
of copyrighted works”; nor, they argued, was the fair-use doctrine ever
intended “to permit a wealthy for-profit entity to digitize millions of works
and to cut off authors’ licensing of their reproduction, distribution, and
public display rights.” Amicus Curiae filed on behalf of Author’s Guild
Petition, No. 15–849, February 1, 2016, content/uploads/2016/02/15-849-tsac-TAA-et-al.pdf>. 39. Oxford English
Dictionary,
[http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/40328?rskey=bCMOh6&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid8462140](http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/40328?rskey=bCMOh6&result=1&isAdvanced=false#eid8462140).
40. The contract as we know it today developed within the paradigm of Lex
Mercatoria; see Teubner 1997. The contract is therefore a device of global
reach that has developed “mainly outside the political structures of nation-
states and international organisations for exchanges primarily in a market
economy” (Snyder 2002, 8). In the contract theory of John Locke, the
signification of contracts developed from a mere trade tool to a distinction
between the free man and the slave. Here, the societal benefits of contracts
were presented as a matter of time, where the bounded delineation of work was
characterized as contractual freedom; see Locke 2003 and Stanley 1998. 41.
Sumner 1952, 23. 42. Paul Courant, “On Being in Bed with Google,” _Au Courant_
, November 4, 2007, google>. 43. Kaufman and Ubois 2007. 44. Bottando 2012. 45. Jessamyn West,
“Google’s Slow Fade With Librarians: Maybe They’re Just Not That Into Us,”
_Medium_ , February 2, 2015, with-librarians-fddda838a0b7>. 46. Suchman 2003. The lack of research into
contracts and emotions is noted by Hillary M. Berk in her fascinating research
on contracts in the field of surrogacy: “Despite a rich literature in law and
society embracing contracts as exchange relations, empirical work has yet to
address their emotional dimensions” (Berk 2015). 47. Suchman 2003, 100. 48.
See a selection on the Public Index:
, and The Internet Archive:
. You may also find
contracts here: the University of Michigan ( /michigan-digitization-project>), the University of Cali­fornia
(), the Committee on
Institutional Cooperation ( google-agreement>), and the British Library
( google-books-and-the-british-library>), to name but a few. 49. Javier Ruiz,
“Is the Deal between Google and the British Library Good for the Public?,”
Open Rights Group, August 24, 2011, /access-to-the-agreement-between-google-books-and-the-british-library>. 50.
Kaufman and Ubois 2007. 51. Association of Research Libraries, “ARL Encourages
Members to Refrain from Signing Nondisclosure or Confidentiality Clauses,”
_ARL News_ , June 5, 2009, encourages-members-to-refrain-from-signing-nondisclosure-or-confidentiality-
clauses#.Vriv-McZdE4>. 52. Google, “About the Library Project,” _Google Books
Help,_ n.d.,
[https://support.google.com/books/partner/faq/3396243?hl=en&rd=1](https://support.google.com/books/partner/faq/3396243?hl=en&rd=1).
53. Flyverbom, Leonardi, Stohl, and Stohl 2016. 54. Levy 2011, 354. 55. Levy
2011, 352. 56. To be sure, however, the practice of secrecy is no stranger to
libraries. Consider only the closed stack that the public is never given
access to; the bureaucratic routines that are kept from the public eye; and
the historic relation between libraries and secrecy so beautifully explored by
Umberto Eco in numerous of his works. Yet, the motivations for nondisclosure
agreements on the one hand and public sector secrets on the other differ
significantly, the former lodged in a commercial logic and the latter in an
idea, however abstract, about “the public good.” 57. Belder 2015. For insight
into the societal impact of contractual regimes on civil rights regimes, see
Somers 2008. For insight into relations between neoliberalism and contracts,
see Mitropoulos 2012. 58. As engineer and historian Henry Petroski notes, for
a PPP contract to be successful a contract must be written “properly” but “the
public partners are not often very well versed in these kinds of contracts and
they don’t know how to protect themselves.” See Buckholtz 2016. 59. As argued
by Lucky Belder in “Cultural Heritage Institutions as Entrepreneurs,” 2015.
60. Borghi 2013, 92–115. 61. Stephan Heyman, “Google Books: A Complex and
Controversial Experiment,” _New York Times_ , October 28, 2015,
and-controversial-experiment.html>. 62. Google, “Library Partners,” _Google
Books_ , . 63. Andrew
Prescott, “How the Web Can Make Books Vanish,” _Digital Riffs_ , August 2013,
.
64. Pechenick, Danforth, Dodds, and Barrat 2015. 65. What Pechenik et al.
refer to here is of course the claims of Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel
among others, who promote “culturomics,” that is, the use of huge amounts of
digital information—in this case the corpus of Google Books—to track changes
in language, culture, and history. See Aiden and Michel 2013; and Michel et
al. 2011. 66. Neubert 2008; and Weiss and James 2012, 1–3. 67. I am indebted
to Gayatri Spivak here, who makes this argument about New York in the context
of globalization; see Spivak 2000. 68. In this respect Google mirrors the
glocalization strategies of media companies in general; see Thussu 2007, 19.
69. Although the decisions of foreign legislation of course also affect the
workings of Google, as is clear from the growing body of European regulatory
casework on Google such as the right to be forgotten, competition law, tax,
etc.

# 3
Sovereign Soul Searching: The Politics of Europeana

## Introduction

In 2008, the European Commission launched the European mass digitization
project, Europeana, to great fanfare. Although the EC’s official
communications framed the project as a logical outcome of years of work on
converging European digital library infrastructures, the project was received
in the press as a European counterresponse to Google Books.1 The popular media
framings of Europeana were focused in particular on two narratives: that
Europeana was a public response to Google’s privatization of cultural memory,
and that Europeana was a territorial response to American colonization of
European information and culture. This chapter suggests that while both of
these sentiments were present in Europeana’s early years, the politics of what
Europeana was—and is—paints a more complicated picture. A closer glance at
Europeana’s social, economic, and legal infrastructures thus shows that the
European mass digitization project is neither an attempt to replicate Google’s
glocal model, nor is it a continuation of traditional European cultural
policies. Rather, Europeana produces a new form of cultural memory politics
that converge national and supranational imaginaries with global information
infrastructures.

If global information infrastructures and national politics today seemingly go
hand in hand in Europeana, it wasn’t always so. In fact, in the 1990s,
networked technologies and national imaginaries appeared to be mutually
exclusive modes of existence. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 nourished a
new antisovereign sentiment, which gave way to recurring claims in the 1990s
that the age of sovereignty had passed into an age of post-sovereignty. These
claims were fueled by a globalized set of economic, political, and
technological forces, not least of which the seemingly ungovernable nature of
the Internet—which appeared to unbuckle the nation-state’s control and voice
in the process of globalization and gave rise to a sense of plausible anarchy,
which in turn made John Perry Barlow’s (in)famous ‘‘Declaration of the
Independence of Cyberspace’’ appear not as pure utopian fabulation, but rather
as a prescient diagnosis.2 Yet, while it seemed in the early 2000s that the
Internet and the cultural and economic forces of globalization had made the
notion and practice of the nation-state redundant on both practical and
cultural levels, the specter of the nation nevertheless seemed to linger.
Indeed, the nation-state continued to remain a fixed point in political and
cultural discourses. In fact, it not only lingered as a specter, but borders
were also beginning to reappear as regulatory forces. The borderless world
was, as Tim Wu and Jack Goldsmith noted in 2006, an illusion;3 geography had
revenged itself, not least in the digital environment.4

Today, no one doubts the cultural-political import of the national imaginary.
The national imaginary has fueled antirefugee movements, the surge of
nationalist parties, the EU’s intensified crisis, and the election of Donald
Trump, to name just a few critical political events in the 2010s. Yet, while
the nationalist imaginary is becoming ever stronger, paradoxically its
communicative infrastructures are simultaneously becoming ever more
globalized. Thus, globally networked digital infrastructures are quickly
supplementing, and in many cases even substituting, those national
communicative infrastructures that were instrumental in establishing a
national imagined community in the first place—infrastructures such as novels
and newspapers.5 The convergence of territorially bounded imaginaries and
global networks creates new cultural-political constellations of cultural
memory where the centripetal forces of nationalism operate alongside,
sometimes with and sometimes against, the centrifugal forces of digital
infrastructures. Europeana is a preeminent example of these complex
infrastructural and imaginary dynamics.

## A European Response

When Google announced their digitization program at the Frankfurt Book Fair in
2004, it instantly created ripples in the European cultural-political
landscape, in France in particular. Upon hearing the news about Google’s
plans, Jacques Chirac, president of France at the time, promptly urged the
then-culture minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, and Jean-Noël Jeanneney,
head of France’s Bibliothèque nationale, to commence a similar digitization
project and to persuade other European countries to join them.6 The seeds for
Europeana were sown by France, “the deepest, most sedimented reservoir of
anti-American arguments,”7 as an explicitly political reaction to Google
Books.

Europeana was thus from its inception laced with the ambiguous political
relationship between two historically competing universalist-exceptionalist
nations: the United States and France.8 A relationship that France sometimes
pictures as a question of Americanization, and at other times extends to an
image of a more diffuse Anglo-Saxon constellation. Highlighting the effects
Google Books would have on French culture, Jeanneney argued that Google’s mass
digitization efforts would pose several possible dangers to French cultural
memory such as bias in the collecting and organizing practices of Google Books
and an Anglicization of the cultural memory regulatory system. Explaining why
Google Books should be seen not only as an American, but also as an Anglo-
Saxon project, Jeanneney noted that while Google Books “was obviously an
American project,” it was nevertheless also one “that reached out to the
British.” The alliance between the Bodleian Library at Oxford and Google Books
was thus not only a professional partnership in Jeanneney’s eyes, but also a
symbolic bond where “the familiar Anglo-Saxon solidarity” manifested once
again vis-à-vis France, only this time in the digital sphere. Jeanneney even
paraphrased Churchill’s comment to Charles de Gaulle, noting that Oxford’s
alliance with Google Books yet again evidenced how British institutions,
“without consulting anyone on the other side of the English Channel,” favored
US-UK alliances over UK-Continental alliances “in search of European
patriotism for the adventure under way.”9

How can we understand Jeanneney’s framing of Google Books as an Anglo-Saxon
project and the function of this framing in his plea for a nation-based
digitization program? As historian Emile Chabal suggests, the concept of the
Anglo-Saxon mentality is a preeminently French construct that has a clear and
rich rhetorical function to strengthen the French self-understanding vis-à-vis
a stereotypical “other.”10 While fuzzy in its conceptual infrastructure, the
French rhetoric of the Anglo-Saxon is nevertheless “instinctively understood
by the vast majority of the French population” to denote “not simply a
socioeconomic vision loosely inspired by market liberalism and
multiculturalism” but also (and sometimes primarily) “an image of
individualism, enterprise, and atomization.”11 All these dimensions were at
play in Jeanneney’s anti-Google Books rhetoric. Indeed, Jeanneney suggested,
Google’s mass digitization project was not only Anglo-Saxon in its collecting
practices and organizational principles, but also in its regulatory framework:
“We know how Anglo-Saxon law competes with Latin law in international
jurisdictions and in those of new nations. I don’t want to see Anglo-Saxon law
unduly favored by Google as a result of the hierarchy that will be
spontaneously established on its lists.”12

What did Jeanneney suggest as infrastructural protection against the network
power of the Anglo-Saxon mass digitization project? According to Jeanneney,
the answer lay in territorial digitization programs: rather than simply
accepting the colonizing forces of the Anglo-Saxon matrix, Jeanneney argued, a
national digitization effort was needed. Such a national digitization project
would be a “ _contre-attaque_ ” against Google Books that should protect three
dimensions of French cultural sovereignty: its language, the role of the state
in cultural policy, and the cultural/intellectual order of knowledge in the
cultural collections.13 Thus Jeanneney suggested that any Anglo-Saxon mass
digitization project should be competed against and complemented by mass
digitization projects from other nations and cultures to ensure that cultural
works are embedded in meaningful cultural contexts and languages. While the
nation was the central base of mass digitization programs, Jeanenney noted,
such digitization programs necessarily needed to be embedded in a European, or
Continental, infrastructure. Thus, while Jeanneney’s rallying cry to protect
the French cultural memory was voiced from France, he gave it a European
signature, frequently addressing and including the rest of Europe as a natural
ally in his _contre-attaque_ against Google Books. 14 Jeanenney’s extension of
French concerns to a European level was characteristic for France, which had
historically displayed a leadership role in formulating and shaping the EU.15
The EU, Jeanneney argued, could provide a resilient supranational
infrastructure that would enable French diversity to exist within the EU while
also providing a protective shield against unhampered Anglo-Saxon
globalization.

Other French officials took on a less combative tone, insisting that the
French digitization project should be seen not merely as a reaction to Google
but rather in the context of existing French and European efforts to make
information available online. “I really stress that it’s not anti-American,”
stated one official at the Ministry of Culture and Communication. Rather than
framing the French national initiatives as a reaction to Google Books, the
official instead noted that the prime objective was to “make more material
relevant to European patrimony available,” noting also that the national
digitization efforts were neither unique nor exclusionary—not even to
Google.16 The disjunction between Jeanneney’s discursive claims to mass
digitization sovereignty and the anonymous bureaucrat’s pragmatic and
networked approach to mass digitization indicates the late-sovereign landscape
of mass digitization as it unfolded between identity politics and pragmatic
politics, between discursive claims to sovereignty and economic global
cooperation. And as the next section shows, the intertwinement of these
discursive, ideological, and economic infrastructures produced a memory
politics in Europeana that was neither sovereign nor post-sovereign, but
rather late-sovereign.

## The Infrastructural Reality of Late-Sovereignty

Politically speaking, Europeana was always more than just an empty
countergesture or emulating response to Google. Rather, as soon as the EU
adopted Europeana as a prestige project, Europeana became embedded in the
political project of Europeanization and began to produce a political logic of
its own. Latching on to (rather than countering) a sovereign logic, Europeana
strategically deployed the European imaginary as a symbolic demarcation of its
territory. But the means by which Europeana was constructed and distributed
its territorial imaginaries nevertheless took place by means of globalized
networked infrastructures. The circumscribed cultural imaginary of Europeana
was thus made interoperable with the networked logic of globalization. This
combination of a European imaginary and neoliberal infrastructure in Europeana
produced an uneasy balance between national and supranational infrastructural
imaginaries on the one hand and globalized infrastructures on the other.

If France saw Europeana primarily through the prism of sovereign competition,
the European Commission emphasized a different dispositive: economic
competition. In his 2005 response to Jaques Chirac, José Manuel Barroso
acknowledged that the digitization of European cultural heritage was an
important task not only for nation-states but also for the EU as a whole.
Instead of the defiant tone of Jeanneney and De Vabres, Barraso and the EU
institutions opted for a more neutral, pragmatic, and diplomatic mass
digitization discourse. Instead of focusing on Europeana as a lever to prop up
the cultural sovereignty of France, and by extension Europe, in the face of
Americanization, Barosso framed Europeana as an important economic element in
the construction of a knowledge economy.17

Europeana was thus still a competitive project, but it was now reframed as one
that would be much more easily aligned with, and integrated into, a global
market economy.18 One might see the difference in the French and the EU
responses as a question of infrastructural form and affordance. If French mass
digitization discourses were concerned with circumscribing the French cultural
heritage within the territory of the nation, the EC was in practice more
attuned to the networked aspects of the global economy and an accompanying
discourse of competition and potentiality. The infrastructural shift from
delineated sphere to globalized network changed the infrapolitics of cultural
memory from traditional nation-based issues such as identity politics
(including the formation of canons) to more globally aligned trade-related
themes such as copyright and public-private governance.

The shift from canon to copyright did not mean, however, that national
concerns dissipated. On the contrary, ministers from the European Union’s
member countries called for an investigation into the way Google Books handled
copyright in 2008.19 In reality, Google Books had very little to do with
Europe at that time, in the sense that Google Books was governed by US
copyright law. Yet the global reach of Google Books made it a European concern
nevertheless. Both German and French representatives emphasized the rift
between copyright legislation in the US and in EU member states. The German
government proposed that the EC examine whether Google Books conformed to
Europe’s copyright laws. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy stated in more
flamboyant terms that he would not permit France to be “stripped of our
heritage to the benefit of a big company, no matter how friendly, big, or
American it is.”20 Both countries moreover submitted _amicus curia_ briefs 21
to judge Denny Chin (who was in charge of the ongoing Google Books settlement
lawsuit in the US22), in which they argued against the inclusion of foreign
authors in the lawsuit.23 They further brought separate suits against Google
Books for their scanning activities and sought to exercise diplomatic pressure
against the advancement of Google Books.24

On an EU level, however, the territorial concerns were sidestepped in favor of
another matrix of concern: the question of public-private governance. Thus,
despite pressure from some member states, the EC decided not to write a
similar “amicus brief” on behalf of the EU.25 Instead, EC Commissioners
McCreevy and Reding emphasized the need for more infrastructures connecting
the public and private sectors in the field of mass digitization.26 Such PPPs
could range from relatively conservative forms of cooperation (e.g., private
sponsoring, or payments from the private sector for links provided by
Europeana) to more far-reaching involvement, such as turning the management of
Europeana over to the private sector.27 In a similar vein, a report authored
by a high-level reflection group (Comité des Sages) set down by the European
Commission opened the door for public-private partnerships and also set a time
frame for commercial exploitation.28 It was even suggested that Google could
play a role in the construction of Europeana. These considerations thus
contrasted the French resistance against Google with previous statements made
by the EC, which were concerned with preserving the public sector in the
administration of Europeana.

Did the European Commission’s networked politics signal a post-sovereign
future for Europeana? This chapter suggests no: despite the EC’s strategies,
it would be wrong to label the infrapolitics of Europeana as post-sovereign.
Rather, Europeana draws up a _late-sovereign_ 29 mass digitization landscape,
where claims to national sovereignty exist alongside networked
infrastructures.30 Why not post-sovereign? Because, as legal scholar Neil
Walker noted in 2003,31 the logic of sovereignty never waned even in the face
of globalized capitalism and legal pluralism. Instead, it fused with these
more globalized infrastructures to produce a form of politics that displayed
considerable continuity with the old sovereign order, yet also had distinctive
features such as globalized trade networks and constitutional pluralisms. In
this new system, seemingly traditional claims to sovereignty are carried out
irrespective of political practices, showing that globally networked
infrastructures and sovereign imaginaries are not necessarily mutually
exclusive; rather, territory and nation continue to remain powerful emotive
forces. Since Neil Walker’s theoretical corrective to theories on post-
sovereignty, the notion of late sovereignty seems to have only gained in
relevance as nationalist imaginaries increase in strength and power through
increasingly globalized networks.

As the following section shows, Europeana is a product of political processes
that are concerned with both the construction of bounded spheres and canons
_and_ networked infrastructures of connectivity, competition, and potentiality
operating beyond, below, and between national societal structures. Europeana’s
late-sovereign framework produces an infrapolitics in which the discursive
political juxtaposition between Europeana and Google Books exists alongside
increased cooperation between Google Books and Europeana, making it necessary
to qualify the comparative distinctions in mass digitization projects on a
much more detailed level than merely territorial delineations, without,
however, disposing of the notion of sovereignty. The simultaneous
contestations and connections between Europeana and Google Books thus make
visible the complex economic, intellectual, and technological infrastructures
at play in mass digitization.

What form did these infrastructures take? In a sense, the complex
infrastructural set-up of Europeana as it played out in the EU’s framework
ended up extending along two different axes: a vertical axis of national and
supranational sovereignty, where the tectonic territorial plates of nation-
states and continents move relative to each other by converging, diverging,
and transforming; and a horizontal axis of deterritorializing flows that
stream within, between, and throughout sovereign territories consisting both
of capital interests (in the form of transnational lobby organizations working
to protect, promote, and advance the interests of multinational companies or
nongovernmental organizations) and the affective relations of users.

## Harmonizing Europe: From Canon to Copyright

Even if the EU is less concerned with upholding the regulatory boundaries of
the nation-state in mass digitization, bordering effects are still found in
mass digitized collections—this time in the form of copyright regulation. As
in the case of Google Books, mass digitization also raised questions in Europe
about the future role of copyright in the digital sphere. On the one hand,
cultural industries were concerned about the implications of mass digitization
for their production and copyrights32; on the other hand, educational
institutions and digital industries were interested in “unlocking” the
cognitive and cultural potentials that resided within the copyrighted
collections in cultural heritage institutions. Indeed, copyright was such a
crucial concern that the EC repeatedly stated the necessity to reform and
harmonize European copyright regulation across borders.

Why is copyright a concern for Europeana? Alongside economic challenges, the
current copyright legislation is _the_ greatest obstacle against mass
digitization. Copyright effectively prohibits mass digitization of any kind of
material that is still within copyright, creating large gaps in digitized
collections that are often referred to as “the twentieth-century black hole.”
These black holes appear as a result of the way European “copyright interacts
with the digitization of cultural heritage collections” and manifest
themselves as “marked lack of online availability of twentieth-century
collections.” 33 The lack of a common copyright mechanism not only hinders
online availability, but also challenges European cross-border digitization
projects as well as the possibilities for data-mining collections à la Google
because of the difficulties connected to ascertaining the relevant
public domain and hence definitively flagging the public domain status of an
object.34

While Europeana’s twentieth-century black hole poses a problem, Europe would
not, as one worker in the EC’s Directorate-General (DG) Copyright unit noted,
follow Google’s opt-out mass digitization strategy because “the European
solution is not the Google solution. We do a diligent search for the rights
holder before digitizing the material. We follow the law.”35 By positioning
herself as on the right side of the law, the DG employee implicitly also
placed Google on the wrong side of the law. Yet, as another DG employee
explained with frustration, the right side of the law was looking increasingly
untenable in an age of mass digitization. Indeed, as she noted, the demands
for diligent search was making her work near impossible, not least due to the
different legal regimes in the US and the EU:

> Today if one wants to digitize a work, one has to go and ask the rights
holder individually. The problem is often that you can’t find the rights
holder. And sometimes it takes so much time. So there is a rights holder, you
know that he would agree, but it takes so much time to go and find out. And
not all countries have collective management … you have to go company by
company. In Europe we have producing companies that disappear after the film
has been made, because they are created only to make that film. So who are you
going to ask? While in the States the situation is different. You have the
majors, they have the rights, you know who to ask because they are very
stable. But in Europe we have this situation, which makes it very difficult,
the cultural access to cultural heritage. Of course we dream of changing
this.36

The dream is far from realized, however. Since the EU has no direct
legislative competence in the area of copyright, Europeana is the center of a
natural tension between three diverging, but sometimes overlapping instances:
the exclusivity of national intellectual property laws, the economic interests
toward a common market, and the cultural interests in the free movement of
information and knowledge production—a tension that is further amplified by
the coexistence of different legal traditions across member states.37 Seeking
to resolve this tension, the European Parliament and certain units in the
European Commission have strategically used Europeana as a rhetorical lever to
increase harmonization of copyright legislation and thus make it easier for
institutions to make their collections available online.38 “Harmonization” has
thus become a key concept in the rights regime of mass digitization,
essentially signaling interoperability rather than standardization of national
copyright regimes. Yet stakeholders differ in their opinions concerning who
should hold what rights over what content, over what period of time, at what
price, and how things should be made available. So within the process of
harmonization is a process that is less than harmonious, namely bringing
stakeholders to the table and committing. As the EC interviewee confirms,
harmonization requires not only technical but also political cooperation.

The question of harmonization illustrates the infrapolitical dimensions of
Europeana’s copyright systems, showing that they are not just technical
standards or “direct mirrors of reality” but also “co-produced responses to
technoscientific and political uncertainty.”39 The European attempts to
harmonize copyright standards across national borders therefore pit not only
one technical standard against the other, but also “alternative political
cultures and their systems of public reasoning against one another”40
(Jasanoff, 133). Harmonization thus compresses, rather than eliminates,
national varieties within Europe.41 Hence, Barroso’s vision of Europeana as a
collective _European_ cultural memory is faced with the fragmented patterns of
national copyright regimes, producing if not overtly political borders in the
collections, then certainly infrapolitical manifestations of the cultural
barriers that still exist between European countries.

## The Infrapolitics of Interoperability

Copyright is not the only infrastructural regime that upholds borders in
Europeana’s collections; technical standards also pose great challenges for
the dream of an European connective cultural memory.42 The notion of
_interoperability_ 43 has therefore become a key concern for mass
digitization, as interoperability is what allows digitized cultural memory
institutions to exchange and share documents, queries, and services.44

The rise of interoperability as a key concept in mass digitization is a side-
effect of the increasing complexity of economic, political, and technological
networks. In the twentieth century, most European cultural memory institutions
existed primarily as small “sovereign” institutions, closed spheres governed
by internal logics and with little impetus to open up their internal machinery
to other institutions and cooperate. The early 2000s signaled a shift in the
institutional infrastructural layout of cultural memory institutions, however.
One early significant articulation of this shift was a 324-page European
Commission report entitled _Technological Landscapes for Tomorrow’s Cultural
Economy: Unlocking the Value of Cultural Heritage_ (or the DigiCULT study), a
“roadmap” that outlined the political, organizational, and technological
challenges faced by European museums, libraries, and archives in the period
2002–2006. A central passage noted that the “conditions for success of the
cultural and memory institutions in the Information Society is (sic) the
‘network logic,’ a logic that is of course directly related to the necessity
of being interoperable.” 45 The network logic and resulting demand for
interoperability was not merely a question of digital connections, the report
suggested, but a more pervasive logic of contemporary society. The report thus
conceived interoperability as a question that ran deeper that technological
logic.46 The more complex cultural memory infrastructures become, the more
interoperability is needed if one wants the infrastructures to connect and
communicate with each other.47 As information scholar Christine Borgman notes,
interoperability has therefore long been “the holy grail of digital
libraries”—a statement echoed by Commissioner Reding on Europeana in 2005 when
she stated that “I am not suggesting that the Commission creates a single
library. I envisage a network of many digital libraries—in different
institutions, across Europe.”48 Reding’s statement shows that even at the
height of the French exceptionalist discourse on European mass digitization,
other political forces worked instead to reformat the sovereign sphere into a
network. The unravelling of the bounded spheres of cultural memory
institutions into networked infrastructures is therefore both an effect of,
and the further mobilization of, increased interoperability.

Interoperability is not only a concern for mass digitization projects,
however; rather, the calls for interoperability takes place on a much more
fundamental level. A European Council Conclusion on Europeana identifies
interoperability as a key challenge for the future construction of Europeana,
but also embeds this concern within the overarching European interoperability
strategy, _European Interoperability Framework for pan-European eGovernment
services_. 49 Today, then, interoperability appears to be turning into a
social theory. The extension of the concept of interoperability into the
social sphere naturally follows the socialization of another technical term:
infrastructure. In the past decades, Susan Leigh Star, Geoffrey Bowker, and
others have successfully managed to frame infrastructure “not only in terms of
human versus technological components but in terms of a set of interrelated
social, organizational, and technical components or systems (whether the data
will be shared, systems interoperable, standards proprietary, or maintenance
and redesign factored in).”50 It follows, then, as Christine Borgman notes,
that even if interoperability in technical terms is a “feature of products and
services that allows the connection of people, data, and diverse systems,”51
policy practice, standards and business models, and vested interest are often
greater determinants of interoperability than is technology.52 In similar
terms, information science scholar Jerome Mcdonough notes that “we need to
cease viewing [interoperability] purely as a technical problem, and
acknowledge that it is the result of the interplay of technical and social
factors.”53 Pushing the concept of interoperability even further, legal
scholars Urs Gasser and John Palfrey have even argued for viewing the world
through a theory of interoperability, naming their project “interop theory,”54
while Internet governance scholar Laura Denardis proposes a political theory
of interoperability.55

More than denoting a technical fact, then, interoperability emerges today as
an infrastructural logic, one that promotes openness, modularity, and
connectivity. Within the field of mass digitization, the notion of
interoperability is in particular promoted by the infrastructural workers of
cultural memory (e.g., archivists, librarians, software developers, digital
humanists, etc.) who dream of opening up the silos they work on to enrich them
with new meanings.56 As noted in chapter 1, European cultural memory
institutions had begun to address unconnected institutions as closed “silos.”
Mass digitization offered a way of thinking of these institutions anew—not as
frigid closed containers, but rather as vital connective infrastructures.
Interoperability thus gives rise to a new infrastructural form of cultural
memory: the traditional delineated sovereign spheres of expertise of analog
cultural memory institutions are pried open and reformatted as networked
ecosystems that consist not only of the traditional national public providers,
but also of additional components that have hitherto been alien in the
cultural memory industry, such as private individual users and commercial
industries.57

The logic of interoperability is also born of a specific kind of
infrapolitics: the politics of modular openness. Interoperability is motivated
by the “open” data movements that seek to break down proprietary and
disciplinary boundaries and create new cultural memory infrastructures and
ways of working with their collections. Such visions are often fueled by
Lawrence Lessig’s conviction that “the most important thing that the Internet
has given us is a platform upon which experience is interoperable.”58 And they
have given rise to the plethora of cultural concepts we find on the Internet
in the age of digital capitalism, such as “prosumers”, “produsers”, and so on.
These concepts are becoming more and more pervasive in the digital environment
where “any format of sound can be mixed with any format of video, and then
supplemented with any format of text or images.”59 According to Lessig, the
challenge to this “open” vision are those “who don’t play in this
interoperability game,” and the contestation between the “open” and the
“closed” takes place in the “the network,” which produces “a world where
anyone can clip and combine just about anything to make something new.”60

Despite its centrality in the mass digitization rhetoric, the concept of
interoperability and the politics it produces is rarely discussed in critical
terms. Yet, as Gasser and Palfrey readily conceded in 2007, interoperability
is not necessarily in itself an “unalloyed good.” Indeed, in “certain
instances,” Palfrey and Gasser noted, interoperability brings with it possible
drawbacks such as increased homogeneity, lack of security, lack of
reliability.61 Today, ten years on, Urs Gasser’s and John Palfrey’s admissions
of the drawbacks of interoperability appear too modest, and it becomes clear
that while their theoretical apparatus was able to identify the centrality of
interoperability in a digital world, their social theory missed its larger
political implications.

When scanning the literature and recommendations on interoperability, certain
words emerge again and again: innovation, choice, diversity, efficiency,
seamlessness, flexibility, and access. As Tara McPherson notes in her related
analysis of the politics of modularity, it is not much of a stretch to “layer
these traits over the core tenets of post-Fordism” and note their effect on
society: “time-space compression, transformability, customization, a
public/private blur, etc.”62 The result, she suggests, is a remaking of the
Fordist standardization processes into a “neoliberal rule of modularity.”
Extending McPherson’s critique into the temporal terrain, Franco Bifo Berardi
emphasizes the semantic politics of speed that is also inherent in
connectivity and interoperability: “Connection implies smooth surfaces with no
margins of ambiguity … connections are optimized in terms of speed and have
the potential to accelerate with technological developments.63 The
connectivity enabled by interoperability thus implies modularity with
components necessarily “open to interfacing and interoperability.”
Interoperability, then, is not only a question of openness, but also a way of
harnessing network effects by means of speed and resilience.

While interoperability may be an inherent infrastructural tenet of neoliberal
systems, increased interoperability does not automatically make mass
digitization projects neoliberal. Yet, interoperability does allow for
increased connectivity between individual cultural memory objects and a
neoliberal economy. And while the neoliberal economy may emulate critical
discourses on freedom and creativity, its main concern is profit. The same
systems that allow users to create and navigate collections more freely are
made interoperable with neoliberal systems of control.64

## The “Work” in Networking

What are the effects of interoperability for the user? The culture of
connectivity and interoperability has not only allowed Europeana’s collections
to become more visible to a wider public, it has also enabled these publics to
become intentionally or unintentionally involved in the act of describing and
ordering these same collections, for instance by inviting users to influence
existing collections as well as to generate their own collections. The
increased interaction with works also transform them from stable to mobile
objects.65 Mass digitization has thus transformed curatorial practice,
expanding it beyond the closed spheres of cultural memory institutions into
much broader ecosystems and extending the focus of curatorial attention from
fixed objects to dynamic network systems. As a result, “curatorial work has
become more widely distributed between multiple agents including technological
networks and software.”66 From having played a central role in the curatorial
practice, the curator is now only part of this entire system and increasingly
not central to it. Sharing the curator’s place are users, algorithms, software
engineers, and a multitude of other factors.

At the same time, the information deluge generated by digitization has
enhanced the necessity of curation, both within and outside institutions. Once
considered as professional caretaking for collections, the curatorial concept
has now been modulated to encompass a whole host of activities and agents,
just as curatorial practices are now ever more engaged in epistemic meaning
making, selecting and organizing materials in an interpretive framework
through the aggregation of global connection.67 And as the already monumental
and ever accelerating digital collections exceed human curatorial capacity,
the computing power of machines and cognitive capabilities of ordinary
citizens is increasingly needed to penetrate and make meaning of the data
accumulations.

What role is Europeana’s user given in this new environment? With the
increased modulation of public-private boundaries, which allow different
modules to take on different tasks and on different levels, the strict
separation between institution and environment is blurring in Europeana. So is
the separation between user, curator, consumer, and producer. New characters
have thus arisen in the wake of these transformations, hereunder the two
concepts of the “amateur” and the “citizen scientist.”

In contrast to much of the microlabor that takes place in the digital sphere,
Europeana’s participatory structures often consist in cognitive tasks that are
directly related to the field of cultural memory. This aligns with the
aspirations of the Citizen Science Alliance, which requires that all their
crowdsourcing projects answer “a real scientific research question” and “must
never waste the ‘clicks,’ or time, of volunteers.”68 Citizen science is an
emergent form of research practice in which citizens participate in research
projects on different levels and in different constellations with established
research communities. The participatory structures of citizen science range
from highly complex processes to more simple tasks, such as identifying
colors, themes, patterns that challenge machinic analyses, and so on. There
are different ways of classifying these participatory structures, but the most
prevalent participatory structures in Europeana include:

1. 1\. Contribution, where visitors are solicited to provide limited and specified objects, actions, or ideas to an institutionally controlled process, for example, Europeana’s _1914–1918_ exhibition, which allowed (and still allows) users to contribute photos, letters, and other memorabilia from that period.
2. 2\. Correction and transcription, where users correct faulty OCR scans of books, newspapers, etc.
3. 3\. Contextualization, that is, the practice of placing or studying objects in a meaningful context.
4. 4\. Augmenting collections, that is, enriching collections with additional dimensions. One example is the recently launched Europeana Sound Connections, which encourages and enables visitors to “actively enrich geo-pinned sounds from two data providers with supplementary media from various sources. This includes using freely reusable content from Europeana, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, or even individuals’ own collections.”69
5. 5\. And finally, Europeana also offers participation through classification, that is, a social tagging system in which users contribute with classifications.

All these participatory structures fall within the general rubric of
crowdsourcing, and they are often framed in social terms and held up as an
altruistic alternative to the capitalist exploitation of other crowdsourcing
projects, because, as new media theorist Mia Ridge argues, “unlike commercial
crowdsourcing, participation in cultural memory crowdsourcing is driven by
pleasure, not profit. Rather than monetary recompense, GLAM (Galleries,
Museums, Archives, and Libraries) projects provide an opportunity for
altruistic acts, activated by intrinsic motivations, applied to inherently
engaging tasks, encouraged by a personal interest in the subject or task.”70
In addition—and based on this notion of altruism—these forms of crowdsourcing
are also subversive successors of, or correctives to, consumerism.

The idea of pitting the activities of citizen science against more simple
consumer logics has been at the heart of Europeana since its inception,
particularly influenced by the French philosopher Bernard Stiegler, who has
been instrumental not only in thinking about, but also building, Europeana’s
software infrastructures around the character of the “amateur.” Stiegler’s
thesis was that the amateur could subvert the industrial ethos of production
because he/she is not driven by a desire to consume as much as a desire to
love, and thus is able to imbue the archive with a logic different from pure
production71 without withdrawing from participation (the word “amateur” comes
from the French word _aimer_ ).72 Yet it appears to me that the convergence of
cultural memory ecosystems leaves little room for the philosophical idea of
mobilizing amateurism as a form of resistance against capitalist logics.73 The
blurring of production boundaries in the new cultural memory ecosystems raises
urgent questions to cultural memory institutions of how they can protect the
ethos of the amateur in citizen archives,74 while also aligning them with
institutional strategies of harvesting the “cognitive surplus” of users75 in
environments where play is increasingly taking on aspects of labor and vice
versa. As cultural theorist Angela Mitropoulos has noted, “networking is also
net-working.”76 Thus, while many of the participatory structures we find in
Europeana are participatory projects proper and not just what we might call
participation-lite—or minimal participation77—models, the new interoperable
infrastructures of cultural memory ecosystems make it increasingly difficult
to uphold clear-cut distinctions between civic practice and exploitation in
crowdsourcing projects.

## Collecting Europe

If Europeana is a late-sovereign mass digitization project that maintains
discursive ties to the national imaginary at the same time that it undercuts
this imaginary by means of networked infrastructures through increased
interoperability, the final question is: what does this late-sovereign
assemblage produce in cultural terms? As outlined above, it was an aspiration
of Europeana to produce and distribute European cultural memory by means of
mass digitization. Today, its collection gathers more than 50 million cultural
works in differing formats—from sound bites to photographs, textiles, films,
files, and books. As the previous sections show, however, the processes of
gathering the cultural artifacts have generated a lot of friction, producing a
political reality that in some respects reproduces and accentuates the
existing politics of cultural memory institutions in terms of representation
and ownership, and in other respects gives rise to new forms of cultural
memory politics that part ways with the political regimes of traditional
curatorial apparatuses.

The story of how Europeana’s initial collection was published and later
revised offers a good opportunity to examine its late-sovereign political
dynamics. Europeana launched in 2008, giving access to some 4.5 million
digital objects from more than 1,000 institutions. Shortly after its launch,
however, the site crashed for several hours. The reason given by EU officials
was that Europeana was a victim of its own success: “On the first day of its
launch, Europe’s digital library Europeana was overwhelmed by the interest
shown by millions of users in this new project … thousands of users searching
in the very same second for famous cultural works like the _Mona Lisa_ or
books from Kafka, Cervantes, or James Joyce. … The site was down because of
massive interest, which shows the enormous potential of Europeana for bringing
cultural treasures from Europe’s cultural institutions to the wide public.” 78
The truth, however, lay elsewhere. As a Europeana employee explained, the site
didn’t buckle under the enormous interest shown in it, but rather because
“people were hitting the same things everywhere.” The problem wasn’t so much
the way they were hitting on material, but _what_ they were hitting; the
Europeana employee explained that people’s search terms took the Commission by
surprise, “even hitting things the Commission didn’t want to show. Because
people always search for wrong things. People tend to look at pornographic and
forbidden material such as _Mein Kampf_ , etc.”79 Europeana’s reaction was to
shut down and redesign Europeana’s search interface. Europeana’s crash was not
caused by user popularity, but rather was caused by a decision made by the
Commission and Europeana staff to rework the technical features of Europeana
so that the most popular searches would not be public and to remove
potentially politically contentious material such as _Mein Kampf_ and nude
works by Peter Paul Rubens and Abraham Bloemaert, among others. Another
Europeana employee explained that the launch of Europeana had been forced
through before its time because of a meeting among the cultural ministers in
Europe, making it possible to display only a prototype. This beta version was
coded to reveal the most popular searches, producing a “carousel” of the same
content because, as the previous quote explains, people would search for the
same things, in particular “porn” and “ _Mein Kampf_ ,” allegedly leading the
US press to call Europeana a collection of fascist and porn material.

On a small scale, Europeana’s early glitch highlighted the challenge of how to
police the incoming digital flows from national cultural heritage institutions
for in-copyright works. With hundreds of different institutions feeding
hundreds of thousands of texts, images, and sounds into the portal, scanning
the content for illegal material was an impossible task for Europeana
employees. Many in-copyright works began flooding the portal. One in-copyright
work that appeared in the portal stood out in particular: Hitler’s _Mein
Kampf_. A common conception has been that _Mein Kampf_ was banned after WWII.
The truth was more complicated and involved a complex copyright case. When
Hitler died, his belongings were given to the state of Bavaria, including his
intellectual property rights to _Mein Kampf_. Since Hitler’s copyright was
transferred as part of the Allies’ de-Nazification program, the Bavarian state
allowed no one to republish the book. 80 Therefore, reissues of _Mein Kampf_
only reemerged in 2015, when the copyright was released. The premature digital
distribution of _Mein Kampf_ in Euro­peana was thus, according to copyright
legislation, illegal. While the _Mein Kampf_ case was extraordinary, it
flagged a more fundamental problem of how to police and analyze all the
incoming data from individual cultural heritage institutions.

On a more fundamental level, however, _Mein Kampf_ indicated not only a legal,
but also a political, issue for Europeana: how to deal with the expressions
that Europeana’s feedback mechanisms facilitated. Mass digitization promoted a
new kind of cultural memory logic, namely of feedback. Feedback mechanisms are
central to data-driven companies like Google because they offer us traces of
the inner worlds of people that would otherwise never appear in empirical
terms, but that can be catered to in commercial terms. 81 Yet, while the
traces might interest the corporation (or sociologist) on the hunt for
people’s hidden thoughts, a prestige project such as Europeana found it
untenable. What Europeana wanted was to present Europe’s cultural memory; what
they ended up showing was Europeans’ intense fascination with fascism and
porn. And this was problematic because Europeana was a political project of
representation, not a commercial project of capture.82

Since its glitchy launch, Europeana has refined its interface techniques, is
becoming more attuned to network analytics, and has grown exponentially both
in terms of institutional and in material scope. There are, at the time of
this writing, more than 50 million items in Europeana, and while its numbers
are smaller than Google Books, its scope is much larger, including images,
texts, sounds, videos, and 3-D objects. The platform features carefully
curated exhibitions highlighting European themes, from generalized exhibitions
about World War I and European artworks to much more specialized exhibitions
on, for instance, European cake culture.

But how is Europe represented in statistical terms? Since Europeana’s
inception, there have been huge variances in how much each nation-state
contributes to Europeana.83 So while Europeana is in principle representing
Europe’s collective cultural memory, in reality it represents a highly
fragmented image of Europe with a lot of European countries not even appearing
in the databases. Moreover, even these numbers are potentially misleading, as
one information scholar formerly working with Europeana notes: to pump up
their statistical representation, many institutions strategically invented
counting systems that would make their representation seem bigger than it
really is, for example, by declaring each scanned page in a medieval
manuscript as an object instead of as the entire work.84 The strategic acts of
volume increase are interesting mass digitization phenomena for many reasons:
first, they reveal the ultimately volume-based approach of mass digitization.
According to the scholar, this volume-based approach finds a political support
in the EC system, for whom “the object will always be quantitative” since
volume is “the only thing the commission can measure in terms of funding and
result.”85 In a way then, the statistics tell more than one story: in
political terms, they recount not only the classic tale of a fragmented Europe
but also how Europe is increasingly perceived, represented, and managed by
calculative technologies. In technical terms, they reveal the gray areas of
how to delineate and calculate data: what makes a data object? And in cultural
policy terms, they reflect the highly divergent prioritization of mass
digitization in European countries.

The final question is, then: how is this fragmented European collection
distributed? This is the point where Europeana’s territorial matrix reveals
its ultimately networked infrastructure. Europeana may be entered through
Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and vice versa. Therefore a click on
the aforementioned cake exhibition, for example, takes one straight to Google
Arts and Culture. The transportation from the Europeana platform to Google
happens smoothly, without any friction or notice, and if one didn’t look at
the change in URL, one would hardly notice the change at all since the
interface appears almost similar. Yet, what are the implications of this
networked nature? An obvious consequence is that Europeana is structurally
dependent on the social media and search engine companies. According to one
Europeana report, Google is the biggest source of traffic to the Europeana
portal, accounting for more than 50 percent of visits. Any changes in Google’s
algorithm and ranking index therefore significantly impact traffic patterns on
the Europeana portal, which in turn affects the number of Europeana pages
indexed by Google, which then directly impacts on the number of overall visits
to the Europeana portal.86 The same holds true for Facebook, Pinterest,
Google+, etc.

Held together, the feedback mechanisms, the statistical variance, and the
networked infrastructures of Europeana show just how difficult it is to
collect Europe in the digital sphere. This is not to say that territorial
sentiments don’t have power, however—far from it. Within the digital sphere we
are already seeing territorial statements circulated in Europe on both
national and supranational scales, with potentially far-reaching implications
on both. Yet, there is little to suggest that the territorial sentiments will
reproduce sovereign spheres in practice. To the extent that reterritorializing
sentiments are circulated in globalizing networks, this chapter has sought to
counter both ideas about post sovereignty and pure nationalization, viewing
mass digitization instead through the lens of late-sovereignty. As this
chapter shows, the notion of late-sovereignty allows us to conceptualize mass
digitization programs, such as Europeana, as globalized phenomena couched
within the language of (supra)national sovereignty. In the age where rampant
nationalist movements sweep through globalized communication networks, this
approach feels all the more urgent and applicable not only to mass
digitization programs, but also to reterritorializing communication phenomena
more broadly. Only if we take the ways in which the nationalist imaginary
works in the infrastructural reality of late capitalism, can we begin to
account for the infrapolitics of the highly mediated new territorial
imaginaries.

## Notes

1. Lefler 2007; Henry W., “Europe’s Digital Library versus Google,” Café
Babel, September 22, 2008, /europes-digital-library-versus-google.html>; Chrisafis 2008. 2. While
digitization did not stand apart from the political and economic developments
in the rapidly globalizing world, digital theorists and activists soon gave
rise to the Internet as an inherent metaphor for this integrative development,
a sign of the inevitability of an ultimately borderless world, where as
Negroponte notes, time zones would “probably play a bigger role in our digital
future than trade zones” (Negroponte 1995, 228). 3. Goldsmith and Wu 2006. 4.
Rogers 2012. 5. Anderson 1991. 6. “Jacques Chirac donne l’impulsion à la
création d’une bibliothèque numérique,” _Le Monde_ , March 16, 2005,
donne-l-impulsion-a-la-creation-d-une-bibliotheque-
numerique_401857_3246.html>. 7. Meunier 2007. 8. As Sophie Meunier reminds us,
the _Ursprung_ of the competing universalisms can be located in the two
contemporary revolutions that lent legitimacy to the universalist claims of
both the United States and France. In the wake of the revolutions, a perceived
competition arose between these two universalisms, resulting in French
intellectuals crafting anti-American arguments, not least when French
imperialism “was on the wane and American imperialism on the rise.” See
Meunier 2007, 141. Indeed, Muenier suggests, anti-Americanism is “as much a
statement about France as it is about America—a resentful longing for a power
that France no longer has” (ibid.). 9. Jeanneney 2007, 3. 10. Emile Chabal
thus notes how the term is “employed by prominent politicians, serious
academics, political commentators, and in everyday conversation” to “cover a
wide range of stereotypes, pre-conceptions, and judgments about the Anglo-
American world” (Chabal 2013, 24). 11. Chabal 2013, 24–25. 12. Jeanneney 2007.
13. While Jeanneney framed this French cultural-political endeavor as a
European “contre-attaque” against Google Books, he also emphasized that his
polemic was not at all to be read as a form of aggression. In particular he
pointed to the difficulties of translating the word _défie_ , which featured
in the title of the piece: “Someone rightly pointed out that the English word
‘defy,’ with which American reporters immediately rendered _défie,_ connotes a
kind of violence or aggressiveness that isn’t implied by the French word. The
right word in English is ‘challenge,’ which has a different implication, more
sporting, more positive, more rewarding for both sides” (Jeanneney 2007, 85).
14. See pages 12, 22, and 24 for a few examples in Jeanneney 2007. 15. On the
issue of the common currency, see, for instance, Martin and Ross 2004. The
idea of France as an appropriate spokesperson for Europe was familiar already
in the eighteenth century when Voltaire declared French “la Langue de
l’Europe”; see Bivort 2013. 16. The official thus first noted that, “Everybody
is working on digitization projects … cooperation between Google and the
European project could therefore well occur.” and later added that ”The worst
scenario we could achieve would be that we had two big digital libraries that
don’t communicate. … The idea is not to do the same thing, so maybe we could
cooperate, I don’t know. Frankly, I’m not sure they would be interested in
digitizing our patrimony. The idea is to bring something that is
complementary, to bring diversity. But this doesn’t mean that Google is an
enemy of diversity.” See Labi 2005. 17. Letter from Manuel Barroso to Jaques
Chirac, July 7, 2005,
[http://www.peps.cfwb.be/index.php?eID=tx_nawsecuredl&u=0&file=fileadmin/sites/numpat/upload/numpat_super_editor/numpat_editor/documents/Europe/Bibliotheques_numeriques/2005.07.07reponse_de_la_Commission_europeenne.pdf&hash=fe7d7c5faf2d7befd0894fd998abffdf101eecf1](http://www.peps.cfwb.be/index.php?eID=tx_nawsecuredl&u=0&file=fileadmin/sites/numpat/upload/numpat_super_editor/numpat_editor/documents/Europe/Bibliotheques_numeriques/2005.07.07reponse_de_la_Commission_europeenne.pdf&hash=fe7d7c5faf2d7befd0894fd998abffdf101eecf1).
18. As one EC communication noted, a digitization project on the scale of
Europeana could sharpen Europe’s competitive edge in digitization processes
compared to those in the US as well India and China; see European Commission,
“i2010: Digital Libraries,” _COM(2005) 465 final_ , September 30, 2005, [eur-
lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52005DC0465&from=EN](http
://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52005DC0465&from=EN).
19. “Google Books raises concerns in some member states,” as an anonymous
Czech diplomatic source put it; see Paul Meller, “EU to Investigate Google
Books’ Copyright Policies,” _PCWorld_ , May 28, 2009,
.
20. Pfanner 2011; Doward 2009; Samuel 2009. 21. Amicus brief is a legal term
that in Latin means “friend of the court.” Frequently, a person or group who
is not a party to a lawsuit, but has a strong interest in the matter, will
petition the court for permission to submit a brief in the action with the
intent of influencing the court’s decision. 22. See chapter 4 in this volume.
23. de la Durantaye 2011. 24. Kevin J. O’Brien and Eric Pfanner, “Europe
Divided on Google Book Deal,” _New York Times_ , August 23, 2009,
; see
also Courant 2009; Darnton 2009. 25. de la Durantaye 2011. 26. Viviane Reding
and Charlie McCreevy, “It Is Time for Europe to Turn over a New E-Leaf on
Digital Books and Copyright,” MEMO/09/376, September 7, 2009, [europa.eu/rapid
/press-release_MEMO-09-376_en.htm?locale=en](http://europa.eu/rapid/press-
release_MEMO-09-376_en.htm?locale=en). 27. European Commission,
“Europeana—Next Steps,” COM(2009) 440 final, August 28, 2009, [eur-
lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2009:0440:FIN:en:PDF](http
://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2009:0440:FIN:en:PDF).
28. “It is logical that the private partner seeks a period of preferential use
or commercial exploitation of the digitized assets in order to avoid free-
rider behaviour of competitors. This period should allow the private partner
to recoup its investment, but at the same time be limited in time in order to
avoid creating a one-market player situation. For these reasons, the Comité
set the maximum time of preferential use of material digitised in public-
private partnerships at maximum 7 years” (Niggemann 2011). 29. Walker 2003.
30. Within this complex environment it is not even possible to draw boundaries
between the networked politics of the EU and the sovereign politics of member
states. Instead, member states engage in double-talk. As political scientist
Sophie Meunier reminds us, even member states such as France engage in double-
talk on globalization, with France on the one hand becoming the “worldwide
champion of anti-globalization,” and on the other hand “a country whose
economy and society have quietly adapted to this much-criticized
globalization” (Meunier 2003). On political two-level games, see also Putnam
1988. 31. Walker 2003. 32. “Google Books Project to Remove European Titles,”
_Telegraph_ , September 7, 2009,
remove-European-titles.html>. 33. “Europeana Factsheet,” Europeana, September
28, 2015,
/copy-of-europeana-policy-illustrating-the-20th-century-black-hole-in-the-
europeana-dataset.pdf> . 34. C. Handke, L. Guibault, and J. J. Vallbé, “Is
Europe Falling Behind in Data Mining? Copyright’s Impact on Data Mining in
Academic Research,” 2015, id-12015-15-handke-elpub2015-paper-23>. 35. Interview with employee, DG
Copyright, DC Commission, 2010. 36. Interview with employee, DG Information
and Society, DC Commission, 2010. 37. Montagnani and Borghi 2008. 38. Julia
Fallon and Paul Keller, “European Parliament Demands Copyright Rules that
Allow Cultural Heritage Institutions to Share Collections Online,” Europeana
Pro, rules-better-fit-for-a-digital-age>. 39. Jasanoff 2013, 133 40. Ibid. 41. Tate
2001. 42. It would be tempting to suggest the discussion on harmonization
above would apply to interoperability as well. But while the concepts of
harmonization and interoperability—along with the neighboring term
standardization—are used intermittently and appear similar at first glance,
they nevertheless have precise cultural-legal meanings and implicate different
infrastructural set-ups. As noted above, the notion of harmonization is
increasingly used in the legal context of harmonizing regulatory
apparatuses—in the case of mass digitization especially copyright laws. But
the word has a richer semantic meaning, suggesting a search for commonalities,
literally by means of fitting together or arranging units into a whole. As
such the notion of harmony suggests something that is both pleasing and
presupposes a cohesive unit(y), for example, a door hinged to a frame, an arm
hinged to a body. While used in similar terms, the notion of interoperability
expresses a very different infrastructural modality. If harmonization suggests
unity, interoperability rather alludes to modularity. For more on the concepts
of standardization and harmonization in regulatory contexts, see Tay and
Parker 1990. 43. The notion of interoperability is often used to express a
system’s ability to transfer, render and connect to useful information across
systems, and calls for interoperability have increased as systems have become
increasingly complex. 44. There are “myriad technical and engineering issues
associated with connecting together networks, databases, and other computer-
based systems”; digitized cultural memory institutions have the option of
providing “a greater array of services” than traditional libraries and
archives from sophisticated search engines to document reformatting as rights
negotiations; digitized cultural memory materials are often more varied than
the material held in traditional libraries; and finally and most importantly,
mass digitization institutions are increasingly becoming platforms that
connect “a large number of loosely connected components” because no “single
corporation, professional organization, or government” would be able to
provide all that is necessary for a project such as Europeana; not least on an
international scale. EU-NSF Digital Library Working Group on Interoperability
between Digital Libraries Position Paper, 1998,
. 45.  _The
Digicult Report: Technological Landscapes for Tomorrow’s Cultural Economy:
Unlocking the Value of Cultural Heritage: Executive Summary_ (Luxembourg:
Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2002), 80. 46.
“… interoperability in organisational terms is not foremost dependent on
technologies,” ibid. 47. As such they align with what Internet governance
scholar Laura Denardis calls the Internet’s “underlying principle” (see
DeNardis 2014). 48. The results of the EC Working Group on Digital Library
Interoperability are reported in the briefing paper by Stephan Gradman
entitled “Interoperability: A Key Concept for Large Scale, Persistent Digital
Libraries” (Gradmann 2009). 49. “Semantic operability ensures that programmes
can exchange information, combine it with other information resources and
subsequently process it in a meaningful manner: _European Interoperability
Framework for pan-European eGovernment services_ , 2004,
. In the case of
Europeana, this could consist of the development of tools and technologies to
improve the automatic ingestion and interpretation of the metadata provided by
cultural institutions, for example, by mapping the names of artists so that an
artist known under several names is recognised as the same person.” (Council
Conclusions on the Role of Europeana for the Digital Access, Visibility and
Use of European Cultural Heritage,” European Council Conclusion, June 1, 2016,
.) 50.
Bowker, Baker, Millerand, and Ribes 2010. 51. Tsilas 2011, 103. 52. Borgman
2015, 46. 53. McDonough 2009. 54. Palfrey and Gasser 2012. 55. DeNardis 2011.
56. The .txtual Condition: Digital Humanities, Born-Digital Archives, and the
Future Literary; Palfrey and Gasser 2012; Matthew Kirschenbaum, “Distant
Mirrors and the Lamp,” talk at the 2013 MLA Presidential Forum Avenues of
Access session on “Digital Humanities and the Future of Scholarly
Communication.” 57. Ping-Huang 2016. 58. Lessig 2005 59. Ibid. 60. Ibid. 61.
Palfrey and Gasser 2012. 62. McPherson 2012, 29. 63. Berardi, Genosko, and
Thoburn 2011, 29–31. 64. For more on the nexus of freedom and control, see
Chun 2006. 65. The mere act of digitization of course inflicts mobility on an
object as digital objects are kept in a constant state of migration. 66. Krysa
2006. 67. See only the wealth of literature currently generated on the
“curatorial turn,” for example, O’Neill and Wilson 2010; and O’Neill and
Andreasen 2011. 68. Romeo and Blaser 2011. 69. Europeana Sound Connections,
collections-on-a-social-networking-platform.html>. 70. Ridge 2013. 71. Carolyn
Dinshaw has argued for the amateur’s ability in similar terms, focusing on her
potential to queer the archive (see Dinshaw 2012). 72. Stiegler 2003; Stiegler
n.d. The idea of the amateur as a subversive character precedes digitization,
of course. Think only of Roland Barthes’s idea of the amateur as a truly
subversive character that could lead to a break with existing ideologies in
disciplinary societies; see, for instance, Barthes’s celebration of the
amateur as a truly anti-bourgeois character (Barthes 1977 and Barthes 1981).
73. Not least in light of recent writings on the experience as even love
itself as a form of labor (see Weigel 2016). The constellation of love as a
form of labor has a long history (see Lewis 1987). 74. Raddick et al. 2009;
Proctor 2013. 75. “Many companies and institutions, that are successful
online, are good at supporting and harnessing people’s cognitive surplus. …
Users get the opportunity to contribute something useful and valuable while
having fun” (Sanderhoff, 33 and 36). 76. Mitropoulos 2012, 165. 77. Carpentier
2011. 78. EC Commission, “Europeana Website Overwhelmed on Its First Day by
Interest of Millions of Users,” MEMO/08/733, November 21, 2008,
. See also Stephen
Castle, “Europeana Goes Online and Is Then Overwhelmed,” _New York Times_ ,
November 21, 2008,
[nytimes.com/2008/11/22/technology/Internet/22digital.html](http://nytimes.com/2008/11/22/technology/Internet/22digital.html).
79. Information scholar affiliated with Europeana, interviewed by Nanna Bonde
Thylstrup, Brussels, Belgium, 2011. 80. See, for instance, Martina Powell,
“Bayern will mit ‘Mein Kampf’ nichts mehr zu tun haben,” _Die Zeit_ , December
13, 2013, soll-erscheinen>. Bavaria’s restrictive publishing policy of _Mein Kampf_
should most likely be interpreted as a case of preventive precaution on behalf
of the Bavarian State’s diplomatic reputation. Yet by transferring Hitler’s
author’s rights to the Bavarian Ministry, they allocated _Mein Kampf_ to an
existence in a gray area between private and public law. Since then, the book
has been the center of attention in a rift between, on the one hand, the
Ministry of Finance who has rigorously defended its position as the formal
rights holder, and, on the other hand, historians and intellectuals who,
supported the Bavarian science minister Wolfgang Heubisch, have argued that an
academic annotated version of _Mein Kampf_ should be made publicly accessible
in the name of Enlightenment. 81. Latour 2007. 82. Europeana’s more
traditional curatorial approach to mass digitization was criticized not only
by the media, but also others involved in mass digitization projects, who
claimed that Europeana had fundamentally misunderstood the point of mass
digitization. One engineer working on mass digitization projects is the
influential cultural software developer organization, IRI, argued that
Europeana’s production pattern was comparable to “launching satellites”
without thinking of the messages that are returned by the satellites. Google,
he argued, was differently attuned to the importance of feedback, because
“feedback is their business.” 83. In the most recent published report, Germany
contributes with about 15 percent and France with around 16 percent of the
total amount of available works. At the same time, Belgium and Slovenia only
count around 1 percent and Denmark along with Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal,
and a slew of other countries doesn’t even achieve representation in the pie
chart; see “Europeana Content Report,” August 6, 2015,
/europeana-dsi-ms7-content-report-august.pdf>. 84. Europeana information
scholar interview, 2011. 85. Ibid. 86. Wiebe de Jager, “MS15: Annual traffic
report and analysis,” Europeana, May 31 2014,
.

# 4
The Licit and Illicit Nature of Mass Digitization

## Introduction: Lurking in the Shadows

A friend has just recommended an academic book to you, and now you are dying
to read it. But you know that it is both expensive and hard to get your hands
on. You head down to your library to request the book, but you soon realize
that the wait list is enormous and that you will not be able to get your hands
on the book for a couple of weeks. Desperate, you turn to your friend for
help. She asks, “Why don’t you just go to a pirate library?” and provides you
with a link. A new world opens up. Twenty minutes later you have downloaded 30
books that you felt were indispensable to your bookshelf. You didn’t pay a
thing. You know what you did was illegal. Yet you also felt strangely
justified in your actions, not least spurred on by the enthusiastic words on
the shadow library’s front page, which sets forth a comforting moral compass.
You begin thinking to yourself: “Why are pirate libraries deemed more illegal
than Google’s controversial scanning project?” and “What are the moral
implications of my actions vis-à-vis the colonial framework that currently
dictates Europeana’s copyright policies?”

The existence of what this book terms shadow libraries raises difficult
questions, not only to your own moral compass but also to the field of mass
digitization. Political and popular discourses often reduce the complexity of
these questions to “right” and “wrong” and Hollywood narratives of pirates and
avengers. Yet, this chapter wishes to explore the deeper infrapolitical
implications of shadow libraries, setting out the argument that shadow
libraries offer us a productive framework for examining the highly complex
legal landscape of mass digitization. Rather than writing a chapter that
either supports or counters shadow libraries, the chapter seeks to chart the
complexity of the phenomenon and tease out its relevance for mass digitization
by framing it within what we might call an infrapolitics of parasitism.

In _The Parasite_ , a strange and fabulating book that brings together
information theory and cybernetics, physics, philosophy, economy, biology,
politics, and folk tales, French philosopher Michel Serres constructs an
argument about the conceptual figure of the parasite to explore the parasitic
nature of social relations. In a dizzying array of images and thought-
constructs, Serres argues against the idea of a balanced exchange of energy,
suggesting instead that our world is characterized by one parasite stealing
energy by feeding on another organism. For this purpose he reminds us of the
three meanings of parasite in the French language. In French, the term
parasite has three distinct, but related meanings. The first relates to one
organism feeding off another and giving nothing in return. Second, it refers
to the social concept of the freeloader, who lives off society without giving
anything in return. Both of these meanings are fairly familiar to most, and
lay the groundwork for our annoyance with both bugs and spongers. The third
meaning, however, is less known in most languages except French: here the
parasite is static noise or interference in a channel, interrupting the
seemingly balanced flow of things, mediating and thus transforming relations.
Indeed, for Serres, the parasite is itself a disruptive relation (rather than
entity). The parasite can also change positions of sender, receiver, and
noise, making it exceedingly difficult to discern parasite from nonparasite;
indeed, to such an extent that Serres himself exclaims “I no longer really
know how to say it: the parasite parasites the parasites.”1 Serres thus uses
his parasitic model to make a claim about the nature of cybernetic
technologies and the flow of information, arguing that “cybernetics gets more
and more complicated, makes a chain, then a network. Yet it is founded on the
theft of information, quite a simple thing.”2 The logic of the parasite,
Serres argues, is the logic of the interrupter, the “excluded third” or
“uninvited guest” who intercepts and confuses relations in a process of theft
that has a value both of destruction and a value of construction. The parasite
is thus a generative force, inventing, affecting, and transforming relations.
Hence, parasitism refers not only to an act of interference but also to an
interruption that “invents something new.”3

Michel Serres’s then-radical philosophy of the parasite is today echoed by a
broader recognition of the parasite as not only a dangerous entity, but also a
necessary mediator. Indeed, as Jeanette Samyn notes, we are today witnessing a
“pro-parasitic” movement in science in which “scientists have begun to
consider parasites and other pathogens not simply as problems but as integral
components of ecosystems.”4 In this new view, “… the parasite takes from its
host without ever taking its place; it creates new room, feeding off excess,
sometimes killing, but often strengthening its milieu.” In the following
sections, the lens of the parasite will help us explore the murky waters of
shadow libraries, not (only) as entities, but also as relational phenomena.
The point is to show how shadow libraries belong to the same infrapolitical
ecosystem as Google Books and Europeana, sometimes threatening them, but often
also strengthening them. Moreover, it seeks to show how visitors’ interactions
with shadow libraries are also marked by parasitical relations with Google,
which often mediates literature searches, thus entangling Google and shadow
libraries in a parasitical relationship where one feeds off the other and vice
versa.

Despite these entangled relations, the mass digitization strategies of shadow
libraries, Europeana, and Google Books differ significantly. Basically, we
might say that Google Books and Europeana each represent different strategies
for making material available on an industrial scale while maintaining claims
to legality. The sprawling and rapidly growing group of mass digitization
projects interchangeably termed shadow libraries represents a third set of
strategies. Shadow libraries5 share affinities with Europeana and Google Books
in the sense that they offer many of the same services: instant access to a
wealth of cultural works spanning journal articles, monographs, and textbooks
among others. Yet, while Google Books and Europeana promote visibility to
increase traffic, embed themselves in formal systems of communication, and
operate within the legal frameworks of public funding and private contracting,
shadow libraries in contrast operate in the shadows of formal visibility and
regulatory systems. Hence, while formal mass digitization projects such as
Google Books and Europeana publicly proclaim their desire to digitize the
world’s cultural memory, another layer of people, scattered across the globe
and belonging to very diverse environments, harbor the same aspirations, but
in much more subtle terms. Most of these people express an interest in the
written word, a moral conviction of free access, and a political view on
existing copyright regulations as unjust and/or untimely. Some also express
their fascination with the new wonders of technology and their new
infrastructural possibilities. Others merely wish to practice forms of access
that their finances, political regime, or geography otherwise prohibit them
from doing. And all of them are important nodes in a new shadowy
infrastructural system that provides free access worldwide to books and
articles on a scale that collectively far surpasses both Google and Europeana.

Because of their illicit nature, most analyses of shadowy libraries have
centered on their legal transgressions. Yet, their cultural trajectories
contain nuances that far exceed legal binaries. Approaching shadow libraries
through the lens of infrapolitics is helpful for bringing forth these much
more complex cultural mass digitization systems. This chapter explores three
examples of shadow libraries, focusing in particular on their stories of
origin, their cultural economies, and their sociotechnical infrastructures.
Not all shadow libraries fit perfectly into the category of mass digitization.
Some of them are smaller in size, more selective, and less industrial.
Nevertheless, I include them because their open access strategies allow for
unlimited downloads. Thus, shadow libraries, while perhaps selective in size
themselves, offer the opportunity to reproduce works at a massive and
distributed scale. As such, they are the perfect example of a mass
digitization assemblage.

The first case centers on lib.ru, an early Russia-based file-sharing platform
for exchanging books that today has grown into a massive and distributed file-
sharing project. It is primarily run by individuals, but it has also received
public funding, which shows that what at first glance appears as a simple case
of piracy simultaneously serves as a much more complex infrapolitical
structure. The second case, Monoskop, distinguishes itself by its boutique
approach to digitization. Monoskop too is characterized by its territorial
trajectory, rooted in Bratislava’s digital scene as an attempt to establish an
intellectual platform for the study of avant-garde (digital) cultures that
could connect its Bratislava-based creators to a global scene. Finally, the
chapter looks at UbuWeb, a shadow library dedicated to avant-garde cultural
works ranging from text and audio to images and film. Founded in 1996 as a US-
based noncommercial file-sharing site by poet Kenneth Goldsmith in response to
the marginal distribution of crucial avant-garde material, UbuWeb today offers
a wealth of avant-garde sound art, video, and textual works.

As the case studies show, shadow libraries have become significant mass
digitization infrastructures that offer the user free access to academic
articles and books, often by means of illegal file-sharing. They are informal
and unstable networks that rely on active user participation across a wide
spectrum, from deeply embedded people who have established file-sharing sites
to the everyday user occasionally sending the odd book or article to a friend
or colleague. As Lars Eckstein notes, most shadow libraries are characterized
not only by their informal character, but also by the speed with which they
operate, providing “a velocity of media content” which challenges legal
attacks and other forms of countermeasures.6 Moreover, shadow libraries also
often operate in a much more widely distributed fashion than both Europeana
and Google, distributing and mirroring content across multiple servers, and
distributing labor and responsibility in a system that is on the one hand more
robust, more redundant, and more resistant to any single point of failure or
control, and on the other hand more ephemeral, without a central point of
back-up. Indeed, some forms of shadow libraries exist entirely without a
center, instead operating infrastructurally along communication channels in
social media; for example, the use of the Twitter hashtag #ICanHazPDF to help
pirate scientific papers.

Today, shadow libraries exist as timely reminders of the infrapolitical nature
of mass digitization. They appear as hypertrophied versions of the access
provided by Google Books and Europeana. More fundamentally, they also exist as
political symptoms of the ideologies of the digital, characterized by ideals
of velocity and connectivity. As such, we might say that although shadow
libraries often position themselves as subversives, in many ways they also
belong to the same storyline as other mass digitization projects such as
Google Books and Europeana. Significantly, then, shadow libraries are
infrapolitical in two senses: first, they have become central infrastructural
elements in what James C. Scott calls the “infrapolitics of subordinate
groups,” providing everyday resistance by creating entrance points to
hitherto-excluded knowledge zones.7 Second, they represent and produce the
infrapolitics of the digital _tout court_ with their ideals of real-time,
globalized, and unhindered access.

## Lib.ru

Lib.ru is one of the earliest known digital shadow libraries. It was
established by the Russian computer science professor Maxim Moshkov, who
complemented his academic practice of programming with a personal hobby of
file-sharing on the so-called RuNet, the Russian-language segment of the
Internet.8 Moshkov’s collection had begun as an e-book swapping practice in
1990, but in 1994 he uploaded the material to his institute’s web server where
he then divided the site into several section such as “my hobbies,” “my work,”
and “my library.”9 If lib.ru began as a private project, however, the role of
Moshkov’s library soon changed as it quickly became Russia’s preferred shadow
library, with users playing an active role in its expansion by constantly
adding new digitized books. Users would continually scan and submit new texts,
while Moshkov, in his own words, worked as a “receptionist” receiving and
handling the material.10

Shadow libraries such as Moshkov’s were most likely born not only out of a
love of books, but also out of frustration with Russia’s lack of access to up-
to-date and affordable Western works.11 As they continued to grow and gain in
popularity, shadow libraries thus became not only points of access, but also
signs of infrastructural failure in the formal library system.12 After lib.ru
outgrew its initial server storage at Moshkov’s institute, Moshkov divided it
into smaller segments that were then distributed, leaving only the Russian
literary classics on the original site.13 Neighboring sites hosted other
genres, ranging from user-generated texts and fan fiction on a shadow site
called [samizdat.lib.ru](http://samizdat.lib.ru) to academic books in a shadow
library titled Kolkhoz, named after the commons-based agricultural cooperative
of the early Soviet era and curated and managed by “amateur librarians.”14 The
steadily accumulating numbers of added works, digital distributors, and online
access points expanded not only the range of the shadow collections, but also
their networked affordances. Lib.ru and its offshoots thus grew into an
influential node in the global mass digitization landscape, attracting both
political and legal attention.

### Lib.ru and the Law

Until 2004, lib.ru deployed a practice of handling copyright complaints by
simply removing works at the first request from the authors.15 But in 2004 the
library received its first significant copyright claim from the big Russian
publisher Kirill i Mefody (KM). KM requested that Moshkov remove access to a
long list of books, claiming exclusive Internet rights on the books, along
with works that were considered public domain. Moshkov refused to honor the
request, and a lawsuit ensued. The Ostankino Court of Moscow initially denied
the lawsuit because the contracts for exclusive Internet rights were
considered invalid. This did not deter KM, however, which then approached the
case from a different perspective, filing applications on behalf of well-known
Russian authors, including the crime author Alexandra Marinina and the science
fiction writer Eduard Gevorkyan. In the end, only Eduard Gevorkyan maintained
his claim, which was of the considerable size of one million rubles.16

During the trial, Moshkov’s library received widespread support from both
technologists and users of lib.ru, expressed, for example, in a manifesto
signed by the International Union of Internet Professionals, which among other
things touched upon the importance of online access not only to cultural works
but also to the Russian language and culture:

> Online libraries are an exceptionally large intellectual fund. They lessen
the effect of so-called “brain drain,” permitting people to stay in the orbit
of Russian language and culture. Without online libraries, the useful effect
of the Internet and computers in Russian education system is sharply lowered.
A huge, openly available mass of Russian literary texts is a foundation
permitting further development of Russian-language culture, worldwide.17

Emphasizing that Moshkov often had an agreement with the authors he put
online, the manifesto also called for a more stable model of online public
libraries, noting that “A wide list of authors who explicitly permitted
placing their works in the lib.ru library speaks volumes about the
practicality of the scheme used by Maxim Moshkov. However, the litigation
underway shows its incompleteness and weak spots.”18 Significantly, Moshkov’s
shadow library also received both moral and financial support from the state,
more specifically in the form of funding of one million rubles granted by the
Federal Agency for the Press and Mass Media. The funding came with the
following statement from the Agency’s chairman, Mikhail Seslavinsky:
“Following the lively discussion on how copyright could be protected in
electronic libraries, we have decided not to wait for a final decision and to
support the central library of RuNet—Maxim Moshkov’s site.”19 Seslavinsky’s
support not only reflected the public’s support of the digital library, but
also his own deep-seated interests as a self-confessed bibliophile, council
chair of the Russian organization National Union of Bibliophiles since 2011,
and author of numerous books on bibliology and bibliophilia. Additionally, the
support also reflected the issues at stake for the Russian legislative
framework on copyright. The framework had just passed a second reading of a
revised law “On Copyright and Related Rights” in the Russian parliament on
April 21, 2004, extending copyright from 50 years after an author’s death to
70 years, in accordance with international law and as a condition of Russia’s
entry into the World Trade Organization.20

The public funding, Moshkov stated, was spent on modernizing the technical
equipment for the shadow library, including upgrading servers and performing
OCR scanning on select texts.21 Yet, despite the widespread support, Moshkov
lost the copyright case to KM on May 31, 2005. The defeat was limited,
however. Indeed, one might even read the verdict as a symbolic victory for
Moshkov, as the court fined Moshkov only 30,000 rubles, a fragment of what KM
had originally sued for. The verdict did have significant consequences for how
Moshkov manages lib.ru, however. After the trial, Moshkov began extending his
classical literature section and stopped uploading books sent by readers into
his collection, unless they were from authors who submitted them because they
wished to publish in digital form.

What can we glean from the story of lib.ru about the infrapolitics of mass
digitization? First, the story of lib.ru illustrates the complex and
contingent historical trajectory of shadow libraries. Second, as the next
section shows, it offers us the possibility of approaching shadow libraries
from an infrastructural perspective, and exploring the infrapolitical
dimensions of shadow libraries in the area of tension between resistance and
standardization.

### The Infrapolitics of Lib.ru: Infrastructures of Culture and Dissent

While global in reach, lib.ru is first and foremost a profoundly
territorialized project. It was born out of a set of political, economic, and
aesthetic conditions specific to Russia and carries the characteristics of its
cultural trajectory. First, the private governance of lib.ru, initially
embodied by Moshkov, echoes the general development of the Internet in Russia
from 1991 to 1998, which was constructed mainly by private economic and
cultural initiatives at a time when the state was in a period of heavy
transition. Lib.ru’s minimalist programming style also made it a cultural
symbol of the early RuNet, acting as a marker of cultural identity for Russian
Internet users at home and abroad.22

The infrapolitics of lib.ru also carry the traits of the media politics of
Russia, which has historically been split into two: a political and visible
level of access to cultural works (through propaganda), and an infrapolitical
invisible level of contestation and resistance, enabling Russian media
consumers to act independently from official institutionalized media channels.
Indeed, some scholars tie the practice of shadow libraries to the Soviet
Union’s analog shadow activities, which are often termed _samizdat_ , that is,
illegal cultural distribution, including illegally listening to Western radio,
illegally trafficking Western music, and illegally watching Western films.23
Despite often circulating Western pop culture, the late-Soviet era samizdat
practices were often framed as noncapitalist practices of dissent without
profit motives.24 The dissent, however, was not necessarily explicitly
expressed. Lacking the defining fervor of a clear political ideology, and
offering no initiatives to overthrow the Soviet regime, samizdat was rather a
mode of dissent that evaded centralized ideological control. Indeed, as
Aleksei Yurchak notes, samizdat practices could even be read as a mode of
“suspending the political,” thus “avoiding the political concerns that had a
binary logic determined by the sovereign state” to demonstrate “to themselves
and to others that there were subjects, collectivities, forms of life, and
physical and symbolic spaces in the Soviet context that, without being overtly
oppositional or even political, exceeded that state’s abilities to define,
control, and understand them.”25 Yurchak thus reminds us that even though
samizdat was practiced as a form of nonpolitical practice, it nevertheless
inherently had significant political implications.

The infrapolitics of samizdat not only referred to a specific social practice
but were also, as Ann Komaromi reminds us, a particular discourse network
rooted in the technology of the typewriter: “Because so many people had their
own typewriters, the production of samizdat was more individual and typically
less linked to ideology and organized political structures. … The circulation
of Samizdat was more rhizomatic and spontaneous than the underground
press—samizdat was like mushroom ‘spores.’”26 The technopolitical
infrastructure of samizdat changed, however, with the fall of the Berlin Wall
in 1989, the further decentralization of the Russian media landscape, and the
emergence of digitization. Now, new nodes emerged in the Russian information
landscape, and there was no centralized authority to regulate them. Moreover,
the transmission of the Western capitalist system gave rise to new types of
shadow activity that produced items instead of just sharing items, adding a
new consumerist dimension to shadow libraries. Indeed, as Kuznetsov notes, the
late-Soviet samizdat created a dynamic textual space that aligned with more
general tendencies in mass digitization where users were “both readers and
librarians, in contrast to a traditional library with its order, selection,
and strict catalogisation.”27

If many of the new shadow libraries that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s were
inspired by the infrapolitics of samizdat, then, they also became embedded in
an infrastructural apparatus that was deeply nested within a market economy.
Indeed, new digital libraries emerged under such names as Aldebaran,
Fictionbook, Litportal, Bookz.ru, and Fanzin, which developed new platforms
for the distribution of electronic books under the label “Liters,” offering
texts to be read free of charge on a computer screen or downloaded at a
cost.28 In both cases, the authors receive a fee, either from the price of the
book or from the site’s advertising income. Accompanying these new commercial
initiatives, a concomitant movement rallied together in the form of Librusek,
a platform hosted on a server in Ecuador that offered its users the
possibility of uploading works on a distributed basis.29 In contrast to
Moshkov’s centralized control, then, the library’s operator Ilya Larin adhered
to the international piracy movement, calling his site a pirate library and
gracing Librusek’s website with a small animated pirate, complete with sabre
and parrot.

The integration and proliferation of samizdat practices into a complex
capitalist framework produced new global readings of the infrapolitics of
shadow libraries. Rather than reading shadow libraries as examples of late-
socialist infrapolitics, scholars also framed them as capitalist symptoms of
“market failure,” that is, the failure of the market to meet consumer
demands.30 One prominent example of such a reading was the influential Social
Science Research Council report edited by Joe Karaganis in 2006, titled “Media
Piracy in Emerging Economies,” which noted that cultural piracy appears most
notably as “a failure to provide affordable access to media in legal markets”
and concluded that within the context of developing countries “the pirate
market cannot be said to compete with legal sales or generate losses for
industry. At the low end of the socioeconomic ladder where such distribution
gaps are common, piracy often simply is the market.”31

In the Western world, Karaganis’s reading was a progressive response to the
otherwise traditional approach to media piracy as a legal failure, which
argued that tougher laws and increased enforcement are needed to stem
infringing activity. Yet, this book argues that Karaganis’s report, and the
approach it represents, also frames the infrapolitics of shadow libraries
within a consumerist framework that excises the noncommercial infrapolitics of
samizdat from the picture. The increasing integration of Russian media
infrapolitics into Western apparatuses, and the reframing of shadow libraries
from samizdat practices of political dissent to market failure, situates the
infrapolitics of shadow libraries within a consumerist dispositive and the
individual participants as consumers. As some critical voices suggest, this
has an impact on the political potential of shadow libraries because they—in
contrast to samizdat—actually correspond “perfectly to the industrial
production proper to the legal cultural market production.”32 Yet, as the
final section in this chapter shows, one also risks missing the rich nuances
of infrapolitics by conflating consumerist infrastructures with consumerist
practice.33

The political stakes of shadow libraries such as lib.ru illustrate the
difficulties in labeling shadow libraries in political terms, since they are
driven neither by pure globalized dissent nor by pure globalized and
commodified infrastructures. Rather, they straddle these binaries as
infrapolitical entities, the political dynamics of which align both with
standardization and dissent. Revisiting once more the theoretical debate, the
case of lib.ru shows that shadow libraries may certainly be global phenomena,
yet one should be careful with disregarding the specific cultural-political
trajectories that shape each individual shadow library. Lib.ru demonstrates
how the infrapolitics of shadow libraries emerge as infrastructural
expressions of the convergence between historical sovereign trajectories,
global information infrastructures, and public-private governance structures.
Shadow libraries are not just globalized projects that exist in parallel to
sovereign state structures and global economic flows. Instead, they are
entangled in territorial public-private governance practices that produce
their own late-sovereign infrapolitics, which, paradoxically, are embedded in
larger mass digitization problematics, both on their own territory and on the
global scene.

## Monoskop

In contrast to the broad and distributed infrastructure of lib.ru, other
shadow libraries have emerged as specialized platforms that cater to a
specific community and encourage a specific practice. Monoskop is one such
shadow library. Like lib.ru, Monoskop started as a one-man project and in many
respects still reflects its creator, Dušan Barok, who is an artist, writer,
and cultural activist involved in critical practices in the fields of
software, art, and theory. Prior to Monoskop, his activities were mainly
focused on the Bratislava cultural media scene, and Monoskop was among other
things set up as an infrastructural project, one that would not only offer
content but also function as a form of connectivity that could expand the
networked powers of the practices of which Barok was a part.34 In particular,
Barok was interested in researching the history of media art so that he could
frame the avant-garde media practices in which he engaged in Bratislava within
a wider historical context and thus lend them legitimacy.

### The Shadow Library as a Legal Stratagem

Monoskop was partly motivated by Barok’s own experiences of being barred from
works he deemed of significance to the field in which he was interested. As he
notes, the main impetus to start a blog “came from a friend who had access to
PDFs of books I wanted to read but could not afford go buy as they were not
available in public libraries.”35 Barok thus began to work on Monoskop with a
group of friends in Bratislava, initially hiding it from search engine bots to
create a form of invisibility that obfuscated its existence without, however,
preventing people from finding the Log and uploading new works. Information
about the Log was distributed through mailing lists on Internet culture, among
many other posts on e-book torrent trackers, DC++ networks, extensive
repositories such as LibGen and Aaaaarg, cloud directories, document-sharing
platforms such as Issuu and Scribd, and digital libraries such as the Internet
Archive and Project Gutenberg.36 The shadow library of Monoskop thus slowly
began to emerge, partly through Barok’s own efforts at navigating email lists
and downloading material, and partly through people approaching Monoskop
directly, sending it links to online or scanned material and even offering it
entire e-book libraries. Rather than posting these “donated” libraries in
their entirety, however, Barok and his colleagues edited the received
collection and materials so that they would fit Monoskop’s scope, and they
also kept scanning material themselves.

Today Monoskop hosts thematically curated collections of downloadable books on
art, culture, media studies, and other topics, partly in order to stimulate
“collaborative studies of the arts, media, and humanities.”37 Indeed, Monoskop
operates with a _boutique_ approach, offering relatively small collections of
personally selected publications to a steady following of loyal patrons who
regularly return to the site to explore new works. Its focal points are
summarized by its contents list, which is divided into three main categories:
“Avant-garde, modernism and after,” “Media culture,” and “Media, theory and
the humanities.” Within these three broad focal points, hundreds of links
direct the user to avant-garde magazines, art exhibitions and events, art and
design schools, artistic and cultural themes, and cultural theorists.
Importantly, shadow libraries such as Monoskop do not just host works
unbeknownst to the authors—authors also leak their own works. Thus, some
authors publishing with brand name, for-profit, all-rights-reserving, print-
on-paper-only publishing houses will also circulate a copy of their work on a
free text-sharing network such as Monoskop. 38

How might we understand Monoskop’s legal situation and maneuverings in
infrapolitical terms? Shadow libraries such as Monoskop draw their
infrapolitical strength not only from the content they offer but also from
their mode of engagement with the gray zones of new information
infrastructures. Indeed, the infrapolitics of shadow libraries such as
Monoskop can perhaps best be characterized as a stratagematic form of
infrapolitics. Monoskop neither inhabits the passive perspective of the
digital spectator nor deploys a form of tactics that aims to be failure free.
Rather, it exists as a body of informal practices and knowledges, as cunning
and dexterous networks that actively embed themselves in today’s
sociotechnical infrastructures. It operates with high sociotechnical
sensibilities, living off of the social relations that bring it into being and
stabilize it. Most significantly, Monoskop skillfully exploits the cracks in
the infrastructures it inhabits, interchangeably operating, evading, and
accompanying them. As Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey point out in their
meditation on stratagems in digital media, they do “not cohere into a system”
but rather operate as “extensive, open-ended listing[s]” that “display a
certain undecidability because inevitably a stratagem does not describe or
prescribe an action that is certain in its outcome.”39 Significantly, then,
failures and errors not only represent negative occurrences in stratagematic
approaches but also appeal to willful dissidents as potentially beneficial
tools. Dušan Barok’s response to a question about the legal challenges against
Monoskop evidences this stratagematic approach, as he replies that shadow
libraries such as Monoskop operate in the “gray zone,” which to him is also
the zone of fair use.40 Barok thus highlights the ways in which Monoskop
engages with established media infrastructures, not only on the level of
discursive conventions but also through their formal logics, technical
protocols, and social proprieties.

Thus, whereas Google lights up gray zones through spectacle and legal power
plays, and Europeana shuns gray zones in favor of the law, Monoskop literally
embraces its shadowy existence in the gray zones of the law. By working in the
shadows, Monoskop and likeminded operations highlight the ways in which the
objects they circulate (including the digital artifacts, their knowledge
management, and their software) can be manipulated and experimented upon to
produce new forms of power dynamics.41 Their ethics lie more in the ways in
which they operate as shadowy infrastructures than in intellectual reflections
upon the infrastructures they counter, without, however, creating an
opposition between thinking and doing. Indeed, as its history shows, Monoskop
grew out of a desire to create a space for critical reflection. The
infrapolitics of Monoskop is thus an infrapolitics of grayness that marks the
breakdown of clearly defined contrasts between legal and illegal, licit and
illicit, desire and control, instead providing a space for activities that are
ethically ambiguous and in which “everyone is sullied.”42

### Monoskop as a Territorializing Assemblage

While Monoskop’s stratagems play on the infrapolitics of the gray zones of
globalized digital networks, the shadow library also emerges as a late-
sovereign infrastructure. As already noted, Monoskop was from the outset
focused on surfacing and connecting art and media objects and theory from
Central and Eastern Europe. Often, this territorial dimension recedes into the
background, with discussions centering more on the site’s specialized catalog
and legal maneuvers. Yet Monoskop was initially launched partly as a response
to criticisms on new media scenes in the Slovak and Czech Republics as
“incomprehensible avant-garde.”43 It began as a simple invite-only instance of
wiki in August 2004, urging participants to collaboratively research the
history of media art. It was from the beginning conceived more as a
collaborative social practice and less as a material collection, and it
targeted noninstitutionalized researchers such as Barok himself.

As the nodes in Monoskop grew, its initial aim to research media art history
also expanded into looking at wider cultural practices. By 2010, it had grown
into a 100-gigabyte collection which was organized as a snowball research
collection, focusing in particular on “the white spots in history of art and
culture in East-Central Europe,” spanning “dozens of CDs, DVDs, publications,
as well as recordings of long interviews [Barok] did”44 with various people he
considered forerunners in the field of media arts. Indeed, Barok at first had
no plans to publish the collection of materials he had gathered over time. But
during his research stay in Rotterdam at the influential Piet Zwart Institute,
he met the digital scholars Aymeric Mansoux and Marcell Mars, who were both
active in avant-garde media practices, and they convinced him to upload the
collection.45 Due to the fragmentary character of his collection, Barok found
that Monoskop corresponded well with the pre-existing wiki, to which he began
connecting and embedding videos, audio clips, image files, and works. An
important motivating factor was the publication of material that was otherwise
unavailable online. In 2009, Barok launched Monoskop Log, together with his
colleague Tomáš Kovács. This site was envisioned as an affiliated online
repository of publications for Monoskop, or, as Barok terms it, “a free access
living archive of writings on art, culture, and media technologies.”46

Seeking to create situated spaces of reflection and to shed light on the
practices of media artists in Eastern and Central Europe, Monoskop thus
launched several projects devoted to excavating media art from a situated
perspective that takes its local history into account. Today, Monoskop remains
a rich source of information about artistic practices in Central and Eastern
Europe, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, relating it not
only to the art histories of the region, but also to its history of
cybernetics and computing.

Another early motivation for Monoskop was to provide a situated nodal point in
the globalized information infrastructures that emphasized the geographical
trajectories that had given rise to it. As Dušan Barok notes in an interview,
“For a Central European it is mind-boggling to realize that when meeting a
person from a neighboring country, what tends to connect us is not only
talking in English, but also referring to things in the far West. Not that the
West should feel foreign, but it is against intuition that an East-East
geographical proximity does not translate into a cultural one.”47 From this
perspective, Monoskop appears not only as an infrapolitical project of global
knowledge, but also one of situated sovereignty. Yet, even this territorial
focus holds a strategic dimension. As Barok notes, Monoskop’s ambition was not
only to gain new knowledge about media art in the region, but also to cash in
on the cultural capital into which this knowledge could potentially be
converted. Thus, its territorial matrix first and foremost translates into
Foucault’s famous dictum that “knowledge is power.” But it is nevertheless
also testament to the importance of including more complex spatial dynamics in
one’s analytical matrix of shadow libraries, if one wishes to understand them
as more than globalized breakers of code and arbiters of what Manuel Castells
once called the “space of flows.”48

## UbuWeb

If Monoskop is one of the most comprehensive shadow libraries to emerge from
critical-artistic practice, UbuWeb is one of the earliest ones and has served
as an inspirational example for Monoskop. UbuWeb is a website that offers an
encyclopedic scope of downloadable audio, video, and plain-text versions of
avant-garde art recordings, films, and books. Most of the books fall in the
category of small-edition artists’ books and are presented on the site with
permission from the artists in question, who are not so concerned with
potential loss of revenue since most of the works are officially out of print
and never made any money even when they were commercially available. At first
glance, UbuWeb’s aesthetics appear almost demonstratively spare. Still
formatted in HTML, it upholds a certain 1990s net aesthetics that has resisted
the revamps offered by the new century’s more dynamic infrastructures. Yet, a
closer look reveals that UbuWeb offers a wealth of content, ranging from high
art collections to much more rudimentary objects. Moreover, and more
fundamentally, its critical archival practice raises broader infrapolitical
questions of cultural hierarchies, infrastructures, and domination.

### Shadow Libraries between Gift Economies and Marginalized Forms of
Distribution

UbuWeb was founded by poet Kenneth Goldsmith in response to the marginal
distribution of crucial avant-garde material. It provides open access both to
out-of-print works that find a second life through digital art reprint and to
the work of contemporary artists. Upon its opening in 2001, Kenneth Goldsmith
termed UbuWeb’s economic infrastructure a “gift economy” and framed it as a
political statement that highlighted certain problems in the distribution of
and access to intellectual materials:

> Essentially a gift economy, poetry is the perfect space to practice utopian
politics. Freed from profit-making constraints or cumbersome fabrication
considerations, information can literally “be free”: on UbuWeb, we give it
away. … Totally independent from institutional support, UbuWeb is free from
academic bureaucracy and its attendant infighting, which often results in
compromised solutions; we have no one to please but ourselves. … UbuWeb posts
much of its content without permission; we rip full-length CDs into sound
files; we scan as many books as we can get our hands on; we post essays as
fast as we can OCR them. And not once have we been issued a cease and desist
order. Instead, we receive glowing emails from artists, publishers, and record
labels finding their work on UbuWeb, thanking us for taking an interest in
what they do; in fact, most times they offer UbuWeb additional materials. We
happily acquiesce and tell them that UbuWeb is an unlimited resource with
unlimited space for them to fill. It is in this way that the site has grown to
encompass hundreds of artists, thousands of files, and several gigabytes of
poetry.49

At the time of its launch, UbuWeb garnered extraordinary attention and divided
communities along lines of access and rights to historical and contemporary
artists’ media. It was in this range of responses to UbuWeb that one could
discern the formations of new infrastructural positions on digital archives,
how they should be made available, and to whom. Yet again, these legal
positions were accompanied by a territorial dynamic, including the impact of
regional differences in cultural policy on UbuWeb. Thus, as artist Jason Simon
notes, there were significant differences between the ways in which European
and North American distributors related to UbuWeb. These differences, Simon
points out, were rooted in “medium-specific questions about infrastructure,”
which differ “from the more interpretive discussion that accompanied video's
wholesale migration into fine art exhibition venues.”50 European pre-recession
public money thus permitted nonprofit distributors to embrace infrastructures
such as UbuWeb, while American distributors were much more hesitant toward
UbuWeb’s free-access model. When recession hit Europe in the late 2000s,
however, the European links to UbuWeb’s infrastructures crumbled while “the
legacy American distributors … have been steadily adapting.”51 The territorial
modulations in UbuWeb’s infrastructural set-up testify not only to how shadow
libraries such as UbuWeb are inherently always linked up to larger political
events in complex ways, but also to latent ephemerality of the entire project.

Goldsmith has more than once asserted that UbuWeb’s insistence on
“independent” infrastructures also means a volatile existence: “… by the time
you read this, UbuWeb may be gone. Cobbled together, operating on no money and
an all-volunteer staff, UbuWeb has become the unlikely definitive source for
all things avant-garde on the internet. Never meant to be a permanent archive,
Ubu could vanish for any number of reasons: our ISP pulls the plug, our
university support dries up, or we simply grow tired of it.” Goldsmith’s
emphasis on the ephemerality of UbuWeb is a shared condition of most shadow
libraries, most of which exist only as ghostly reminders with nonfunctional
download links or simply as 404 pages, once they pull the plug. Rather than
lamenting this volatile existence, however, Goldsmith embraces it as an
infrapolitical stance. As Cornelia Solfrank points out, UbuWeb was—and still
is—as much an “archival critical practice that highlights the legal and social
ramifications of its self-created distribution and archiving system as it is
about the content hosted on the site.”52 UbuWeb is thus not so much about
authenticity as it is about archival defiance, appropriation, and self-
reflection. Such broader and deeper understandings of archival theory and
practice allow us to conceive of it as the kind of infrapolitics that,
according to James C. Scott, “provides much of the cultural and structural
underpinning of the more visible political attention on which our attention
has generally been focused.”53 The infrapolitics of UbuWeb is devoted to
hatching new forms of organization, creating new enclaves of freedom in the
midst of orthodox ways of life, and inventing new structures of production and
dissemination that reveal not only the content of their material but also
their marginalized infrastructural conditions and the constellation of social
forces that lead to their online circulation.54

The infrapolitics of UbuWeb is testament not only to avant-garde cultures, but
also to what Hito Steyerl in her _Defense of Poor Images_ refers to as the
“neoliberal radicalization of the culture as commodity” and the “restructuring
of global media industries.” 55 These materials “circulate partly in the void
left by state organizations” that find it too difficult to maintain digital
distribution infrastructures and the art world’s commercial ecosystems, which
offer the cultural materials hosted on UbuWeb only a liminal existence. Thus,
while UbuWeb on the one hand “reveals the decline and marginalization of
certain cultural materials” whose production were often “considered a task of
the state,”56 on the other hand it shows how intellectual content is
increasingly privatized, not only in corporate terms but also through
individuals, which in UbuWeb’s case is expressed in Kenneth Goldsmith, who
acts as the sole archival gatekeeper.57

## The Infrapolitics of Shadow Libraries

If the complexity of shadow libraries cannot be reduced to the contrastive
codes of “right” and “wrong” and global-local binaries, the question remains
how to theorize the cultural politics of shadow libraries. This final section
outlines three central infrapolitical aspects of shadow libraries: access,
speed, and gift.

Mass digitization poses two important questions to knowledge infrastructures:
a logistical question of access and a strategic question of to whom to
allocate that access. Copyright poses a significant logistical barrier between
users and works as a point of control in the ideal free flow of information.
In mass digitization, increased access to information stimulates projects,
whereas in publishing industries with monopoly possibilities, the drive is
toward restriction and control. The uneasy fit between copyright regulations
and mass digitization projects has, as already shown, given rise to several
conflicts, either as legal battles or as copyright reform initiatives arguing
that current copyright frameworks cast doubt upon the political ideal of total
access. As with Europeana and Google Books, the question of _access_ often
stands at the core of the infrapolitics of shadow libraries. Yet, the
strategic responses to the problem of copyright vary significantly: if
Europeana moves within the established realm of legality to reform copyright
regulations and Google Books produces claims to new cultural-legal categories
such as “nonconsumptive reading,” shadow libraries offer a third
infrastructural maneuver—bypassing copyright infrastructures altogether
through practices of illicit file distribution.

Shadow libraries elicit a range of responses and discourses that place
themselves on a spectrum between condemnation and celebration. The most
straightforward response comes, unsurprisingly, from the publishing industry,
highlighting the fundamentally violent breaches of the legal order that
underpins the media industry. Such responses include legal action, policy
initiatives, and public campaigns against piracy, often staging—in more or
less explicit terms—the “pirate” as a common enemy of mankind, beyond legal
protection and to be fought by whatever means necessary.

The second response comes from the open source movement, represented among
others by the pro-reform copyright movement Creative Commons (CC), whose
flexible copyright framework has been adopted by both Europeana and Google
Books.58 While the open source movement has become a voice on behalf of the
telos of the Internet and its possibilities of offering free and unhindered
access, its response to shadow libraries has revealed the complex
infrapolitics of access as a postcolonial problematic. As Kavita Philip
argues, CC’s founder Lawrence Lessig maintains the image of the “good” Western
creative vis-à-vis the “bad” Asian pirate, citing for instance his statement
in his influential book _Free Culture_ that “All across the world, but
especially in Asia and Eastern Europe, there are businesses that do nothing
but take other people’s copyrighted content, copy it, and sell it. … This is
piracy plain and simple, … This piracy is wrong.” 59 Such statements, Kavita
Philip argues, frames the Asian pirate as external to order, whether it be the
order of Western law or neoliberalism.60

The postcolonial critique of CC’s Western normative discourse has instead
sought to conceptualize piracy, not as deviatory behavior in information
economies, but rather as an integral infrastructure endemic to globalized
information economies.61 This theoretical development offers valuable insights
for understanding the infrapolitics of shadow libraries. First of all, it
allows us to go beyond moral discussions of shadow libraries, and to pay
attention instead to the ways in which their infrastructures are built, how
they operate, and how they connect to other infrastructures. As Lawrence Liang
points out, if infrastructures traditionally belong to the domain of the
state, often in cooperation with private business, pirate infrastructures
operate in the gray zones of this set-up, in much the same way as slums exist
as shadow cities and copies are regarded as shadows of the original.62
Moreover, and relatedly, it reminds us of the inherently unstable form of
shadow libraries as a cultural construct, and the ways in which what gets
termed piracy differs across cultures. As Brian Larkin notes, piracy is best
seen as emerging from specific domains: dynamic localities with particular
legal, aesthetic, and social assemblages.63 In a final twist, research on
users of shadow libraries shows that usage of shadow libraries is distributed
globally. Multiple sources attest to the fact that most Sci-Hub usage occurs
outside the Anglosphere. According to Alexa Internet analytics, the top five
country sources of traffic to Sci-Hub were China, Iran, India, Brazil, and
Japan, which account for 56.4 percent of recent traffic. As of early 2016,
data released by Sci-Hub’s founder Alexandra Elbakyan also shows high usage in
developed countries, with a large proportion of the downloads coming from the
US and countries within the European Union.64 The same tendency is evident in
the #ICanHazPDF Twitter phenomenon, which while framed as “civil disobedience”
to aid users in the Global South65 nevertheless has higher numbers of posts
from the US and Great Britain.66

This brings us to the second cultural-political production, namely the
question of distribution. In their article “Book Piracy as Peer Preservation,”
Denis Tenen and Maxwell Henry Foxman note that rather than condemning book
piracy _tout court_ , established libraries could in fact learn from the
infrastructural set-ups of shadow libraries in relation to participatory
governance, technological innovation, and economic sustainability.67 Shadow
libraries are often premised upon an infrastructure that includes user
participation without, however, operating in an enclosed sphere. Often, shadow
libraries coordinate their actions by use of social media platforms and online
forums, including Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook, and the primary websites used
to host the shared files are AvaxHome, LibGen, and Sci-Hub. Commercial online
cloud storage accounts (such as Dropbox and Google Drive) and email are also
used to share content in informal ways. Users interested in obtaining an
article or book chapter will disseminate their request over one or more of the
platforms mentioned above. Other users of those platforms try to get the
requested content via their library accounts or employer-provided access, and
the actual files being exchanged are often hosted on other websites or emailed
to the requesting users. Through these networks, shadow libraries offer
convenient and speedy access to books and articles. Little empirical evidence
is available, but one study does indicate that a large number of shadow
library downloads are made because obtaining a PDF from a shadow library is
easier than using the legal access methods offered by a university’s
traditional channels of access, including formalized research libraries.68
Other studies indicate, however, that many downloads occur because the users
have (perceived) lack of full-text access to the desired texts.69

Finally, as indicated in the introduction to this chapter, shadow libraries
produce what we might call a cultural politics of parasitism. In the normative
model of shadow libraries, discourse often centers upon piracy as a theft
economy. Other discourses, drawing upon anthropological sources, have pointed
out that peer-to-peer file-sharing sites in reality organize around a gift
economy, that is, “a system of social solidarity based on a structured set of
gift exchange and social relationships among consumers.”70 This chapter,
however, ends with a third proposal: that shadow libraries produce a
parasitical form of infrapolitics. In _The Parasite_ , philosopher Michel
Serres speculates a way of thinking about relations of transfer—in social,
biological, and informational contexts—as fundamentally parasitic, that is, a
subtractive form of “taking without giving.” Serres contrasts the parasitic
model with established models of society based on notions such as exchange and
gift giving.71 Shadow libraries produce an infrapolitics that denies the
distinction between producers and subtractors of value, allowing us instead to
focus on the social roles infrastructural agents perform. Restoring a sense of
the wider context of parasitism to shadow libraries does not provide a clear-
cut solution as to when and where shadow libraries should be condemned and
when and where they should be tolerated. But it does help us ask questions in
a different way. And it certainly prevents the regarding of shadow libraries
as the “other” in the landscape of mass digitization. Shadow libraries
instigate new creative relations, the dynamics of which are infrastructurally
premised upon the medium they use. Just as typewriters were an important
component of samizdat practices in the Soviet Union, digital infrastructures
are central components of shadow libraries, and in many respects shadow
libraries bring to the fore the same cultural-political questions as other
forms of mass digitization: questions of territorial imaginaries,
infrastructures, regulation, speed, and ethics.

## Notes

1. Serres 1982, 55. 2. Serres 1982, 36. 3. Serres 1982, 36. 4. Samyn 2012. 5.
I stick with “shadow library,” a term that I first found in Lawrence Liang’s
(2012) writings on copyright and have since seen meaningfully unfolded in a
variety of contexts. Part of its strength is its sidestepping of the question
of the pirate and that term’s colonial connotations. 6. Eckstein and Schwarz
2014. 7. Scott 2009, 185–201. 8. See also Maxim Moshkov’s own website hosted
on lib.ru, . 9. Carey 2015. 10. Schmidt 2009. 11. Bodó
2016. “Libraries in the post-scarcity era.” As Balazs Bodó notes, the first
Russian mass-digitized shadow archives in Russia were run by professors from
the hard sciences, but the popularization of computers soon gave rise to much
more varied and widespread shadow library terrain, fueled by “enthusiastic
readers, book fans, and often authors, who spared no effort to make their
favorite books available on FIDOnet, a popular BBS system in Russia.” 12.
Stelmakh 2008, 4. 13. Bodó 2016. 14. Bodó 2016. 15. Vul 2003. 16. “In Defense
of Maxim Moshkov's Library,” n.d., The International Union of Internet
Professionals, . 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid. 19.
Schmidt 2009, 7. 20. Ibid. 21. Carey 2015. 22. Mjør 2009, 84. 23. Bodó 2015.
24. Kiriya 2012. 25. Yurchak 2008, 732. 26. Komaromi, 74. 27. Mjør, 85. 28.
Litres.ru, . 29. Library Genesis,
. 30. Kiriya 2012. 31. Karaganis 2011, 65, 426. 32.
Kiriya 2012, 458. 33. For a great analysis of the late-Soviet youth’s
relationship with consumerist products, read Yurchak’s careful study in
_Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation_
(2006). 34. “Dušan Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 35. Ibid. 36.
Ibid. 37. Monoskop,” last modified March 28, 2018, Monoskop.
. . 38. “Dušan
Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 39. Fuller and Goffey 2012, 21. 40.
“Dušan Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 11. 41. In an interview, Dušan
Barok mentions his inspirations, including early examples such as textz.com, a
shadow library created by the Berlin-based artist Sebastian Lütgert. Textz.com
was one of the first websites to facilitate free access to books on culture,
politics, and media theory in the form of text files. Often the format would
itself toy with legal limits. Thus, Lütgert declared in a mischievous manner
that the website would offer a text in various formats during a legal debacle
with Surhkamp Verlag: “Today, we are proud to announce the release of
walser.php (), a 10,000-line php script
that is able to generate the plain ascii version of ‘Death of a Critic.’ The
script can be redistributed and modified (and, of course, linked to) under the
terms of the GNU General Public License, but may not be run without written
permission by Suhrkamp Verlag. Of course, reverse-engineering the writings of
senile German revisionists is not the core business of textz.com, so
walser.php includes makewalser.php, a utility that can produce an unlimited
number of similar (both free as in speech and free as in copy) php scripts for
any digital text”; see “Suhrkamp recalls walser.pdf, textz.com releases
walser.php,” Rolux.org,
.
42. Fuller and Goffey 2012, 11. 43. “MONOSKOP Project Finished,” COL-ME Co-
located Media Expedition, [www.col-me.info/node/841](http://www.col-
me.info/node/841). 44. “Dušan Barok: Interview,” _Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 45.
Aymeric Mansoux is a senior lecturer at the Piet Zwart Institute whose
research deals with the defining, constraining, and confining of cultural
freedom in the context of network-based practices. Marcel Mars is an advocate
of free software and a researcher who is also active in a shadow library named
_Public Library,_ (also interchangeably
known as Memory of the World). 46. “Dušan Barok,” Memory of the World,
. 47. “Dušan Barok: Interview,”
_Neural_ 44 (2010), 10. 48. Castells 1996. 49. Kenneth Goldsmith,”UbuWeb Wants
to Be Free” (last modified July 18, 2007),
. 50. Jacob King and
Jason Simon, “Before and After UbuWeb: A Conversation about Artists’ Film and
Video Distribution,” _Rhizome_ , February 20, 2014.
artists-film-and-vid>. 51. King and Simon 2014. 52. Sollfrank 2015. 53. Scott
1990, 184. 54. For this, I am indebted to Hito Steyerl’s essay ”In Defense of
the Poor Image,” in her book _The Wretched of the Screen_ , 31–59. 55. Steyerl
2012, 36. 56. Steyerl 2012, 39. 57. Sollfrank 2015. 58. Other significant open
source movements include Free Software Foundation, the Wikimedia Foundation,
and several open access initiatives in science. 59. Lessig 2005, 57. 60.
Philip 2005, 212. 61. See, for instance, Larkin 2008; Castells and Cardoso
2012; Fredriksson and Arvanitakis 2014; Burkart 2014; and Eckstein and Schwarz
2014. 62. Liang 2009. 63. Larkin 2008. 64. John Bohannon, “Who’s Downloading
Pirated Papers? Everyone,” _Science Magazine_ , April 28, 2016,
everyone>. 65. “The Scientists Encouraging Online Piracy with a Secret
Codeword,” _BBC Trending_ , October 21, 2015, trending-34572462>. 66. Liu 2013. 67. Tenen and Foxman 2014. 68. See Kramer
2016. 69. Gardner and Gardner 2017. 70. Giesler 2006, 283. 71. Serres 2013, 8.

# III
Diagnosing Mass Digitization

# 5
Lost in Mass Digitization

## The Desire and Despair of Large-Scale Collections

In 1995, founding editor of _Wired_ magazine Kevin Kelly mused upon how a
digital library would look:

> Two decades ago nonlibrarians discovered Borges’s Library in silicon
circuits of human manufacture. The poetic can imagine the countless rows of
hexagons and hallways stacked up in the Library corresponding to the
incomprehensible micro labyrinth of crystalline wires and gates stamped into a
silicon computer chip. A computer chip, blessed by the proper incantation of
software, creates Borges’s Library on command. … Pages from the books appear
on the screen one after another without delay. To search Borges’s Library of
all possible books, past, present, and future, one needs only to sit down (the
modern solution) and click the mouse.1

At the time of Kelly’s writing, book digitization on a massive scale had not
yet taken place. Building his chimerical dream around Jorge Luis Borges’s own
famous magic piece of speculation regarding the Library of Babel, Kelly not
only dreamed up a fantasy of what a digital library might be in an imaginary
dialogue with Borges; he also argued that Jorge Luis Borges’s vision had
already taken place, by grace of nonlibrarians, or—more
specifically—programmers. Specifically, Kelly mentions Karl Sims, a computer
scientist working on a supercomputer called Connection Machine 5 (you may
remember it from the set of _Jurassic Park_ ), who had created a simulated
version of Borges’s library.2

Twenty years after Kelly’s vision, a whole host of mass digitization projects
have sought more or less explicitly to fulfill Kelly’s vision. Incidentally,
Brewster Kahle, one of the lead engineers of the aforementioned Connection
Machine, has become a key figure in the field. Kahle has long dreamed of
creating a universal digital library, and has worked to fulfill it in
practical terms through the nonprofit Internet Archive project, which he
founded in 1996 with the stated mission of creating “universal access to all
knowledge.” In an op-ed in 2017, Kahle lamented the recent lack of progress in
mass digitization and argued for the need to create a new vision for mass
digitization, stating, “The Internet Archive, working with library partners,
proposes bringing millions of books online, through purchase or digitization,
starting with the books most widely held and used in libraries and
classrooms.”3 Reminding us that three major entities have “already digitized
modern materials at scale: Google, Amazon, and the Internet Archive, probably
in that order of magnitude,”4 Kahle nevertheless notes that “bringing
universal access to books” has not yet been achieved because of a fractured
field that diverges on questions of money, technology, and legal clarity. Yet,
outlining his new vision for how a sustainable mass digitization project could
be achieved, Kahle remains convinced that mass digitization is both a
necessity and a possibility.

While Brewster Kahle, Kevin Kelly, Google, Amazon, Europeana’s member
institutions, and others disagree on how to achieve mass digitization, for
whom, and in what form, they are all united in their quest for digitization on
a massive scale. Many shadow libraries operate with the same quantitative
statements, proudly asserting the quantities of their massive holdings on the
front page.

Given the fractured field of mass digitization, and the lack of economic
models for how to actually make mass digitization sustainable, why does the
common dream of mass digitization persist? As this chapter shows, the desire
for quantity, which drives mass digitization, is—much like the Borges stories
to which Kelly also refers—laced with ambivalence. On the one hand, the
quantitative aspirations are driven forth by the basic assumption that “more
is more”: more data and more cultural memory equal better industrial and
intellectual progress. One the other hand, the sheer scale of ambition also
causes frustration, anxiety, and failed plans.

The sense that sheer size and big numbers hold the promise of progress and
greatness is nothing new, of course. And mass digitization brings together
three fields that have each historically grown out of scalar ambitions:
collecting practices, statistics, and industrialization processes.
Historically, as cultural theorist Couze Venn reminds us, most large
collections bear the imprint of processes of (cultural) colonization, human
desires, and dynamics of domination and superiority. We therefore find in
large collections the “impulses and yearnings that have conditioned the
assembling of most of the collections that today establish a monument to past
efforts to gather together knowledge of the world and its treasury of objects
and deeds.”5 The field of statistics, moreover, so vital to the evolution of
modern governance models, is also premised upon the accumulation of ever-more
information.6 And finally, we all recognize the signs of modern
industrialization processes as they appear in the form of globalization,
standardization, and acceleration. Indeed, as French sociologist Henri
Lefebvre once argued (with a nod to Marx), the history of modern society could
plainly and simply be seen as the history of accumulation: of space, of
capital, of property.7

In mass digitization, we hear the political echoes of these histories. From
Jeanneney’s war cry to defend European patrimonies in the face of Google’s
cultural colonization to Google’s megalomaniac numbers game and Europeana’s
territorial maneuverings, scale is used as a point of reference not only to
describe the space of cultural objects in themselves but also to outline a
realm of cultural command.

A central feature in the history of accumulation and scale is the development
of digital technology and the accompanying new modes of information
organization. But even before then, the invention of new technologies offered
not only new modes of producing and gathering information and new
possibilities of organizing information assemblages, but also new questions
about the implications of these leaps in information production. As historians
Ann Blair and Peter Stallybrass show, “infolust,” that is, the cultural
attitude that values expansive collections for long-term storage, emerged in
the early Renaissance period.8 In that period, new print technology gave rise
to a new culture of accumulating and stockpiling notes and papers, even
without having a specific compositional purpose in mind. Within this scholarly
paradigm, new teleologies were formed that emphasized the latent value of any
piece of information, expressed for instance by Joachim Jungius’s exclamation
that “no field was too remote, no author too obscure that it would not yield
some knowledge or other” and Gabriel Naudé’s observation that there is “no
book, however bad or decried, which will not be sought after by someone over
time.”9 The idea that any piece of information was latently valuable was later
remarked upon by Melvin Dewey, who noted at the beginning of the twentieth
century that a “normal librarian’s instinct is to keep every book and
pamphlet. He knows that possibly some day, somebody wants it.”10

Today, mass digitization repeats similar concerns. It reworks the old dream of
an all-encompassing and universal library and has foregrounded once again
questions about what to save and what to let go. What, one might ask, would
belong in such a library? One important field of interest is the question of
whether, and how, to preserve metadata—today’s marginalia. Is it sufficient to
digitize cultural works, or should all accompanying information about the
provenance of the work also be included? And how can we agree upon what
marginalia actually is across different disciplines? Mass digitization
projects in natural history rarely digitize marginalia such as logs and
written accounts, focusing only on what to that discipline is the main object
at hand, for example, a piece of rock, a fly specimen, a pressed plant. Yet,
in the history of science, logs are an invaluable source of information about
how the collected object ended up in the collection, the meaning it had to the
collector, and the place it takes in the collection.11 In this way, new
questions with old trajectories arise: What is important for understanding a
collection and its life? What should be included and excluded? And how will we
know what will turn out to be important in the future?

In the era of big data, the imperative is often to digitize and “save all.”
Prestige mass digitization projects such as Google Books and Europeana have
thus often contextualized their importance in terms of scale. Indeed, as we
saw in the previous chapters, the question of scale has been a central point
of political contestation used to signal infrastructural power. Thus the hype
around Google Books, as well as the political ire it drew, centered on the
scale of the project just as quantitative goals are used in Europeana to
signal progress and significance. Inherent in these quantitative claims are
not only ideas about political power, but also the widespread belief in
digital circles—and the political regimes that take inspiration from them—that
the more information the user is able to access, the more empowered the user
is to navigate and make meaning on their own. In recent years, the imaginaries
of freedom of navigation have also been adjoined by fantasies of freedom of
infrastructural construction through the image of the platform. Mass
digitization projects should therefore not only offer the user the potential
to navigate collections freely, but also to build new products and services on
top of them.12 Yet, as this chapter argues, the ethos of potentially unlimited
expansion also prompts a new set of infrapolitical questions about agency and
control. While these questions are inherently related to the larger questions
of territory and power explored in the previous chapters, they occur on a
different register, closer to the individual user and within the spatialized
imaginaries of digital information.

As many critics have noted, the logic of expansion and scale, and the
accompanying fantasies of the empowered user, often builds on neoliberal
subjectification processes. While highly seductive, they often fail to take
into account the reality of social complexity. Therefore, as Lisa Nakamura
notes, the discourse of complete freedom of navigation through technological
liberation—expressed aptly in Microsoft’s famous slogan “Where do you want to
go today?”—assumes, wrongly, that everyone is at liberty to move about
unhindered.13 And the fantasy of empowerment through platforming is often also
shot through with neoliberal ideals that not only fail to take into account
the complex infrapolitical realities of social interaction, but also rely on
an entrepreneurial epistemology that evokes “a flat, two-dimensional stage on
which resources are laid out for users to do stuff with” and which we are not
“inclined to look underneath or behind it, or to question its structure.”14

This chapter unfolds these central infrapolitical problematics of the spatial
imaginaries of knowledge in relation to a set of prevalent cultural spatial
tropes that have gained new life in digital theory and that have informed the
construction and development of mass digitization projects: the flaneur, the
labyrinth, and the platform. Cultural reports, policy papers, and digital
design strategies often use these three tropes to elicit images of pleasure
and playfulness in mass digitization projects; yet, as the following sections
show, they also raise significant questions of control and agency, not least
against the backdrop of ever-increasing scales of information production.

## Too Much—Never Enough

The question of scale in mass digitization is often posed as a rational quest
for knowledge accumulation and interoperability. Yet this section argues that
digitized collections are more than just rational projects; they strike deep
affective cords of desire, domination, and anxiety. As Couze Venn reminds us,
collections harbor an intimate connection between cognition and affective
economy. In this connection, the rationalized drive to collect is often
accompanied by a slippage, from a rationalized urge to a pathological drive
ultimately associated with desire, power, domination, anxiety, nostalgia,
excess, and—sometimes even—compulsion and repetition.15 The practice of
collecting objects thus not only signals a rational need but often also
springs from desire, and as psychoanalysis has taught us, a sense of lack is
the reflection of desire. As Slavoj Zizek puts it, “desire’s _raison d’être_
is not to realize its goal, to find full satisfaction, but to reproduce itself
as desire.” 16 Therefore, no matter how much we collect, the collector will
rarely experience their collection as complete and will often be haunted by
the desire to collect more.

In addition to the frightening (yet titillating) aspect of never having our
desires satisfied, large collections also give rise to a set of information
pathologies that, while different in kind, share an understanding of
information as intimidation. The experience is generally induced by two
inherently linked factors. First, the size of the cultural collection has
historically also often implied a powerful collector with the means to gather
expensive materials from all over the world, and a large collection has thus
had the basic function of impressing and, if need be, intimidating people.
Second, large collections give rise to the sheer subjective experience of
being overwhelmed by information and a mental incapacity to take it all in.
Both factors point to questions of potency and importance. And both work to
instill a fear in the visitor. As Voltaire once noted, “a great library has
the quality of frightening those who look upon it.”17

The intimidating nature of large collections has been a favored trope in
cultural representations. The most famous example of a gargantuan, even
insanity-inducing, library is of course Jorge Luis Borges’s tale of the
Library of Babel, the universal totality of which becomes both a monstrosity
in the characters’ lives and a source of hope, depending on their willingness
to make peace and submit themselves to the library’s infinite scale and
Kafkaesque organization.18 But Borges’s nonfiction piece from 1939, _The Total
Library,_ also serves as an elegant tale of an informational nightmare. _The
Total Library_ begins by noting that the dream of the utopia of the total
library “has certain characteristics that are easily confused with virtues”
and ends with a more somber caution: “One of the habits of the mind is the
invention of horrible imaginings. … I have tried to rescue from oblivion a
subaltern horror: the vast, contradictory Library, whose vertical wildernesses
of books run the incessant risk of changing into others that affirm, deny, and
confuse everything like a delirious god.” 19

Few escape the intimidating nature of large collections. But while attention
has often been given to the citizen subjected to the disciplining force of the
sovereign state in the form of its institutions, less attention has been given
to those that have had to structure and make sense of these intimidating
collections. Until recently, cultural collections were usually oriented toward
the figure of the patron or, in more abstract geographical terms, (God-given)
patrimony. Renaissance cabinets of curiosities were meant to astonish and
dazzle; the ostentatious wealth of the Baroque museums of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries displayed demonstrations of Godly power; and bourgeois
museums of the nineteenth century positioned themselves as national
institutions of _Bildung_. But while cultural memory institutions have worked
first and foremost to mirror to an external audience the power and the psyche
of their owners in individual, religious, and/or geographical terms, they have
also consistently had to grapple internally with the problem of how to best
organize and display these collections.

One of the key generators of anxiety in vast libraries has been the question
of infrastructure. Each new information paradigm and each new technology has
induced new anxieties about how best to organize information. The fear of
disorder haunted both institutions and individuals. In his illustrious account
of Ephraim Chamber’s _Cyclopaedia_ (the forerunner of Denis Diderot’s and Jean
le Rond d’Alembert’s famous Enlightenment project, the _Encyclopédie_ ),
Richard Yeo thus recounts how Gottfried Leibniz complained in 1680 about “that
horrible mass of books which keeps on growing” so that eventually “the
disorder will become nearly insurmountable.”20 Five years on, the French
scholar and critic Adrien Baillet warned his readers, “We have reason to fear
that the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will
make the following centuries fall into a state as barbarous as that of the
centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.”21 And centuries later,
in the wake of the typewriter, the annual report of the Secretary of the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, drew attention to the
infrastructural problem of organizing the information that was now made
available through the typewriter, noting that “about twenty thousand volumes …
purporting to be additions to the sum of human knowledge, are published
annually; and unless this mass be properly arranged, and the means furnished
by which its contents may be ascertained, literature and science will be
overwhelmed by their own unwieldy bulk.”22 The experience of feeling
overwhelmed by information and lacking the right tools to handle it is no
joke. Indeed, a number of German librarians actually went documentably insane
between 1803 and 1825 in the wake of the information glut that followed the
secularization of ecclesiastical libraries.23 The desire for grand collections
has thus always also been followed by an accompanying anxiety relating to
questions of infrastructure.

As the history of collecting pathologies shows, reducing mass digitization
projects to rational and technical information projects would deprive them of
their rich psychological dimensions. Instead of discounting these pathologies,
we should acknowledge them, and examine not only their nature, but also their
implications for the organization of mass digitization projects. As the
following section shows, the pathologies not only exist as psychological
forces, but also as infrastructural imaginaries that directly impact theories
on how best to organize information in mass digitization. If the scale of mass
digitization projects is potentially limitless, how should they be organized?
And how will we feel when moving about in their gargantuan archives?

## The Ambivalent flaneur

In an article on cultures of archiving, sociologist Mike Featherstone asked
whether “the expansion of culture available at our fingertips” could be
“subjected to a meaningful ordering,” or whether the very “desire to remedy
fragmentation” should be “seen as clinging to a form of humanism with its
emphasis upon cultivation of the persona and unity which are now regarded as
merely nostalgic.”24 Featherstone raised the question in response to the
popularization of the Internet at the turn of the millennium. Yet, as the
previous section has shown, his question is probably as old as the collecting
practices themselves. Such questions have become no less significant with mass
digitization. How are organizational practices conceived of as meaningful
today? As we shall see, this question not only relates to technical
characteristics but is also informed by a strong spatial imaginary that often
takes the shape of labyrinthine infrastructures and often orients itself
toward the figure of the user. Indeed, the role of the organizer of knowledge,
and therefore the accompanying responsibility of making sense of collections,
has been conferred from knowledge professionals to individuals.

Today, as seen in all the examples of mass digitization we have explored in
the previous chapters, cultural memory institutions face a different paradigm
than that of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century disciplining cultural
memory institution. In an age that encourages individualism, democratic
ideals, and cultural participation, the orientations of the cultural memory
institutions have shifted in discourse, practice, or both, toward an emphasis
on the importance of the subjective experience and active participation of the
individual visitor. As part of this shift, and as a result of the increasing
integration of the digital imaginary and production apparatus into the field
of cultural memory, the visitor has thus metamorphosed from a disciplinary
subject to a prosumer, produser, participant, and/or user.

The organizational shift in the cultural memory ecosystem means that
visionaries and builders of mass digitization infrastructures now pay
attention not only to how collections may reflect upon the institution that
holds the collection, but also on how the user experiences the informational
navigation of collections. This is not to say that making an impression, or
even disciplining the user, is not a concern for many mass digitization
projects. Mass digitizations’ constant public claims to literal greatness
through numbers evidence this. Yet, today’s projects also have to contend with
the opinion of the public and must make their projects palatable and
consumable rather than elitist and intimidating. The concern of the builders
of mass digitization infrastructure is therefore not only to create an
internal logic to their collections, but also to maximize the user’s
experience of being offered a wealth of information, while mitigating the
danger of giving the visitor a sense of losing oneself, or even drowning, in
information. An important question for builders of mass digitization projects
has therefore been how to build visual and semantic infrastructures that offer
the user a sense of meaningful direction as well as a desire to keep browsing.

While digital collections are in principle no longer tethered to their
physical origins in spatial terms, we still encounter ideas about them in
spatialized terms, often using notions such as trails, paths, and alleyways to
visualize the spaces of digital collections.25 This form of spatialized logic
did not emerge with the mass digitization of cultural heritage collections,
however, but also resides at the heart of some of the most influential early
digital theories on the digital realm.26 These theorized and conceptualized
the web as a new form of architectural infrastructure, not only in material
terms (such as cables and servers) but also as a new experiential space.27 And
in this spatialized logic, the figure of the flaneur became a central
character. Thus, we saw in the 1990s the rise of a digital interpretation of
the flaneur, originally an emblematic figure of modern urban culture at the
turn of the twentieth century, in the form of the virtual flaneur or the
cyberflaneur. In 1994, German net artists Heiko Idensen and Matthias Krohn
paid homage to the urban figure, noting in a text that “the screen winks at
the flaneur” and locating the central tenets of computer culture with the
“intoxication of the flânerie. Screens as streets and homes … of the crowd?”28
Later, artist Steven Goldate provided a simple equation between online and
offline spaces, noting among other things that “What the city and the street
was to the flaneur, the Internet and the Superhighway have become to the
Cyberflaneur.”29

Scholars, too, explored the potentials and limits of thinking about the user
of the Internet in flaneurian terms. Thus, Mike Featherstone drew parallels
between the nineteenth-century flaneur and the virtual flaneur, exploring the
similarities and differences between navigational strategies, affects, and
agencies in the early urban metropolis and the emergent digital realm of the
1990s.30

Although the discourse on the digital flaneur was most prevalent in the 1990s,
it still lingers on in contemporary writings about digitized cultural heritage
collections and their design. A much-cited article by computer scientists
Marian Dörk, Sheelagh Carpendale, and Carey Williamson, for instance, notes
the striking similarity between the “growing cities of the 19th century and
today’s information spaces” and the relationship between “the individual and
the whole.”31 Dörk, Carpendale, and Williamson use the figure of the flaneur
to emphasize the importance of supporting not only utilitarian information
needs through grand systems but also leisurely information surfing behaviors
on an individual level. Dörk, Carpendale, and Willliamson’s reflections relate
to the experience of moving about in a mass of information and ways of making
sense of this information. What does it mean to make sense of mass
digitization? How can we say or know that the past two hours we spent
rummaging about in the archives of Google Books, digging deeper in Europeana,
or following hyperlinks in Monoskop made sense, and by whose standards? And
what are the cultural implications of using the flaneur as a cultural
reference point for these ideals? We find few answers to these questions in
Dörk, Carpendale, and Williamson’s article, or in related articles that invoke
the flaneur as a figure of inspiration for new search strategies. Thus, the
figure of the flaneur is predominantly used to express the pleasurable and
productive aspect of archival navigation. But in its emphasis on pleasure and
leisure, the figure neglects the much more ambivalent atmosphere that
enshrouds the flaneur as he navigates the modern metropolis. Nor does it
problematize the privileged viewpoint of the flaneur.

The character of the flaneur, both in its original instantiations in French
literature and in Walter Benjamin’s early twentieth-century writings, was
certainly driven by pleasure; yet, on a more fundamental level, his existence
was also, as Elizabeth Wilson points out in her feminist reading of the
flaneur, “a sorrowful engagement with the melancholy of cities,” which arose
“partly from the enormous, unfulfilled promise of the urban spectacle, the
consumption, the lure of pleasure and joy which somehow seem destined to be
disappointed.”32 Far from an optimistic and unproblematic engagement with
information, then, the figure of the flaneur also evokes deeper anxieties
arising from commodification processes and the accompanying melancholic
realization that no matter how much one strolls and scrolls, nothing one
encounters can ever fully satisfy one’s desires. Benjamin even strikingly
spatializes (and sexualizes) this mental state in an infrastructural
imaginary: the labyrinth. The labyrinth is thus, Benjamin suggests, “the home
of the hesitant. The path of someone shy of arrival at a goal easily takes the
form of a labyrinth. This is the way of the (sexual) drive in those episodes
which precede its satisfaction.”33

Benjamin’s hesitant flaneur caught in an unending maze of desire stands in
contrast to the uncomplicated flaneur invoked in celebratory theories on the
digital flaneur. Yet, recent literature on the design of digital realms
suggests that the hesitant man caught in a drive for more information is a
much more accurate image of the digital flaneur than the man-in-the-know.34
Perhaps, then, the allegorical figure of the flaneur in digital design should
be used less to address pleasurable wandering and more to invoke “the most
characteristic response of all to the wholly new forms of life that seemed to
be developing: ambivalence.”35 Caught up in the commodified labyrinth of the
modern digitized archive, the digital flaneur of mass digitization might just
as easily get stuck in a repetitive, monotonous routine of scrolling and
downloading new things, forever suspended in a state of unfulfilled desire,
than move about in meaningful and pleasurable ways.36

Moreover, and just as importantly, the figure of the flaneur is also entangled
in a cultural matrix of assumptions about gender, capabilities, and colonial
implications. In short: the flaneur is a white, able-bodied male. As feminist
theory attests to, the concept of the flaneur is male by definition. Some
feminists such as Griselda Pollock and Janet Wolff have denied the possibility
of a female variant altogether, because of women’s status as (often absent)
objects rather than subjects in the nineteenth-century urban environment.37
Others, such as Elizabeth Wilson, Deborah Epstein Nord, and Mica Nava have
complicated the issue by alluding the opportunities and limitations of
thinking about a female variant of the flaneur, for instance a flâneuse.38
These discussions have also reverberated in the digital sphere in new
variations.39 Whatever position one assumes, it is clear that the concept of
the flaneur, even in its female variant, is a complicated figure that has
problematic allusions to a universal privileged figure.

In similar terms, the flaneur also has problematic colonial and racial
connotations. As James Smalls points out in his essay “'Race As Spectacle in
Late-Nineteenth-Century French Art and Popular Culture,” the racial dimension
of the flaneur is “conspicuously absent” from most critical engagements with
the concept.40 Yet, as Smalls notes, the question of race is crucial, since
“the black man … is not privileged to lose himself in the Parisian crowd, for
he is constantly reminded of his epidermalized existence, reflected back at
him not only by what he sees, but by what we see as the assumed ‘normal’
white, universal spectator.”41 This othering is, moreover, not limited to the
historical scene of nineteenth-century Paris, but still remains relevant
today. Thus, as Garnette Cadogan notes in his essay “Walking While Black,”
non-white people are offered none of the freedoms of blending into the crowd
that Baudelaire’s and Benjamin’s flaneurs enjoyed. “Walking while black
restricts the experience of walking, renders inaccessible the classic Romantic
experience of walking alone. It forces me to be in constant relationship with
others, unable to join the New York flaneurs I had read about and hoped to
join.”42

Lastly, the classic figure of the flaneur also assumes a body with no
disabilities. As Marian Ryan notes in an essay in the _New York Times_ , “The
art of flânerie entails blending into the crowd. The disabled flaneur can’t
achieve that kind of invisibility.”43 What might we take from these critical
interventions into the uncomplicated discourse of the flaneur? Importantly,
they counterbalance the dominant seductive image of the empowered user, and
remind us of the colonial male gaze inherent in any invocation of the metaphor
of the flaneur, which for the majority of users is a subject position that is
simply not available (nor perhaps desirable).

The limitations of the figure of the flaneur raise questions not only about
the metaphor itself, but also about the topography of knowledge production it
invokes. As already noted, Walter Benjamin placed the flaneur within a larger
labyrinthine topology of knowledge production, where the flaneur could read
the spectacle in front of him without being read himself. Walter Benjamin
himself put the flaneur to rest with an analysis of an Edgar Allen Poe story,
where he analyzed the demise of the flaneur in an increasingly capitalist
topography, noting in melancholy terms that, “The bazaar is the last hangout
of the flaneur. If in the beginning the street had become an interieur for
him, now this interieur turned into a street, and he roamed through the
labyrinth of merchandise as he had once roamed through the labyrinth of the
city. It is a magnificent touch in Poe’s story that it includes along with the
earliest description of the flaneur the figuration of his end.”44 In 2012,
Evgeny Morozov in similar terms declared the death of the cyberflaneur.
Linking the commodification of urban spaces in nineteenth-century Paris to the
commodification of the Internet, Morozov noted that “it’s no longer a place
for strolling—it’s a place for getting things done” and that “Everything that
makes cyberflânerie possible—solitude and individuality, anonymity and
opacity, mystery and ambivalence, curiosity and risk-taking—is under
assault.”45 These two death sentences, separated by a century, link the
environment of the flaneur to significant questions about the commodification
of space and its infrapolitical implications.

Exploring the implications of this topography, the following section suggests,
will help us understand the infrapolitics of the spatial imaginaries of mass
digitization, not only in relation to questions of globalization and late
sovereignty, but also to cultural imaginaries of knowledge infrastructures.
Indeed, these two dimensions are far from mutually exclusive, but rather
belong to the same overarching tale of the politics of mass digitization.
Thus, while the material spatial infrastructures of mass digitization projects
may help us appreciate certain important political dynamics of Europeana,
Google Books, and shadow libraries (such as their territorializing features or
copyright contestations in relation to knowledge production), only an
inclusion of the infrastructural imaginaries of knowledge production will help
us understand the complex politics of mass digitization as it metamorphoses
from analog buildings, shelves, and cabinets to the circulatory networks of
digital platforms.

## Labyrinthine Imaginaries: Infrastructural Perspectives of Power and
Knowledge Production

If the flaneur is a central early figure in the cultural imaginary of the
observer of cultural texts, the labyrinth has long served as a cultural
imaginary of the library, and, in larger terms, the spatialized
infrastructural conditions of knowledge and power. Thus, literature is rife
with works that draw on libraries and labyrinths to convey stories about
knowledge production and the power struggles hereof. Think only of the elderly
monk-librarian in Umberto Eco’s classic, _The Name of the Rose,_ who notes
that: “the library is a great labyrinth, sign of the labyrinth of the world.
You enter and you do not know whether you will come out” 46; or consider the
haunting images of being lost in Jose Luis Borges’s tales about labyrinthine
libraries.47 This section therefore turns to the infrastructural space of the
labyrinth, to show that this spatial imaginary, much like the flaneur, is
loaded with cultural ambivalence, and to explore the ways in which the
labyrinthine infrastructural imaginary emphasizes and crystallizes the
infrapolitical tension in mass digitization projects between power and
perspective, agency and environment, playful innovation and digital labor.

The labyrinth is a prevalent literary trope, found in authors from Ovid,
Virgil, and Dante to Dickens and Nietzsche, and it has been used particularly
in relation to issues of knowledge and agency, and in haunting and nightmarish
terms in modern literature.48 As the previous section indicates, the labyrinth
also provides a significant image for understanding our relationship to mass
digitization projects as sites of both knowledge production and experience.
Indeed, one shadow library is even named _Aleph_ , which refers to the ancient
Hebrew letter and likely also nods at Jose Luis Borges’s labyrinthine short
story, _Aleph,_ on infinite labyrinthine architectures. Yet, what kind of
infrastructure is a labyrinth, and how does it relate to the potentials and
perils of mass digitization?

In her rich historical study of labyrinths, Penelope Doob argues that the
labyrinth possesses a dual potentiality: on the one hand, if experienced from
within, the labyrinth is a sign of confusion; on the other, when viewed from
above, it is a sign of complex order.49 As Harold Bloom notes, “all of us have
had the experience of admiring a structure when outside it, but becoming
unhappy within it.”50 Envisioning the labyrinth from within links to a
claustrophobic sense of ignorance, while also implying the possibility of
progress if you just turn the next corner. What better way to describe one’s
experience in the labyrinthine infrastructures of mass digitization projects
such as Google Books with its infrastructural conditions and contexts of
experience and agency? On the one hand, Google Books appears to provide the
view from above, lending itself as a logistical aid in its information-rich
environment. On the other hand, Google Books also produces an alienating
effect of impenetrability on two levels. First, although Google presents
itself as a compass, its seemingly infinite and constantly rearranging
universe nevertheless creates a sense of vertigo, only reinforced by the
almost existential question “Do you feel lucky?” Second, Google Books also
feels impenetrable on a deeper level, with its black-boxed governing and
ordering principles, hidden behind complex layers of code, corporate cultures,
and nondisclosure agreements.51 But even less-commercial mass digitization
projects such as, for instance, Europeana and Monoskop can produce a sense of
claustrophobia and alienation in the user. Think only of the frustration
encountered when reaching dead ends in the form of broken links or in lack of
access set down by European copyright regulations. Or even the alienation and
dissatisfaction that can well up when there are seemingly no other limits to
knowledge, such as in Monoskop, than one’s own cognitive shortcomings.

The figure of the labyrinth also serves as a reminder that informational
strolling is not only a leisurely experience, but also a laborious process.
Penelope Doob thus points out the common medieval spelling of labyrinth as
_laborintus_ , which foregrounds the concept of labor and “difficult process,”
whether frustrating, useful, or both.52 In an age in which “labor itself is
now play, just as play becomes more and more laborious,”53 Doob’s etymological
excursion serves to highlight the fact that in many mass digitization projects
it is indeed the user’s leisurely information scrolling that in the end
generates profit, cultural value, and budgetary justification for mass
digitization platforms. Jose van Dijck’s analysis of the valuation of traffic
in a digital environment is a timely reminder of how traffic is valued in a
cultural memory environment that increasingly orients itself toward social
media, “Even though communicative traffic on social media platforms seems
determined by social values such as popularity, attention, and connectivity,
they are impalpably translated into monetary values and redressed in business
models made possible by digital technology.”54 This is visible, for instance,
in Europeana’s usage statistic reports, which links the notions of _traffic_
and _performance_ together in an ontological equation (in this equation poor
performance inevitably means a mark of death). 55 In a blogpost marking the
launch of the _Europeana Statistics Dashboard_ , we are told that information
about mass digitization traffic is “vital information for a modern cultural
institution for both reporting and planning purposes and for public
accountability.”56 Thus, although visitors may feel solitary in their digital
wanderings, their digital footsteps are in fact obsessively traced and tracked
by mass digitization platforms and often also by numerous third parties.

Today, then, the user is indeed at work as she makes her way in the
labyrinthine infrastructures of mass digitization by scrolling, clicking,
downloading, connecting, and clearing and creating new paths. And while
“search” has become a keyword in digital knowledge environments, digital
infrastructures in mass digitization projects in fact distract as much as they
orient. This new economy of cultural memory begs the question: if mass
digitization projects, as labyrinthine infrastructures, invariably disorient
the wanderer as much as they aid her, how might we understand their
infrapolitics? After all, as the previous chapters have shown, mass
digitization projects often present a wide array of motivations for why
digitization should happen on a massive scale, with knowledge production and
cultural enlightenment usually featuring as the strongest arguments. But as
the spatialized heuristics of the flaneur and the labyrinth show, knowledge
production and navigation is anything but a simple concept. Rather, the
political dimensions of mass digitization discussed in previous chapters—such
as standardization, late sovereignty, and network power—are tied up with the
spatial imaginaries of what knowledge production and cultural memory are and
how they should and could be organized and navigated.

The question of the spatial imaginaries of knowledge production and
imagination has a long philosophic history. As historian David Bates notes,
knowledge in the Enlightenment era was often imagined as a labyrinthine
journey. A classic illustration of how this journey was imagined is provided
by Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Louis Castilhon, whose frustration is
palpable in this exclamation: “How cruel and painful is the situation of a
Traveller who has imprudently wandered into a forest where he knows neither
the winding paths, nor the detours, nor the exits!”57 These Enlightenment
journeys were premised upon an infrastructural framework that linked error and
knowledge, but also upon an experience of knowledge quests riddled by loss of
oversight and lack of a compass. As the previous sections show, the labyrinth
as a form of knowledge production in relation to truth and error persists as
an infrastructural trope in the digital. Yet, it has also metamorphosed
significantly since Castilhon. The labyrinthine infrastructural imaginaries we
find in digital environments thus differ significantly from more classical
images, not least under the influence of the rhizomatic metaphors of
labyrinths developed by Deleuze and Guattari and Eco. If the labyrinth of the
Renaissance had an endpoint and a truth, these new labyrinthine
infrastructures, as Kristin Veel points out, had a much more complex
relationship to the spatial organization of the truth. Eco and Deleuze and
Guattari thus conceived of their labyrinths as networks “in which all points
can be connected with one another” with “no center” but “an almost unlimited
multiplicity of alternative paths,” which makes it “impossible to rise above
the structure and observe it from the outside, because it transcends the
graphic two-dimensionality of the two earlier forms of labyrinths.”58 Deleuze
expressed the senselessness of these contemporary labyrinths as a “theater
where nothing is fixed, a labyrinth without a thread (Ariadne has hung
herself).”59

In mass digitization, this new infrastructural imaginary feeds a looming
concern over how best to curate and infrastructurate cultural collections. It
is this concern that we see at play in the aforementioned institutional
concerns over how to best create meaningful paths in the cultural collections.
The main question that resounds is: where should the paths lead if there is no
longer one truth, that is, if the labyrinth has no center? Some mass
digitization projects seem to revel in this new reality. As we have seen,
shadow libraries such as Monoskop and UbuWeb use the affordances of the
digital to create new cultural connections outside of the formal hierarchies
of cultural memory institutions. Yet, while embraced by some, predictably the
new distribution of authority generates anxiety in the cultural memory circles
that had hitherto been able to hold claim to knowledge organization expertise.
This is the dizzying perspective that haunts the cultural memory professionals
faced with Europeana’s data governance model. Thus, as one Europeana
professional explained to me in 2010, “Europeana aims at an open-linked-data
model with a number of implications. One implication is that there will be no
control of data usage, which makes it possible, for instance, to link classics
with porn. Libraries do not agree to this loss of control which was at the
base of their self-understanding.”60 The Europeana professional then proceeded
to recount the profound anxiety experienced and expressed by knowledge
professionals as they increasingly came face-to-face with a curatorial reality
that is radically changing what counts as knowledge and context, where a
search for Courbet could, in theory, not only lead the user to other French
masters of painting but also to a copy of a porn magazine (provided it is out
of copyright). The anxiety experienced by knowledge professionals in the new
cultural memory ecosystem can of course be explained by a rationalized fear of
job insecurity and territorial concerns. Yet, the fear of knowledge
infrastructures without a center may also run deeper. As Penelope Doob reminds
us, the center of the labyrinth historically played a central moral and
epistemological role in the labyrinthine topos, as the site that held the
epiphanous key to unravel whatever evils or secrets the labyrinth contained.
With no center, there is no key, no epiphany.61 From this perspective, then,
it is not only a job that is lost. It is also the meaning of knowledge
itself.62

What, then, can we take from these labyrinthine wanderings as we pursue a
greater understanding of the infrapolitics of mass digitization? Certainly, as
this section shows, the politics of mass digitization is entangled in
spatialized imaginaries that have a long and complex cultural and affective
trajectory interlinked with ontological and epistemological questions about
the very nature of knowledge. Cladding the walls of these trajectories are, of
course, the ever-present political questions of authority and territory, but
also deeper cultural and affective questions about the nature and meaning of
knowledge as it bandies about in our cultural imaginaries, between discoveries
and dead-ends, between freedom and control.

As the next section will show, one concept has in particular come to
encapsulate these concerns: the notion of serendipity. While the notion of
serendipity has a long history, it has gained new relevance with mass
digitization, where it is used to express the realm of possibilities opened up
by the new digital infrastructures of knowledge production. As such, it has
come to play a role, not only as a playful cultural imaginary, but also as an
architectural ideal in software developments for mass digitization. In the
following section, we will look at a few examples of these architectures, as
well as the knowledge politics they are entangled in.

## The Architecture of Serendipitous Platforms

Serendipity has for long been a cherished word in archival studies, used to
describe a magical moment of “Eureka!” A fickle and fabulating concept, it
belongs to the world of discovery, capturing the moment when a meandering
soul, a flaneur, accidentally stumbles upon a valuable find. As such, the
moment of serendipity is almost always a happy circumstance of chance, and
never an unfortunate moment of risk. Serendipity also embodies the word in its
own origins. This section outlines the origins of this word and situate its
reemergence in theories on libraries and on digital realms of knowledge
production.

The English aristocrat Horace Walpole coined the word serendipity in a letter
to Horace Mann in 1754, in which he explained his fascination with a Persian
fairy tale about three princes from the _Isle of Serendip_ _63_ who possess
superpowers of observation. In his letter, Walpole linked the contents of the
fantastical story to his view of how new discoveries are made: “As their
highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by “accidental
sagacity,” of things which they were not in quest of.” 64 And he proposed a
new word—“serendipity”—to describe this sublime talent for discovery.

Walpole’s conceptual invention did not immediately catch fire in common
parlance.65 But a few centuries after its invention, it suddenly took hold.
Who awakened the notion from its dormant state, and why? Sociologists Robert
K. Merton and Elinor Barber provided one influential answer in their own
enjoyable exploration of the word. As they note, serendipity had a particular
playful tone to it, expressing a sense that knowledge comes about not only
through sheer willpower and discipline, but also via pleasurable chance. This
almost hedonistic dimension made it incompatible with the serious ethos of the
nineteenth century. As Merton and Barber note, “The serious early Victorians
were not likely to pick up serendipity, except perhaps to point to it as a
piece of frivolous whimsy. … Although the Victorians, and especially Victorian
scientists, were familiar with the part played by accident in the process of
discovery, they were likely neither to highlight that factor nor to clothe the
phenomenon of accidental discovery in so lighthearted a word as
serendipity.”66 But in the 1940s and 1950s something happened—the word began
to catch on. Merton and Barber link this turn of linguistic events not only to
pure chance, but also a change in scientific networks and paradigms. Traveling
from the world of letters, as they recount, the word began making its way into
scientific circles, where attention was increasingly turned to “splashy
discoveries in lab and field.”67 But as Lorraine Daston notes, “discoveries,
especially those made by serendipity, depend partly on luck, and scientists
schooled in probability theory are loathe to ascribe personal merit to the
merely lucky,” and scientists therefore increasingly began to “domesticate
serendipity.”68 Daston remarks that while scientists schooled in probability
were reluctant to ascribe their discoveries to pure chance, the “historians
and literary scholars who struck serendipitous gold in the archives did not
seem so eager to make a science out of their good fortune.”69 One tale of how
literary and historical scholars struck serendipitous gold in the archive is
provided by Mike Featherstone:

> Once in the archive, finding the right material which can be made to speak
may itself be subject to a high degree of contingency—the process not of
deliberate rational searching, but serendipity. In this context it is
interesting to note the methods of innovatory historians such as Norbert Elias
and Michel Foucault, who used the British and French national libraries in
highly unorthodox ways by reading seemingly haphazardly “on the diagonal,”
across the whole range of arts and sciences, centuries and civilizations, so
that the unusual juxtapositions they arrived at summoned up new lines of
thought and possibilities to radically re-think and reclassify received
wisdom. Here we think of the flaneur who wanders the archival textual city in
a half-dreamlike state in order to be open to the half-formed possibilities of
the material and sensitive to unusual juxtapositions and novel perceptions.70

English scholar Nancy Schultz in similar terms notes that the archive “in the
humanities” represents a “prime site for serendipitous discovery.”71 In most
of these cases, serendipity is taken to mean some form of archival insight,
and often even a critical intellectual process. Deb Verhoeven, Associate Dean
of Engagement and Innovation at the University of Technology Sydney, reminds
us in relation to feminist archival work that “stories of accidental
discovery” can even take on dimensions of feminist solace, consoling “the
researcher, and us, with the idea that no system, whatever its claims to
discipline, comprehensiveness, and structure, is exempt from randomness, flux,
overflow, and therefore potential collapse.”72

But with mass digitization processes, their fusion of probability theories and
archives, and their ideals of combined fun and fact-finding, the questions
raised in the hard sciences about serendipity, its connotations of freedom and
chance, engineering and control, now also haunt the archives of historians and
literary scholars. Serendipity has now often come to be used as a motivating
factor for digitization in the first place, based on arguments that mass
digitized archives allow not only for dedicated and target-oriented research,
but also for new modes of search, of reading haphazardly “on the diagonal”
across genres and disciplines, as well as across institutional and national
borders that hitherto kept works and insights apart. As one spokesperson from
a prominent mass digitization company states, “digital collections have been
designed both to assist researchers in accessing original primary source
materials and to enable them to make serendipitous discoveries and unexpected
connections between sources.”73 And indeed, this sentiment reverberates in all
mass digitization projects from Europeana and Google Books to smaller shadow
libraries such as UbuWeb and Monoskop. Some scholars even argue that
serendipity takes on new forms due to digitization.74

It seems only natural, then, that mass digitization projects, and their
actors, have actively adopted the discourse of serendipity, both as a selling
point and a strategic claim. Talking about Google’s digitization program, Dr.
Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian and Director of Oxford University Library
Services, notes: “Library users have always loved browsing books for the
serendipitous discoveries they provide. Digital books offer a similar thrill,
but on multiple levels—deep entry into the texts or the ability to browse the
virtual shelf of books assembled from the world's great libraries.”75 But it
has also raised questions for those people who are in charge, not only of
holding serendipity forth as an ideal, but also building the architecture to
facilitate it. Dan Cohen, speaking on behalf of the DPLA, thus noted the
centrality of the concept, but also the challenges that mass digitization
raised in practical terms: “At DPLA, we’ve been thinking a lot about what’s
involved with serendipitous discovery. Since we started from scratch and
didn’t need to create a standard online library catalog experience, we were
free to experiment and provide novel ways into our collection of over five
million items. How to arrange a collection of that scale so that different
users can bump into items of unexpected interest to them?” While adopting the
language of serendipity is easy, its infrastructural construction is much
harder to envision. This challenge clearly troubles the strategic team
developing Europeana’s infrastructure, as it notes in a programmatic tone that
stands hilariously at odds with the curiosity it must cater to:

> Reviewing the personas developed for the D6.2 Requirements for Europeana.eu8
deliverable—and in particular those of the “culture vultures”—one finds two
somewhat-opposed requirements. On the one hand, they need to be able to find
what they are looking for, and navigate through clear and well-structured
data. On the other hand, they also come to Europeana looking for
“inspiration”—that is to say, for something new and unexpected that points
them towards possibilities they had previously been unaware of; what, in the
formal literature of user experience and search design, is sometimes referred
to as “serendipity search.” Europeana’s users need the platform to be
structured and predictable—but not entirely so.76

To achieve serendipity, mass digitization projects have often sought to take
advantage of the labyrinthine infrastructures of digitization, relying not
only on their own virtual bookshelves, but also on the algorithmic highways
and back alleys of social media. Twitter, in particular, before it adopted
personalization methods, became a preferred infrastructure for mass
digitization projects, who took advantage of Twitter’s lack of personalized
search to create whimsical bots that injected randomness into the user’s feed.
One example was the Digital Public Library of America’s DPLA Bot, which grabs
a random noun and uses its API to share the first result it finds. The DPLA
Bot aims to “infuse what we all love about libraries—serendipitous
discovery—into the DPLA” and thus seeks to provide a “kind of ‘Surprise me!’
search function for DPLA.”77 It did not take the programmer Peter Meyr much
time to develop a similar bot for Europeana. In an interview with
EuropeanaPro, Peter Meyr directly related the EuropeanaBot to the
serendipitous affordances of Twitter and its rewards for mass digitization
projects, noting that:

> The presentation of digital resources is difficult for libraries. It is no
longer possible to just explore, browse the stacks and make serendipitous
findings. With Europeana, you don't even have a physical library to go to. So
I was interested in bringing a little bit of serendipity back by using a
Twitter bot. … If I just wanted to present (semi)random Europeana findings, I
wouldn’t have needed Twitter—an RSS-Feed or a web page would be enough.
However, I wanted to infuse EuropeanaBot with a little bit of “Twitter
culture” and give it a personality.78

The British Library also developed a Twitter bot titled the Mechanical
Curator, which posts random resources with no customization except a special
focus on images in the library’s seventeenth- to nineteenth-century
collections.79 But there were also many projects that existed outside social
media platforms and operated across mass digitization projects. One example
was the “serendipity engine,” Serendip-o-matic, which first examined the
user’s research interests and then, based on this data, identified “related
content in locations such as the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA),
Europeana, and Flickr Commons.”80 While this initiative was not endorsed by
any of these mass digitization projects, they nevertheless featured it on
their blogs, integrating it into the mass digitization ecosystem.

Yet, while mass digitization for some represents the opportunity to amplify
the chance of chance, other scholars increasingly wonder whether the
engineering processes of mass digitization would take serendipity out of the
archive. Indeed, to them, the digital is antithetical to chance. One such
viewpoint is uttered by historian Tristram Hunt in an op-ed charging against
Google’s British digitization program under the title, “Online is fine, but
history is best hands on.” In it, Hunt argues that the digital, rather than
providing a new means of chance finding, would impede historical discovery and
that only the analog archival environment could foster real historical
discoveries, since it is “… only with MS in hand that the real meaning of the
text becomes apparent: its rhythms and cadences, the relationship of image to
word, the passion of the argument or cold logic of the case. Then there is the
serendipity, the scholar’s eternal hope that something will catch his eye,”81
In similar terms, Graeme Davison describes the lacking of serendipitous
errings in digital archives, as he likens digital search engines with driving
“a high-powered car down a freeway, compared with walking or cycling. It gets
us there more quickly but we skirt the towns and miss a lot of interesting
scenery on the way.”82 William McKeen also links the loss of serendipity to
the acceleration of method in the digital:

> Think about the library. Do people browse anymore? We have become such a
directed people. We can target what we want, thanks to the Internet. Put a
couple of key words into a search engine and you find—with an irritating hit
or miss here and there—exactly what you’re looking for. It’s efficient, but
dull. You miss the time-consuming but enriching act of looking through
shelves, of pulling down a book because the title interests you, or the
binding. Inside, the book might be a loser, a waste of the effort and calories
it took to remove it from its place and then return. Or it might be a dark
chest of wonders, a life-changing first step into another world, something to
lead your life down a path you didn't know was there.83

Common to all these statements is the sentiment that the engineering of
serendipity removes the very chance of serendipity. As Nicholas Carr notes,
“Once you create an engine—a machine—to produce serendipity, you destroy the
essence of serendipity. It becomes something expected rather than
unexpected.”84 It appears, then, that computational methods have introduced
historians and literary scholars to the same “beaverish efforts”85 to
domesticate serendipity as the hard sciences had to face at the beginning of
the twentieth century.

To my knowledge, few systematic studies exist about whether mass digitization
projects such as Europeana and Google Books hamper or foster creative and
original research in empirical terms. How one would go about such a study is
also an open question. The dichotomy between digital and analog does seem a
bit contrived, however. As Dan Cohen notes in a blogpost for DPLA, “bookstores
and libraries have their own forms of ‘serendipity engineering,’ from
storefront staff picks to behind-the-scenes cataloguing and shelving methods
that make for happy accidents.”86 Yet there is no doubt that the discourse of
serendipity has been infused with new life that sometimes veers toward a
“spectacle of serendipity.”87

Over the past decade, the digital infrastructures that organize our cultural
memory have become increasingly integrated in a digital economy that valuates
“experience” as a cultural currency that can be exchanged to profit, and our
affective meanderings as a form of industrial production. This digital economy
affects the architecture and infrastructure of digital archives. The archival
discourse on digital serendipity is thus now embroiled in a more deep-seated
infrapolitics of workspace architecture, influenced by Silicon Valley’s
obsession with networks, process, and connectivity.88 Think only of the
increasing importance of Google and Facebook to mass digitization projects:
most of these projects have a Facebook page on which they showcase their
material, just as they take pains to make themselves “algorithmically
recognizable”89 to Google and other search engines in the hope of reaching an
audience beyond the echo chamber of archives and to distribute their archival
material on leisurely tidbit platforms such as Pinterest and Twitter.90 If
serendipity is increasingly thought of as a platform problem, the final
question we might pose is what kind of infrapolitics this platform economy
generates and how it affects mass digitization projects.

## The Infrapolitics of Platform Power

As the previous sections show, mass digitization projects rely upon spatial
metaphors to convey ideas about, and ideals of, cultural memory
infrastructures, their knowledge production, and their serendipitous
potential. Thus, for mass digitization projects, the ideal scenario is that
the labyrinthine errings of the user result in serendipitous finds that in
turn bring about new forms of cultural value. From the point of the user,
however, being caught up in the labyrinth might just as easily give rise to an
experience of being confronted with a sense of lack of oversight and
alienation in the alleyways of commodified infrastructures. These two
scenarios co-exist because of what Penelope Doob (as noted in the section on
labyrinthine imaginaries) refers to as the dual potentiality of the labyrinth,
which when experienced from within can be become a sign of confusion, and when
viewed from above becomes a sign of complex order.91

In this final section, I will turn to a new spatial metaphor, which appears to
have resolved this dual potentiality of the spatial perspective of mass
digitization projects: the platform. The platform has recently emerged as a
new buzzword in the digital economy, connoting simultaneously a perspective, a
business strategy, and a political ideology. Ideally the platform provides a
different perspective than the labyrinth, offering the user the possibility of
simultaneously constructing the labyrinth and viewing it from above. This
final section therefore explores how we might understand the infrapolitics of
the platform, and its role in the digital economy.

In its recent business strategy, Europeana claimed that it was moving from
operating as a “portal” to operating as a “platform.”92 The announcement was
part of a broader infrastructural transition in the field of cultural memory,
undergirded by a process of opening up and connecting the cultural memory
sector to wider knowledge ecosystems.93 Indeed, Europeana’s move is part of a
much larger discursive and material reality of a more fundamental process of
“platformization” of the web.94 The notion of the platform has thus recently
become an important heuristic for understanding the cultural development of
the web and its economy, fusing the computational understanding of the
platform as an environment in which a code is executed95 and the political and
social understanding of a platform as a site of politics.96

While the infrapolitics of the platformization of the web has become a central
discussion in software and communication studies, little interest has been
paid to the implications of platforms for the politics of cultural memory.
Yet, Europeana’s business strategy illustrates the significant infrapolitical
role that platforms are given in mass digitization literature. Citing digital
historian Tim Sherratt’s claim that “portals are for visiting, platforms for
building on,”97 Europeana’s strategy argues that if cultural memory sites free
themselves and their content from the “prison of portals” in favor of more
openness and flexibility, this will in turn empower users to created their own
“pathways” through the digital cultural memory, instead of being forced to
follow predetermined “narrative journeys.”98 The business plan’s reliance on
Sherratt’s theory of platforms shows that although the platform has a
technical meaning in computation, Europeana’s discourse goes beyond mere
computational logic. It instead signifies an infrapolitics that carries with
it an assumption about the political dynamics of software, standing in for the
freedom to act in the labyrinthine infrastructures of digital collections.

Yet, what is a platform, and how might we understand its infrapolitics? As
Tarleton Gillespie points out, the oldest definition of platform is
architectural, as a level or near-level surface, often elevated.99 As such,
there is something inherently simple about platforms. As architect Sverre Fehn
notes, “the simplest form of architecture is to cultivate the surface of the
earth, to make a platform.”100 Fehn’s statement conceals a more fundamental
insight about platforms, however: in the establishment of a low horizontal
platform, one also establishes a social infrastructure. Platforms are thus not
only material constructions, they also harbor infrapolitical affordances. The
etymology of the notion of “platform” evidences this infrapolitical dimension.
Originally a spatial concept, the notion of platform appeared in
architectural, figurative, and military formations in the sixteenth century,
soon developing into specialized discourses of party programs and military and
building construction,101 religious congregation,102 and architectural vantage
points.103 Both the architectural and social understandings of the term
connote a process in which sites of common ground are created in
contradistinction to other sites. In geology, for instance, platforms emerge
from abrasive processes that elevate and distinguish one area in relation to
others. In religious and political discourse, platforms emerge as
organizational sites of belonging, often in contradistinction to other forms
of organization. Platforms, then, connote both common ground and demarcated
borders that emerge out of abrasive processes. In the nineteenth century, a
third meaning adjoined the notion of platforms, namely trade-related
cooperation. This introduced a dynamic to the word that is less informed by
abrasive processes and more by the capture processes of what we might call
“connective capitalism.” Yet, despite connectivity taking center stage, even
these platforms were described as territorializing constructs that favor some
organizations and corporations over others.104

In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as Gilles Deleuze and Felix
Guattari successfully urged scholars and architects to replace roots with
rhizomes, the notion of platform began taking on yet another meaning. Deleuze
and Guattari began fervently arguing for the nonexistence of rooted
platforms.105 Their vision soon gave rise to a nonfoundational understanding
of the world as a “limitless multiplicity of positions from which it is
possible only to erect provisional constructions.”106 Deleuze and Guattari’s
ontology became widely influential in theorizing the web _in toto_ ; as Rem
Koolhaas once noted, the “language of architecture—platform, blueprint,
structure—became almost the preferred language for indicating a lot of
phenomenon that we’re facing from Silicon Valley.”107 From the singular
platforms of military and party politics, emerged, then, the thousand
platforms of the digital, where “nearly every surge of research and investment
pursued by the digital industry—e-commerce, web services, online advertising,
mobile devices and digital media sales—has seen the term migrate to it.”108

What infrapolitical logic can we glean from Silicon Valley’s adoption of the
vernacular notion of the platform? Firstly, it is an infrapolitics of
temporality. As Tarleton Gillespie points out, the semantic aspects of
platforms “point to a common set of connotations: a ‘raised level surface’
designed to facilitate some activity that will subsequently take place. It is
anticipatory, but not causal.”109 The inscription of platforms into the
material infrastructures of the Internet thus assume a value-producing
futurity. If serendipity is what is craved, then platforms are the site in
which this is thought to take place.

Despite its inclusion in the entrepreneurial discourse of Silicon Valley, the
notion of the platform is also used to signal an infrapolitics of
collaboration, even subversion. Olga Gurionova, for instance, explores the
subversive dynamics of critical artistic platforms,110 and Trebor Sholtz
promotes the term “platform cooperativism” to advance worker-based
cooperatives that would “design their own apps-based platforms, fostering
truly peer-to-peer ways of providing services and things, and speak truth to
the new platform capitalists.”111 Shadow libraries such as Monoskop appear as
perfect examples of such subversive platforms and evidence of Srnicek’s
reminder that not _all_ social interactions are co-opted into systems of
profit generation. 112 Yet, as the territorial, legal, and social
infrastructures of mass digitization become increasingly labyrinthine, it
takes a lot of critical consciousness to properly interpret and understand its
infrapolitics. Engage with the shadow library Library Genesis on Facebook, for
instance, and you submit to platform capitalism.

A significant trait of platform-based corporations such as Google and Facebook
is that they more often than not present themselves as apolitical, neutral,
and empowering tools of connectivity, passive until picked up by the user.
Yet, as Lisa Nakamura notes, “reading’s economies, cultures of sharing, and
circuits of travel have never been passive.”113 One of digital platforms’ most
important infrapolitical traits is their dependence on network effects and a
winner-takes-all logic, where the platform owner is not only conferred
enormous power vis-à-vis other less successful platforms but also vis-à-vis
the platform user.114 Within this game, the platform owner determines the
rules of the product and the service on offer. Entering into the discourse of
platforms implies, then, not only constructing a software platform, but also
entering into a parasitical game of relational network effects, where
different platforms challenge and use each other to gain more views and
activity. This gives successful platforms a great advantage in the digital
economy. They not only gain access to data, but they also control the rules of
how the data is to be managed and governed. Therefore, when a user is surfing
Google Books, Google—and not the library—collects the user’s search queries,
including results that appeared in searches and pages the user visited from
the search. The browser, moreover, tracks the user’s activity, including pages
the user has visited and when, user data, and possibly user login details with
auto-fill features, user IP address, Internet service provider, device
hardware details, operating system and browser version, cookies, and cached
data from websites. The labyrinthine infrastructure of the mass digitization
ecosystem also means that if you access one platform through another, your
data will be collected in different ways. Thus, if you visit Europeana through
Facebook, it will be Facebook that collects your data, including name and
profile; biographical information such as birthday, hometown, work history,
and interests; username and unique identifier; subscriptions, location,
device, activity date, time and time-zone, activities; and likes, check-ins,
and events.115 As more platforms emerge from which one can access mass
digitized archives, such as social media sites like Facebook, Google+,
Pinterest, and Twitter, as well as mobile devices such as Android, gaining an
overview of who collects one’s data and how becomes more nebulous.

Europeana’s reminder illustrates the assemblatic infrastructural set-up of
mass digitization projects and how they operate with multiple entry points,
each of which may attach its own infrapolitical dynamics. It also illustrates
the labyrinthine infrastructures of privacy settings, over which a mapping is
increasingly difficult to attain because of constant changes and
reconfigurations. It furthermore illustrates the changing legal order from the
relatively stable sovereign order of human rights obligations to the
modulating landscape of privacy policies.

How then might we characterize the infrapolitics of the spatial imaginaries of
mass digitization? As this chapter has sought to convey, writings about mass
digitization projects are shot through with spatialized metaphors, from the
flaneur to the labyrinth and the platform, either in literal terms or in the
imaginaries they draw on. While this section has analyzed these imaginaries in
a somewhat chronological fashion, with the interactivity of the platform
increasingly replacing the more passive gaze of the spectator, they coexist in
that larger complex of spatial digital thinking. While often used to elicit
uncomplicated visions of empowerment, desire, curiosity, and productivity,
these infrapolitical imaginaries in fact show the complexity of mass
digitization projects in their reinscription of users and cultural memory
institutions in new constellations of power and politics.

## Notes

1. Kelly 1994, p. 263. 2. Connection Machines were developed by the
supercomputer manufacturer Thinking Machines, a concept that also appeared in
Jorge Luis Borges’s _The Total Library_. 3. Brewster Kahle, “Transforming Our
Libraries from Analog to Digital: A 2020 Vision,” _Educause Review_ , March
13, 2017, from-analog-to-digital-a-2020-vision>. 4. Ibid. 5. Couze Venn, “The
Collection,” _Theory, Culture & Society_ 23, no. 2–3 (2006), 36. 6. Hacking
2010. 7. Lefebvre 2009. 8. Blair and Stallybrass 2010, 139–163. 9. Ibid., 143.
10. Dewey 1926, 311. 11. See, for instance, Lorraine Daston’s wonderful
account of the different types of historical consciousness we find in archives
across the sciences: Daston 2012. 12. David Weinberger, “Library as Platform,”
_Library Journal_ , September 4, 2012, /future-of-libraries/by-david-weinberger/#_>. 13. Nakamura 2002, 89. 14.
Shannon Mattern,”Library as Infrastructure,” _Places Journal_ , June 2014,
. 15. Couze
Venn, “The Collection,” _Theory, Culture & Society_ 23, no. 2–3 (2006), 35–40.
16. Žižek 2009, 39. 17. Voltaire, “Une grande bibliothèque a cela de bon,
qu’elle effraye celui qui la regarde,” in _Dictionaire Philosophique_ , 1786,
265. 18. In his autobiography, Borges asserted that it “was meant as a
nightmare version or magnification” of the municipal library he worked in up
until 1946. Borges describes his time at this library as “nine years of solid
unhappiness,” both because of his co-workers and the “menial” and senseless
cataloging work he performed in the small library. Interestingly, then, Borges
translated his own experience of being informationally underwhelmed into a
tale of informational exhaustion and despair. See “An Autobiographical Essay”
in _The Aleph and Other Stories_ , 1978, 243. 19. Borges 2001, 216. 20. Yeo
2003, 32. 21. Cited in Blair 2003, 11. 22. Bawden and Robinson 2009, 186. 23.
Garrett 1999. 24. Featherstone 2000, 166. 25. Thus, for instance, one
Europeana-related project with the apt acronym PATHS, argues for the need to
“make use of current knowledge of personalization to develop a system for
navigating cultural heritage collections that is based around the metaphor of
paths and trails through them” (Hall et al. 2012). See also Walker 2006. 26.
Inspiring texts for (early) spatial thinking of the Internet, see: Hayles
1993; Nakamura 2002; Chun 2006. 27. Much has been written about whether or not
it makes sense to frame digital realms and infrastructures in spatial terms,
and Wendy Chun has written an excellent account of the stakes of these
arguments, adding her own insightful comments to them; see chapter 1, “Why
Cyberspace?” in Chun 2013. 28. Cited in Hartmann 2004, 123–124. 29. Goldate
1996. 30. Featherstone 1998. 31. Dörk, Carpendale, and Williamson 2011, 1216.
32. Wilson 1992, 108. 33. Benjamin. 1985a, 40. 34. See, for instance, Natasha
Dow Schüll’s fascinating study of the addictive design of computational
culture: Schüll 2014. For an industry perspective, see Nir Eyal, _Hooked: How
to Build Habit-Forming Products_ (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
2014). 35. Wilson 1992, 93. 36. Indeed, it would be interesting to explore the
link between Susan Buck Morss’s reinterpretation of Benjamin’s anesthetic
shock of phantasmagoria and today’s digital dopamine production, as described
by Natasha Dow Schüll in _Addicted by Design_ (2014); see Buck-Morss 2006. See
also Bjelić 2016. 37. Wolff 1985; Pollock 1998. 38. Wilson 1992; Nord 1995;
Nava and O’Shea 1996, 38–76. 39. Hartmann 1999. 40. Smalls 2003, 356. 41.
Ibid., 357. 42. Cadogan 2016. 43. Marian Ryan, “The Disabled flaneur,” _New
York Times_ , December 12, 2017, /the-disabled-flaneur.html>. 44. Benjamin. 1985b, 54. 45. Evgeny Morozov, “The
Death of the Cyberflaneur,” _New York Times_ , February 4, 2012. 46. Eco 2014,
169. 47. See also Koevoets 2013. 48. In colloquial English, “labyrinth” is
generally synonymous with “maze,” but some people observe a distinction, using
maze to refer to a complex branching (multicursal) puzzle with choices of path
and direction, and using labyrinth for a single, non-branching (unicursal)
path, which leads to a center. This book, however, uses the concept of the
labyrinth to describe all labyrinthine infrastructures. 49. Doob 1994. 50.
Bloom 2009, xvii. 51. Might this be the labyrinthine logic detected by
Foucault, which unfolds only “within a hidden landscape,” revealing “nothing
that can be seen” and partaking in the “order of the enigma”; see Foucault
2004, 98. 52. Doob 1994, 97. Doob also finds this perspective in the
fourteenth century in Chaucer’s _House of Fame_ , in which the labyrinth
“becomes an emblem of the limitations of knowledge in this world, where all we
can finally do is meditate on _labor intus_ ” (ibid., 313). Lady Mary Wroth’s
work _Pamphilia to Amphilanthus_ provides the same imagery, telling the story
of the female heroine, Pamphilia, who fails to escape a maze but nevertheless
engages her experience within it as a source of knowledge. 53. Galloway 2013a,
29. 54. van Dijck 2012. 55. “Usage Stats for Europeana Collections,”
_EuropeanaPro,_ usage-statistics>. 56. Joris Pekel, “The Europeana Statistics Dashboard is
here,” _EuropeanaPro_ , April 6, 2016, /introducing-the-europeana-statistics-dashboard>. 57. Bates 2002, 32. 58. Veel
2003, 154. 59. Deleuze 2013, 56. 60. Interview with professor of library and
information science working with Europeana, Berlin, Germany, 2011. 61. Borges
mused upon the possible horrendous implications of such a lack, recounting two
labyrinthine scenarios he once imagined: “In the first, a man is supposed to
be making his way through the dusty and stony corridors, and he hears a
distant bellowing in the night. And then he makes out footprints in the sand
and he knows that they belong to the Minotaur, that the minotaur is after him,
and, in a sense, he, too, is after the minotaur. The Minotaur, of course,
wants to devour him, and since his only aim in life is to go on wandering and
wandering, he also longs for the moment. In the second sonnet, I had a still
more gruesome idea—the idea that there was no minotaur—that the man would go
on endlessly wandering. That may have been suggested by a phrase in one of
Chesterton’s Father Brown books. Chesterton said, ‘What a man is really afraid
of is a maze without a center.’ I suppose he was thinking of a godless
universe, but I was thinking of the labyrinth without a minotaur. I mean, if
anything is terrible, it is terrible because it is meaningless.” Borges and
Dembo 1970, 319. 62. Borges actually found a certain pleasure in the lack of
order, however, noting that “I not only feel the terror … but also, well, the
pleasure you get, let’s say, from a chess puzzle or from a good detective
novel.” Ibid. 63. Serendib, also spelled Serendip (Arabic Sarandīb), was the
Persian/Arabic word for the island of Sri Lanka, recorded in use as early as
AD 361. 64. Letter to Horace Mann, 28 January 1754, in _Walpole’s
Correspondence_ , vol. 20, 407–411. 65. As Robert Merton and Elinor Barber
note, it first made it into the OED in 1912 (Merton and Barber 2004, 72). 66.
Merton and Barber 2004, 40. 67. Lorraine Daston, “Are You Having Fun Today?,”
_London Review of Books_ , September 23, 2004. 68. Ibid. 69. Ibid. 70.
Featherstone 2000, 594. 71. Nancy Lusignan Schulz, “Serendipity in the
Archive,” _Chronicle of Higher Education_ , May 15, 2011,
. 72.
Verhoeven 2016, 18. 73. Caley 2017, 248. 74. Bishop 2016 75. “Oxford-Google
Digitization Project Reaches Milestone,” Bodleian Library and Radcliffe
Camera, March 26, 2009.
. 76. Timothy
Hill, David Haskiya, Antoine Isaac, Hugo Manguinhas, and Valentine Charles
(eds.), _Europeana Search Strategy_ , May 23, 2016,
.
77. “DPLAbot,” _Digital Public Library of America_ , .
78. “Q&A with EuropeanaBot developer,” _EuropeanaPro_ , August 20, 2013,
. 79. There
are of course many other examples, some of which offer greater interactivity,
such as the TroveNewsBot, which feeds off of the National Library of
Australia’s 370 million resources, allowing the user to send the bot any text
to get the bot digging through the Trove API for a matching result. 80.
Serendip-o-matic, n.d. . 81. Tristram Hunt,
“Online Is Fine, but History Is Best Hands On,” _Guardian_ July 3, 2011,
library-google-history>. 82. Davison 2009. 83. William McKeen, “Serendipity,”
_New York Times,_ (n.d.),
. 84. Carr 2006.
We find this argument once again in Aleks Krotoski, who highlights the man-
machine dichotomy, noting that the “controlled binary mechanics” of the search
engine actually make serendipitous findings “more challenging to find” because
“branching pathways of possibility are too difficult to code and don’t scale”
(Aleks Krokoski, “Digital serendipity: be careful what you don't wish for,”
_Guardian_ , August 11, 2011,
profiling-aleks-krotoski>.) 85. Lorraine Daston, “Are You Having Fun Today?,”
_London Review of Books_ , September 23, 2004. 86. Dan Cohen, “Planning for
Serendipity,” _DPLA_ News and Blog, February 7, 2014,
. 87. Shannon
Mattern, “Sharing Is Tables,” _e-flux_ , October 17, 2017,
furniture-for-digital-labor/>. 88. Greg Lindsay, “Engineering Serendipity,”
_New York Times_ , April 5, 2013,
serendipity.html>. 89. Gillespie 2017. 90. See, for instance, Milena Popova,
“Facebook Awards History App that Will Use Europeana’s Collections,”
_EuropeanaPro_ , March 7, 2014, awards-history-app-that-will-use-europeanas-collections>. 91. Doob 1994. 92.
“Europeana Strategy Impact 2015–2020,”
.
93. Ping-Huang 2016, 53. 94. Helmond 2015. 95. Ian Bogost and Nick Montfort.
2009. “Platform studies: freduently asked questions.” _Proceeding of the
Digital Arts and Culture Conference_.
. 96. Srnicek 2017; Helmond 2015;
Gillespie 2010. 97. “While a portal can present its aggregated content in a
way that invites exploration, the experience is always constrained—pre-
determined by a set of design decisions about what is necessary, relevant and
useful. Platforms put those design decisions back into the hands of users.
Instead of a single interface, there are innumerable ways of interacting with
the data.” See Tim Sherratt, “From Portals to Platforms; Building New
Frameworks for User Engagement,” National Library of Australia, November 5,
2013, platform>. 98. “Europeana Strategy Impact 2015–2020,”
.
99. Gillespie 2010, 349. 100. Fjeld and Fehn 2009, 108. 101. Gießmann 2015,
126. 102. See, for example, C. S. Lewis’s writings on Calvinism in _English
Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama_. Or how about
Presbyterian minster Lyman Beecher, who once noted in a sermon: “in organizing
any body, in philosophy, religion, or politics, you must _have_ a platform;
you must stand somewhere; on some solid ground.” Such a platform could gather
people, so that they could “settle on principles just as … bees settle in
swarms on the branches, fragrant with blossoms and flowers.” See Beecher 2012,
21. 103. “Platform, in architecture, is a row of beams which support the
timber-work of a roof, and lie on top of the wall, where the entablature ought
to be raised. This term is also used for a kind of terrace … from whence a
fair prospect may be taken of the adjacent country.” See Nicholson 1819. 104.
As evangelist Calvin Colton noted in his work on the US’s public economy, “We
find American capital and labor occupying a very different position from that
of the same things in Europe, and that the same treatment applied to both,
would not be beneficial to both. A system which is good for Great Britain may
be ruinous to the United States. … Great Britain is the only nation that is
prepared for Free Trade … on a platform of universal Free Trade, the advanced
position of Great Britain … in her skill, machinery, capital and means of
commerce, would make all the tributary to her; and on the same platform, this
distance between her and other nations … instead of diminishing, would be
forever increasing, till … she would become the focus of the wealth, grandeur,
and power of the world.” 105. Deleuze and Guattari 1987. 106. Solá-Morales
1999, 86. 107. Budds 2016. 108. Gillespie 2010, 351. 109. Gillespie 2010, 350.
Indeed, it might be worth resurrecting the otherwise-extinct notion of
“plotform” to reinscribe agency and planning into the word. See Tawa 2012.
110. As Olga Gurionova points out, platforms have historically played a
significant role in creative processes as a “set of shared resources that
might be material, organizational, or intentional that inscribe certain
practices and approaches in order to develop collaboration, production, and
the capacity to generate change.” Indeed, platforms form integral
infrastructures in the critical art world for alternative systems of
organization and circulation that could be mobilized to “disrupt
institutional, representational, and social powers.” See Olga Goriunova, _Art
Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet_ (New York: Routledge,
2012), 8. 111. Trebor Scholz, “Platform Cooperativism vs. the Sharing
Economy,” _Medium_ , December 5, 2016, cooperativism-vs-the-sharing-economy-2ea737f1b5ad>. 112. Srnicek 2017, 28–29.
113. Nakamura 2013, 243. 114. John Zysman and Martin Kennedy, “The Next Phase
in the Digital Revolution: Platforms, Automation, Growth, and Employment,”
_ETLA Reports_ 61, October 17, 2016, /ETLA-Raportit-Reports-61.pdf>. 115. Europeana’s privacy page explicitly notes
this, reminding the user that, “this site may contain links to other websites
that are beyond our control. This privacy policy applies solely to the
information you provide while visiting this site. Other websites which you
link to may have privacy policies that are different from this Privacy
Policy.” See “Privacy and Terms,” _Europeana Collections_ ,
.

# 6
Concluding Remarks

I opened this book claiming that the notion of mass digitization has shifted
from a professional concept to a cultural political phenomenon. If the former
denotes a technical way of duplicating analog material in digital form, mass
digitization as a cultural practice is a much more complex apparatus. On the
one hand, it offers the simple promise of heightened public and private access
to—and better preservation of—the past; one the other, it raises significant
political questions about ethics, politics, power, and care in the digital
sphere. I locate the emergence of these questions within the infrastructures
of mass digitization and the ways in which they not only offer new ways of
reading, viewing, and structuring cultural material, but also new models of
value and its extraction, and new infrastructures of control. The political
dynamic of this restructuring, I suggest, may meaningfully be referred to as a
form of infrapolitics, insofar as the political work of mass digitization
often happens at the level of infrastructure, in the form of standardization,
dissent, or both. While mass digitization entwines the cultural politics of
analog artifacts and institutions with the infrapolitical logics of the new
digital economies and technologies, there is no clear-cut distinction between
between the analog and digital realms in this process. Rather, paraphrasing N.
Katherine Hayles, I suggest that mass digitization, like a Janus-figure,
“looks to past and future, simultaneously reinforcing and undermining both.”1

A persistent challenge in the study of mass digitization is the mutability of
the analytical object. The unstable nature of cultural memory archives is not
a new phenomenon. As Derrida points out, they have always been haunted by an
unintended instability, which he calls “archive fever.” Yet, mass digitization
appears to intensify this instability even further, both in its material and
cultural instantiations. Analog preservation practices that seek to stabilize
objects are in the digital realm replaced with dynamic processes of content
migration and software updates. Cultural memory objects become embedded in
what Wendy Chun has referred to as the enduring ephemerality of the digital as
well as the bleeding edge of obsolescence.2

Indeed, from the moment when the seed for this book was first planted to the
time of its publication, the landscape of mass digitization, and the political
battles waged on its maps, has changed considerably. Google Books—which a
decade ago attracted the attention, admiration, and animosity of all—recently
metamorphosed from a giant flood to a quiet trickle. After a spectacle of
press releases on quantitative milestones, epic legal battles, and public
criticisms, Google apparently lost interest in Google Books. Google’s gradual
abandonment of the project resembled more an act of prolonged public ghosting
than a clear-cut break-up, leaving the public to read in between the lines
about where the company was headed: scanning activities dwindled; the Google
Books blog closed along with its Twitter feed; press releases dried up; staff
was laid off; and while scanning activities are still ongoing, they are
limited to works in the public domain, changing the scale considerably.3 One
commentator diagnosed the change of strategy as the demise of “the greatest
humanistic project of our time.”4 Others acknowledged in less dramatic terms
that while Google’s scanning activities may have stopped, its legacy lives on
and is still put to active use.5

In the present context, the important point to make is that a quiet life does
not necessarily equal death. Indeed, this is the lesson we learn from
attending to the subtle workings of infrastructure: the politics of
infrastructure is the politics of what goes on behind the curtains, not only
what is launched to the front page. Thus, as one engineer notes when
confronted with the fate of Google Books, “We’re not focused on shiny features
and things that are very visible to users. … It’s more like behind-the-scenes
work and perfecting the technology—acquiring content, processing it properly
so that we can view the entire book online, and adjusting the search
algorithm.”6 This is a timely reminder that any analysis of the infrapolitics
of mass digitization has to tend not only to the visible and loud politics of
construction, but also the quiet and ongoing politics of infrastructure
maintenance. It makes no sense to write an obituary for Google Books if the
infrastructure is still at work. Moreover, the assemblatic nature of mass
digitization also demands that we do not stop at the immediate borders of a
project when making analytical claims about their infrapolitics. Thus, while
Google Books may have stopped in its tracks, other trains of mass digitization
have pulled up instead, carrying the project of mass digitization forward
toward new, divergent, and experimental sites. Google’s different engagements
with cultural digitization shows that an analysis of the politics of Google’s
memory work needs to operate with an assemblatic method, rather than a
delineating approach.7 Europeana and DPLA also are mutable analytical objects,
both in economic and cultural form. Therefore, Europeana leads a precarious
life from one EU budget framework to the next, and its cultural identity and
software instantiations have transformed from a digital library, to a portal,
to a platform over the course of only a few decades. Last, but not least,
shadow libraries are mediating and multiplying cultural memory objects from
servers and mirror links that sometimes die just as quickly as they emerged.
The question of institutionalization matters greatly in this respect,
outlining what we might call a spectrum of contingency. If a mass digitization
project lives in the margins of institutions, such as in the case of many
shadow libraries, its infrastructure is often fraught with uncertainties. Less
precarious, but nonetheless tumultuous, are the corporate institutions with
their increasingly short market-driven lifespans. And, at the other end of the
spectrum, we find mass digitization projects embedded in bureaucratic
apparatuses whose lumbering budget processes provide publically funded mass
digitization projects with more stable infrastructures.

The temporal dimension of mass digitization projects also raises important
questions about the horizon of cultural memory in material terms. Should mass
digitization, one might ask, also mean whither analog cultural memory? This
question seems relevant not least in cases where institutions consider
digitization as a form of preservation that allows them to discard analog
artifacts once digitized. In digital form, we further have to contend with a
new temporal horizon of cultural memory itself, based not on only on
remembrance but on anticipation in the manner of “If you liked this, you might
also like. ….” Thus, while cultural memory objects link to objects of the
past, mass digitized cultural memory also gives rise to new methods of
prediction and preemption, for instance in the form of personalization. In
this anticipatory regime, cultural memory becomes subject to perpetual
calculatory activities, processing affects, and activities in terms of
likelihoods and probabilistic outcomes.

Thus, cultural memory has today become embedded in new glocalized
infrastructures. On the one hand, these infrastructures present novel
opportunities. Cultural optimists have suggested that mass digitization has
the potential to give rise to new cosmopolitan public spheres tethered from
the straitjackets of national territorializing forces. On the other hand,
critics argue that there is little evidence that cosmopolitan dynamics are in
fact at work. Instead, new colonial and neoliberal platforms arise from a
complex infrastructural apparatus of private and public institutions and
become shaped by political, financial, and social struggles over
representation, control, and ownership of knowledge.

In summary, it is obvious that the scale of mass digitization, public and
private, licit and illicit, has transformed how we engage with texts, cultural
works, and cultural memory. People today have instant access to a wealth of
works that would previously have required large amounts of money, as well as
effort, to engage with. Most of us enjoy the new cultural freedoms we have
been given to roam the archives, collecting and exploring oddities along the
way, and making new connections between works that would previously have been
held separate by taxonomy, geography, and time in the labyrinthine material
and social infrastructures of cultural memory.

A special attraction of mass digitization no doubt lies in its unfathomable
scale and linked nature, and the fantasy and “spectacle of collecting.”8 The
new cultural environment allows the user to accelerate the pace of information
by accessing key works instantly as well as idly rambling in the exotic back
alleys of digitized culture. Mass digitized archives can be explored to
functional, hedonistic, and critical ends (sometimes all at the same time),
and can be used to exhume forgotten works, forgotten authors, and forgotten
topics. Within this paradigm, the user takes center stage—at least
discursively. Suddenly, a link made between a porn magazine and a Courbet
painting could well be a valued cultural connection instead of a frowned-upon
transgression in the halls of high culture. Users do not just download books;
they also upload new folksonomies, “ego-documents,” and new cultural
constellations, which are all welcomed in the name of “citizen science.”
Digitization also infuses texts with new life due to its new connective
properties that allow readers and writers to intimately and
exhibitionistically interact around cultural works, and it provides new ways
of engaging with texts as digital reading migrates toward service-based rather
than hardware-based models of consumption. Digitization allows users to
digitally collect works themselves and indulge in alluring archival riches in
new ways.

But mass digitization also gives rise to a range of new ethical, political,
aesthetic, and methodological questions concerning the spatio-temporality,
ownership, territoriality, re-use, and dissemination of cultural memory
artifacts. Some of those dimensions have been discussed in detail in the
present work and include questions about digital labor, platformization,
management of visibility, ownership, copyright, and other new forms of control
and de- and recentralization and privatization processes. Others have only
been alluded to but continue to gain in relevance as processes of mass
digitization excavate and make public sensitive and contested archival
material. Thus, as the cultural memories and artifacts of indigenous
populations, colonized territories and other marginalized groups are brought
online, as well as artifacts that attest to the violent regimes of colonialism
and patriarchy, an attendant need has emerged for an ethics of care that goes
beyond simplistic calls for right to access, to instead attend to the
sensitivity of the digitized material and the ways in which we encounter these
materials.

Combined, these issues show that mass digitization is far from a
straightforward technical affair. Rather, the productive dimensions of mass
digitization emerge from the rubble of disruptive and turbulent political
processes that violently dislocate established frontiers and power dynamics
and give rise to new ones that are yet to be interpreted. Within these
turbulent processes, the familiar narratives of empowered users collecting and
connecting works and ideas in new and transgressive ways all too often leave
out the simultaneous and integrated story of how the labyrinthine
infrastructures of mass digitization also writes itself on the back of the
users, collecting them and their thoughts in the process, and subjecting them
to new economic logics and political regimes. As Lisa Nakamura reminds us, “by
availing ourselves of its networked virtual bookshelves to collect and display
our readerliness in a postprint age, we have become objects to be collected.”9
Thus, as we gather vintage images on Pinterest, collect books in Google Books,
and retweet sounds files from Europeana, we do best not only to question the
cultural logic and ethics of these actions but also to remember that as we
collect and connect, we are also ourselves collected and connected.

If the power of mass digitization happens at the level of infrastructure,
political resistance will have to take the form of infrastructural
intervention. We play a role in the formulation of the ethics of such
interventions, and as such we have to be willing to abandon the predominant
tropes of scale, access, and acceleration in favor of an infrapolitics of
care—a politics that offers opportunities for mindful, slow, and focused
encounters.

## Notes

1. Hayles 1999, 17. 2. Chun. 2008; Chun 2017. 3. Murrell 2017. 4. James
Somers, “Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria,” _The Atlantic_ ,
April 20, 2017. 5. Jennifer Howard, “What Happened to Google’s Effort to Scan
Millions of University Library Books?,” _EdSurge_ , August 10, 2017,
scan-millions-of-university-library-books>. 6. Scott Rosenberg, “How Google
Books Got Lost,” _Wired_ , November 4, 2017, /how-google-book-search-got-lost>. 7. What to make, for instance, of the new
trend of employing Google’s neural networks to find one’s museum doppelgänger
from the company’s image database? Or the fact that Google Cultural Institute
is consistently turning out new cultural memory hacks such as its cardboard VR
glasses, its indoor mapping of museum spaces, and its gigapixel Art Camera
which reproduces artworks in uncanny detail. Or the expansion of their remit
from cultural memory institutions to also encompass natural history museums?
See, for example, Adrien Chen, “The Google Arts & Culture App and the Rise of
the ‘Coded Gaze,’” _New Yorker_ , January 26, 2018,
the-rise-of-the-coded-gaze-doppelganger>. 8. Nakamura 2013, 240. 9. Ibid.,
241.

#
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© 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Thylstrup, Nanna Bonde, author.

Title: The politics of mass digitization / Nanna Bonde Thylstrup.

Description: Cambridge, MA : The MIT Press, [2018] | Includes bibliographical
references and index.

Identifiers: LCCN 2018010472 | ISBN 9780262039017 (hardcover : alk. paper)

eISBN 9780262350044

Subjects: LCSH: Library materials--Digitization. | Archival materials--
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Classification: LCC Z701.3.D54 T49 2018 | DDC 025.8/4--dc23 LC record
available at

Constant
Mondotheque: A Radiated Book
2016


P.1

Mondotheque::a
radiated
book/
un
livre
irradiant/
een
irradiërend
boek

P.2

P.3

Index
• Mondotheque::a radiated book/un livre irradiant/een
irradiërend boek
◦ Property:Person (agents + actors)
◦ EN Introduction
◦ FR Préface
◦ NL Inleiding
• Embedded hierarchies
◦ FR+NL+EN A radiating interview/Un entrevue irradiant/Een irradiërend gesprek
◦ EN Amateur Librarian - A Course in Critical Pedagogy TOMISLAV MEDAK &
MARCELL MARS (Public Library project)
◦ FR Bibliothécaire amateur - un cours de pédagogie critique TOMISLAV MEDAK
& MARCELL MARS







EN

A bag but is language nothing of words MICHAEL MURTAUGH
A Book of the Web DUSAN BAROK
EN
The Indexalist MATTHEW FULLER
NL
De Indexalist MATTHEW FULLER
FR
Une lecture-écriture du livre sur le livre ALEXIA DE VISSCHER
EN

• Disambiguation
◦ EN An experimental transcript SÎNZIANA PĂLTINEANU
◦ EN+FR LES UTOPISTES and their common logos/et leurs logos communs
DENNIS POHL





EN

X = Y DICK RECKARD
Madame C/Mevrouw C FEMKE SNELTING
EN
A Pre-emptive History of the Google Cultural Institute GERALDINE
EN+NL

JUÁREZ




FR
EN

Une histoire préventive du Google Cultural Institute GERALDINE JUÁREZ
Special:Disambiguation

• Location, location, location
◦ EN From Paper Mill to Google Data Center SHINJOUNG YEO
◦ EN House, City, World, Nation, Globe NATACHA ROUSSEL
◦ EN The Smart City - City of Knowledge DENNIS POHL
◦ FR La ville intelligente - Ville de la connaissance DENNIS POHL
◦ EN The Itinerant Archive
• Cross-readings
◦ EN Les Pyramides
◦ EN Transclusionism
◦ EN Reading list
◦ FR+EN+NL Colophon/Colofon
Last
Revision:
2·08·2016

P.4

P.5

Property:Person
Meet the cast of historical, contemporary and fictional people that populate La
Mondotheque.

Unknown man,Andrew
Warden Boyd Carnegie
Rayward, Françoise
Levie, Alex Wright

André CanonneArni Jonsson , Barack ObamaBernard Otlet Bernard Otlet, Bernard Otlet, Bill Echikson
Sauli Niinistö
Patrick
Patrick
Lafontaine Lafontaine

Bill Echikson, Delphine JenartDelphine Jenart,
Elio Di Rupo Unknown man,Elio Di Rupo, Elio Di Rupo, Elio Di Rupo, Sylvia Van
Delphine Jenart
Nooka Kiili ,
Elio Di Rupo, Sylvia Van Sylvia Van Thierry GeertsPeteghem, Elio
Joyce Proot
Roi Albert II, Peteghem
Peteghem
Di Rupo, JeanJean-Claude
Paul Deplus
Marcourt

Elio Di Rupo, Elio Di Rupo, Elio Di Rupo, Elio Di Rupo Alexander De Elio Di Rupo, Nicolas Sarkozy,
Eric E. SchmidtErnest de Potter
Thierry Geerts,Guy Quaden , Rudy Demotte
Croo, Elio Di Unknown man,Eric E. Schmidt
Unknown man Yves Vasseur
Rupo
Roi Albert II,
Jean-Claude
Marcourt

Evgeny
Rodionov

P.6

Stéphanie
Alexia de Visscher,
Femke Snelting,Robert M. Nicolas Malevé,
Stéphanie
Stéphanie
François
Manfroid, Femke
Michael Murtaugh,
Dennis Pohl, Ochshorn, JanMichael
Manfroid, Femke
Manfroid, Femke
Schuiten
Snelting, Dick Femke Snelting,Alexia de
Gerber , FemkeMurtaugh, Alexia
Snelting, Natacha
Snelting, Natacha
Reckard
Sînziana
Visscher, Andre
Snelting, Marcell
de Visscher, Roussel, Dick Roussel, Dick
Castro
Mars, Sebastian
Femke Snelting,Reckard
Reckard
Păltineanu, Nicolas
Luetgert , Donatella
Sînziana
Malevé
Portoghese Păltineanu

P.7

Gustave AbeelsHarm Post

Henri La
Fontaine

Henri La
Fontaine

Henri La
Fontaine

Mathilde Lhoest,
Henri La
Henri La
Fontaine
Fontaine

Igor PlatounoffWilhelmina
Coops, Igor
Platounoff

Annie Besant, Jean François Jean Otlet Jr. Bill Echikson, Jean-Paul Deplus
Annie Besant, Louis Masure,Unidentified Woman,
Marcel Flamion
Jean Delville Fueg
Jean-Paul Deplus
Jiddu
Mademoiselle Poels,
Mademoiselle Poels
Krishnamurti Mademoiselle de
Bauche

Marie-Louise Paul Otlet, Paul Otlet
Philips
Madame Taupin
, Pierre
Bourgeois

Paul Otlet

Wilhelmina Paul Otlet
Coops, Paul
Otlet

Marie Van Paul Otlet, Cato
Paul Otlet, Cato
Mons , Paul van Nederhasselt
van Nederhasselt
Otlet

Unidentified Wilhelmina Paul Otlet
Woman, Paul Coops, Paul
Otlet
Otlet

Paul Otlet

Jiddu Krishnamurti
Paul Otlet
, Paul Otlet, Jean
Delville

Unidentified Paul Otlet
Woman, Paul
Otlet, Georges
Lorphèvre

P.8

Paul Otlet

P.9

Cato van
Le Corbusier, Paul Otlet,
Nederhasselt, Paul
Paul Otlet, Georges
Otlet
Hélène de
Lorphèvre
Mandrot

Unidentified Paul Otlet, Henri
Paul Otlet
Woman, Jean La Fontaine,
Delville, Paul Mathilde Lhoest
Otlet, Henri La
Fontaine

Unidentified Unidentified Paul Otlet, Unidentified Paul Otlet,
Woman, Paul Woman, Paul Mathilde La Woman, W.E.B.
Unidentified
Otlet
Otlet, GeorgesFontaine , Henri
Du Bois, Paul Woman
Lorphèvre
La Fontaine Otlet, Henri La
Fontaine, Jean
Delville

Paul Panda, Unidentified Paul Otlet
Unidentified Woman, Paul
Woman, HenriOtlet
La
Fontaine, Cato van
Nederhasselt, Paul
Otlet, W.E.B. Du
Bois, Blaise Diagne
, Mathilde Lhoest

Unidentified Woman,
Sebastien
Paul Otlet, Cato
Delneste
van
Nederhasselt, Georges
Lorphèvre, André
Colet, Thea Coops,
Broese van Groenou

Steve Crossan Stéphanie
Manfroid

Sylvia Van
Peteghem

Thea Coops Unidentified Unidentified Unidentified Unidentified Unidentified Unidentified Unidentified
Woman
Woman
Woman
Woman, LouisWoman
Woman, LouisWoman
Masure
Masure

Unidentified Unidentified Unidentified Unidentified Unidentified Unidentified Vint Cerf, Chris
Vint Cerf
Woman
Woman
Woman
Woman
Woman
Woman
Burns

P.10

Vint Cerf

P.11

Wilhelmina
Coops

Wilhelmina
Coops

Wilhelmina
Coops

Wilhelmina
Coops

Yves Bernard

Introduction
This Radiated Book started three years ago with an e-mail from the Mundaneum archive
center in Mons. It announced that Elio di Rupo, then prime minister of Belgium, was about
to sign a collaboration agreement between the archive center and Google. The newsletter
cited an article in the French newspaper Le Monde that coined the Mundaneum as 'Google
on paper' [1]. It was our first encounter with many variations on the same theme.
The former mining area around Mons is also where Google has installed its largest
datacenter in Europe, a result of negotiations by the same Di Rupo[2]. Due to the re-branding
of Paul Otlet as ‘founding father of the Internet’, Otlet's oeuvre finally started to receive
international attention. Local politicians wanting to transform the industrial heartland into a
home for The Internet Age seized the moment and made the Mundaneum a central node in
their campaigns. Google — grateful for discovering its posthumous francophone roots — sent
chief evangelist Vint Cerf to the Mundaneum. Meanwhile, the archive center allowed the
company to publish hundreds of documents on the website of Google Cultural Institute.
While the visual resemblance between a row of index drawers and a server park might not
be a coincidence, it is something else to conflate the type of universalist knowledge project
imagined by Paul Otlet and Henri Lafontaine with the enterprise of the search giant. The
statement 'Google on paper' acted as a provocation, evoking other cases in other places
where geographically situated histories are turned into advertising slogans, and cultural
infrastructures pushed into the hands of global corporations.
An international band of artists, archivists and activists set out to unravel the many layers of
this mesh. The direct comparison between the historical Mundaneum project and the mission
of Alphabet Inc[3] speaks of manipulative simplification on multiple levels, but to de-tangle its
implications was easier said than done. Some of us were drawn in by misrepresentations of
the oeuvre of Otlet himself, others felt the need to give an account of its Brussels' roots, to reinsert the work of maintenance and caretaking into the his/story of founding fathers, or joined
out of concern with the future of cultural institutions and libraries in digital times.
We installed a Semantic MediaWiki and named it after the Mondotheque, a device
imagined by Paul Otlet in 1934. The wiki functioned as an online repository and frame of
reference for the work that was developed through meetings, visits and presentations[4]. For
Otlet, the Mondotheque was to be an 'intellectual machine': at the same time archive, link
generator, writing desk, catalog and broadcast station. Thinking the museum, the library, the
encyclopedia, and classificatory language as a complex and interdependent web of relations,
Otlet imagined each element as a point of entry for the other. He stressed that responses to

P.12

P.13

displays in a museum involved intellectual and social processes that where different from
those involved in reading books in a library, but that one in a sense entailed the other. [5]. The
dreamed capacity of his Mondotheque was to interface scales, perspectives and media at the
intersection of all those different practices. For us, by transporting a historical device into the
future, it figured as a kind of thinking machine, a place to analyse historical and social
locations of the Mundaneum project, a platform to envision our persistent interventions
together. The speculative figure of Mondotheque enabled us to begin to understand the
situated formations of power around the project, and allowed us to think through possible
forms of resistance. [6]
The wiki at http://mondotheque.be grew into a labyrinth of images, texts, maps and semantic
links, tools and vocabularies. MediaWiki is a Free software infrastructure developed in the
context of Wikipedia and comes with many assumptions about the kind of connections and
practices that are desirable. We wanted to work with Semantic extensions specifically
because we were interested in the way The Semantic Web[7] seemed to resemble Otlet's
Universal Decimal Classification system. At many moments we felt ourselves going down
rabbit-holes of universal completeness, endless categorisation and nauseas of scale. It made
the work at times uncomfortable, messy and unruly, but it allowed us to do the work of
unravelling in public, mixing political urgency with poetic experiments.
This Radiated Book was made because we wanted to create a moment, an incision into that
radiating process that allowed us to invite many others a look at the interrelated materials
without the need to provide a conclusive document. As a salute to Otlet's ever expanding
Radiated Library, we decided to use the MediaWiki installation to write, edit and generate
the publication which explains some of the welcome anomalies on the very pages of this
book.
The four chapters that we propose each mix fact and fiction, text and image, document and
catalogue. In this way, process and content are playing together and respond to the specific
material entanglements that we encountered. Mondotheque, and as a consequence this
Radiated book, is a multi-threaded, durational, multi-scalar adventure that in some way
diffracts the all-encompassing ambition that the 19th century Utopia of Mundaneum stood
for.
Embedded hierarchies addresses how classification systems, and the dream of their universal
application actually operate. It brings together contributions that are concerned with
knowledge infrastructures at different scales, from disobedient libraries, institutional practices
of the digital archive, meta-data structures to indexing as a pathological condition.
Disambiguation dis-entangles some of the similarities that appear around the heritage of Paul
Otlet. Through a close-reading of seemingly similar biographies, terms and vocabularies it relocates ambiguity to other places.

Location, location, location is an account of geo-political layers at work. Following the
itinerant archive of Mundaneum through the capital of Europe, we encounter local, national
and global Utopias that in turn leave their imprint on the way the stories play out. From the
hyperlocal to the global, this chapter traces patterns in the physical landscape.
Cross-readings consists of lists, image collections and other materials that make connections
emerge between historical and contemporary readings, unearthing possible spiritual or
mystical underpinnings of the Mundaneum, and transversal inclusions of the same elements in
between different locations.
The point of modest operations such as Mondotheque is to build the collective courage to
persist in demanding access to both the documents and the intellectual and technological
infrastructures that interface and mediate them. Exactly because of the urgency of the
situation, where the erosion of public institutions has become evident, and all forms of
communication seem to feed into neo-liberal agendas eventually, we should resist
simplifications and find the patience to build a relation to these histories in ways that makes
sense. It is necessary to go beyond the current techno-determinist paradigm of knowledge
production, and for this, imagination is indispensable.

Paul Otlet, design for Mondotheque (Mundaneum archive center, Mons)
Last
Revision:
2·08·2016

1. Jean-Michel Djian, Le Mundaneum, Google de papier, Le Monde Magazine, 19 december 2009

P.14

P.15

2. « À plusieurs
reprises, on a eu chaud, parce qu’il était prévu qu’au moindre couac sur ce point, Google arrêtait tout » Libre Belgique, 27 april
2007
3. Sergey and I are seriously in the business of starting new things. Alphabet will also include our X lab, which incubates new
efforts like Wing, our drone delivery effort. We are also stoked about growing our investment arms, Ventures and Capital, as
part of this new structure. Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly-traded entity (...) Google will become a whollyowned subsidiary of Alphabet https://abc.xyz/
4. http://mondotheque.be
5. The Mundaneum is an Idea, an Institution, a Method, a Body of workmaterials and Collections, a Building, a Network. Paul
Otlet, Monde (1935)
6. The analyses of these themes are transmitted through narratives -- mythologies or fictions, which I have renamed as "figurations"
or cartographies of the present. A cartography is a politically informed map of one's historical and social locations, enabling the
analysis of situated formations of power and hence the elaboration of adequate forms of resistance Rosi Braidotti, Nomadic
Theory (2011)
7. Some people have said, "Why do I need the Semantic Web? I have Google!" Google is great for helping people find things, yes!
But finding things more easily is not the same thing as using the Semantic Web. It's about creating things from data you've
complied yourself, or combining it with volumes (think databases, not so much individual documents) of data from other sources
to make new discoveries. It's about the ability to use and reuse vast volumes of data. Yes, Google can claim to index billions of
pages, but given the format of those diverse pages, there may not be a whole lot more the search engine tool can reliably do.
We're looking at applications that enable transformations, by being able to take large amounts of data and be able to run models
on the fly - whether these are financial models for oil futures, discovering the synergies between biology and chemistry researchers
in the Life Sciences, or getting the best price and service on a new pair of hiking boots. Tim Berners-Lee interviewed in
Consortium Standards Bulletin, 2005 http://www.consortiuminfo.org/bulletins/semanticweb.php

P.20

P.21
Embedded
hierarchies

P.26

P.27

A
radiating
interview/
Un
entrevue
irradiant/
Een
irradiërend
gesprek
Stéphanie Manfroid and Raphaèle Cornille are responsible for the
Mundaneum archives in Mons. We speak with them about the relationship
between the universe of Otlet and the concrete practice of scanning, meta-data
and on-line publishing, and the possibilities and limitations of their work with
Google. How to imagine a digital archive that could include the multiple
relationships between all documents in the collection? How the make visible
the continuous work of describing, maintaining and indexing?

EN

The interview is part of a series of interviews with Belgian knowledge
institutions and their vision on digital information sharing. The voices of Sylvia
Van Peteghem and Dries Moreels (Ghent University), Églantine Lebacq and
Marc d'Hoore (Royal library of Belgium) resonate on the following pages.
We hear from them about the differences and similarities in how the three
institutions deal with the unruly practice of digital heritage.

The full interviews with the Royal Library of Belgium and Ghent University
Library can be found in the on-line publication.

• RC = Raphaèle Cornille (Mundaneum archive center, responsable des collections
iconographiques)
• SM = Stéphanie Manfroid (Mundaneum archive center, responsable des archives)
• ADV = Alexia de Visscher
• FS = Femke Snelting

Mons, 21 avril 2016
PAS MAL DE CHOSES À FAIRE

ADV : Dans votre politique de numérisation, quelle infrastructure d’accès envisagez-vous et
pour quel type de données et de métadonnées ?
RC : On numérise depuis longtemps au Mundaneum, depuis 1995. À l’époque, il y avait
déjà du matériel de numérisation. Forcément pas avec les même outils que l’on a aujourd’hui,
on n’imaginait pas avoir accès aux bases de données sur le net. Il y a eu des évolutions
techniques, technologiques qui ont été importantes. Ce qui fait que pendant quelques années
on a travaillé avec le matériel qui était toujours présent en interne, mais pas vraiment avec un
plan de numérisation sur le long terme. Juste pour répondre à des demandes, soit pour nous,
parce qu’on avait des publications ou des expositions ou parce qu’on avait des demandes
extérieures de reproductions.
L’objectif évidemment c’est de pouvoir mettre à la disposition du public tout ce qui a été
numérisé. Il faut savoir que nous avons une base de données qui s’appelle Pallas[1] qui a été
soutenue par la Communauté Française depuis 2003. Malheureusement, le logiciel nous
pose pas mal de problème. On a déjà tenté des intégrations d’images et ça ne s’affiche pas
toujours correctement. Parfois on a des fiches descriptives mais nous n’avons pas l’image qui
correspond.
SM : Les archives soutenues par la Communauté française, mais aussi d’autres centres, ont
opté pour Pallas. C’est ainsi que ce système permettait une compréhension des archives en
Belgique et en Communauté française notamment.

L’idée c’est que les centres d’archives utilisent tous un même système. C’est une belle
initiative, et dans ce cadre là, c’était l’idée d’avoir une plateforme générale, où toutes les
sources liées aux archives publiques, enfin les archives soutenues par la Communauté
Française - qui ne sont pas publiques d’ailleurs - puissent être accessibles à un seul et même
endroit.
RC : Il y avait en tout cas cette idée par la suite, d’avoir une plate-forme commune, qui
s’appelle numériques.be[2]. Malheureusement, ce qu’on trouve sur numeriques.be ne
correspond au contenu sur Pallas, ce sont deux structures différentes. En gros, si on veut
diffuser sur les deux, c’est deux fois le travail.
En plus, ils n’ont pas configuré numérique.be pour qu’il puisse être moissonné par
Europeana[3]. Il y a des normes qui ne correspondent pas encore.
SM : Ce sont des choix politiques là. Et nous on dépend de ça. Et nous, nous dépendons de
choix généraux. Il est important que l’on comprenne bien la situation d'centre d’archives
comme le nôtre. Sa place dans le paysage patrimoniale belge et francophone également.
Notre intention est de nous situer tant dans ce cadre qu’à un niveau européen mais aussi
international. Ce ne sont pas des combinaisons si aisées que cela à mettre en place pour ces
différents publics ou utilisateurs par exemple.
RC : Soit il y a un problème technique, soit il y a un problème d’autorisation. Il faut savoir
que c’est assez complexe au niveau des métadonnées, il y a pas mal de choses à faire. On a
pendant tout un temps numérisé, mais on a généré les métadonnées au fur et à mesure, donc
il y aussi un gros travail à réaliser par rapport à ça. Normalement, pour le début 2017 on
envisagera le passage à Europeana avec des métadonnées correctes et le fait qu’on puisse
verser des fichiers corrects.
C’est assez lourd comme travail parce que nous devons générer les métadonnées à chaque
fois. Si vous prenez le Dublin Core[4], c’est à chaque fois 23 champs à remplir par document.
On essaye de remplir le maximum. De temps en temps, ça peut être assez lourd quand
même.
LA VIE DE LA PIÈCE

FS : Pouvez-vous nous parler du détail de la lecture des documents d’Otlet et de la rédaction
de leur description, le passage d’un document « Otletien » à une version numérisée ?

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RC : Il faut déjà au minimum avoir un inventaire. Il faut
que les pièces soient numérotées, sinon c’est un peu
difficile de retracer tout le travail. Parfois, ça passe par
une petite phase de restauration parce qu’on a des
documents poussiéreux et quand on scanne ça se voit.
Parfois, on doit faire des mises à plat, pour les journaux
par exemple, parce qu’ils sont pliés dans les boîtes. Ça
prend déjà un petit moment avant de pouvoir les
numériser. Ensuite, on va scanner le document, ça c’est la
partie la plus facile. On le met sur le scanner, on appuie
sur un bouton, presque.
Si c’est un manuscrit, on ne va pas pouvoir océriser. Par
contre, si c’est un document imprimé, là, on va l’océriser
en sachant qu’il va falloir le revérifier par la suite, parce
qu’il y a toujours un pourcentage d’erreur. Par exemple,
dans les journaux, en fonction de la typographie, si vous
avez des mots qui sont un peu effacés avec le temps, il
faut vérifier tout ça. Et puis, on va générer les
métadonnées Dublin Core. L’identifiant, un titre, tout ce
qui concerne les contributeurs : éditeurs, illustrateurs,
imprimeurs etc . c’est une description, c’est une
indexation par mots clefs, c’est une date, c’est une
localisation géographique, si il y en a une. C’est aussi,
faire des liens avec soit des ressources en interne soit des
ressources externes. Donc par exemple, moi si je pense à
une affiche, si elle a été dans une exposition si elle a été
publiée, il faut mettre toutes les références.

From Voor elk boek is een gebruiker:
SVP: Wij scannen op een totaal
andere manier. Bij Google gaat het
om massa-productie. Wij kiezen zelf
voor kleinere projecten. We hebben
een vaste ploeg, twee mensen die
voltijds scannen en beelden
verwerken, maar daarmee begin je
niet aan een project van 250.000
boeken. We doen wel een scan-ondemand of selecteren volledige
collecties. Toen we al onze
2.750.000 fiches enkele jaren
geleden door een externe firma lieten
scannen had ik medelijden met de
meisjes die de hele dag de
invoerscanner bedienden. Hopeloos
saai.
From X = Y:
According to the ideal image
described in "Traité", all the tasks of
collecting, translating, distributing,
should be completely automatic,
seemingly without the necessity of
human intervention. However, the
Mundaneum hired dozens of women
to perform these tasks. This humanrun version of the system was not
considered worth mentioning, as if it
was a temporary in-between phase
that should be overcome as soon as
possible, something that was staining
the project with its vulgarity.

SM : La vie de la pièce.
RC : Et faire le lien par exemple vers d’autres fonds, une autre lettre… Donc, vous avez
vraiment tous les liens qui sont là. Et puis, vous avez la description du fichier numérique en
lui-même. Nous on a à chaque fois quatre fichiers numériques : Un fichier RAW, un fichier
Tiff en 300 DPI, un JPEG en 300 DPI et un dernier JPE en 72 DPI, qui sont en fait les
trois formats qu’on utilise le plus. Et puis, là pareil, vous remettez un titre, une date, vous
avez aussi tout ce qui concerne les autorisations, les droits… Pour chaque document il y a
tout ces champs à remplir.
SM : Face à un schéma d’Otlet, on se demandait parfois ce que sont tous ces gribouillons.
On ne comprend pas tout de suite grand chose.
FS : Qui fait la description ? Plusieurs personnes ou quelqu’un qui travaille seul ?

RC : Ça demande quand même une certaine discipline, de la concentration et du temps pour
pouvoir le faire bien.
RC : Généralement c’est quelqu’un seul qui décrit. Là c’est un texte libre, donc c’est encore
assez facile. Maintenant quand vous devez indexer, il faut utiliser des Thesaurus existants, ce
qui n’est pas toujours facile parce que parfois ce sont des contraintes, et que ce n’est pas tout
à fait le vocabulaire que vous avez l’habitude d’utiliser.
SM : On a rencontré une firme, effectivement, quelqu’un qui pensait qu’on allait pouvoir
automatiser la chaîne de description des archives avec la numérisation y compris. Il ne
comprenait pas que c’était une tâche impossible. C’est une tâche humaine. Et franchement,
toute l’expérience qu’on peut avoir par rapport à ça aide énormément. Je ne pense pas, là
maintenant, qu’un cerveau humain puisse être remplacé par une machine dans ce cadre. Je
n’y crois pas.
UNE MÉTHODE D’INDEXATION STANDARDISÉE

FS : Votre travail touche très intimement à la pratique d’Otlet même. En fait, dans les
documents que nous avons consultés, nous avons vus plusieurs essais d’indexation, plusieurs
niveaux de systèmes de classement. Comment cela se croise-t-il avec votre travail de
numérisation ? Gardez-vous une trace de ces systèmes déjà projetés sur les documents euxmêmes ?
SM : Je crois qu’il y a deux éléments. Ici, si la question portait sur les étapes de la
numérisation, on part du document lui-même pour arriver à un nommage de fichier et il y a
une description avec plusieurs champs. Si finalement la pièce qui est numérisée, elle a sa
propre vie, sa propre histoire et c’est ça qu’on comprend. Par contre, au départ, on part du
principe que le fond est décrit, il y a un inventaire. On va faire comme si c’était toujours le
cas, ce n’est pas vrai d’ailleurs, ce n’est pas toujours le cas.
Et autre chose, aujourd’hui nous sommes un centre d’archives. Otlet était dans une
conception d’ouverture à la documentation, d’ouverture à l’Encyclopédie, vraiment quelque
chose de très très large. Notre norme de travail c’est d’utiliser la norme de description
générale des archives[5], et c’est une autre contrainte. C’est un gros boulot ça aussi.
On doit pouvoir faire des relations avec d’autres éléments qui se trouvent ailleurs, d’autres
documents, d’autres collections. C’est une lecture, je dirais presque en réseau des documents.
Évidemment c’est intéressant. Mais d’un autre côté, nous sommes archivistes, et c’est pas
qu’on n’aime pas la logique d’Otlet, mais on doit se faire à une discipline qui nous impose
aussi de protéger le patrimoine ici, qui appartient à la Communauté Française et qui donc
doit être décrit de manière normée comme dans les autres centres d’archives.

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C’est une différence de dialogues. Pour moi ce n’est pas un détail du tout. Le fait que par
exemple, certains vont se dire « vous ne mettez pas l’indice CDU dans ces champs » ... vous
n’avez d’ailleurs pas encore posé cette question … ?
ADV : Elle allait venir !
SM : Aujourd’hui on ne cherche pas par indice CDU, c’est tout. Nous sommes un centre
d’archives, et je pense que ça a été la chance pour le Mundaneum de pouvoir mettre en
avant la protection de ce patrimoine en tant que tel et de pouvoir l’ériger en tant que
patrimoine réel, important pour la communauté.
RC : En fait la classification décimale n’étant pas une méthode d’indexation standardisée,
elle n’est pas demandée dans ces champs. Pour chaque champ à remplir dans le Dublin
Core, vous avez des normes à utiliser. Par exemple, pour les dates, les pays et la langue vous
avez les normes ISO, et la CDU n’est pas reconnue comme une norme.
Quand je décris dans Pallas, moi je mets l’indice CDU. Parce que les collections
iconographiques sont classées par thématique. Les cartes postales géographiques sont
classées par lieu. Et donc, j’ai à chaque fois l’indice CDU, parce que là, ça a un sens de le
mettre.
FS : C’est très beau d’entendre cela mais c’est aussi tragique dans un sens. Il y a eu tellement
d’efforts faits à cette époque là pour trouver un standard ...
UN AXE DE COMMUNICATION

SM : La question de la légitimité du travail d’Otlet se place sur un débat contemporain qui
est amené sur la gestion des bases de données, en gros. Ça c’est un axe qui est de
communication, ce n’est pas le seul axe de travail de fond dans nos archives. Il faut distinguer
des éléments et la politique de numérisation, je ne suis pas en train de vouloir dire : « Tiens,
on est dans la gestion de méga-données chez nous. »
Nous ne gérons pas de grandes quantités de données. Le Big Data ne nous concerne pas
tout à fait, en terme de données conservées chez nous. Le débat nous intéresse au même titre
que ce débat existait sous une autre forme fin du 19e siècle avec l’avènement de la presse
périodique et la multiplication des titres de journaux ainsi que la diffusion rapide d’une
information.
RC : Le fait d’avoir eu Paul Otlet reconnu comme père de l’internet etcetera, d’avoir pu le
rattacher justement à des éléments actuels, c’était des sujets porteurs pour la communication.
Ça ne veut pas dire que nous ne travaillons que là dessus. Il en a fait beaucoup plus que ça.
C’était un axe porteur, parce qu’on est à l’ère de la numérisation, parce qu’on nous demande

de numériser, de valoriser. On est encore à travailler sur les archives, à dépouiller les
archives, à faire des inventaires et donc on est très très loin de ces réflexions justement Big
Data et tout ça.
FS : Est-il imaginable qu’Otlet ait inventé le World Wide Web ?
SM : Franchement, pour dire les choses platement : C’est impossible, quand on a un regard
historique, d’imaginer qu’Otlet a imaginé… enfin il a imaginé des choses, oui, mais est-ce
que c’est parce que ça existe aujourd’hui qu’on peut dire « il a imaginé ça » ?. C’est ce qu’on
appelle de l’anachronisme en Histoire. Déontologiquement, ce genre de choses un historien
ne peut pas le faire. Quelqu’un d’autre peut se permettre de le faire. Par exemple, en
communication c’est possible. Réduire à des idées simples est aussi possible. C’est même un
avantage de pouvoir le faire. Une idée passera donc mieux.
RC : Il y a des concepts qu’il avait déjà compris.
From Voor elk boek is een gebruiker:
Maintenant, en fonction de l’époque, il n’a pas pu tout
Dus in de 19e eeuw wou Vander
mettre en place mais, il y a des choses qu’il avait
Haeghen een catalogus, en Otlet een
comprises dès le départ. Par exemple, standardiser les
bibliografie. En vandaag heeft Google
alles samen met de volledige tekst
choses pour pouvoir les changer. Ça il le comprend dès
erbij die dan nog op elk woord
le départ, c’est pour ça, la rédaction des fiches, c’est
doorzoekbaar is. Dat is de droom van
standardisé, vous ne pouvez pas rédiger n’importe
zowel Vander Haeghen als Otlet
méér dan verder zetten. Vanuit die
comment. C’est pour ça qu’il développe la CDU, il faut
gedachte zijn wij vanzelfsprekend
un langage qui soit utilisable par tous. Il imagine avec les
meegegaan. We hebben aan de
Google onderhandelaars gevraagd:
moyens de communications qu’il a à l’époque, il imagine
waarom doet Google dit? Het
déjà un moment pouvoir les combiner, sans doute parce
antwoord was: “Because it's in the
qu’il a vu un moment l’évolution des techniques et qu’il
heart of the founders”. Moesten wij de
idealen van Vander Haeghen en
pense pouvoir aller plus loin. Il pense à la
Otlet niet als voorbeeld hebben
dématérialisation quand il utilise des microfilms, il se dit
gehad, dan was er misschien twijfel
« attention la conservation papier, il y a un soucis. Il faut
geweest, maar nu niet.
conserver le contenu et donc il faut le passer sur un autre
support ». D’abord il va essayer sur des plaques
photographiques, il calcule le nombre de pages qu’il peut mettre sur une plaque et voilà. Il
transforme ça en autre support.
Je pense qu’il a imaginé des choses, parce qu’il avait cette envie de communiquer le savoir,
ce n’est pas quelqu’un qui a un moment avait envie de collectionner sans diffuser, non. C’était
toujours dans cette idée de diffuser, de communiquer quelques soient les personnes, quelque
soit le pays. C’est d’ailleurs pour ça qu’il adapte le Musée International, pour que tout le
monde puisse y aller, même ceux qui ne savaient pas lire avaient accès aux salles et
pouvaient comprendre, parce qu’il avait organisé les choses de telles façons. Il imagine à
chaque fois des outils de communication qui vont lui servir pour diffuser ses idées, sa pensée.

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Qu’il ait imaginé à un moment donné qu’on puisse lire des choses à l’autre bout du monde ?
Il a du y penser, mais maintenant, techniquement et technologiquement, il n’a pas pu
concevoir. Mais je suis sûre qu’il avait envisagé le concept.
CELUI QUI FAIT UN PEU DE TOUT, IL LE FAIT UN PEU
MOINS BIEN

SM : Otlet, à son époque, a par moments réussi à se faire détester par pas mal de gens,
parce qu’il y avait une sorte de confusion au niveau des domaines dans lesquels il exerçait. À
la fois, cette fascination de créer une cité politique qui est la Cité Mondiale, et le fait de
vouloir mélanger les genres, de ne pas être dans une volonté de standardisation avec des
spécialistes, mais aussi une volonté de travailler avec le monde de l’industrie, parce que c’est
ce qu’il a réussi. C’est un réel handicap à cette époque là parce que vous avez une
spécialisation dans tous les domaines de la connaissance et finalement celui qui fait un peu de
tout, il le fait un peu mal moins bien. Dans certains milieux ou après une lecture très
superficielle du travail mené par Otlet, on comprend que le personnage bénéficie d’un a
priori négatif car il a mélangé les genres ou les domaines. Par exemple, Otlet s’est attaqué à
différentes institutions pour leur manque d’originalité en terme de bibliographie. La
Bibliothèque Royale en a fait les frais. Ça peut laisser quelques traces inattendues dans
l’histoire. L’héritage d’Otlet en matière bibliographique n’est pas forcément mis en évidence
dans un lieu tel que la bibliothèque nationale. C’est on le comprend difficile d’imaginer une
institution qui explique certains engagements de manière aussi personnalisée ou
individualisée. On va plutôt parler d’un service et de son histoire dans une période plus
longue. On évite ainsi d’entrer dans des détails tels que ceux-là.
Effectivement, il y a à la fois le Monsieur dans son époque, la vision que les scientifiques vont
en garder aujourd’hui et des académiques. Et puis, il y a la fascination de tout un chacun.
Notre travail à nous, c’est de faire de tout. C’est à la fois de faire en sorte que les archives
soient disponibles pour le tout un chacun, mais aussi que le scientifique qui a envie d’étudier,
dans une perspective positive ou négative, puisse le faire.
ON EST PAS DANS L’OTLETANEUM ICI !

FS : Le travail d’Otlet met en relation l’organisation du savoir et de la communication.
Comment votre travail peut-il, dans un centre d’archives qui est aussi un lieu de rencontre et
un musée, être inspiré - ou pas - par cette mission qu’Otlet s’était donné ?
SM : Il y a quand même un chose qui est essentielle, c’est qu’on est pas dans l’Otletaneum
ici, on n’est pas dans la fondation Otlet.

Nous sommes un centre d’archives spécialisé, qui a conservé toutes les archives liées à une
institution. Cette institution était animée par des hommes et des femmes. Et donc, ce qui les
animaient, c’était différentes choses, dont le désir de transmission. Et quand à Otlet, on a
identifié son envie de transmettre et il a imaginé tous les moyens. Il n’était pas ingénieur non
plus, il ne faut pas rire. Et donc, c’est un peu comme Jules Verne, il a rêvé le monde, il a
imaginé des choses différentes, des instruments. Il s’est mis à rêver à certaines choses, à des
applications. C’est un passionné, c’est un innovateur et je pense qu’il a passionné des gens
autour de lui. Mais, autour de lui, il y avait d’autres personnes, notamment Henri La
Fontaine, qui n’est pas moins intéressant. Il y avait aussi le Baron Descamps et d’autres
personnes qui gravitaient autour de cette institution. Il y avait aussi tout un contexte
particulier lié notamment à la sociologie, aux sciences sociales, notamment Solvay, et voilà.
Tout ceux qu’on retrouve et qui ont traversé une quarantaine d’années.
Aujourd’hui, nous sommes un centre d’archives avec des supports différents, avec cette
volonté encyclopédique qu’ils ont eu et qui a été multi supports, et donc l’œuvre phare n’a
pas été uniquement Le Traité de Documentation. C’était intéressant de comprendre sa
genèse avec les visites que vous aviez fait, mais il y d’autres fonds, notamment des fonds liés
au pacifisme, à l’anarchisme et au féminisme. Et aussi tout ce département iconographique
avec ces essais un peu particuliers qui ne sont pas super connus.
Donc on n’est pas dans l’Otletaneum et nous ne sommes pas dans le sanctuaire d’Otlet.
ADV : La question est plutôt : comment s’emparer de sa vision dans votre travail ?
SM : J’avais bien compris la question.
En rendant accessible ses archives, son patrimoine et en participant à la meilleure
compréhension à travers nos efforts de valorisation : des publications, visites guidées mais
aussi le programme d’activités qui permettent de mieux comprendre son travail. Ce travail
s’effectue notamment à travers le label du Patrimoine Européen mais aussi dans le cadre de
Mémoire du Monde[6].
RC : Ce n’est pas parce que Otlet a écrit que La Fontaine n’a pas travaillé sur le projet. Ce
n’était pas du tout les mêmes personnalités.
SM : On est sur des stéréotypes.
ADV : Otlet a tout de même énormément écrit ?
SM : Otlet a beaucoup synthétisé, diffusé et lu. Il a été un formidable catalyseur de son
époque.
RC : C’est plutôt perdre la pensée d’Otlet en allant dans un seul sens, parce que lui il voulait
justement brasser des savoirs, diffuser l’ensemble de la connaissance. Pour nous l’objectif

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c’est vraiment de pouvoir tout exploiter, tous les sujets, tous les supports, toutes les
thématiques… Quand on dit qu’il a préfiguré internet, c’est juste deux schémas d’Otlet et on
tourne autour de deux schémas depuis 2012, même avant d’ailleurs, ces deux schémas A4.
Ils ne sont pas grands.
SM : Ce qui n’est pas juste non plus, c’est le caractère réducteur par lequel on passe quand
on réduit le Mundaneum à Otlet et qu’on ne réduit Otlet qu’à ça. Et d’un autre côté, ce que
je trouve intéressant aussi, c’est les autres personnalités qui ont décidé de refaire aussi le
monde par la fiche et là, notre idée était évidemment de mettre en évidence toutes ces
personnes et les compositions multiformes de cette institution qui avait beaucoup d’originalité
et pas de s’en tenir à une vision « La Fontaine c’est le prix Nobel de la paix, Otlet c’est
monsieur Internet, Léonie La Fontaine c’est Madame féminisme, Monsieur Hem Day[7] c’est
l’anarchiste … » On ne fait pas l’Histoire comme ça, en créant des catégories.
RC : Je me souviens quand je suis arrivée ici en 2002 : Paul Otlet c’était l’espèce de savant
fou qui avait voulu créer une cité mondiale et qui l’avait proposée à Hitler. Les gens avaient
oublié tout ce qu’il avait fait avant.
Vous avez beaucoup de bibliothèques qui aujourd’hui encore classent au nom de la CDU
mais ils ne savent pas d’où ça vient. Tout ce travail on l’a fait et ça remettait, quand même,
les choses à leur place et on l’a ouvert quand même au public. On a eu des ouvertures avec
des différents publics à partir de ce moment là.
SM : C’est aussi d’avoir une vision globale sur ce que les uns et les autres ont fait et aussi de
ce qu’a été l’institution, ce qui est d’ailleurs l’une des plus grosse difficulté qui existe. C’est de
s’appeler Mundaneum dans l’absolu.
On est le « Mundaneum Centre d’archives » depuis 1993. Mais le Mundaneum c’est une
institution qui nait après la première guerre mondiale, dont le nom est postérieur à l'IIB.
Dans ses gênes, elle est bibliographique et peut-être que ce sont ces différentes notions qu’il
faut essayer d’expliquer aux gens.
Mais c’est quand même formidable de dire que Paul Otlet a inventé internet, pourquoi pas.
C’est une formule et je pense que dans l’absolu la formule marque les gens. Maintenant, il
n’a pas inventé Google. J’ai bien dit Internet.
POUR LA CARICATURE, C’EST SYMPA. POUR LA RÉALITÉ
MOINS.

FS : Qu’est ce que votre collaboration avec Google vous a-t-elle apportée ? Est-ce qu'ils vous
ont aidé à numériser des documents?

RC : C’est nous qui avons numérisé. C’est moi qui met les images en ligne sur Google.
Google n’a rien numérisé.
ADV : Mais donc vous vous transmettez des images et des métadonnées à Google mais le
public n’a pas accès à ces images … ?
RC : Ils ont accès, mais ils ne peuvent pas télécharger.
FS : Les images que vous avez mises sur Google Cultural Institute sont aujourd’hui dans le
domaine public et donc en tant que public, je ne peux pas voir que les images sont libres de
droit, parce qu’elles sont toutes sous la licence standard de Google.
RC : Ils ont mis « Collection de la Fédération Wallonie Bruxelles » à chaque fois. Puisque
ça fait partie des métadonnées qui sont transmises avec l’image.
ADV : Le problème, actuellement, comme il n’y a pas de catalogue en ligne, c’est qu’il n’y a
pas tant d’autres accès. À part quelques images sur numeriques.be, quand on tape « Otlet »
sur un moteur de recherche, on a l’impression que ce n’est que via le Google Cultural Institute
par lequel on a accès et en réalité c’est un accès limité.
SM : C’est donc une impression.
RC : Vous avez aussi des images sur Wikimedia commons. Il y a la même chose que sur
Google Cultural Institute. C’est moi qui les met des deux cotés, je sais ce que je mets. Et là
je suis encore en train d’en uploader dessus, donc allez y. Pour l’instant, c’est de nouveau des
schémas d’Otlet, en tout cas des planches qui sont mises en ligne.
Sur Wikimédia Commons je sais pas importer les métadonnées automatiquement. Enfin
j’importe un fichier et puis je dois entrer les données moi-même. Je ne peux pas importer un
fichier Excel. Dans Google je fais ça, j’importe les images et ça se fait tout seul.
AV : Et vous pouvez pas trouver une collaboration avec les gens de Wikimédia Commons ?
RC : En fait, ils proposent des systèmes d’importations mais qui ne fonctionnent pas ou alors
qui ne fonctionnent pas avec Windows. Et donc, moi je ne vais pas commencer à installer un
PC qui fonctionne avec Linux ou Ubuntu juste pour pouvoir uploader sur Wikimédia.
AV : Mais eux peuvent le faire ?
RC : On a eu la collaboration sur Le traité de Documentation, puisque c’est eux qui ont
travaillés. Ils ont tout retranscrit.
Aussi, il faut dédommager les bénévoles. Ça je peux vous garantir. Ils sont bénévoles jusqu’à
un certain point. Mais si vous leur confiez du travail comme ça … Ils sont bénévoles parce

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que quand ils retravaillent des fiches sur Wikipédia, parce que c’est leur truc, ils en ont envie,
c’est leur volonté.
Je ne mets pas plus sur Google Cultural Institute que sur Wikipédia. Je ne favorise pas
Google. Ce qu’il y a sur le Cultural Institute, c’est qu’on a la possibilité de réaliser des
expositions virtuelles et quand j’upload là, c’est parce qu’on a une exposition qui va être faite.
On essaye de faire des expositions virtuelles. C’est vrai que ça fonctionne bien pour nous en
matière de communication pour les archives. Ça, il ne faut pas s’en cacher. J’ai beaucoup de
demandes qui arrivent, des demandes d’images, par ce biais là. Ça nous permet de valoriser
des fonds et des thématiques qu’on ne pourrait pas faire dans l’espace.
On a fait une exposition sur Léonie Lafontaine, qui a permis de mettre en ligne une centaine
de documents liés au féminisme, ça n’avait jamais été fait avant. C’était très intéressant et ça
a eu un bon retour pour les autres expositions aussi. Moi, c’est plutôt comme ça que j’utilise
Google Cultural Institute. Je ne suis pas pro Google mais là, j’ai un outil qui me permet de
valoriser les archives.
ADV : Google serait-il la seule solution pour valoriser vos archives ?
SM : Notre solution c’est d’avoir un logiciel à nous. Pourquoi avoir cette envie d’alimenter
d’autres sites ? Parce qu’on ne l’a pas sur le nôtre. Pour rappel, on travaille pour la
Communauté Française qui est propriétaire des collections et avec laquelle on est
conventionné. Elle ne nous demande pas d’avoir un logiciel externe. Elle demande qu’on ait
notre propre produit aussi. Et c’est là dessus que l’on travaille depuis 2014, pour le
remplacement de Pallas, parce que ça fait des années qu’ils nous disent qu’ils ne vont plus
soutenir. C’est plutôt ça qui nous met dans une situation complètement incompréhensible.
Comment voulez vous qu’on puisse faire transparaître ce que nous avons si on n’a pas un
outil qui permette aux chercheurs, quels qu’ils soient, scientifiques ou non, pour qu’ils
puissent être autonomes dans leur recherches ? Et pour nous, le travail que nous avons fait
en terme d’inventaire et de numérisation, qu’il soit exploitable de manière libre ?
Moi, franchement, je me demande, si cette question et cette vision que vous avez, elle ne se
poserait pas si finalement nous étions déjà sur autre chose que Pallas. On est dans un
inconfort de travail de base.
Je pense aussi que l’information à donner de notre part c’est de dire « il y a tout ceci qui
existe, venez le voir ».
On arrive à sensibiliser aussi sur les collections qu’il y a au centre d’archives et c’est bien,
c’est tout à fait intéressant. Maintenant ce serait bien aussi de franchir une autre étape et
d’éduquer sur l'ouverture au patrimoine. C’est ça aussi notre mission.

Donc Google a sa propre politique. Nous avons mis à disposition quelques expositions et
ceci en est l’intérêt. Mais on a quand même tellement de partenaires différents avec lesquels
on a travaillé. On ne privilégie pas un seul partenaire. Aujourd’hui, certaines firmes viennent
vers nous parce qu’elles ont entendu parler justement plus de Google que du Mundaneum et
en même temps du Mundaneum par l’intermédiaire de Google.
Ce sont des éléments qui nous permettent d’ouvrir peut-être le champ du dialogue avec
d’autres partenaires mais qui ne permettent pas d’aller directement en profondeur dans les
archives, enfin, dans le patrimoine réel que l’on a.
Je veux dire, on aura beau dire qu’on fait autre chose, on ne verra que celui là parce que
Google est un mastodonte et parce que ça parle à tout le monde. On est dans une aire de
communication particulière.
RC : Maintenant la collaboration Google et l’image que vous en avez et bien nous on en
pâtit énormément au niveau des archives. Et encore, parce que souvent les gens nous disent
« mais vous avez un gros mécène »
SM : Ils nous réduisent à ça. Pour la caricature c’est sympa. Pour la réalité moins.
FS : Quand on parle aux gens de l’Université de Gand, c’est clair que leur collaboration avec
Google Books a eu une autre fonction. Ce ne sont que des livres, des objets qui sont scannés
de manière assez brutes. Il n’y a pas de métadonnées complexes, c’est plutôt une question de
volume.
SM : La politique de numérisation de l’Université de
Gand, je pense, est plus en lien avec ce que Google
imagine. C’est-à-dire quelle est la plus value que ça leur
apporte de pouvoir travailler à la fois une bibliothèque
universitaire telle que la bibliothèque de l’Université de
Gand, et le fait de l’associer avec le Mundaneum ?
FS : C’est aussi d'autres besoins, un autre type d’accès ?
Dans une bibliothèque les livres sont là pour être lus, j’ai
l’impression que ce n’est pas la même vision pour un
centre d’archives.
SM : C’est bien plus complexe dans d’autres endroits.

From Voor elk boek is een gebruiker:
SVP: Maar ... je kan niet bij Google
gaan aankloppen, Google kiest jou.
Wij hebben wel hun aandacht
gevraagd voor het Mundaneum met
de link tussen Vander Haeghen en
Otlet. Als Google België iets
organiseert, proberen ze ons altijd te
betrekken, omdat wij nu eenmaal een
universiteit zijn. U heeft het
Mundaneum gezien, het is een zeer
mooi archief, maar dat is het ook.
Voor ons zou dat enkel een stuk van
een collectie zijn. Ze worden ook op
een totaal andere manier gesteund
door Google dan wij.

Notre intention en terme de numérisation n’est pas celle
là, et nous ne voyons pas notre action, nous, uniquement
par ce biais là. À Gand, ils ont numérisé des livres. C’est leur choix soutenu par la Région
flamande. De notre côté, nous poursuivons une même volonté d’accès pour le public et les

P.40

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chercheurs mais avec un matériel un patrimoine, bien différent de livres publiés uniquement !
Le travail avec Google a permis de collaborer plusieurs fois avec l’Université mais nous
l’avions déjà fait avant de se retrouver avec Google sur certaines activités et l’accueil de
conférenciers. Donc, il y a un partenariat avec l’Université gantoise qui est intéressée par
l’histoire d’Otlet, l’histoire des idées mais aussi de l’internationalisme, de l’architecture de la
schématique. C’est d’ailleurs très enrichissant comme réflexion.
TOUT NUMÉRISER

FS : J’ai entendu quelqu’un se demander « pourquoi ne pas numériser toutes les fiches
bibliographiques qui sont dans les tiroirs » ?
RC : Ça ne sert à rien. Toutes les fiches ça n’aurait pas de sens. Maintenant, ce serait
intéressant d’en étudier quelques-unes.
Il y avait un réseau aussi autour du répertoire. C’est à dire que si on a autant de fiches, ce
n'est pas seulement parce qu’on a des fiches qui ont été rédigées à Bruxelles, on a des fiches
qui viennent du monde entier. Dans chaque pays il y avait des institutions responsables de
réaliser des bibliographies et de les renvoyer à Bruxelles.
Ça serait intéressant d’avoir un échantillon de toutes ces institutions ou de toutes ces fiches
qui existent. Ça permettrait aussi de retrouver la trace de certaines institutions qui n’existent
plus aujourd’hui. On a quand même eu deux guerres, il y a eu des révolutions etcetera. Ils
ont quand même travaillé avec des institutions russes qui n’existent plus aujourd’hui. Par ce
biais là, on pourrait retrouver leur trace. Même chose pour des ouvrages. Il y a des ouvrages
qui n’existent plus et pour lesquels on pourrait retrouver la trace. Il faut savoir qu’après la
deuxième guerre mondiale, en 46-47, le président du Mundaneum est Léon Losseau. Il est
avocat, il habite Mons, sa maison d’ailleurs est au 37 rue de Nimy, pas très loin. Il collabore
avec le Mundaneum depuis ses débuts et donc vu que les deux fondateurs sont décédés
pendant la guerre, à ce moment là il fait venir l’UNESCO à Bruxelles. Parce qu’on est dans
une phase de reconstruction des bibliothèques, beaucoup de livres ont été détruits et on
essaye de retrouver leur traces. Il leur dit « venez à Bruxelles, nous on a le répertoire de tous
ces bouquins, venez l’utiliser, nous on a le répertoire pour reconstituer toutes les
bibliothèques ».
Donc, tout numériser, non. Mais numériser certaines choses pour montrer le mécanisme de
ce répertoire, sa constitution, les différents répertoires qui existaient dans ce répertoire et de
pouvoir retrouver la trace de certains éléments, oui.
Si on numérise tout, cela permettrait d’avoir un état des lieux des sources d’informations qui
existaient à une époque pour un sujet.
SM : Le cheminement de la pensée.

Il y a des pistes très intéressantes qui vont nous permettre d’atteindre des aspects
protéiformes de l’institution, mais c’est vaste.
LA MÉMOIRE VIVE DE L’INSTITUTION

FS : Nous étions très touchées par les fiches annotées de la CDU que vous nous avez
montrées la dernière fois que nous sommes venues.
RC : Le travail sur le système lui-même.
SM : C’est fantastique effectivement, avec l’écriture d’Otlet.
SM : Autant on peut dire qu'Otlet est un maître du marketing, autant il utilisait plusieurs
termes pour décrire une même réalité. C’est pour ça que ne s’attacher qu’à sa vision à lui
c’est difficile. Comme classer ses documents, c’est aussi difficile.
ADV : Otlet n’a-t-il pas laissé suffisamment de documentation ? Une documentation qui
explicite ses systèmes de classement ?
RC : Quand on a ouvert les boîtes d'Otlet en 2002, c’était des caisses à bananes non
classées, rien du tout. En fonction de ce qu’on connaissait de l’histoire du Mundaneum à
l’époque on a pu déterminer plus ou moins des frontières et donc on avait l'Institut
international de bibliographie, la CDU, la Cité Mondiale aussi, le Musée International.
SM : Du pacifisme ...
RC : On a appelé ça « Mundapaix » parce qu’on ne savait pas trop comment le mettre dans
l’histoire du Mundaneum, c’était un peu bizarre. Le reste, on l'avait mis de côté parce qu’on
n'était pas en mesure, à ce moment là, de les classer dans ce qu’on connaissait. Puis, au fur
et à mesure qu’on s’est mis à lire les archives, on s’est mis à comprendre des choses, on a
découvert des institutions qui avaient été créées en plus et ça nous a permis d’aller
rechercher ces choses qu’on avait mises de coté.
Il y avait tellement d’institutions qui ont été créées, qui ont pu changer de noms, on ne sait
pas si elles ont existé ou pas. Il faisait une note, il faisait une publication où il annonçait :
« l’office centrale de machin chose » et puis ce n'est même pas sûr qu’il ait existé quelque
part.

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Parfois, il reprend la même note mais il change certaines
choses et ainsi de suite … rien que sa numérotation c’est
pas toujours facile. Vous avez l’indice CDU, mais
ensuite, vous avez tout le système « M » c’est la référence
aux manuels du RBU. Donc il faut seulement aller
comprendre comment le manuel du RBU est organisé.
C’est à dire trouver des archives qui correspondent pour
pouvoir comprendre cette classification dans le « M ».
RC : On n’a pas trouvé un moment donné, et on aurait
bien voulu trouver, un dossier avec l’explication de son
classement. Sauf qu’il ne nous l’a pas laissé.
SM : Peut-être qu’il est possible que ça ait existé, et je
me demande comment cette information a été expliquée
aux suivants. Je me demande même si George Lorphèvre
savait, parce qu'il n’a pas pu l’expliquer à Boyd
Rayward. En tout cas, les explications n’ont pas été
transmises.

From De Indexalist:
"Bij elke verwijzing stond weer een
andere verwijzing, de één nog
interessanter dan de ander. Elk
vormde de top van een piramide van
weer verdere literatuurstudie, zwanger
met de dreiging om af te dwalen. Elk
was een strakgespannen koord dat
indien niet in acht genomen de auteur
in de val van een fout zou lokken, een
vondst al uitgevonden en
opgeschreven."
From The Indexalist:
“At every reference stood another
reference, each more interesting than
the last. Each the apex of a pyramid
of further reading, pregnant with the
threat of digression, each a thin high
wire which, if not observed might lead
the author into the fall of error, a
finding already found against and
written up.”

L’équipe du Mundaneum a développé une expérience
de plusieurs années et une compréhension sur les archives et leur organisation. Nous avons
par exemple découvert l’existence de fichiers particuliers tels que les fichiers « K ». Ils sont
liés à l’organisation administrative interne. Il a fallu montrer les éléments et archives sur
lesquels nous nous sommes basés pour bien prouver la démarche qui était la nôtre. Certains
documents expliquaient clairement cela. Mais si vous ne les avez jamais vu, c’est difficile de
croire un nouvel élément inconnu !
RC : On n’a pas beaucoup d’informations sur l’origine des collections, c’est-à-dire sur
l’origine des pièces qui sont dans les collections. Par hasard, je vais trouver un tiroir où il est
mis « dons » et à l’intérieur, je ne vais trouver que des fiches écrites à la main comme « dons
de madame une telle de deux drapeaux pour le Musée International » et ainsi de suite.
Il ne nous a pas laissé un manuel à la fin de ses archives et c’est au fur et à mesure qu’on lit
les archives qu’on arrive à faire des liens et à comprendre certains éléments. Aujourd’hui,
faire une base de données idéale, ce n’est pas encore possible, parce qu’il y a encore
beaucoup de choses que nous-mêmes on ne comprend pas. Qu’on doit encore découvrir.
ADV : Serait-il imaginable de produire une documentation issue de votre cheminement dans
la compréhension progressive de cette classification ? Par exemple, des textes enrichis donnant
une perception plus fine, une trace de la recherche. Est-ce que c’est quelque chose qui pourrait
exister ?
RC : Oui, ce serait intéressant.

Par exemple si on prend le répertoire bibliographique. Déjà, il n’y a pas que des références
bibliographiques dedans. Vous avez deux entrées : entrée par matière, entrée par auteur,
donc vous avez le répertoire A et le répertoire B. Si vous regardez les étiquettes, parfois,
vous allez trouver autre chose. Parfois, on a des étiquettes avec « ON ». Vous savez ce que
c’est ? C’est « catalogue collectif des bibliothèque de Belgique ». C’est un travail qu’ils ont
fait à un moment donné. Vous avez les « LDC » les « Bibliothèques collectifs de sociétés
savantes ». Chaque société ayant un numéro, vous avez tout qui est là. Le « K » c’est tout ce
qui est administratif donc à chaque courrier envoyé ou reçu, ils rédigeaient une fiche. On a
des fiches du personnel, on sait au jour le jour qui travaillait et qui a faisait quoi… Et ça, il
ne l’a pas laissé dans les archives.
SM : C’est presque la mémoire vive de l’institution.
On a eu vraiment cette envie de vérifier dans le répertoire cette façon de travailler, le fait
qu’il y ait des informations différentes. Effectivement, c’était un peu avant 2008, qu’on l'a su
et cette information s’est affinée avec des vérifications. Il y a eu des travaux qui ont pu être
faits avec l’identification de séries particulières des dossiers numérotés que Raphaèle a
identifié. Il y avait des correspondances et toute une structuration qu’on a identifié aussi. Ce
sont des sections précises qui ont permis d’améliorer, à la fois la CDU, au départ de faire la
CDU, de faire le répertoire et puis de créer d’autres sections, comme la section féministe,
comme la section chasse et pêche comme la section iconographique. Et donc, par rapport à
ça, je pense qu’il y a vraiment tout un travail qui doit être mis en relation à partir d’une
observation claire, à partir d’une réflexion claire de ce qu’il y a dans le répertoire et dans les
archives. Et ça, c’est un travail qui se fait étape par étape. J’espère qu’on pourra quand
même bien avancer là dessus et donner des indications qui permettront d’aller un peu plus
loin, je ne suis pas sûre qu’on verra le bout.
C’est au moins de transmettre une information, de faire en sorte qu’elle soit utilisable et que
certains documents et ces inventaires soient disponibles, ceux qui existent aujourd’hui. Et que
ça ne se perde pas dans le temps.
FS : Un jour, pensez-vous pouvoir dire « voilà, maintenant c’est fini, on a compris » ?
SM : Je ne suis pas sûre que ce soit si impossible que ça.
Ça dépend de notre volonté et dialogue autour de ces documents. Un dialogue entre les
chercheurs de tout type et l’équipe du Mundaneum enrichit la compréhension. Plus on est
nombreux autour de certains points, plus la compréhension s’élargit. Ça implique bien
entendu une implication de partenaires externes également.
Aujourd’hui on est passé à une politique de numérisation par un matériel, par une
spécialisation du personnel. Et je pense que cette spécialisation nous a permis, depuis des
années, d’aller un peu plus profondément dans les archives et donc de mieux les comprendre.

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Il y a un historique que l’on comprend véritablement bien aussi, il ne demande qu’à se
déployer. Il y a à comprendre comment on va pouvoir valoriser cela autour de journées,
autour de publications, autour d’outils qui sont à notre disposition. Et donc, autour de
catalogues en ligne, notamment, et de notre propre catalogue en ligne.
C’EST ÇA QU’IL FAUT IMAGINER

FS : Les méthodes et les standards de documentation changent, l’histoire institutionnelle et les
temps changent, les chercheurs passent… vous avez vécu avec tout ça depuis longtemps. Je
me demande comment le faire transparaître, le faire ressentir?
SM : C’est vrai qu’on aimerait bien pouvoir axer aussi la communication de l’institution sur
ces différents aspects. C’est bien ça notre rêve en fait, ou notre aspiration. Pour l’instant, on
est plutôt en train de se demander comment on va mieux communiquer, sur ce que nous
faisons nous ?
RC : Est-ce que ce serait uniquement en mettant en ligne des documents ? Ou imaginer une
application qui permettrait de les mettre en œuvre? Par exemple, si je prends la
correspondance, moi j’ai lu à peu près 3000 courriers. En les lisant, on se rend vraiment
compte du réseau. C’est-à-dire qu’on se rend compte qu’il a de la correspondance à peu près
partout dans le monde. Que ce soit avec des particuliers, avec des bibliothèques, avec des
universités, avec des entreprises et donc déjà rien qu’avec cet échantillon-là, ça donne une
masse d’informations. Maintenant, si on commence à décrire dans une base de données,
lettre par lettre, je ne suis pas sûre que cela apporte quelque chose. Par contre, si on imagine
une application qui permette de faire ressortir sur une carte à chaque fois le nom des
correspondants, là, ça donne déjà une idée et ça peut vraiment mettre en œuvre toute cette
correspondance. Mais prise seule juste comme ça, est-ce que c’est vraiment intéressant ?
Dans une base de données dite « classique », c’est ça aussi le problème avec nos archives, le
Mundaneum n'étant pas un centre d’archives comme les autres de par ses collections, c’est
parfois difficile de nous adapter à des standards existants.
ADV : Il n’y aurait pas qu’un seul catalogue ou pas une seule manière de montrer les
données. C’est bien ça ?
RC : Si vous allez sur Pallas vous avez la hiérarchie du fond Otlet. Est-ce que ça parle à
quelqu’un, à part quelqu’un qui veut faire une recherche très spécifique ? Mais sinon ça ne
lui permet pas de vraiment visualiser le travail qui a été fait, et même l’ampleur du travail.
Nous, on ne peut pas se conformer à une base de donnée comme ça. Il faut que ça existe
mais ça ne transparaît pas le travail d'Otlet et de La Fontaine. Une vision comme ça, ce n'est
pas Mundaneum.

SM : Il n’y a finalement pas de base de données qui arrive à la cheville de ce qu’ils ont
imaginés en terme de papier. C’est ça qu’il faut imaginer.
FS : Pouvez-vous nous parler de cette vision d’un catalogue possible ? Si vous aviez tout
l’argent et tout le temps du monde ?
SM : On ne dort plus alors, c’est ça ?
Il y a déjà une bonne structure qui est là, et l’idée c’est vraiment de pouvoir lier les
documents, les descriptions. On peut aller plus loin dans les inventaires et numériser les
documents qui sont peut-être les plus intéressants et peut-être les plus uniques. Maintenant,
le rêve serait de numériser tout, mais est-ce que ce serait raisonnable de tout numériser ?
FS : Si tous les documents étaient disponibles en ligne ?
RC : Je pense que ça serait difficile de pouvoir transposer la pensée et le travail d'Otlet et
La Fontaine dans une base de données. C’est à dire, dans une base de données, c’est
souvent une conception très carrée : vous décrivez le fond, la série, le dossier, la pièce. Ici
tout est lié. Par exemple, la collection d’affiches, elle dépend de l’Institut International de
Photographie qui était une section du Mundaneum, c’était la section qui conserve l’image.
Ça veut dire que je dois d’abord comprendre tous les développements qui ont eu lieu avec le
concept de documentation pour ensuite lier tout le reste. Et c’est comme ça pour chaque
collection parce que ce ne sont pas des collections qui sont montées par hasard, elles
dépendaient à chaque fois d’une section spécialisée. Et donc, transposer ça dans une base de
données, je ne sais pas comment on pourrait faire.
Je pense aussi qu’aujourd’hui on n’est pas encore assez loin dans les inventaires et dans toute
la compréhension parce qu’en fait à chaque fois qu’on se plonge dans les archives, on
comprend un peu mieux, on voit un peu plus d’éléments, un peu plus de complexité, pour
vraiment pouvoir lier tout ça.
SM : Effectivement nous n’avons pas encore tout compris, il y a encore tous les petits
offices : office chasse, office pêche et renseignements…
RC : À la fin de sa vie, il va aller vers tout ce qui est standardisation, normalisation. Il va être
membre d’associations qui travaillent sur tout ce qui est norme et ainsi de suite. Il y a cet
aspect là qui est intéressant parce que c’est quand même une grande évolution par rapport au
début.
Avec le Musée International, c’est la muséographie et la muséologie qui sont vraiment une
grosse innovation à l’époque. Il y a déjà des personnes qui s’y sont intéressé mais peut-être
pas suffisamment.

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Je rêve de pouvoir reconstituer virtuellement les salles d’expositions du Musée International,
parce que ça devait être incroyable de voyager là dedans. On a des plans, des photos. Même
si on n’a plus d’objets, on a suffisamment d’informations pour pouvoir le faire. Et il serait
intéressant de pouvoir étudier ce genre de salle même pour aujourd’hui, pour la
muséographie d’aujourd’hui, de reprendre exemple sur ce qu’il a fait.
FS : Si on s’imagine le Mundaneum virtuel, vraiment, si on essaye de le reconstruire à partir
des documents, c’est excitant !
SM : On en parle depuis 2010, de ça.
FS : C’est pas du tout comme le scanner hig-tech de Google Art qui passe devant le Mona
Lisa …
SM : Non. C’est un autre travail
FS : Ce n’est pas ça le musée virtuel.
RC : C’est un autre boulot.
Last
Revision:
2·08·2016

1. Logiciel fourni par la Communauté française aux centres d’archives privées. « Pallas permet de décrire, de gérer et de consulter
des documents de différents types (archives, manuscrits, photographies, images, documents de bibliothèques) en tenant compte
des conditions de description spécifiques à chaque type de document. » http://www.brudisc.be/fr/content/logiciel-pallas
2. « Images et histoires des patrimoines numérisés » [1]
3. « Notre mission : On transforme le monde par la culture! Nous voulons construire sur le riche héritage culturel européen et
donner aux gens la possibilité de le réutiliser facilement, pour leur travail, pour leur apprentissage personnel ou tout simplement
pour s’amuser. » http://www.europeana.eu
4. « The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) supports shared innovation in metadata design and best practices across a
broad range of purposes and business models. » http://dublincore.org/about-us/
5. La norme générale et internationale de description archivistique, ISAD(G) http://www.ica.org/sites/default/files/

CBPS_2000_Guidelines_ISAD%28G%29_Second-edition_FR.pdf

6. « L'UNESCO a mis en place le Programme Mémoire du monde en 1992. Cette mise en oeuvre est d'abord née de la prise
de conscience de l'état de préservation alarmant du patrimoine documentaire et de la précarité de son accès dans différentes
régions du monde. » http://www.unesco.org/new/fr/communication-and-information/memory-of-the-

world/about-the-programme

7. Marcel Dieu dit Hem Day

Amateur
Librarian
-A
Course
in
Critical
Pedagogy
Tomislav Medak & Marcell Mars (Public Library project)

A proposal for a curriculum in amateur librarianship, developed through the
activities and exigencies of the Public Library project. Drawing from a historic
genealogy of public library as the institution of access to knowledge, the
proletarian tradition of really useful knowledge and the amateur agency driven
by technological development, the curriculum covers a range of segments from
immediately applicable workflows for scanning, sharing and using e-books,
over politics and tactics around custodianship of online libraries, to applied
media theory implicit in the practices of amateur librarianship. The proposal is
made with further development, complexification and testing in mind during the
future activities of the Public Library and affiliated organizations.
PUBLIC LIBRARY, A POLITICAL GENEALOGY

Public libraries have historically achieved as an institutional space of exemption from the
commodification and privatization of knowledge. A space where works of literature and
science are housed and made accessible for the education of every member of society
regardless of their social or economic status. If, as a liberal narrative has it, education is a
prerequisite for full participation in a body politic, it is in this narrow institutional space that
citizenship finds an important material base for its universal realization.

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The library as an institution of public access and popular literacy, however, did not develop
before a series of transformations and social upheavals unfolded in the course of 18th and
19th century. These developments brought about a flood of books and political demands
pushing the library to become embedded in an egalitarian and democratizing political
horizon. The historic backdrop for these developments was the rapid ascendancy of the book
as a mass commodity and the growing importance of the reading culture in the aftermath of
the invention of the movable type print. Having emerged almost in parallel with capitalism, by
the early 18th century the trade in books was rapidly expanding. While in the 15th century
the libraries around the monasteries, courts and universities of Western Europe contained no
more than 5 million manuscripts, the output of printing presses in the 18th century alone
exploded to formidable 700 million volumes.[1] And while this provided a vector for the
emergence of a bourgeois reading public and an unprecedented expansion of modern
science, the culture of reading and Enlightenment remained largely a privilege of the few.
Two social upheavals would start to change that. On 2 November 1789 the French
revolutionary National Assembly passed a decision to seize all library holdings from the
Church and aristocracy. Millions of volumes were transferred to the Bibliothèque Nationale
and local libraries across France. At the same time capitalism was on the rise, particularly in
England. It massively displaced the impoverished rural population into growing urban
centres, propelled the development of industrial production and, by the mid-19th century,
introduced the steam-powered rotary press into the commercial production of books. As
books became more easily mass-produced, the
commercial subscription libraries catering to the better-off
parts of society blossomed. This brought the class aspect
of the nascent demand for public access to books to the
fore.
After the failed attempt to introduce universal suffrage
and end the system of political representation based on
property entitlements through the Reform Act of 1832,
the English Chartist movement started to open reading
rooms and cooperative lending libraries that would
quickly become a popular hotbed of social exchange
between the lower classes. In the aftermath of the
revolutionary upheavals of 1848, the fearful ruling
classes finally consented to the demand for tax-financed
public libraries, hoping that the access to literature and
edification would after all help educate skilled workers
that were increasingly in demand and ultimately
hegemonize the working class for the benefits of
capitalism's culture of self-interest and competition.[2]

management hierarchies, and national
security issues. Various sets of these
conditions that are at work in a
particular library, also redefine the
notion of publishing and of the
publication, and in turn the notion of
public.

From Bibliothécaire amateur un cours de pédagogie
critique:
Puisqu'il était de plus en plus facile de
produire des livres en masse, les
bibliothèques privées payantes, au
service des catégories privilégiées de
la société, ont commencé à se
répandre. Ce phénomène a mis en
relief la question de la classe dans la
demande naissante pour un accès
public aux livres.

REALLY USEFUL KNOWLEDGE
[3]

It's no surprise that the Chartists, reeling from a political defeat, had started to open reading
rooms and cooperative lending libraries. The education provided to the proletariat and the
poor by the ruling classes of that time consisted, indeed, either of a pious moral edification
serving political pacification or of an inculcation of skills and knowledge useful to the factory
owner. Even the seemingly noble efforts of the Society for the Diffusion of the Useful
Knowledge, a Whig organization aimed at bringing high-brow learning to the middle and
working classes in the form of simplified and inexpensive publications, were aimed at dulling
the edge of radicalism of popular movements.[4]
These efforts to pacify the downtrodden masses pushed them to seek ways of self-organized
education that would provide them with literacy and really useful knowledge – not applied,
but critical knowledge that would allow them to see through their own political and economic
subjection, develop radical politics and innovate shadow social institutions of their own. The
radical education, reliant on meagre resources and time of the working class, developed in the
informal setting of household, neighbourhood and workplace, but also through radical press
and communal reading and discussion groups.[5]
The demand for really useful knowledge encompassed a critique of “all forms of ‘provided’
education” and of the liberal conception “that ‘national education’ was a necessary condition
for the granting of universal suffrage.” Development of radical “curricula and pedagogies”
formed a part of the arsenal of “political strategy as a means of changing the world.”[6]
CRITICAL PEDAGOGY

This is the context of the emergence of the public library. A historical compromise between a
push for radical pedagogy and a response to dull its edge. And yet with the age of
digitization, where one would think that the opportunities for access to knowledge have
expanded immensely, public libraries find themselves increasingly limited in their ability to
acquire and lend both digital and paper editions. It is a sign of our radically unequal times
that the political emancipation finds itself on a defensive fighting again for this material base of
pedagogy against the rising forces of privatization. Not only has mass education become
accessible only under the condition of high fees, student debt and adjunct peonage, but the
useful knowledge that the labour market and reproduction of the neoliberal capitalism
demands has become the one and only rationale for education.

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No wonder that over the last 6-7 years we have seen self-education, shadow libraries and
amateur librarians emerge again to counteract the contraction of spaces of exemption that
have been shrunk by austerity and commodity.
The project Public Library was initiated with the counteraction in mind. To help everyone
learn to use simple tools to be able to act as an Amateur Librarian – to digitize, to collect, to
share, to preserve books and articles that were unaffordable, unavailable, undesirable in the
troubled corners of the Earth we hail from.
Amateur Librarian played an important role in the narrative of Public Library. And it seems
it was successful. People easily join the project by 'becoming' a librarian using Calibre[7] and
[let’s share books].[8] Other aspects of the Public Library narrative add a political articulation
to that simple yet disobedient act. Public Library detects an institutional crisis in education,
an economic deadlock of austerity and a domination of commodity logic in the form of
copyright. It conjures up the amateur librarians’ practice of sharing books/catalogues as a
relevant challenge against the convergence of that crisis, deadlock and copyright regime.
To understand the political and technological assumptions and further develop the strategies
that lie behind the counteractions of amateur librarians, we propose a curriculum that is
indebted to a tradition of critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy is a productive and theoretical
practice rejecting an understanding of educational process that reduces it to a technique of
imparting knowledge and a neutral mode of knowledge acquisition. Rather, it sees the
pedagogy as a broader “struggle over knowledge, desire, values, social relations, and, most
important, modes of political agency”, “drawing attention to questions regarding who has
control over the conditions for the production of knowledge.”[9]

No industry in the present demonstrates more the
asymmetries of control over the conditions of production
of knowledge than the academic publishing. The denial
of access to outrageously expensive academic
publications for many universities, particularly in the
Global South, stands in stark contrast to the super-profits
that a small number of commercial publishers draws from
the free labour of scientists who write, review and edit
contributions and the extortive prices their institutional
libraries have to pay for subscriptions. It is thus here that
the amateur librarianship attains its poignancy for a
critical pedagogy, inviting us to closer formulate and
unfold its practices in a shared process of discovery.
A CURRICULUM

Public library is:
• free access to books for every member of society,
• library catalogue,
• librarian.

The curriculum in amateur librarianship develops aspects
and implications of this definition. Parts of this curriculum
have evolved over a number of workshops and talks
previously held within the Public Library project, parts of
it are yet to evolve from a process of future research,
exchange and knowledge production in the education
process. While schematic, scaling from the immediately
practical, over strategic and tactical, to reflexive registers
of knowledge, there are actual – here unnamed – people
and practices we imagine we could be learning from.
The first iteration of this curriculum could be either a
summer academy rostered with our all-star team of
librarians, designers, researchers and teachers, or a small
workshop with a small group of students delving deeper
into one particular aspect of the curriculum. In short it is
an open curriculum: both open to educational process
and contributions by others. We welcome comments,
derivations and additions.

From Bibliothécaire

amateur un cours de pédagogie
critique:
Actuellement, aucune industrie ne
montre plus d'asymétries au niveau du
contrôle des conditions de production
de la connaissance que celle de la
publication académique. Refuser
l'accès à des publications
académiques excessivement chères
pour beaucoup d'universités, en
particulier dans l'hémisphère sud,
contraste ostensiblement avec les
profits énormes qu'un petit nombre
d'éditeurs commerciaux tirent du
travail bénévole de scientifiques qui
écrivent, révisent et éditent des
contributions et avec les prix
exorbitants des souscriptions que les
bibliothèques institutionnelles doivent
payer.
From Voor elk boek is een
gebruiker:
FS: Hoe gaan jullie om met boeken
en publicaties die al vanaf het begin
digitaal zijn? DM: We kopen e-books
en e-tijdschriften en maken die
beschikbaar voor onderzoekers. Maar
dat zijn hele andere omgevingen,
omdat die content niet fysiek binnen
onze muren komt. We kopen toegang
tot servers van uitgevers of de
aggregator. Die content komt nooit bij
ons, die blijft op hun machines staan.
We kunnen daar dus eigenlijk niet
zoveel mee doen, behalve verwijzen
en zorgen dat het evengoed vindbaar
is als de print.

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MODULE 1: WORKFLOWS
• from book to e-book
◦ digitizing a book on a
book scanner
◦ removing DRM and
converting e-book
formats
• from clutter to catalogue
◦ managing an e-book
library with Calibre
◦ finding e-books and
articles on online
libraries
• from reference to bibliography
◦ annotating in an ebook reader device or
application
◦ creating a scholarly
bibliography in Zotero
• from block device to network device
◦ sharing your e-book
library on a local
network to a reading
device
◦ sharing your e-book
library on the
internet with [let’s
share books]
• from private to public IP space
◦ using [let’s share
books] &
library.memoryoftheworld.org
◦ using logan & jessica
◦ using Science Hub
◦ using Tor

MODULE 2: POLITICS/TACTICS
• from developmental subordination to subaltern disobedience
◦ uneven development &
political strategies
◦ strategies of the
developed v strategies
of the
underdeveloped : open
access v piracy
• from property to commons
◦ from property to
commons
◦ copyright, scientific
publishing, open
access
◦ shadow libraries,
piracy,
custodians.online
• from collection to collective action
◦ critical pedagogy &
education
◦ archive, activation &
collective action

MODULE 3: ABSTRACTIONS IN ACTION
• from linear to computational
◦ library &
epistemology:
catalogue, search,
discovery, reference
◦ print book v e-book:
page, margin, spine
• from central to distributed
◦ deep librarianship &
amateur librarians

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◦ network infrastructure
(s)/topologies (ruling
class studies)
• from factual to fantastic
◦ universe as library as
universe

READING LIST
• Mars, Marcell; Vladimir, Klemo. Download & How to:
Calibre & [let’s share books]. Memory of the World (2014)
https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/10/28/
calibre-lets-share-books/
• Buringh, Eltjo; Van Zanden, Jan Luiten. Charting the “Rise of
the West”: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A
Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth
Centuries. The Journal of Economic History (2009) http://
journals.cambridge.org/article_S0022050709000837
• Mattern, Shannon. Library as Infrastructure. Places Journal
(2014) https://placesjournal.org/article/library-asinfrastructure/
• Antonić, Voja. Our beloved bookscanner. Memory of the
World (2012) https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/
blog/2012/10/28/our-beloved-bookscanner-2/
• Medak, Tomislav; Sekulić, Dubravka; Mertens, An. How to:
Bookscanning. Memory of the World (2014) https://
www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/12/08/how-tobookscanning/
• Barok, Dusan. Talks/Public Library. Monoskop (2015)
http://monoskop.org/Talks/Public_Library
• Custodians.online. In Solidarity with Library Genesis and
Science Hub (2015) http://custodians.online
• Battles, Matthew. Library: An Unquiet History Random
House (2014)
• Harris, Michael H. History of Libraries of the Western World.
Scarecrow Press (1999)
• MayDay Rooms. Activation (2015) http://
maydayrooms.org/activation/
• Krajewski, Markus. Paper Machines: About Cards &
Catalogs, 1548-1929. MIT Press (2011) https://
library.memoryoftheworld.org/b/
PaRC3gldHrZ3MuNPXyrh1hM1meyyaqvhaWlHTvr53NRjJ2k

For updates: https://www.zotero.org/groups/amateur_librarian__a_course_in_critical_pedagogy_reading_list
Last
Revision:
1·08·2016

1. For an economic history of the book in the Western Europe see Eltjo Buringh and Jan Luiten Van Zanden, “Charting the ‘Rise
of the West’: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth
Centuries,” The Journal of Economic History 69, No. 02 (June 2009): 409–45, doi:10.1017/S0022050709000837,
particularly Tables 1-5.
2. For the social history of public library see Matthew Battles, Library: An Unquiet History (Random House, 2014) chapter 5:
“Books for all”.
3. For this concept we remain indebted to the curatorial collective What, How and for Whom/WHW, who have presented the
work of Public Library within the exhibition Really Useful Knowledge they organized at Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid,
October 29, 2014 – February 9, 2015.
4. “Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, June 25, 2015, https://

en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?
title=Society_for_the_Diffusion_of_Useful_Knowledge&oldid=668644340.

5. Richard Johnson, “Really Useful Knowledge,” in CCCS Selected Working Papers: Volume 1, 1 edition, vol. 1 (London u.a.:
Routledge, 2014), 755.
6. Ibid., 752.
7. http://calibre-ebook.com/
8. https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/10/28/calibre-lets-share-books/
9. Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy (Bloomsbury Academic, 2011), 5.

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Bibliothécaire
amateur
- un
cours de
pédagogie
critique
Tomislav Medak & Marcell Mars (Public Library project)

Proposition de programme d'études de bibliothécaire amateur développé à
travers les activités et les exigences du projet Public Library. Prenant pour
base la généalogie historique de la bibliothèque publique en tant qu'institution
permettant l'accès à la connaissance, la tradition prolétaire de la connaissance
réellement utile et la puissance de l'amateur motivée par le développement
technologique, le programme couvre différents secteurs : depuis les flux de
travail directement applicables comme la numérisation, le partage et l'utilisation
de livres électroniques, à la politique et la tactique de conservation des
bibliothèques en ligne, en passant par la théorie médiatique appliquée qui est
implicite dans les pratiques du bibliothécaire amateur. La proposition est plus
amplement développée, complexifiée et sera testée durant les futures activités
de Public Library et des organisations affiliées.
BIBLIOTHÈQUE PUBLIQUE : UNE GÉNÉALOGIE POLITIQUE

Historiquement, les bibliothèques publiques sont parvenues à être un espace institutionnel
exempté de la marchandisation et de la privatisation de la connaissance. Un espace dans
lequel les œuvres littéraires et scientifiques sont abritées et rendues accessibles pour
l'éducation de chaque membre de la société, quel que soit son statut social ou économique.
Si, du point de vue libéral, l'éducation est un prérequis à la véritable participation au corps

politique, c'est dans cet espace institutionnel étroit que la citoyenneté trouve une base
matérielle importante à sa réalisation universelle.
Si aujourd'hui elle est une institution d'accès public et de savoir populaire, il a fallu une série
de transformations et de bouleversements sociaux au 18e et 19e siècle pour que la
bibliothèque se développe. Ces développements ont provoqué l'arrivée d'un flot de livres et
d'exigences politiques qui ont encouragé la bibliothèque à s'intégrer dans un horizon politique
démocratisant et égalitaire. En toile de fond historique de ces développements, il y eut
l'ascendance rapide du livre en tant que commodité de masse et l'importance croissante de la
culture de la lecture suite à l'invention des caractères d'imprimerie mobiles. Ayant émergé à
la même époque que le capitalisme, au début du 18e siècle le commerce des livres, était en
pleine expansion. Alors qu'au 15e siècle, en Europe occidentale, les bibliothèques qui se
trouvaient autour des monastères, des tribunaux et des universités ne contenaient pas plus de
cinq millions de manuscrits, la production de l'imprimerie a atteint 700 millions de volumes,
et ce, au 18e siècle seulement.[1] Et alors que cela a offert un vecteur à l'émergence d'un
public de lecteurs bourgeois et contribué à une expansion sans précédent de la science
moderne, la culture de la lecture et des Lumières restait alors principalement le privilège
d'une minorité.
Deux bouleversements sociaux allaient commencer à changer cela. Le 2 novembre 1789,
l'Assemblée nationale de la Révolution française a approuvé la saisie de tous les biens
bibliothécaires de l'Église et de l'aristocratie. Des millions de volumes ont été transférés à la
Bibliothèque Nationale ainsi qu'aux bibliothèques régionales, à travers la France. Au même
moment, le capitalisme progressait, en particulier en Angleterre. Ce mouvement a
massivement déplacé une population rurale pauvre dans les centres urbains en pleine
croissance et propulsé le développement de la production industrielle. À la moitié du 19e
siècle, il a également a introduit la presse typographique à vapeur dans la production
commerciale de livres. Puisqu'il était de plus en plus facile de produire des livres en masse,
les bibliothèques privées payantes, au service des
catégories privilégiées de la société, ont commencé à se
répandre. Ce phénomène a mis en relief la question de la
classe dans la demande naissante pour un accès public
aux livres.
Après une tentative ratée d'introduction du suffrage
universel en vue d'en finir avec le système de
représentation politique basée sur les droits de propriété à
travers l'Acte de réforme de 1832, le mouvement anglais
du chartisme a commencé à ouvrir des salles de lectures
et des bibliothèques de prêts coopératifs qui allaient
bientôt devenir un foyer pour l'échange social entre les
classes populaires. Suite aux mouvements
révolutionnaires de 1848, les classes dirigeantes

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apeurées ont fini par accepter de répondre à la demande qui réclamait des librairies financées
par l'argent public. Elles espéraient qu'un accès à la littérature et à l'édification favoriserait
l'éducation des travailleurs qualifiés qui étaient de plus en plus en demande, mais
souhaitaient aussi maintenir l'hégémonie sur la classe ouvrière au profit de la culture du
capitalisme, de l'intérêt personnel et de la compétition.[2]
LA CONNAISSANCE RÉELLEMENT UTILE
[3]

Sans surprise, les chartistes, qui s'étaient retrouvés chancelants après une défaite politique,
avaient commencé à ouvrir des salles de lecture et des bibliothèques de prêts coopératifs. En
effet, à l'époque, l'éducation proposée au prolétariat et aux pauvres par les classes dirigeantes
consistait, soit à une édification morale pieuse au service de la pacification politique, soit à
l'inculcation de qualifications ou de connaissances qui seraient utiles au propriétaire de
l'usine. Même les efforts aux allures nobles de la Society for the Diffusion of the Useful
Knowledge, une organisation du parti whig cherchant à apporter un apprentissage intellectuel
à la classe ouvrière et à la classe moyenne sous la forme de publications bon marché et
simplifiées, avaient pour objectif l'atténuation de la tendance radicale des mouvements
populaires[4]
Ces efforts de pacification des masses opprimées les ont poussées à chercher des manières
d'organiser par elles-mêmes une éducation qui leur apporterait l'alphabétisation et une
connaissance réellement utile : une connaissance non pas appliquée, mais critique qui leur
permettrait de voir à travers leur propre soumission politique et économique, de développer
une politique radicale et d'innover leurs propres institutions sociales d'opposition. L'éducation
radicale, dépendante du peu de ressources et du manque de temps de la classe ouvrière, s'est
développée dans les cadres informels des foyers, des quartiers et des lieux de travail, mais
également à travers une presse radicale, une lecture commune et des groupes de discussion.[5]
La demande pour une connaissance réellement utile comprenait une critique de « toute
forme d'éducation “fournie” » et de la conception libérale selon laquelle « une “éducation
nationale” était une condition nécessaire à la garantie du suffrage universel ». Un
développement de « programmes et de pédagogies » radicaux constituait une part de l'arsenal
de « stratégie politique comme moyen de changer le monde »[6]
PÉDAGOGIE CRITIQUE

L'émergence de la bibliothèque publique a donc eu lieu dans le contexte d'un compromis
historique entre la formation des fondements d'une pédagogie radicale et une réaction visant
à l'atténuer. Pourtant, à l'âge de la numérisation dans lequel nous pourrions penser que les
opportunités pour un accès à la connaissance se sont largement étendues, les bibliothèques

publiques se retrouvent particulièrement limitées dans leurs possibilités d'acquérir et de prêter
des éditions aussi bien sous une forme papier que numérique. Cette difficulté est un signe de
l'inégalité radicale de notre époque : une fois encore, l'émancipation politique se bat de
manière défensive pour une base matérielle pédagogique contre les forces croissantes de la
privatisation. Non seulement l'éducation de masse est devenue accessible à prix d'or
uniquement, entrainant la dette étudiante et la servitude qui y est associée, mais la
connaissance utile exigée par le marché du travail et la reproduction du capitalisme néolibéral
sont devenues la seule logique de l'éducation.
Sans surprise, au cours des six-sept dernières années, nous avons vu l'apprentissage
autodidacte, les bibliothèques de l'ombre et les bibliothécaires amateurs émerger pour contrer
la contraction des espaces d'exemption réduits par l'austérité et la commodification. Le projet
Public Library a été initié dans l'idée de contrer ce phénomène. Pour aider tout le monde à
apprendre l'utilisation d'outils simples permettant d'agir en tant qu'Amateur Librarian :
numériser, rassembler, partager, préserver des livres, des articles onéreux, introuvables ou
indésirables dans les coins mouvementés de notre planète.
Amateur Librarian a joué un rôle important dans le système narratif de Public Library. Un
rôle qui semble avoir porté ses fruits. Les gens rejoignent facilement le projet en « devenant »
bibliothécaire grâce à l'outil Calibre[7] et [let’s share books].[8] D'autres aspects du narratif de
Public Library ajoutent une articulation politique à cet acte simple, mais désobéissant. Public
Library perçoit une crise institutionnelle dans l'éducation, une impasse économique
d'austérité et une domination de la logique de commodité sous la forme du droit d'auteur.
Elle fait apparaitre la pratique du partage de livres et de catalogues des bibliothécaires
amateurs comme un défi pertinent à l'encontre de la convergence de cette crise, de cette
impasse et du régime du droit d'auteur.
Pour comprendre les hypothèses politiques et technologiques et développer plus en
profondeur les stratégies sur lesquelles les réactions des bibliothécaires amateurs se basent,
nous proposons un programme issu de la tradition pédagogique critique. La pédagogie
critique est une pratique productive et théorique qui rejette la définition du procédé
éducationnel comme réduit à une simple technique de communication de la connaissance et
présentée comme un mode d'acquisition neutre. Au contraire, la pédagogie est perçue plus
largement comme « une lutte pour la connaissance, le désir, les valeurs, les relations sociales,
et plus important encore, les modes d'institution politique », « une attention portée aux
questions relatives au contrôle des conditions de production de la connaissance. »[9]

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Actuellement, aucune industrie ne montre plus
d'asymétries au niveau du contrôle des conditions de
production de la connaissance que celle de la publication
académique. Refuser l'accès à des publications
académiques excessivement chères pour beaucoup
d'universités, en particulier dans l'hémisphère sud,
contraste ostensiblement avec les profits énormes qu'un
petit nombre d'éditeurs commerciaux tirent du travail
bénévole de scientifiques qui écrivent, révisent et éditent
des contributions et avec les prix exorbitants des
souscriptions que les bibliothèques institutionnelles
doivent payer. C'est donc ici que la bibliothèque amateur
atteint le sommet de son intensité en matière de
pédagogie critique : elle nous invite à formuler et à narrer
plus précisément sa pratique à travers un processus
partagé de découverte.
UN PROGRAMME

Une bibliothèque publique, c'est :
• un libre accès aux livres pour tous les membres de la
société,
• un catalogue de bibliothèque,
• un bibliothécaire.

From Amateur

Librarian - A
Course in Critical Pedagogy:
No industry in the present
demonstrates more the asymmetries of
control over the conditions of
production of knowledge than the
academic publishing. The denial of
access to outrageously expensive
academic publications for many
universities, particularly in the Global
South, stands in stark contrast to the
super-profits that a small number of
commercial publishers draws from the
free labour of scientists who write,
review and edit contributions and the
extortive prices their institutional
libraries have to pay for subscriptions.
From Voor elk boek is een
gebruiker:
FS: Hoe gaan jullie om met boeken
en publicaties die al vanaf het begin
digitaal zijn? DM: We kopen e-books
en e-tijdschriften en maken die
beschikbaar voor onderzoekers. Maar
dat zijn hele andere omgevingen,
omdat die content niet fysiek binnen
onze muren komt. We kopen toegang
tot servers van uitgevers of de
aggregator. Die content komt nooit bij
ons, die blijft op hun machines staan.
We kunnen daar dus eigenlijk niet
zoveel mee doen, behalve verwijzen
en zorgen dat het evengoed vindbaar
is als de print.

Le programme de bibliothécaire amateur développe
plusieurs aspects et implications d'une telle définition.
Certaines parties du programme ont été construites à
partir de différents ateliers et exposés qui se déroulaient précédemment dans le cadre du
projet Public Library. Certaines parties de ce programme doivent encore évoluer s'appuyant
sur un processus de recherche futur, d'échange et de production de connaissance dans le
processus éducatif. Tout en restant schématique en allant de la pratique immédiate, à la
stratégie, la tactique et au registre réflectif de la
connaissance, il existe des personnes et pratiques - non
citées ici - desquelles nous imaginons pouvoir apprendre.
La première itération de ce programme pourrait aussi
bien être une académie d'été avec notre équipe
sélectionnée de bibliothécaires, concepteurs, chercheurs,
professeurs, qu'un petit atelier avec un groupe restreint
d'étudiants se plongeant dans un aspect précis du
programme. En résumé, ce programme est ouvert, aussi

bien au processus éducationnel qu'aux contributions des autres. Nous sommes ouverts aux
commentaires, aux dérivations et aux ajouts.
MODULE 1 : FLUX DE TRAVAIL
• du livre au livre électronique
◦ numériser un livre
avec un scanner de
livres
◦ supprimer la gestion
des droits numériques
et convertir au format
livre numérique
• du désordre au catalogue
◦ gérer une bibliothèque
de livres numériques
avec Calibre
◦ trouver des livres
numériques et des
articles dans des
bibliothèques en ligne
• de la référence à la bibliographie
◦ annoter à partir d'une
application ou d'un
appareil de lecture de
livres électroniques
◦ créer une
bibliographie
académique sur Zotero
• du dispositif de bloc au périphérique réseau
◦ partager votre
bibliothèque de livres
numériques d'un
périphérique local à
un appareil de lecture
◦ partager votre
bibliothèque de livres
numériques sur
internet avec [let’s
share books]

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• de l'espace IP privé à l'espace IP public
◦ utiliser [let’s share
books] et
library.memoryoftheworld.org
◦ utiliser logan &
jessica
◦ utiliser Science Hub
◦ utiliser Tor

MODULE 2 : POLITIQUE/TACTIQUE
• du développement de la subordination à la désobéissance
subalterne
◦ développement inégal
et stratégies
politiques
◦ stratégies de
développement contre
les stratégies de sous
développement : accès
ouvert contre piratage
• de la propriété au commun
◦ de la propriété au
commun
◦ droit d'auteur,
publication
scientifique, accès
ouvert
◦ bibliothèque de
l'ombre, piratage,
custodians.online
• de la collection à l'action collective
◦ pédagogie critique et
éducation
◦ archive, activation et
action collective

MODULE 3 : ABSTRACTIONS DANS L'ACTION
• du linéaire à l'informatique
◦ bibliothèque

◦ livre imprimé et livre
numérique : page,
marge, dos
• du central au distribué
◦ bibliothécaires
professionnels et
bibliothécaires
amateurs
◦ infrastructure(s) de
réseau/topologies
(études des classes
dirigeantes)
• du factuel au fantastique
◦ l'univers pour
bibliothèque, la
bibliothèque pour
univers

LISTE DE LECTURE
• Mars, Marcell; Vladimir, Klemo. Download & How to:
Calibre & [let’s share books]. Memory of the World (2014)
https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/10/28/
calibre-lets-share-books/
• Buringh, Eltjo; Van Zanden, Jan Luiten. Charting the “Rise of
the West”: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A
Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth
Centuries. The Journal of Economic History (2009) http://
journals.cambridge.org/article_S0022050709000837
• Mattern, Shannon. Library as Infrastructure. Places Journal
(2014) https://placesjournal.org/article/library-asinfrastructure/
• Antonić, Voja. Our beloved bookscanner. Memory of the
World (2012) https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/
blog/2012/10/28/our-beloved-bookscanner-2/
• Medak, Tomislav; Sekulić, Dubravka; Mertens, An. How to:
Bookscanning. Memory of the World (2014) https://
www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/12/08/how-tobookscanning/
• Barok, Dusan. Talks/Public Library. Monoskop (2015)
http://monoskop.org/Talks/Public_Library
• Custodians.online. In Solidarity with Library Genesis and
Science Hub (2015) http://custodians.online

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• Battles, Matthew. Library: An Unquiet History Random
House (2014)
• Harris, Michael H. History of Libraries of the Western World.
Scarecrow Press (1999)
• MayDay Rooms. Activation (2015) http://
maydayrooms.org/activation/
• Krajewski, Markus. Paper Machines: About Cards &
Catalogs, 1548-1929. MIT Press (2011) https://
library.memoryoftheworld.org/b/
PaRC3gldHrZ3MuNPXyrh1hM1meyyaqvhaWlHTvr53NRjJ2k

Dernière version: https://www.zotero.org/groups/amateur_librarian__a_course_in_critical_pedagogy_reading_list
Last
Revision:
1·08·2016

1. 1. Pour une histoire économique du livre en Europe occidentale, voir Eltjo Buringh et Jan Luiten Van Zanden, « Charting the
‘Rise of the West’ : Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth
Centuries, » The Journal of Economic History 69, n°. 02 (juin 2009) : 409–45, doi :10.1017/S0022050709000837, en
particulier les tableaux 1-5.
2. 2. Pour une histoire sociale de la bibliothèque publique, voir Matthew Battles, Library: An Unquiet History (Random House,
2014) chapitre 5 : “Books for all”.
3. 3. Pour ce concept, nous sommes redevables au collectif de curateurs What, How and for Whom/WHW, qui a présenté le
travail de Public Library dans le cadre de l'exposition Really Useful Knowledge qu'ils ont organisée au Museo Reina Sofía à
Madrid, entre 29 octobre 2014 et le 9 février 2015.
4. 4. « Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, » Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, Juin 25, 2015, https://

en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?
title=Society_for_the_Diffusion_of_Useful_Knowledge&oldid=668644340.

5. 5. Richard Johnson, « Really Useful Knowledge, » dans CCCS Selected Working Papers: Volume 1, 1 édition, vol. 1
(Londres u.a. : Routledge, 2014), 755.
6. Ibid., 752.
7. http://calibre-ebook.com/
8. https://www.memoryoftheworld.org/blog/2014/10/28/calibre-lets-share-books/
9. Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy (Bloomsbury Academic, 2011), 5.

A bag
but is
language
nothing
of words
(language is nothing but a bag of words)
MICHAEL MURTAUGH

In text indexing and other machine reading applications the term "bag of
words" is frequently used to underscore how processing algorithms often
represent text using a data structure (word histograms or weighted vectors)
where the original order of the words in sentence form is stripped away. While
"bag of words" might well serve as a cautionary reminder to programmers of
the essential violence perpetrated to a text and a call to critically question the
efficacy of methods based on subsequent transformations, the expression's use
seems in practice more like a badge of pride or a schoolyard taunt that would
go: Hey language: you're nothin' but a big BAG-OF-WORDS.
BAG OF WORDS

In information retrieval and other so-called machine-reading applications (such as text
indexing for web search engines) the term "bag of words" is used to underscore how in the
course of processing a text the original order of the words in sentence form is stripped away.
The resulting representation is then a collection of each unique word used in the text,
typically weighted by the number of times the word occurs.
Bag of words, also known as word histograms or weighted term vectors, are a standard part
of the data engineer's toolkit. But why such a drastic transformation? The utility of "bag of
words" is in how it makes text amenable to code, first in that it's very straightforward to
implement the translation from a text document to a bag of words representation. More

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significantly, this transformation then opens up a wide collection of tools and techniques for
further transformation and analysis purposes. For instance, a number of libraries available in
the booming field of "data sciences" work with "high dimension" vectors; bag of words is a
way to transform a written document into a mathematical vector where each "dimension"
corresponds to the (relative) quantity of each unique word. While physically unimaginable
and abstract (imagine each of Shakespeare's works as points in a 14 million dimensional
space), from a formal mathematical perspective, it's quite a comfortable idea, and many
complementary techniques (such as principle component analysis) exist to reduce the
resulting complexity.
What's striking about a bag of words representation, given is centrality in so many text
retrieval application is its irreversibility. Given a bag of words representation of a text and
faced with the task of producing the original text would require in essence the "brain" of a
writer to recompose sentences, working with the patience of a devoted cryptogram puzzler to
draw from the precise stock of available words. While "bag of words" might well serve as a
cautionary reminder to programmers of the essential violence perpetrated to a text and a call
to critically question the efficacy of methods based on subsequent transformations, the
expressions use seems in practice more like a badge of pride or a schoolyard taunt that would
go: Hey language: you're nothing but a big BAG-OF-WORDS. Following this spirit of the
term, "bag of words" celebrates a perfunctory step of "breaking" a text into a purer form
amenable to computation, to stripping language of its silly redundant repetitions and foolishly
contrived stylistic phrasings to reveal a purer inner essence.
BOOK OF WORDS

Lieber's Standard Telegraphic Code, first published in 1896 and republished in various
updated editions through the early 1900s, is an example of one of several competing systems
of telegraph code books. The idea was for both senders and receivers of telegraph messages
to use the books to translate their messages into a sequence of code words which can then be
sent for less money as telegraph messages were paid by the word. In the front of the book, a
list of examples gives a sampling of how messages like: "Have bought for your account 400
bales of cotton, March delivery, at 8.34" can be conveyed by a telegram with the message
"Ciotola, Delaboravi". In each case the reduction of number of transmitted words is
highlighted to underscore the efficacy of the method. Like a dictionary or thesaurus, the book
is primarily organized around key words, such as act, advice, affairs, bags, bail, and bales,
under which exhaustive lists of useful phrases involving the corresponding word are provided
in the main pages of the volume. [1]

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P.71

[...] my focus in this chapter is on the inscription technology that grew parasitically
alongside the monopolistic pricing strategies of telegraph companies: telegraph code
books. Constructed under the bywords “economy,” “secrecy,” and “simplicity,”

telegraph code books matched phrases and words with code letters or numbers. The
idea was to use a single code word instead of an entire phrase, thus saving money by
serving as an information compression technology. Generally economy won out over
[2]
secrecy, but in specialized cases, secrecy was also important.

In Katherine Hayles' chapter devoted to telegraph code books she observes how:
The interaction between code and language shows a steady movement away from a
human-centric view of code toward a machine-centric view, thus anticipating the
[3]
development of full-fledged machine codes with the digital computer.

Aspects of this transitional moment are apparent in a notice included prominently inserted in
the Lieber's code book:
After July, 1904, all combinations of letters that do not exceed ten will pass as one
cipher word, provided that it is pronounceable, or that it is taken from the following
languages: English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese or Latin -[4]
International Telegraphic Conference, July 1903

Conforming to international conventions regulating telegraph communication at that time, the
stipulation that code words be actual words drawn from a variety of European languages
(many of Lieber's code words are indeed arbitrary Dutch, German, and Spanish words)

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underscores this particular moment of transition as reference to the human body in the form
of "pronounceable" speech from representative languages begins to yield to the inherent
potential for arbitrariness in digital representation.
What telegraph code books do is remind us of is the relation of language in general to
economy. Whether they may be economies of memory, attention, costs paid to a
telecommunicatons company, or in terms of computer processing time or storage space,
encoding language or knowledge in any form of writing is a form of shorthand and always
involves an interplay with what one expects to perform or "get out" of the resulting encoding.
Along with the invention of telegraphic codes comes a paradox that John Guillory has
noted: code can be used both to clarify and occlude. Among the sedimented structures
in the technological unconscious is the dream of a universal language. Uniting the
world in networks of communication that flashed faster than ever before, telegraphy
was particularly suited to the idea that intercultural communication could become
almost effortless. In this utopian vision, the effects of continuous reciprocal causality
expand to global proportions capable of radically transforming the conditions of human
[5]
life. That these dreams were never realized seems, in retrospect, inevitable.

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Far from providing a universal system of encoding messages in the English language,
Lieber's code is quite clearly designed for the particular needs and conditions of its use. In
addition to the phrases ordered by keywords, the book includes a number of tables of terms
for specialized use. One table lists a set of words used to describe all possible permutations of
numeric grades of coffee (Choliam = 3,4, Choliambos = 3,4,5, Choliba = 4,5, etc.); another
table lists pairs of code words to express the respective daily rise or fall of the price of coffee
at the port of Le Havre in increments of a quarter of a Franc per 50 kilos ("Chirriado =
prices have advanced 1 1/4 francs"). From an archaeological perspective, the Lieber's code
book reveals a cross section of the needs and desires of early 20th century business
communication between the United States and its trading partners.
The advertisements lining the Liebers Code book further situate its use and that of
commercial telegraphy. Among the many advertisements for banking and law services, office
equipment, and alcohol are several ads for gun powder and explosives, drilling equipment
and metallurgic services all with specific applications to mining. Extending telegraphy's
formative role for ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication for reasons of safety,
commercial telegraphy extended this network of communication to include those parties
coordinating the "raw materials" being mined, grown, or otherwise extracted from overseas
sources and shipped back for sale.

"RAW DATA NOW!"
Tim Berners-Lee: [...] Make a beautiful website, but
first give us the unadulterated data, we want the data.
We want unadulterated data. OK, we have to ask for
raw data now. And I'm going to ask you to practice
that, OK? Can you say "raw"?
Audience: Raw.
Tim Berners-Lee: Can you say "data"?
Audience: Data.
TBL: Can you say "now"?
Audience: Now!
TBL: Alright, "raw data now"!
[...]

From La ville intelligente - Ville de la
connaissance:
Étant donné que les nouvelles formes
modernistes et l'utilisation de
matériaux propageaient l'abondance
d'éléments décoratifs, Paul Otlet
croyait en la possibilité du langage
comme modèle de « données brutes »,
le réduisant aux informations
essentielles et aux faits sans ambiguïté,
tout en se débarrassant de tous les
éléments inefficaces et subjectifs.
From The Smart City - City of
Knowledge:
As new modernist forms and use of
materials propagated the abundance
of decorative elements, Otlet believed
in the possibility of language as a
model of 'raw data', reducing it to
essential information and
unambiguous facts, while removing all
inefficient assets of ambiguity or
subjectivity.

So, we're at the stage now where we have to do this -the people who think it's a great idea. And all the
people -- and I think there's a lot of people at TED
who do things because -- even though there's not an
immediate return on the investment because it will only really pay off when everybody
else has done it -- they'll do it because they're the sort of person who just does things
which would be good if everybody else did them. OK, so it's called linked data. I want
[6]
you to make it. I want you to demand it.
UN/STRUCTURED

As graduate students at Stanford, Sergey Brin and Lawrence (Larry) Page had an early
interest in producing "structured data" from the "unstructured" web. [7]
The World Wide Web provides a vast source of information of almost all types,
ranging from DNA databases to resumes to lists of favorite restaurants. However, this
information is often scattered among many web servers and hosts, using many different
formats. If these chunks of information could be extracted from the World Wide Web
and integrated into a structured form, they would form an unprecedented source of
information. It would include the largest international directory of people, the largest
and most diverse databases of products, the greatest bibliography of academic works,
and many other useful resources. [...]

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2.1 The Problem
Here we define our problem more formally:
Let D be a large database of unstructured information such as the World Wide Web
[8]
[...]

In a paper titled Dynamic Data Mining Brin and Page situate their research looking for rules
(statistical correlations) between words used in web pages. The "baskets" they mention stem
from the origins of "market basket" techniques developed to find correlations between the
items recorded in the purchase receipts of supermarket customers. In their case, they deal
with web pages rather than shopping baskets, and words instead of purchases. In transitioning
to the much larger scale of the web, they describe the usefulness of their research in terms of
its computational economy, that is the ability to tackle the scale of the web and still perform
using contemporary computing power completing its task in a reasonably short amount of
time.
A traditional algorithm could not compute the large itemsets in the lifetime of the
universe. [...] Yet many data sets are difficult to mine because they have many
frequently occurring items, complex relationships between the items, and a large
number of items per basket. In this paper we experiment with word usage in documents
on the World Wide Web (see Section 4.2 for details about this data set). This data set
is fundamentally different from a supermarket data set. Each document has roughly
150 distinct words on average, as compared to roughly 10 items for cash register
transactions. We restrict ourselves to a subset of about 24 million documents from the
web. This set of documents contains over 14 million distinct words, with tens of
thousands of them occurring above a reasonable support threshold. Very many sets of
[9]
these words are highly correlated and occur often.
UN/ORDERED

In programming, I've encountered a recurring "problem" that's quite symptomatic. It goes
something like this: you (the programmer) have managed to cobble out a lovely "content
management system" (either from scratch, or using any number of helpful frameworks)
where your user can enter some "items" into a database, for instance to store bookmarks.
After this ordered items are automatically presented in list form (say on a web page). The
author: It's great, except... could this bookmark come before that one? The problem stems
from the fact that the database ordering (a core functionality provided by any database)
somehow applies a sorting logic that's almost but not quite right. A typical example is the
sorting of names where details (where to place a name that starts with a Norwegian "Ø" for
instance), are language-specific, and when a mixture of languages occurs, no single ordering
is necessarily "correct". The (often) exascerbated programmer might hastily add an
additional database field so that each item can also have an "order" (perhaps in the form of a
date or some other kind of (alpha)numerical "sorting" value) to be used to correctly order
the resulting list. Now the author has a means, awkward and indirect but workable, to control

the order of the presented data on the start page. But one might well ask, why not just edit
the resulting listing as a document? Not possible! Contemporary content management
systems are based on a data flow from a "pure" source of a database, through controlling
code and templates to produce a document as a result. The document isn't the data, it's the
end result of an irreversible process. This problem, in this and many variants, is widespread
and reveals an essential backwardness that a particular "computer scientist" mindset relating
to what constitutes "data" and in particular it's relationship to order that makes what might be
a straightforward question of editing a document into an over-engineered database.
Recently working with Nikolaos Vogiatzis whose research explores playful and radically
subjective alternatives to the list, Vogiatzis was struck by how from the earliest specifications
of HTML (still valid today) have separate elements (OL and UL) for "ordered" and
"unordered" lists.
The representation of the list is not defined here, but a bulleted list for unordered lists,
and a sequence of numbered paragraphs for an ordered list would be quite appropriate.
[10]
Other possibilities for interactive display include embedded scrollable browse panels.

Vogiatzis' surprise lay in the idea of a list ever being considered "unordered" (or in
opposition to the language used in the specification, for order to ever be considered
"insignificant"). Indeed in its suggested representation, still followed by modern web
browsers, the only difference between the two visually is that UL items are preceded by a
bullet symbol, while OL items are numbered.
The idea of ordering runs deep in programming practice where essentially different data
structures are employed depending on whether order is to be maintained. The indexes of a
"hash" table, for instance (also known as an associative array), are ordered in an
unpredictable way governed by a representation's particular implementation. This data
structure, extremely prevalent in contemporary programming practice sacrifices order to offer
other kinds of efficiency (fast text-based retrieval for instance).
DATA MINING

In announcing Google's impending data center in Mons, Belgian prime minister Di Rupo
invoked the link between the history of the mining industry in the region and the present and
future interest in "data mining" as practiced by IT companies such as Google.
Whether speaking of bales of cotton, barrels of oil, or bags of words, what links these subjects
is the way in which the notion of "raw material" obscures the labor and power structures
employed to secure them. "Raw" is always relative: "purity" depends on processes of
"refinement" that typically carry social/ecological impact.

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Stripping language of order is an act of "disembodiment", detaching it from the acts of writing
and reading. The shift from (human) reading to machine reading involves a shift of
responsibility from the individual human body to the obscured responsibilities and seemingly
inevitable forces of the "machine", be it the machine of a market or the machine of an
algorithm.
The computer scientists' view of textual content as
"unstructured", be it in a webpage or the OCR scanned
pages of a book, reflect a negligence to the processes and
labor of writing, editing, design, layout, typesetting, and
eventually publishing, collecting and cataloging [11].

From X = Y:
Still, it is reassuring to know that the
products hold traces of the work, that
even with the progressive removal of
human signs in automated processes,
the workers' presence never
disappears completely. This presence
is proof of the materiality of
information production, and becomes
a sign of the economies and
paradigms of efficiency and
profitability that are involved.

"Unstructured" to the computer scientist, means nonconformant to particular forms of machine reading.
"Structuring" then is a social process by which particular
(additional) conventions are agreed upon and employed.
Computer scientists often view text through the eyes of
their particular reading algorithm, and in the process
(voluntarily) blind themselves to the work practices which have produced and maintain these
"resources".
Berners-Lee, in chastising his audience of web publishers to not only publish online, but to
release "unadulterated" data belies a lack of imagination in considering how language is itself
structured and a blindness to the need for more than additional technical standards to connect
to existing publishing practices.
Last
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1. Benjamin Franklin Lieber, Lieber's Standard Telegraphic Code, 1896, New York; https://archive.org/details/
standardtelegrap00liebuoft
2. Katherine Hayles, "Technogenesis in Action: Telegraph Code Books and the Place of the Human", How We Think: Digital
Media and Contemporary Technogenesis, 2006
3. Hayles
4. Lieber's
5. Hayles
6. Tim Berners-Lee: The next web, TED Talk, February 2009 http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_berners_lee_on_the_next_web/
transcript?language=en
7. "Research on the Web seems to be fashionable these days and I guess I'm no exception." from Brin's Stanford webpage
8. Extracting Patterns and Relations from the World Wide Web, Sergey Brin, Proceedings of the WebDB Workshop at EDBT
1998, http://www-db.stanford.edu/~sergey/extract.ps
9. Dynamic Data Mining: Exploring Large Rule Spaces by Sampling; Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, 1998; p. 2 http://
ilpubs.stanford.edu:8090/424/
10. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML): "Internet Draft", Tim Berners-Lee and Daniel Connolly, June 1993, http://
www.w3.org/MarkUp/draft-ietf-iiir-html-01.txt
11. http://informationobservatory.info/2015/10/27/google-books-fair-use-or-anti-democratic-preemption/#more-279

A Book
of the
Web
DUSAN BAROK

Is there a vital difference between publishing in print versus online other than
reaching different groups of readers and a different lifespan? Both types of texts
are worth considering preserving in libraries. The online environment has
created its own hybrid form between text and library, which is key to
understanding how digital text produces difference.
Historically, we have been treating texts as discrete units, that are distinguished by their
material properties such as cover, binding, script. These characteristics establish them as
either a book, a magazine, a diary, sheet music and so on. One book differs from another,
books differ from magazines, printed matter differs from handwritten manuscripts. Each
volume is a self-contained whole, further distinguished by descriptors such as title, author,
date, publisher, and classification codes that allow it to be located and referred to. The
demarcation of a publication as a container of text works as a frame or boundary which
organises the way it can be located and read. Researching a particular subject matter, the
reader is carried along by classification schemes under which volumes are organised, by
references inside texts, pointing to yet other volumes, and by tables of contents and indexes of
subjects that are appended to texts, pointing to places within that volume.
So while their material properties separate texts into distinct objects, bibliographic information
provides each object with a unique identifier, a unique address in the world of print culture.
Such identifiable objects are further replicated and distributed across containers that we call
libraries, where they can be accessed.
The online environment however, intervenes in this condition. It establishes shortcuts.
Through search engine, digital texts can be searched for any text sequence, regardless of
their distinct materiality and bibliographic specificity. This changes the way they function as a
library, and the way its main object, the book, should be rethought.
(1) Rather than operate as distinct entities, multiple texts are simultaneously accessible
through full-text search as if they are one long text, with its portions spread across the

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web, and including texts that had not been considered as candidates for library
collections.
(2) The unique identifier at hand for these text portions is not the bibliographic
information, but the URL.
(3) The text is as long as web-crawlers of a given search engine are set to reach,
refashioning the library into a storage of indexed data.

These are some of the lines along which online texts appear to produce difference. The first
contrasts the distinct printed publication to the machine-readable text, the second the
bibliographic information to the URL, and the third the library to the search engine.
The introduction of full-text search has created an
environment in which all machine-readable online
documents in reach are effectively treated as one single
document. For any text-sequence to be locatable, it
doesn't matter in which file format it appears, nor whether
its interface is a database-powered website or mere
directory listing. As long as text can be extracted from a
document, it is a container of text sequences which itself
is a sequence in a 'book' of the web.
Even though this is hardly news after almost two decades
of Google Search ruling, little seems to have changed
with respect to the forms and genres of writing. Loyal to
standard forms of publishing, most writing still adheres to
the principle of coherence, based on units such as book
chapters, journal papers, newspaper articles, etc., that are
designed to be read from beginning to end.

From Voor elk boek is een gebruiker:
FS: Maar het gaat toch ook over de
manier waarop jullie toegang bieden,
de bibliotheek als interface? Online
laten jullie dat nu over aan Google.
SVP: De toegang gaat niet meer
over: “deze instelling heeft dit, deze
instelling heeft iets anders”, al die
instellingen zijn via dezelfde interface
te bereiken. Je kan doorheen al die
collecties zoeken en dat is ook weer
een stukje van die originele droom van
Otlet en Vander Haeghen, het idee
van een wereldbibliotheek. Voor elk
boek is er een gebruiker, de
bibliotheek moet die maar gaan
zoeken.
Wat ik intrigerend vind is dat alle
boeken één boek geworden zijn
doordat ze op hetzelfde niveau
doorzoekbaar zijn, dat is ongelooflijk
opwindend. Dat is een andere manier
van lezen die zelfs Otlet zich niet had
kunnen voorstellen. Ze zouden zot
worden moesten ze dit weten.

Still, the scope of textual forms appearing in search
results, and thus a corpus of texts in which they are being
brought into, is radically diversified: it may include
discussion board comments, product reviews, private emails, weather information, spam etc., the type of content
that used to be omitted from library collections. Rather than being published in a traditional
sense, all these texts are produced onto digital networks by mere typing, copying, OCR-ing,
generated by machines, by sensors tracking movement, temperature, etc.
Even though portions of these texts may come with human or non-human authors attached,
authors have relatively little control over discourses their writing gets embedded in. This is
also where the ambiguity of copyright manifests itself. Crawling bots pre-read the internet
with all its attached devices according to the agenda of their maintainers, and the decisions

about which, how and to whom the indexed texts are served in search results is in the code of
a library.
Libraries in this sense are not restricted to digitised versions of physical public or private
libraries as we know them from history. Commercial search engines, intelligence agencies,
and virtually all forms of online text collections can be thought of as libraries.
Acquisition policies figure here on the same level with crawling bots, dragnet/surveillance
algorithms, and arbitrary motivations of users, all of which actuate the selection and
embedding of texts into structures that regulate their retrievability and through access control
produce certain kinds of communities or groups of readers. The author's intentions of
partaking in this or that discourse are confronted by discourse-conditioning operations of
retrieval algorithms. Hence, Google structures discourse through its Google Search
differently from how the Internet Archive does with its Wayback Machine, and from how the
GCHQ does it with its dragnet programme.
They are all libraries, each containing a single 'book' whose pages are URLs with
timestamps and geostamps in the form of IP address. Google, GCHQ, JStor, Elsevier –
each maintains its own searchable corpus of texts. The decisions about who, to which
sections and under which conditions is to be admitted are
From Amateur Librarian - A Course
informed by a mix of copyright laws, corporate agendas,
in Critical Pedagogy:
management hierarchies, and national security issues.
As books became more easily massVarious sets of these conditions that are at work in a
produced, the commercial
subscription libraries catering to the
particular library, also redefine the notion of publishing
better-off parts of society blossomed.
and of the publication, and in turn the notion of public.
This brought the class aspect of the
Corporate journal repositories exploit publicly funded
research by renting it only to libraries which can afford it;
intelligence agencies are set to extract texts from any
moving target, basically any networked device, apparently
in public interest and away from the public eye; publiclyfunded libraries are being prevented by outdated
copyright laws and bureaucracy from providing digitised
content online; search engines create a sense of giving
access to all public record online while only a few know
what is excluded and how search results are ordered.

P.82

nascent demand for public access to
books to the fore.
From Bibliothécaire amateur - un
cours de pédagogie critique:
Puisqu'il était de plus en plus facile de
produire des livres en masse, les
bibliothèques privées payantes, au
service des catégories privilégiées de
la société, ont commencé à se
répandre. Ce phénomène a mis en
relief la question de la classe dans la
demande naissante pour un accès
public aux livres.

P.83

It is within and against this milieu that libraries such as
the Internet Archive, Wikileaks, Aaaaarg, UbuWeb,
Monoskop, Memory of the World, Nettime, TheNextLayer
and others gain their political agency. Their countertechniques for negotiating the publicness of publishing
include self-archiving, open access, book liberation,
leaking, whistleblowing, open source search algorithms
and so on.
Digitization and posting texts online are interventions in
the procedures that make search possible. Operating
online collections of texts is as much about organising
texts within libraries, as is placing them within books of
the web.

Originally written 15-16 June 2015 in Prague, Brno
and Vienna for a talk given at the Technopolitics seminar in Vienna on 16 June 2015.
Revised 29 December 2015 in Bergen.
Last
Revision:
1·08·2016

The
Indexalist
MATTHEW FULLER

I first spoke to the patient in the last week of that August. That evening the sun was tender in
drawing its shadows across the lines of his face. The eyes gazed softly into a close middle
distance, as if composing a line upon a translucent page hung in the middle of the air, the
hands tapping out a stanza or two of music on legs covered by the brown folds of a towelling
dressing gown. He had the air of someone who had seen something of great amazement but
yet lacked the means to put it into language. As I got to know the patient over the next few
weeks I learned that this was not for the want of effort.
In his youth he had dabbled with the world-speak
language Volapük, one designed to do away with the
incompatibility of tongues, to establish a standard in
which scientific intercourse might be conducted with
maximum efficiency and with minimal friction in
movement between minds, laboratories and publications.
Latin biological names, the magnificent table of elements,
metric units of measurement, the nomenclature of celestial
objects from clouds to planets, anatomical parts and
medical conditions all had their own systems of naming
beyond any specific tongue. This was an attempt to bring
reason into speech and record, but there were other
means to do so when reality resisted these early
measures.

The dabbling, he reflected, had become a little more than
that. He had subscribed to journals in the language, he
wrote letters to colleagues and received them in return. A
few words of world-speak remained readily on his tongue, words that he spat out regularly
into the yellow-wallpapered lounge of the sanatorium with a disgust that was lugubriously
palpable.
According to my records, and in piecing together the notes of previous doctors, there was
something else however, something more profound that the language only hinted at. Just as
the postal system did not require the adoption of any language in particular but had its

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formats that integrated them into addressee, address line, postal town and country, something
that organised the span of the earth, so there was a sense of the patient as having sustained
an encounter with a fundamental form of organisation that mapped out his soul. More thrilling
than the question of language indeed was that of the system of organisation upon which
linguistic symbols are inscribed. I present for the reader’s contemplation some statements
typical of those he seemed to mull over.
“The index card system spoke to my soul. Suffice it to say that in its use I enjoyed the
highest form of spiritual pleasure, and organisational efficiency, a profound flowering of
intellect in which every thought moved between its enunciation, evidence, reference and
articulation in a mellifluous flow of ideation and the gratification of curiosity.” This sense of
the soul as a roving enquiry moving across eras, across forms of knowledge and through the
serried landscapes of the vast planet and cosmos was returned to over and over, a sense that
an inexplicable force was within him yet always escaping his touch.
“At every reference stood another reference, each more
interesting than the last. Each the apex of a pyramid of
further reading, pregnant with the threat of digression,
each a thin high wire which, if not observed might lead
the author into the fall of error, a finding already found
against and written up.” He mentions too, a number of
times, the way the furniture seemed to assist his thoughts
- the ease of reference implied by the way in which the
desk aligned with the text resting upon the pages of the
off-print, journal, newspaper, blueprint or book above
which further drawers of cards stood ready in their
cabinet. All were integrated into the system. And yet,
amidst these frenetic recollections there was a note of
mourning in his contemplative moods, “The superposition
of all planes of enquiry and of thought in one system
repels those for whom such harmonious speed is
suspicious.” This thought was delivered with a stare that
was not exactly one of accusation, but that lingered with
the impression that there was a further statement to follow
it, and another, queued up ready to follow.

As I gained the trust of the patient, there was a sense in
which he estimated me as something of a junior
collaborator, a clerk to his natural role as manager. A
lucky, if slightly doubtful, young man whom he might
mentor into efficiency and a state of full access to
information. For his world, there was not the corruption and tiredness of the old methods.
Ideas moved faster in his mind than they might now across the world. To possess a register of

thoughts covering a period of some years is to have an asset, the value of which is almost
incalculable. That it can answer any question respecting any thought about which one has
had an enquiry is but the smallest of its merits. More important is the fact that it continually
calls attention to matters requiring such attention.
Much of his discourse was about the optimum means of arrangement of the system, there
was an art to laying out the cards. As the patient further explained, to meet the objection that
loose cards may easily be mislaid, cards may be tabbed with numbers from one to ten. When
arranged in the drawer, these tabs proceed from left to right across the drawer and the
absence of a single card can thus easily be detected. The cards are further arranged between
coloured guide cards. As an alternative to tabbed cards, signal flags may be used. Here,
metal clips may be attached to the top end of the card and that stand out like guides. For use
of the system in relation to dates of the month, the card is printed with the numbers 1 to 31
at the top. The metal clip is placed as a signal to indicate the card is to receive attention on
the specified day. Within a large organisation a further card can be drawn up to assign
responsibility for processing that date’s cards. There were numerous means of working the
cards, special techniques for integrating them into any type of research or organisation, means
by which indexes operating on indexes could open mines of information and expand the
knowledge and capabilities of mankind.
As he pressed me further, I began to experiment with such methods myself by withdrawing
data from the sanatorium’s records and transferring it to cards in the night. The advantages of
the system are overwhelming. Cards, cut to the right mathematical degree of accuracy,
arrayed readily in drawers, set in cabinets of standard sizes that may be added to at ease,
may be apportioned out amongst any number of enquirers, all of whom may work on them
independently and simultaneously. The bound book, by contrast, may only be used by one
person at a time and that must stay upon a shelf itself referred to by an index card system. I
began to set up a structure of rows of mirrors on chains and pulleys and a set of levered and
hinged mechanical arms to allow me to open the drawers and to privately consult my files
from any location within the sanatorium. The clarity of the image is however so far too much
effaced by the diffusion of light across the system.
It must further be borne in mind that a system thus capable of indefinite expansion obviates
the necessity for hampering a researcher with furniture or appliances of a larger size than are
immediately required. The continuous and orderly sequence of the cards may be extended
further into the domain of furniture and to the conduct of business and daily life. Reasoning,
reference and the order of ideas emerging as they embrace and articulate a chaotic world and
then communicate amongst themselves turning the world in turn into something resembling
the process of thought in an endless process of consulting, rephrasing, adding and sorting.
For the patient, ideas flowed like a force of life, oblivious to any unnatural limitation. Thought
became, with the proper use of the system, part of the stream of life itself. Thought moved
through the cards not simply at the superficial level of the movement of fingers and the
mechanical sliding and bunching of cards, but at the most profound depths of the movement

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between reality and our ideas of it. The organisational grace to be found in arrangement,
classification and indexing still stirred the remnants of his nervous system until the last day.
Last
Revision:
2·08·2016

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An
experimental
transcript
SÎNZIANA PĂLTINEANU

Note: The editor has had the good fortune of finding a whole box of
handwritten index cards and various folded papers (from printed screenshots to
boarding passes) in the storage space of an institute. Upon closer investigation,
it has become evident that the mixed contents of the box make up one single
document. Difficult to decipher due to messy handwriting, the manuscript
poses further challenges to the reader because its fragments lack a preestablished order. Simply uploading high-quality facsimile images of the box
contents here would not solve the problems of legibility and coherence. As an
intermediary solution, the editor has opted to introduce below a selection of
scanned images and transcribed text from the found box. The transcript is
intended to be read as a document sample, as well as an attempt at manuscript
reconstruction, following the original in the author's hand as closely as possible:
pencilled in words in the otherwise black ink text are transcribed in brackets,
whereas curly braces signal erasures, peculiar marks or illegible parts on the
index cards. Despite shifts in handwriting styles, whereby letters sometimes
appear extremely rushed and distorted in multiple idiosyncratic ways, the
experts consulted unanimously declared that the manuscript was most likely
authored by one and the same person. To date, the author remains unknown.
Q

I've been running with a word in my mouth, running with this burning untitled shape, and I
just can't spit it out. Spit it with phlegm from a balcony, kiss it in a mirror, brush it away one
morning. I've been running with a word in my mouth, running...

… it must have been only last month that I began half-chanting-half-mumbling this looped
sequence of sentences on the staircase I regularly take down to work and back up to dream,
yet it feels as if it were half a century ago. Tunneling through my memory, my tongue begins
burning again and so I recollect that the subject matter was an agonizing, unutterable
obsession I needed to sort out most urgently. Back then I knew no better way than to keep
bringing it up obliquely until it would chemically dissolve itself into my blood or evaporate
through the pores of my skin. To whisper the obsession away, I thought not entirely so
naïvely, following a peculiar kind of vengeful logic, by emptying words of their pocket
contents on a spiraling staircase. An anti-incantation, a verbal overdose, a semantic dilution or
reduction – for the first time, I was ready to inflict harm on words! [And I am sure, the
thought has crossed other lucid minds, too.]
N

During the first several days, as I was rushing up and down the stairs like a Tasmanian devil,
swirling those same sentences in my expunction ritual, I hardly noticed that the brown
marbled staircase had a ravenous appetite for all my sound making and fuss: it cushioned the
clump of my footsteps, it absorbed the vibrations of my vocal chords and of my fingers
drumming on the handrail. All this unusual business must have carried on untroubled for
some time until that Wed. [?] morning when I tried approaching the employee at the
reception desk in the hideously large building where I live with a question about elevator
safety. I may take the elevator once in a blue moon, but I could not ignore the new
disquieting note I had been reading on all elevator doors that week:
m a k e / s u r e / t h e / e l e v a t o r / c a r / i s / s t a t i o n e d / o n / y o u r / f l
o o r / b e f o r e / s t e p p i n g / i n

T

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Walking with a swagger, I entered the incandescent light field around the fancy semicircular,
brown reception desk, pressed down my palms on it, bent forward and from what I found to
be a comfortable inquiry angle, launched question mark after question mark: “Is everything
alright with the elevators? Do you know how worrisome I find the new warning on the
elevator doors? Has there been an accident? Or is this simply an insurance disclaimer-trick?”
Too many floors, too many times reading the same message against my will, must have
inflated my concern, so I breathed out the justification of my anxiety and waited for a
reassuring head shake to erase the imprint of the elevator shaft from my mind. Oddly, not the
faintest or most bored acknowledgment of my inquiry or presence came from across the desk.
From where I was standing, I performed a quick check to see if any cables came out of the
receptionist's ears. Nothing. Channels unobstructed, no ear mufflers, no micro-devices.
Suspicion eliminated, I waved at him, emitted a few other sounds – all to no avail. My
tunnel-visioned receptionist rolled his chair even closer to one of the many monitors under his
hooked gaze, his visual field now narrowed to a very acute angle, sheltered by his high desk.
How well I can still remember that at that exact moment I wished my face would turn into
the widest, most expensive screen, with an imperative, hairy ticker at the bottom –
h e y t o u c h m y s c r e e n m y m u s t a c h e s c r e e n e l e v a t o r t o u c h d o w n s
c r e a m

J

That's one of the first red flags I remember in this situation (here, really starting to come
across more or less as a story): a feeling of being silenced by the building I inhabited. [Or to
think about it the other way around: it's also plausible and less paranoid that upon hearing
my flash sentences the building manifested a sense of phonophobia and consequently
activated a strange defense mechanism. In any case, t]hat day, I had been forewarned, but I
failed to understand. As soon as I pushed the revolving door and left the building with a wry
smile [on my face], the traffic outside wolfed down the warning.
E

The day I resigned myself to those forces – and I assume, I had unleashed them upon myself
through my vengeful desire to hxxx {here, a 3-cm erasure} words until I could see carcass
after carcass roll down the stairs [truth be said, a practice that differed from other people's
doings only in my heightened degree of awareness, which entailed a partially malevolent but
perhaps understandable defensive strategy on my part] – that gloomy day, the burning
untitled shape I had been carrying in my mouth morphed into a permanent official of my
cavity – a word implant in my jaw! No longer do I feel pain on my tongue, only a tinge of
volcanic ash as an aftermath of this defeat.

U

I've been running with a word in my mouth, running with this burning untitled shape, and I
just can't spit it out. Spit it with phlegm from a balcony, kiss it in a mirror, brush it away one
morning. It has become my tooth, rooted in my nervous system. My word of mouth.
P

Since then, my present has turned into an obscure hole, and I can't climb out of it. Most of
the time, I'm sitting at the bottom of this narrow oubliette, teeth in knees, scribbling notes with
my body in a terribly twisted position. And when I'm not sitting, I'm forced to jump.
Agonizing thoughts numb my limbs so much so that I feel my legs turning to stone. On some
days I look up, terrified. I can't even make out whether the diffuse opening is egg- or squareshaped, but there's definitely a peculiar tic-tac sequence interspersed with neighs that my
pricked ears are picking up on. A sound umbrella, hovering somewhere up there, high above
my imploded horizon.
{illegible vertical lines resembling a bar code}
Hypotheses scanned and merged, I temporarily conclude that a horse-like creature with
metal intestines must be galloping round and round the hole I'm in. When I first noticed the
sound, its circular cadence was soft and unobtrusive, almost protective, but now the more laps
the clock-horse is running, the deeper the ticking and the neighing sounds are drilling into the
hole. I picture this as an ever rotating metal worm inside a mincing machine. If I point my
chin up, it bores through my throat!
B

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P.143

What if, in returning to that red flag in my reconstructive undertaking [instead of “red flag”,
whose imperialist connotations strike me today, we cross it out and use “pyramid” to refer to
such potentially revealing frames, when intuitions {two words crossed out, but still legible:
seem to} give the alarm and converge before thoughts do], we posit that an elevator accident
occurred not long after my unanswered query at the High Reception Desk, and that I –
exceptionally – found myself in the elevator car that plummeted. Following this not entirely
bleak hypothesis, the oubliette I'm trapped in translates to an explainable state of blackout
and all the ticking and the drilling could easily find their counterparts in the host of medical
devices (and their noise-making) that support a comatose person. What if what I am
experiencing now is another kind of awareness, inside a coma, which will be gone once I
wake up in a few hours or days on a hospital bed, flowers by my side, someone crying / loud
as a horse / in the other corner of the room, next to a child's bed?
[Plausible as this scenario might be, it's still strange how the situation calls for reality-like
insertions to occur through “what if”s...]
H

Have I fallen into a lucid coma or am I a hallucination, made in 1941 out of gouache and
black pencil, paper, cardboard and purchased in 1966?
[To visualize the equation of my despair, the following elements are given: the abovewhispered question escalates into a desperate shout and multiplies itself over a considerable
stretch of time at the expense of my vocal chords. After all, I am not made of black pencil or
cardboard or paper. Despite this conclusion, the effort has left me sulking for hours without
being able to scribble anything, overwhelmed by a sensation of being pinched and pulled
sideways by dark particles inside the mineral dampness of this open tomb. What's the use of
a vertical territory if you can't sniff it all the way up?]
{several overlapping thumbmarks in black ink, lower right corner}
W

/ one gorgeous whale \
my memory's biomorphic shadow
can anyone write in woodworm language?

how to teach the Cyrillic alphabet to woodworms?
how many hypotheses to /re-stabilize\ one's situation?
how many pyramids one on top of the other to the \coma/ surface?
the denser the pyramid net, the more confusing the situation. true/false\fiction

O

Hasty recordings of several escape attempts. A slew of tentacle-thoughts are rising towards
the ethereal opening and here I am / hopeful and unwashed \ just beneath a submundane
landscape of groping, shimmering arms, hungry to sense and to collect every memory detail in
an effort of sense making, to draw skin over hypotheses and hypotheses over bones. It might
be morning, it might be yesterday's morning out there or any other time in the past, when as I
cracked the door to my workplace, I entered my co-workers' question game and paraverbal
exchange:
Puckered lips open: “Listen, whose childhood dream was it to have one of their eye-bulbs
replaced with a micro fish-eye lens implant?” Knitted eyebrows: “Someone whose neural
pathways zigzagged phrenologist categories?” Microexpressionist: “How many semioticiandentists and woodworm-writers have visited the Chaos Institute to date?” A ragged mane:
“The same number as the number of neurological tools for brain mapping that the Institute
owns?” {one lengthy word crossed out, probably a name}: “Would your brain topography get
upset and wrinkle if you imagined all the bureaucrats' desks from the largest country on earth
[by pop.] piled up in a pyramid?” Microexpressionist again: “Who wants to draft the call for
asemic writers?” Puckered lips closes {sic} the door.
I

It's a humongous workplace, with a blue entrance door, cluttered with papers on both sides.
See? Left hand on the entrance door handle, the woman presses it and the three of them
[guiding co-worker, faceless cameraman, scarlet-haired interviewer] squeeze themselves

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P.145

inside all that paper. [Door shuts by itself.] Doesn't it feel like entering a paper sculpture? [,
she herself appearing for a split second to have undergone a material transformation, to have
turned into paper, the left side of her face glowing in a retro light. It's still her.] This is where
we work, a hybrid site officially called The Institute for Chaos and Neuroplasticity – packed
with folders, jammed with newspapers, stacks of private correspondence left and right,
recording devices, boxes with photographs, xeroxed documents on shelves, {several pea-sized
inkblots} printed screenshots and boarding passes – we keep it all, everything that museums
or archives have no interest in, all orphaned papers, photographic plates and imperiled books
or hard disks relatives might want to discard or even burn after someone's death. Exploring
leftovers around here can go up and down to horrifying and overwhelming sensorial levels...
Z

{a two-centimeter line of rust from a pin in the upper left corner of the index card}
Sociological-intelligence rumors have it that ours is the bureau for studying psychological
attachment to “garbage” (we very much welcome researchers), while others refer to the
Institute as the chaos-brewing place in the neighborhood because we employ absolutely no
classification method for storing papers or other media. The chances of finding us? [Raised
eyebrows and puckered lips as first responses to the scarlet-haired question.] Well, the
incidence is just as low as finding a document or device you're looking for in our storage.
Things are not lost; there are just different ways of finding them. A random stroll, a lucky find
– be that on-line or off-line –, or a seductive word of mouth may be the entrance points into
this experiential space, a manifesto for haphazardness, emotional intuitions, subversion of
neural pathways, and non-productive attitudes. A dadaist archive? queried Scarlet Hair.
Ours is definitely not an archive, there's no trace of pyramidal bureaucracy or taxonomy
here, no nation state at its birth. Hence you won't find a reservoir for national or racial
histories in here. Just imagine we changed perception scales, imagine a collective cut-up
project that we, chaos workers, are bringing together without scissors or screwdrivers because
all that gets through that blue door [and that is the only condition and standard] has already
been shaped and fits in here. [Guiding co-worker speaks in a monotonous and plain GPS
voice. Interview continues, but she forgets to mention that behind the blue door, in this very
big box 1. everyone is an authorized user and 2. time rests unemployed.]
K

Lately, several trucks loaded with gray matter have been adding extra hours of induced
chaos to everyone's content. Although it is the Institute's policy to accept paper donations
only from private individuals, it occasionally makes exceptions and takes on leftovers from
nonprofit organizations.

Each time this happens, an extended rite of passage follows so as to slightly delay and
thereby ease the arrival of chaos bits: the most reliable chaos worker, Microexpressionist by
metonymically selected feature, supervises the transfer of boxes at the very beginning of a
long hallway [eyeballs moving left to right, head planted in an incredibly stiff neck]. Then,
some fifty meters away, standing in front of the opened blue door, Puckered Lips welcomes
newcomers into the chaos, his gestures those of a marshaller guiding a plane into a parking
position. But once the gray [?] matter has passed over the threshold, once the last full
suitcase or shoe box with USB sticks has landed, directions are no longer provided.
Everyone's free to grow limbs and choose temporal neighbors.
L

… seated cross-legged at the longest desk ever, Ragged Mane is randomly extracting
photodocuments from the freshest chaos segment with a metallic extension of two of her
fingers [instead of a pince-nez, she's the one to carry a pair of tweezers in a small pocket at
all times]. “Look what I've just grabbed,” and she pushes a sepia photograph in front of
Knitted Eyebrows, whose otherwise deadpan face instantaneously gets stamped this time
with a question mark: “What is it?” “Another capture, of course! Two mustaches, one hat,
three pairs of glasses, some blurred figures in the background, and one most fascinating
detail!” – [… takes out a magnifying glass and points with one of her flashy pink fingers to
the handheld object under the gaze of four eyes on the left side of the photo. Then, Ragged
Mane continues:] “That raised right index finger above a rectangular-shaped object... you see
it?” “You mean [00:00 = insertion of a lengthy time frame = 00:47] could this mustachioed
fellow be holding a touchscreen mobile phone in his left hand?” For several unrecorded
skeptical moments, they interlock their eyes and knit their eyebrows closer together.
Afterward, eyes split again and roll on the surface of the photograph like black-eyed peas on
a kitchen table. “It's all specks and epoch details,” a resigned voice breaks from the chaos
silence, when, the same thought crosses their minds, and Ragged Mane and Knitted
Eyebrows turn the photo over, almost certain to find an answer. [A simultaneous hunch.] In
block letters it most clearly reads: “DOCUMENTING THE FILMING OF
PEACEMAKERS / ANALOGUE PHOTOGRAPHY ON FILM SET / BERN,
SWITZERLAND / 17.05.2008”
X

P.146

P.147

/ meanwhile, the clock-horse has grown really nervous out there – it's drawing smaller and
smaller circles / a spasmodic and repetitive activity causing dislocation / a fine powder
begins to float inside the oubliette in the slowest motion possible / my breathing has already
been hampered, but now my lungs and brain get filled with an asphyxiating smell of old
paper / hanging on my last tentacle-thought, on my tiptoes, refusing to choke and disintegrate
/ NOT READY TO BE RECYCLED / {messiest handwriting}
A Cyrillic cityscape is imagining how one day all the bureaucrats' desks from the largest
country on earth get piled up in a pyramid. “This new shape is deflating the coherence of my
horizon. [the cityscape worries] No matter!” Once the last desk is placed at the very top, the
ground cracks a half-open mouth, a fissure the length of Rxssxx. On the outside it's spotted
with straddled city topographies, inside, it's filled with a vernacular accumulation of anational
dust without a trace of usable pasts.
{violent horizontal strokes over the last two lines, left and right from the hole at the bottom of
the index card; indecipherable}
M

“What's on TV this afternoon?” This plain but beautifully metamorphosed question has just
landed with a bleep on the chaos couch, next to Ragged Mane, who usually loses no chance
to retort [that is, here, to admonish too hard a fall]: “Doucement!” Under the weight of a
short-lived feeling of guilt, {name crossed out} echoes back in a whisper – d – o – u – c – e
– m – e – n – t –, and then, as if after a palatable word tasting, she clicks her tongue and
with it, she searches for a point of clarification: “Doucement is an anagram for documenté –
which one do you actually mean?” [All conversations with {name crossed out} would suffer
unsettling Meaning U-turns because she specialized in letter permutation.]

Y

Gurgling sounds from a not-so-distant corner of the chaos dump make heads simultaneously
rotate in the direction of the TV screen, where a documentary has just started with a drone'seye view over a city of lined-up skyscrapers. Early on, the commentator breaks into unwitty
superlatives and platitudes, while the soundtrack unnecessarily dramatizes a 3D layering of
the city structure. Despite all this, the mood on the couch is patient, and viewers seem to
absorb the vignetted film. “A city like no other, as atypical as Cappadocia,” explains the low
trepid voice from the box, “a city whose peculiarity owes first to the alignment of all its
elements, where street follows street in a parallel fashion like in linear writing. Hence, reading
the city acquires a literal dimension, skyscrapers echo clustered block letters on a line, and
the pedestrian reader gets reduced to the size of a far-sighted microbe.”
[Woodworm laughs]
V

Minutes into the documentary, the micro-drone camera zooms into the silver district/chapter
of the city to show another set of its features: instead of steel and glass, what from afar
appeared to be ordinary skyscrapers turn out to be “300-meter-tall lofty towers of mailboxlike constructs of dried skin, sprayed on top with silver paint for rims, and decorated with
huge love padlocks. A foreboding district for newlyweds?” [nauseating atmosphere] Unable
to answer or to smell, the mosquito-sized drone blinks in the direction of the right page, and it
speedily approaches another windowless urban variation: the vastest area of city towers – the
Wood Drawers District. “Despite its vintage (here and there rundown) aura, the area is an
exquisite, segregated space for library aficionados, designed out of genetically-engineered
trees that grow naturally drawer-shaped with a remarkable capacity for self-(re)generation. In
terms of real proportions, the size of a mailbox- or a drawer-apartment is comparable to that

P.148

P.149

of a shipping container, from the alternative but old housing projects…” bla bla the furniture
bla... [that chaos corner, so remote and so coal black / that whole atmosphere with blurred
echoes beclouds my reasoning / and right now, I'm feeling nauseous and cursed with all the
words in an unabridged dictionary / new deluxe edition, with black covers and golden
characters]
D

In front of the place where, above a modest skyline, every single morning [scholars'] desks
conjoin in the shape of a multi-storied pyramid, there's a sign that reads: right here you can
bend forward, place your hands on your back, press down your spine with your thumbs and
throw up an index card, throw out a reality version, take out a tooth. In fact, take out all that
you need and once you feel relieved, exchange personas as if in an emergency situation.
Then, behind vermillion curtains, replace pronouns at will.
[Might this have been a pipe dream? An intubated wish for character replacement? {Name
crossed out} would whisper C E E H I N N O R T as place name]
R

[“gray – …
Other Color Terms –
argentine, cerise, cerulean, cyan, ocher, perse, puce, taupe, vermillion”]
To be able to name everything and everyone, especially all the shades in a gray zone, and
then to re-name, re-narrate/re-count, and re-photograph all of it. To treat the ensuing
multilayered landscape with/as an infinitive verb and to scoop a place for yourself in the
accordion of surfaces. For instance, take the first shot – you're being stared at, you're under
the distant gaze of three {words crossed out; illegible}. Pale, you might think, how pallid and
lifeless they appear to be, but try to hold their gaze and notice how the interaction grows
uncomfortable through persistence. Blink, if you must. Move your weight from one leg to the
other, and become aware of how unflinching their concentration remains, as if their eyes are
lured into a screen. And as you're trying to draw attention to yourself by making ampler,
pantomimic gestures, your hands touch the dark inner edges of the monitor you're [boxed] in.
Look out and around again and again...

G

Some {Same?} damned creature made only of arms and legs has been leaving a slew of
black dots all over my corridors and staircases, ashes on my handrails, and larger spots of
black liquid in front of my elevator doors on the southern track – my oldest and dearest
vertically mobile installation, the one that has grown only ten floors high. If I were in shape,
attuned and wired to my perception angles and sensors, I could identify beyond precision that
it is a 403 cabal plotting I begin fearing. Lately, it's all been going really awry. Having failed
at the character recognition of this trickster creature, the following facts can be enumerated in
view of overall [damage] re-evaluation, quantification, and intruder excision: emaciating
architectural structure, increasingly deformed spiraling of brown marbled staircases, smudged
finger- and footprints on all floors, soddened and blackened ceilings, alongside thousands of
harrowing fingers and a detection of an insidious and undesirable multiplication of {word
crossed out: white} hands [tbc].
C

Out of the blue, the clock-horse dislocated particles expand in size, circle in all directions like
giant flies around a street lamp, and then in the most predictable fashion, they collide with my
escapist reminiscences multiple times until I lose connection and the landscape above comes
to a [menacing] stillness. [How does it look now? a scarlet-haired question.] I'm blinking, I'm
moving my weight from one leg to the other, before I can attempt a description of the earth
balls that stagnate in the air among translucent tentacles [they're almost gone] and floating
dioramas of miniatures. Proportions have inverted, scraped surfaces have commingled and
my U-shaped. reality. and. vision. are. stammering... I can't find my hands!
...

P.150

P.151

-- Ospal ( talk ) 09:27, 19 November 2015 (CET) Here is where the transcript ENDS,
where the black text lines dribble back into the box. For information on document location or
transcription method, kindly contact the editor.

Last
Revision:
28·06·2016

LES
UTOPISTES
and
their
common
logos/et
leurs
logos
communs
DENNIS POHL
EN

In itself this list is just a bag of words that orders the common terms used in the works of
Le Corbusier and Paul Otlet with the help of text comparison. The quantity of similar words
relates to the word-count of the texts, which means that each appearance has a different
weight. Taken this into account, the appearance of the word esprit for instance, is more
significant in Vers une Architecture (127 times) than in Traité de documentation (240
times), although the total amount of appearances is almost two times higher.
Beyond the mere quantified use of a common language, this list follows the intuition that
there is something more to elaborate in the discourse between these two utopians. One
possible reading can be found in The Smart City, an essay that traces their encounter.
FR

Cette liste n'est en elle même qu'un sac de mots qui organisent les termes les plus
communs utilisés dans les travaux de Le Corbusier et Paul Otlet en utilisant un comparateur
de texte. Le nombre de mots similaires rapotés par le comptage automatique des mots du
texte, ceci signifie que chaque occurence a une valeur différente. Prenons l'exemple des
aparitions du mot esprit par exemple sont plus significatives dans Vers une Architecture (127

P.152

P.153

fois) plutot que dans le Traité de documentation (240 fois), et ceci bien que le nombre
d'occurences est pratiquement 2 fois plus élevé.
Au delà de simplement comptabiliser la pratique d'un langage commun, mais cette liste suit
une intuition qu'il y a quelque chose qui mériterait une recherche plus approfondie sur le
discours de ces deux utopistes. Une proposition pour une telle recherche peut être trouvée
dans La Ville Intelligente, un essai qui retrace leur rencontre.
Books taken into consideration/Livres prise en compte:
• Le Corbusier, Vers une Architecture, Paris: les éditions G. Crès, 1923. Wordcount: 32733.
• Paul Otlet, Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique, Bruxelles:
Mundaneum, Palais Mondial, 1934. Word-count: 356854.
• Le Corbusier, Urbanisme, Paris: les éditions G. Crès, 1925. Word-count: 37699.
• Paul Otlet, Monde: essai d'universalisme - Connaissance du Monde, Sentiment du
Monde, Action organisee et Plan du Monde, Bruxelles: Editiones Mundeum 1935.
Word-count: 140209.
acquis

appears 5 times in Vers une 21 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

11 times in
Monde.

activité

appears 10 times in Vers
une Architecture,

43 times in Traité de
documentation,

10 times in
Urbanisme and

78 times in
Monde.

actuel

appears 9 times in Vers une 27 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

22 times in
Monde.

actuelle

appears 7 times in Vers une 19 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

8 times in
Urbanisme and

26 times in
Monde.

actuelles

appears 5 times in Vers une 6 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

6 times in
Monde.

affaires

appears 6 times in Vers une 42 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

30 times in
Urbanisme and

19 times in
Monde.

air

appears 12 times in Vers
une Architecture,

12 times in Traité de
documentation,

14 times in
Urbanisme and

16 times in
Monde.

aise

appears 7 times in Vers une 71 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

12 times in
Monde.

alors

appears 32 times in Vers
une Architecture,

165 times in Traité de 38 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

52 times in
Monde.

angle

appears 5 times in Vers une 18 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

16 times in
Urbanisme and

7 times in
Monde.

années

appears 7 times in Vers une 89 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

10 times in
Urbanisme and

42 times in
Monde.

ans

appears 17 times in Vers
une Architecture,

91 times in Traité de
documentation,

16 times in
Urbanisme and

109 times in
Monde.

architecture

appears 199 times in Vers
une Architecture,

51 times in Traité de
documentation,

26 times in
Urbanisme and

11 times in
Monde.

art

appears 44 times in Vers
une Architecture,

370 times in Traité de 6 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

60 times in
Monde.

aspect

appears 5 times in Vers une 45 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

8 times in
Urbanisme and

29 times in
Monde.

auto

appears 10 times in Vers
une Architecture,

13 times in Traité de
documentation,

12 times in
Urbanisme and

5 times in
Monde.

autrement

appears 6 times in Vers une 15 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

10 times in
Monde.

avant

appears 8 times in Vers une 131 times in Traité de 6 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

45 times in
Monde.

avoir

appears 13 times in Vers
une Architecture,

208 times in Traité de 6 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

72 times in
Monde.

base

appears 8 times in Vers une 119 times in Traité de 6 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

66 times in
Monde.

beauté

appears 14 times in Vers
une Architecture,

14 times in
Urbanisme and

21 times in
Monde.

beaucoup

appears 9 times in Vers une 114 times in Traité de 8 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

23 times in
Monde.

besoin

appears 16 times in Vers
une Architecture,

82 times in Traité de
documentation,

8 times in
Urbanisme and

40 times in
Monde.

calcul

appears 19 times in Vers
une Architecture,

15 times in Traité de
documentation,

24 times in
Urbanisme and

21 times in
Monde.

cause

appears 6 times in Vers une 47 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

26 times in
Monde.

cela

appears 16 times in Vers
une Architecture,

16 times in
Urbanisme and

31 times in
Monde.

cellule

appears 7 times in Vers une 9 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

10 times in
Urbanisme and

7 times in
Monde.

centre

appears 7 times in Vers une 55 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

50 times in
Urbanisme and

44 times in
Monde.

P.154

34 times in Traité de
documentation,

99 times in Traité de
documentation,

P.155

chapitre

appears 7 times in Vers une 35 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

chacun

appears 6 times in Vers une 151 times in Traité de 6 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

60 times in
Monde.

chemins

appears 9 times in Vers une 18 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

12 times in
Urbanisme and

5 times in
Monde.

chemin

appears 7 times in Vers une 19 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

18 times in
Urbanisme and

9 times in
Monde.

choses

appears 43 times in Vers
une Architecture,

215 times in Traité de 20 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

157 times in
Monde.

chose

appears 34 times in Vers
une Architecture,

110 times in Traité de 12 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

52 times in
Monde.

ciel

appears 8 times in Vers une 13 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

48 times in
Urbanisme and

18 times in
Monde.

cinquante

appears 5 times in Vers une 6 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

8 times in
Urbanisme and

5 times in
Monde.

circulation

appears 6 times in Vers une 27 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

44 times in
Urbanisme and

8 times in
Monde.

cité

appears 10 times in Vers
une Architecture,

29 times in Traité de
documentation,

34 times in
Urbanisme and

35 times in
Monde.

claire

appears 6 times in Vers une 18 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

6 times in
Monde.

compte

appears 11 times in Vers
une Architecture,

96 times in Traité de
documentation,

8 times in
Urbanisme and

37 times in
Monde.

construction

appears 50 times in Vers
une Architecture,

24 times in Traité de
documentation,

14 times in
Urbanisme and

8 times in
Monde.

conception

appears 23 times in Vers
une Architecture,

62 times in Traité de
documentation,

8 times in
Urbanisme and

64 times in
Monde.

construire

appears 17 times in Vers
une Architecture,

10 times in Traité de
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

9 times in
Monde.

contre

appears 13 times in Vers
une Architecture,

91 times in Traité de
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

79 times in
Monde.

conà

appears 9 times in Vers une 49 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

10 times in
Urbanisme and

20 times in
Monde.

12 times in
Urbanisme and

5 times in
Monde.

constructions appears 7 times in Vers une 8 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

10 times in
Urbanisme and

9 times in
Monde.

connaissance

appears 5 times in Vers une 76 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

8 times in
Urbanisme and

56 times in
Monde.

conditions

appears 5 times in Vers une 111 times in Traité de 8 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

57 times in
Monde.

cours

appears 8 times in Vers une 150 times in Traité de 8 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

65 times in
Monde.

coup

appears 7 times in Vers une 34 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

14 times in
Monde.

crise

appears 11 times in Vers
une Architecture,

8 times in Traité de
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

45 times in
Monde.

création

appears 22 times in Vers
une Architecture,

82 times in Traité de
documentation,

10 times in
Urbanisme and

48 times in
Monde.

créer

appears 10 times in Vers
une Architecture,

57 times in Traité de
documentation,

10 times in
Urbanisme and

25 times in
Monde.

crée

appears 10 times in Vers
une Architecture,

26 times in Traité de
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

18 times in
Monde.

culture

appears 7 times in Vers une 33 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

68 times in
Monde.

demain

appears 7 times in Vers une 17 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

11 times in
Monde.

dessus

appears 6 times in Vers une 28 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

16 times in
Urbanisme and

21 times in
Monde.

devant

appears 18 times in Vers
une Architecture,

75 times in Traité de
documentation,

12 times in
Urbanisme and

43 times in
Monde.

dire

appears 17 times in Vers
une Architecture,

185 times in Traité de 16 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

72 times in
Monde.

disposition

appears 5 times in Vers une 83 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

doit

appears 13 times in Vers
une Architecture,

domaines

appears 5 times in Vers une 42 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

38 times in
Monde.

donne

appears 8 times in Vers une 148 times in Traité de 12 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

44 times in
Monde.

droite

appears 11 times in Vers
une Architecture,

8 times in
Monde.

P.156

6 times in
Urbanisme and

408 times in Traité de 14 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

40 times in Traité de
documentation,

36 times in
Urbanisme and

8 times in
Monde.
134 times in
Monde.

P.157

droits

appears 8 times in Vers une 22 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

droit

appears 6 times in Vers une 106 times in Traité de 36 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

125 times in
Monde.

désordre

appears 7 times in Vers une 9 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

12 times in
Urbanisme and

12 times in
Monde.

effet

appears 7 times in Vers une 78 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

32 times in
Monde.

encore

appears 25 times in Vers
une Architecture,

enfin

appears 5 times in Vers une 46 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

ensemble

appears 16 times in Vers
une Architecture,

329 times in Traité de 14 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

123 times in
Monde.

entre

appears 29 times in Vers
une Architecture,

342 times in Traité de 18 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

246 times in
Monde.

esprit

appears 127 times in Vers
une Architecture,

240 times in Traité de 36 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

150 times in
Monde.

espace

appears 20 times in Vers
une Architecture,

69 times in Traité de
documentation,

16 times in
Urbanisme and

122 times in
Monde.

esprits

appears 6 times in Vers une 44 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

35 times in
Monde.

exemple

appears 5 times in Vers une 143 times in Traité de 12 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

30 times in
Monde.

existence

appears 5 times in Vers une 73 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

10 times in
Urbanisme and

75 times in
Monde.

face

appears 15 times in Vers
une Architecture,

11 times in Traité de
documentation,

12 times in
Urbanisme and

18 times in
Monde.

faire

appears 51 times in Vers
une Architecture,

410 times in Traité de 24 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

faites

appears 7 times in Vers une 45 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

faut

appears 46 times in Vers
une Architecture,

285 times in Traité de 54 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

126 times in
Monde.

fer

appears 12 times in Vers
une Architecture,

30 times in Traité de
documentation,

14 times in
Monde.

16 times in
Urbanisme and

197 times in Traité de 22 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and
8 times in
Urbanisme and

6 times in
Urbanisme and

14 times in
Urbanisme and

37 times in
Monde.

106 times in
Monde.
29 times in
Monde.

137 times in
Monde.
12 times in
Monde.

fin

appears 5 times in Vers une 122 times in Traité de 6 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

66 times in
Monde.

fois

appears 11 times in Vers
une Architecture,

208 times in Traité de 8 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

77 times in
Monde.

font

appears 24 times in Vers
une Architecture,

93 times in Traité de
documentation,

10 times in
Urbanisme and

25 times in
Monde.

fond

appears 5 times in Vers une 67 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

29 times in
Monde.

forme

appears 14 times in Vers
une Architecture,

france

appears 6 times in Vers une 190 times in Traité de 6 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

57 times in
Monde.

grande

appears 40 times in Vers
une Architecture,

202 times in Traité de 82 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

69 times in
Monde.

grand

appears 34 times in Vers
une Architecture,

276 times in Traité de 34 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

89 times in
Monde.

grands

appears 24 times in Vers
une Architecture,

187 times in Traité de 24 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

88 times in
Monde.

grandes

appears 21 times in Vers
une Architecture,

182 times in Traité de 36 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

93 times in
Monde.

grandeur

appears 11 times in Vers
une Architecture,

34 times in Traité de
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

19 times in
Monde.

gros

appears 5 times in Vers une 25 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

6 times in
Urbanisme and

8 times in
Monde.

guerre

appears 5 times in Vers une 115 times in Traité de 8 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

137 times in
Monde.

géométrie

appears 17 times in Vers
une Architecture,

14 times in Traité de
documentation,

24 times in
Urbanisme and

12 times in
Monde.

hauteur

appears 14 times in Vers
une Architecture,

21 times in Traité de
documentation,

10 times in
Urbanisme and

8 times in
Monde.

haute

appears 9 times in Vers une 34 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

8 times in
Urbanisme and

13 times in
Monde.

haut

appears 9 times in Vers une 71 times in Traité de
Architecture,
documentation,

18 times in
Urbanisme and

24 times in
Monde.

heures

appears 15 times in Vers
une Architecture,

20 times in
Urbanisme and

16 times in
Monde.

P.158

442 times in Traité de 18 times in
documentation,
Urbanisme and

45 times in Traité de
documentation,

106 times in
Monde.

P.159

heure

appears 15 times in Vers
une Architecture,

histoire

appears 6 times in Vers une 338 times in Traité de 10 times in
Architecture,
documentation,
Urbanisme and

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P.160

P.161

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P.165

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Last
Revision:
3·08·2016

P.166

P.167

X=Y
DICK RECKARD

0. INNOVATION OF THE SAME

Last
Revision:
2·08·2016

The PR imagery produced by and around the
Mundaneum (disambiguation: the institution in
Mons) often suggests, through a series of
'samenesses', an essential continuity between
Otlet's endeavour and Internet-related products
and services, in particular Google's. A good
example is a scene from the video "From
industrial heartland to the Internet age",
published by The Mundaneum, 2014 , where the drawers of Mundaneum
(disambiguation: Otlet's Utopia) morph into the servers of one of Google's
data centres.
This approach is not limited to images: a recurring discourse that shapes some of the
exhibitions taking place in the Mundaneum maintains that the dream of the Belgian utopian
has been kept alive in the development of internetworked communications, and currently
finds its spitiual successor in the products and services of Google. Even though there are
many connections and similarities between the two endeavours, one has to acknowledge that
Otlet was an internationalist, a socialist, an utopian, that his projects were not profit oriented,
and most importantly, that he was living in the temporal and cultural context of modernism at
the beginning of the 20th century. The constructed identities and continuities that detach
Otlet and the Mundaneum from a specific historical frame, ignore the different scientific,
social and political milieus involved. It means that these narratives exclude the discording or
disturbing elements that are inevitable when considering such a complex figure in its entirety.
This is not surprising, seeing the parties that are involved in the discourse: these types of
instrumental identities and differences suit the rhetorical tone of Silicon Valley. Newly
launched IT products for example, are often described as groundbreaking, innovative and
different from anything seen before. In other situations, those products could be advertised
exactly the same, as something else that already exists[1]. While novelty and difference
surprise and amaze, sameness reassures and comforts. For example, Google Glass was
marketed as revolutionary and innovative, but when it was attacked for its blatant privacy

issues, some defended it as just a camera and a phone joined together. The samenessdifference duo fulfils a clear function: on the one hand, it suggests that technological
advancements might alter the way we live dramatically, and we should be ready to give up
our old-fashioned ideas about life and culture for the sake of innovation. On the other hand, it
proposes we should not be worried about change, and that society has always evolved
through disruptions, undoubtedly for the better. For each questionable groundbreaking new
invention, there is a previous one with the same ideal, potentially with just as many critics...
Great minds think alike, after all. This sort of a-historical attitude pervades techno-capitalist
milieus, creating a cartoonesque view of the past, punctuated by great men and great
inventions, a sort of technological variant of Carlyle's Great Man Theory. In this view, the
Internet becomes the invention of a few father/genius figures, rather than the result of a long
and complex interaction of diverging efforts and interests of academics, entrepreneurs and
national governments. This instrumental reading of the past is largely consistent with the
theoretical ground on which the Californian Ideology[2] is based, in which the conception of
history is pervaded by various strains of technological determinism (from Marshall McLuhan
to Alvin Toffler[3]) and capitalist individualism (in generic neoliberal terms, up to the fervent
objectivism of Ayn Rand).
The appropriation of Paul Otlet's figure as Google's grandfather is a historical simplification,
and the samenesses in this tale are not without fundament. Many concepts and ideals of
documentation theories have reappeared in cybernetics and information theory, and are
therefore present in the narrative of many IT corporations, as in Mountain View's case. With
the intention of restoring a historical complexity, it might be more interesting to play the
exactly the same game ourselves, rather than try to dispel the advertised continuum of the
Google on paper. Choosing to focus on other types of analogies in the story, we can maybe
contribute a narrative that is more respectful to the complexity of the past, and more telling
about the problems of the present.
What followings are three such comparisons, which focus on three aspects of continuity
between the documentation theories and archival experiments Otlet was involved in, and the
cybernetic theories and practices that Google's capitalist enterprise is an exponent of. The
First one takes a look at the conditions of workers in information infrastructures, who are
fundamental for these systems to work but often forgotten or displaced. Next, an account of
the elements of distribution and control that appear both in the idea of a Reseau Mundaneum
, and in the contemporary functioning of data centres, and the resulting interaction with other
types of infrastructures. Finally, there is a brief analysis of the two approaches to the
'organization of world's knowledge', which examines their regimes of truth and the issues that

P.168

P.169

come with them. Hopefully these three short pieces can provide some additional ingredients
for adulterating the sterile recipe of the Google-Otlet sameness.
A. DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF MECHANICAL TURKS?

In a drawing titled Laboratorium Mundaneum, Paul
Otlet depicted his project as a massive factory, processing
books and other documents into end products, rolled out
by a UDC locomotive. In fact, just like a factory,
Mundaneum was dependent on the bureaucratic and
logistic modes of organization of labour developed for
industrial production. Looking at it and at other written
and drawn sketches, one might ask: who made up the
workforce of these factories?
In his Traité de Documentation, Otlet describes
extensively the thinking machines and tasks of intellectual
work into which the Fordist chain of documentation is
broken down. In the subsection dedicated to the people
who would undertake the work though, the only role
described at length is the Bibliotécaire. In a long chapter
that explains what education the librarian should follow, which characteristics are required,
and so on, he briefly mentions the existence of “Bibliotecaire-adjoints, rédacteurs, copistes,
gens de service”[4]. There seems to be no further description nor depiction of the staff that
would write, distribute and search the millions of index cards in order to keep the archive
running, an impossible task for the Bibliotécaire alone.
A photograph from around 1930, taken in the Palais
Mondial, where we see Paul Otlet together with the rest
of the équipe, gives us a better answer. In this beautiful
group picture, we notice that the workforce that kept the
archival machine running was made up of women, but we
do not know much about them. As in telephone switching
systems or early software development[5], gender
stereotypes and discrimination led to the appointment of
female workers for repetitive tasks that required specific
knowledge and precision. According to the ideal image described in "Traité", all the tasks of
collecting, translating, distributing, should be completely
automatic, seemingly without the necessity of human
intervention. However, the Mundaneum hired dozens of
women to perform these tasks. This human-run version of RC : Il faut déjà au minimum avoir
the system was not considered worth mentioning, as if it
was a temporary in-between phase that should be
overcome as soon as possible, something that was staining the project with its vulgarity.
Notwithstanding the incredible advancement of information technologies and the automation
of innumerable tasks in collectiong, processing and distributing information, we can observe
the same pattern today. All automatic repetitive tasks that technology should be able to do for
us are still, one way or another, relying on human labour. And unlike the industrial worker
who obtained recognition through political movements and struggles, the role of many
cognitive workers is still hidden or under-represented. Computational linguistics, neural
networks, optical character recognition, all amazing machinic operations are still based on
humans performing huge amounts of repetitive intellectual tasks from which software can
learn, or which software can't do with the same efficiency. Automation didn't really free us
from labour, it just shifted the where, when and who of labour.[6]. Mechanical turks, content
verifiers, annotators of all kinds... The software we use requires a multitude of tasks which
are invisible to us, but are still accomplished by humans. Who are they? When possible,
work is outsourced to foreign English-speaking countries with lower wages, like India. In the
western world it follows the usual pattern: female, lower income, ethnic minorities.
An interesting case of heteromated labour are the socalled Scanops[7], a set of Google workers who have a
different type of badge and are isolated in a section of the
Mountain View complex secluded from the rest of the
workers through strict access permissions and fixed time
schedules. Their work consists of scanning the pages of
printed books for the Google Books database, a task that
is still more convenient to do by hand (especially in the
case of rare or fragile books). The workers are mostly
women and ethnic minorities, and there is no mention of
them on the Google Books website or elsewhere; in fact
the whole scanning process is kept secret. Even though
the secrecy that surrounds this type of labour can be
justified by the need to protect trade secrets, it again
conceals the human element in machine work. This is
even more obvious when compared to other types of
human workers in the project, such as designers and
programmers, who are celebrated for their creativity and
ingenuity.
However, here and there, evidence of the workforce shows up in the result of their labour.
Photos of Google Books employee's hands sometimes mistakenly end up in the digital
version of the book online[8].
Whether the tendency to hide the human presence is due to the unfulfilled wish for total
automation, to avoid the bad publicity of low wages and precarious work, or to keep an aura
of mystery around machines, remains unclear, both in the case of Google Books and the

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Palais Mondial. Still, it is reassuring to know that the products hold traces of the work, that
even with the progressive removal of human signs in
automated processes, the workers' presence never
disappears completely. This presence is proof of the
materiality of information production, and becomes a sign
in a webpage or the OCR scanned
pages of a book, reflect a negligence
to the processes and labor of writing,
editing, design, layout, typesetting, and
eventually publishing, collecting and
[9]
cataloging .

In 2013, while Prime Minister Di Rupo was celebrating the beginning of the second phase
of constructing the Saint Ghislain data centre, a few hundred kilometres away a very similar
situation started to unroll. In the municipality of Eemsmond, in the Dutch province of
Groningen, the local Groningen Sea Ports and NOM development were rumoured to have
plans with another code named company, Saturn, to build a data centre in the small port of
Eemshaven.
A few months later, when it was revealed that Google
was behind Saturn, Harm Post, director of Groningen
Sea Ports, commented: "Ten years ago Eemshaven
became the laughing stock of ports and industrial
development in the Netherlands, a planning failure of the
previous century. And now Google is building a very
large data centre here, which is 'pure advertisement' for
Eemshaven and the data port."[10] Further details on tax
cuts were not disclosed and once finished, the data centre will provide at most 150 jobs in
the region.
Yet another territory fortunately chosen by Google, just like Mons, but what are the selection
criteria? For one thing, data centres need to interact with existing infrastructures and flows of
various type. Technically speaking, there are three prerequisites: being near a substantial
source of electrical power (the finished installation will consume twice as much as the whole
city of Groningen); being near a source of clean water, for the massive cooling demands;
being near Internet infrastructure that can assure adequate connectivity. There is also a
whole set of non-technical elements, that we can sum up as the social, economical and
political climate, which proved favourable both in Mons and Eemshaven.
The push behind constructing new sites in new locations, rather expanding existing ones, is
partly due to the rapid growth of the importance of Software as a service, so-called cloud
computing, which is the rental of computational power from a central provider. With the rise
of the SaaS paradigm the geographical and topological placement of data centres becomes of
strategic importance to achieve lower latencies and more stable service. For this reason,

Google has in the last 10 years been pursuing a policy of end-to-end connection between its
facilities and user interfaces. This includes buying leftover fibre networks[11], entering the
business of underwater sea cables[12] and building new data centres, including the ones in
Mons and Eemshaven.
The spread of data centres around the world, along the main network cables across
continents, represents a new phase in the diagram of the Internet. This should not be
confused with the idea of decentralization that was a cornerstone value in the early stages of
interconnected networks.[13] During the rapid development of the Internet and the Web, the
new tenets of immediacy, unlimited storage and exponential growth led to the centralization
of content in increasingly large server farms. Paradoxically, it is now the growing
centralization of all kind of operations in specific buildings, that is fostering their distribution.
The tension between centralization and distribution and the dependence on neighbouring
infrastructures as the electrical grid is not an exclusive feature of contemporary data storage
and networking models. Again, similarities emerge from the history of the Mundaneum,
illustrating how these issues relate closely to the logistic organization of production first
implemented during the industrial revolution, and theorized within modernism.
Centralization was seen by Otlet as the most efficient way to organize content, especially in
view of international exchange[14] which already caused problems related to space back then:
the Mundaneum archive counted 16 million entries at its peak, occupying around 150
rooms. The cumbersome footprint, and the growing difficulty to find stable locations for it,
concurred to the conviction that the project should be included in the plans of new modernist
cities. In the beginning of the 1930s, when the Mundaneum started to lose the support of the
Belgian government, Otlet thought of a new site for it as part of a proposed Cité Mondiale,
which he tried in different locations with different approaches.
Between various attempts, he participated in the competition for the development of the Left
Bank in Antwerp. The most famous modernist urbanists of the time were invited to plan the
development from scratch. At the time, the left bank was completely vacant. Otlet lobbied for
the insertion of a Mundaneum in the plans, stressing how it would create hundreds of jobs for
the region. He also flattered the Flemish pride by insisting on how people from Antwerp
were more hard working than the ones from Brussels, and how they would finally obtain their
deserved recognition, when their city would be elevated to World City status.[15] He partly
succeeded in his propaganda; aside from his own proposal, developed in collaboration with
Le Corbusier, many other participants included Otlet's Mundaneum as a key facility in their
plans. In these proposals, Otlet's archival infrastructure was shown in interaction with the
existing city flows such as industrial docks, factories, the
railway and the newly constructed stock market.[16]The
modernist utopia of a planned living environment implied
that methods similar to those employed for managing the
flows of coal and electricity could be used for the
organization of culture and knowledge.

P.172
From From Paper Mill to Google
Data Center:
In a sense, data centers are similar to
the capitalist factory system; but

P.173

The Traité de Documentation, published in 1934, includes an extended reflection on a
Universal Network of Documentation, that would coordinate the transfer of knowledge
between different documentation centres such as libraries or the Mundaneum[17]. In fact the
existing Mundaneum would simply be the first node of a wide network bound to expand to
the rest of the world, the Reseau Mundaneum. The nodes of this network are explicitly
described in relation to "post, railways and the press, those three essential organs of modern
life which function unremittingly in order to unite men, cities and nations."[18] In the same
period, in letter exchanges with Patrick Geddes and Otto Neurath, commenting on the
potential of heliographies as a way to distribute knowledge, the three imagine the White Link
, a network to distribute copies throughout a series of Mundaneum nodes[19]. As a result, the
same piece of information would be serially produced and logistically distributed, described
as a sort of moving Mundaneum idea, facilitated by the railway system[20]. No wonder that
future Mundaneums were foreseen to be built next to a train station.
In Otlet's plans for a Reseau Mundaneum we can already detect some of the key
transformations that reappear in today's data centre scenario. First of all, a drive for
centralization, with the accumulation of materials that led to the monumental plans of World
Cities. In parallel, the push for international exchange, resulting in a vision of a distribution
network. Thirdly, the placement of the hypothetic network nodes along strategic intersections
of industrial and logistic infrastructure.
While the plan for Antwerp was in the end rejected in favour of more traditional housing
development, 80 years later the legacy of the relation between existing infrastructural flows
and logistics of documentation storage is highlighted by the data ports plan in Eemshaven.
Since private companies are the privileged actors in these types of projects, the circulation of
information increasingly respond to the same tenets that regulate the trade of coal or
electricity. The very different welcome that traditional politics reserve for Google data centres
is a symptom of a new dimension of power in which information infrastructure plays a vital
role. The celebrations and tax cuts that politicians lavish on these projects cannot be
explained with 150 jobs or economic incentives for a depressed region alone. They also
indicate how party politics is increasingly confined to the periphery of other forms of power
and therefore struggle to assure themselves a strategic positioning.
C. 025.45UDC; 161.225.22; 004.659GOO:004.021PAG.

The Universal Decimal Classification[21] system, developed by Paul Otlet and Henri
Lafontaine on the basis of the Dewey Decimal Classification system is still considered one of
their most important realizations as well as a corner-stone in Otlet's overall vision. Its
adoption, revision and use until today demonstrate a thoughtful and successful approach to
the classification of knowledge.

The UDC differs from Dewey and other bibliographic systems as it has the potential to
exceed the function of ordering alone. The complex notation system could classify phrases
and thoughts in the same way as it would classify a book, going well beyond the sole function
of classification, becoming a real language. One could in fact express whole sentences and
statements in UDC format[22]. The fundamental idea behind it [23]was that books and
documentation could be broken down into their constitutive sentences and boiled down to a
set of universal concepts, regulated by the decimal system. This would allow to express
objective truths in a numerical language, fostering international exchange beyond translation,
making science's work easier by regulating knowledge with numbers. We have to understand
the idea in the time it was originally conceived, a time shaped by positivism and the belief in
the unhindered potential of science to obtain objective universal knowledge. Today,
especially when we take into account the arbitrariness of the decimal structure, it sounds
doubtful, if not preposterous.
However, the linguistic-numeric element of UDC which enables to express fundamental
meanings through numbers, plays a key role in the oeuvre of Paul Otlet. In his work we learn
that numerical knowledge would be the first step towards a science of combining basic
sentences to produce new meaning in a systematic way. When we look at Monde, Otlet's
second publication from 1935, the continuous reference to multiple algebraic formulas that
describe how the world is composed suggests that we could at one point “solve” these
equations and modify the world accordingly.[24] Complementary to the Traité de
Documentation, which described the systematic classification of knowledge, Monde set the
basis for the transformation of this knowledge into new meaning.
Otlet wasn't the first to envision an algebra of thought. It has been a recurring topos in
modern philosophy, under the influence of scientific positivism and in concurrence with the
development of mathematics and physics. Even though one could trace it back to Ramon
Llull and even earlier forms of combinatorics, the first to consistently undertake this scientific
and philosophical challenge was Gottfried Leibniz. The German philosopher and
mathematician, a precursor of the field of symbolic logic, which developed later in the 20th
century, researched a method that reduced statements to minimum terms of meaning. He
investigated a language which “... will be the greatest instrument of reason,” for “when there
are disputes among persons, we can simply say: Let us calculate, without further ado, and
see who is right”.[25] His inquiry was divided in two phases. The first one, analytic, the
characteristica universalis, was a universal conceptual language to express meanings, of which
we only know that it worked with prime numbers. The second one, synthetic, the calculus
ratiocinator, was the algebra that would allow operations between meanings, of which there is
even less evidence. The idea of calculus was clearly related to the infinitesimal calculus, a
fundamental development that Leibniz conceived in the field of mathematics, and which
Newton concurrently developed and popularized. Even though not much remains of
Leibniz's work on his algebra of thought, it was continued by mathematicians and logicians in
the 20th century. Most famously, and curiously enough around the same time Otlet

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published Traité and Monde, logician Kurt Godel used the same idea of a translation into
prime numbers to demonstrate his incompleteness theorem.[26] The fact that the characteristica
universalis only made sense in the fields of logics and mathematics is due to the fundamental
problem presented by a mathematical approach to truth beyond logical truth. While this
problem was not yet evident at the time, it would emerge in the duality of language and
categorization, as it did later with Otlet's UDC.
The relation between organizational and linguistic aspects of knowledge is also one of the
open issues at the core of web search, which is, at first sight, less interested in objective
truths. At the beginning of the Web, around the mid '90s, two main approaches to online
search for information emerged: the web directory and web crawling. Some of the first search
engines like Lycos or Yahoo!, started with a combination of the two. The web directory
consisted of the human classification of websites into categories, done by an “editor”; crawling
in the automatic accumulation of material by following links with different rudimentary
techniques to assess the content of a website. With the exponential growth of web content on
the Internet, web directories were soon dropped in favour of the more efficient automatic
crawling, which in turn generated so many results that quality has become of key importance.
Quality in the sense of the assessment of the webpage content in relation to keywords as well
as the sorting of results according to their relevance.
Google's hegemony in the field has mainly been obtained by translating the relevance of a
webpage into a numeric quantity according to a formula, the infamous PageRank algorithm.
This value is calculated depending on the relational importance of the webpage where the
word is placed, based on how many other websites link to that page. The classification part is
long gone, and linguistic meaning is also structured along automated functions. What is left is
reading the network formation in numerical form, capturing human opinions represented by
hyperlinks, i.e. which word links to which webpage, and which webpage is generally more
important. In the same way that UDC systematized documents via a notation format, the
systematization of relational importance in numerical format brings functionality and
efficiency. In this case rather than linguistic the translation is value-based, quantifying network
attention independently from meaning. The interaction with the other infamous Google
algorithm, Adsense, adds an economic value to the PageRank position. The influence and
profit deriving from how high a search result is placed, means that the relevance of a wordwebsite relation in Google search results translates to an actual relevance in reality.
Even though both Otlet and Google say they are tackling the task of organizing knowledge,
we could posit that from an epistemological point of view the approaches that underlie their
respective projects, are opposite. UDC is an example of an analytic approach, which
acquires new knowledge by breaking down existing knowledge into its components, based on
objective truths. Its propositions could be exemplified with the sentences “Logic is a
subdivision of Philosophy” or “PageRank is an algorithm, part of the Google search engine”.
PageRank, on the contrary, is a purely synthetic one, which starts from the form of the
network, in principle devoid of intrinsic meaning or truth, and creates a model of the

network's relational truths. Its propositions could be exemplified with “Wikipedia is of the
utmost relevance” or “The University of District Columbia is the most relevant meaning of
the word 'UDC'”.
We (and Google) can read the model of reality created by the PageRank algorithm (and all
the other algorithms that were added during the years[27]) in two different ways. It can be
considered a device that 'just works' and does not pretend to be true but can give results
which are useful in reality, a view we can call pragmatic, or instead, we can see this model as
a growing and improving construction that aims to coincide with reality, a view we can call
utopian. It's no coincidence that these two views fit the two stereotypical faces of Google, the
idealistic Silicon Valley visionary one, and the cynical corporate capitalist one.
From our perspective, it is of relative importance which of the two sides we believe in. The
key issue remains that such a structure has become so influential that it produces its own
effects on reality, that its algorithmic truths are more and more considered as objective truths.
While the utility and importance of a search engine like Google are out of the question, it is
necessary to be alert about such concentrations of power. Especially if they are only
controlled by a corporation, which, beyond mottoes and utopias, has by definition the single
duty of to make profits and obey its stakeholders.
1. A good account of such phenomenon is described by David Golumbia. http://www.uncomputing.org/?p=221
2. As described in the classic text looking at the ideological ground of Silicon Valley culture. http://www.hrc.wmin.ac.uk/theorycalifornianideology-main.html
3. For an account of Toffler's determinism, see http://www.ukm.my/ijit/IJIT%20Vol%201%202012/7wan%20fariza.pdf .
4. Otlet, Paul. Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique. Editiones Mundaneum, 1934: 393-394.
5. http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2011/researcher-reveals-how-%E2%80%9Ccomputer-geeks%E2%80%9D-replaced-%
E2%80%9Ccomputergirls%E2%80%9D
6. This process has been named “heteromation”, for a more thorough analysis see: Ekbia, Hamid, and Bonnie Nardi.
“Heteromation and Its (dis)contents: The Invisible Division of Labor between Humans and Machines.” First Monday 19, no.
6 (May 23, 2014). http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5331
7. The name scanops was first introduce by artist Andrew Norman Wilson when he found out about this category of workers
during his artistic residency at Google in Mountain View. See http://www.andrewnormanwilson.com/WorkersGoogleplex.html
.
8. As collected by Krissy Wilson on her http://theartofgooglebooks.tumblr.com .
9. http://informationobservatory.info/2015/10/27/google-books-fair-use-or-anti-democratic-preemption/#more-279
10. http://www.rtvnoord.nl/nieuws/139016/Keerpunt-in-de-geschiedenis-van-de-Eemshaven .
11. http://www.cnet.com/news/google-wants-dark-fiber/ .
12. http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/google-new-brazil-us-internet-cable .
13. See Baran, Paul. “On Distributed Communications.” Product Page, 1964. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_memoranda/
RM3420.html .
14. Pierce, Thomas. Mettre des pierres autour des idées. Paul Otlet, de Cité Mondiale en de modernistische stedenbouw in de jaren
1930. PhD dissertation, KULeuven, 2007: 34.
15. Ibid: 94-95.
16. Ibid: 113-117.
17. Otlet, Paul. Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique. Editiones Mundaneum, 1934.
18. Otlet, Paul. Les Communications MUNDANEUM, Documentatio Universalis, doc nr. 8438
19. Van Acker, Wouter. “Internationalist Utopias of Visual Education: The Graphic and Scenographic Transformation of the
Universal Encyclopaedia in the Work of Paul Otlet, Patrick Geddes, and Otto Neurath.” Perspectives on Science 19, no. 1
(January 19, 2011): 68-69.
20. Ibid: 66.

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21. The Decimal part in the name means that any records can be further subdivided by tenths, virtually infinitely, according to an
evolving scheme of depth and specialization. For example, 1 is “Philosophy”, 16 is “Logic”, 161 is “Fundamentals of Logic”,
161.2 is “Statements”, 161.22 is “Type of Statements”, 161.225 is “Real and ideal judgements”, 161.225.2 is “Ideal
Judgements” and 161.225.22 is “Statements on equality, similarity and dissimilarity”.
22. “The UDC and FID: A Historical Perspective.” The Library Quarterly 37, no. 3 (July 1, 1967): 268-270.
23. TEMP: described in french by the word depouillement,
24. Otlet, Paul. Monde, essai d’universalisme: connaissance du monde, sentiment du monde, action organisée et plan du monde.
Editiones Mundaneum, 1935: XXI-XXII.
25. Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, The Art of Discovery 1685, Wiener: 51.
26. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del_numbering
27. A fascinating list of all the algorithmic components of Google search is at https://moz.com/google-algorithm-change .

Madame
C/
Mevrouw
C
FEMKE SNELTING

MADAME C.01
EN

When I arrived in Brussels that autumn, I was still very young. I thought that as an au-pair
I would be helping out in the house, but instead I ended up working with the professor on
finishing his book. At the time I arrived, the writing was done but his handwriting was so
hard to decipher that the printer had a difficult time working with the manuscript. It became
my job to correct the typeset proofs but often there were words that neither the printer nor I
could decipher, so we had to ask. And the professor often had no time for us. So I did my
best to make the text as comprehensible as possible.
On the title page of the final proofs from the printer, the professor wrote me:

After five months of work behind the same table, here it is. Now it is your turn to sow the
good seed of documentation, of institution, and of Mundaneum, through the pre-book and the
spoken word[1]
NL

Toen ik die herfst in Brussel arriveerde was ik nog heel jong. Ik dacht dat ik als au-pair in
de huishouding zou helpen, maar in plaats daarvan moest ik de professor helpen met het
afmaken van zijn boek. Toen ik aankwam was het schrijven al afgerond, maar de drukker
worstelde nog met het manuscript omdat het handschrift moeilijk te ontcijferen was. Het
werd mijn taak om de drukproeven te corrigeren. Er waren veel woorden die de drukker en
ik niet konden ontcijferen, dus dan moesten we het navragen. Maar vaak had de professor
geen tijd voor ons. Ik deed dan mijn best om de tekst zo leesbaar mogelijk te maken.
Op de titelpagina van de definitieve drukproef schreef de professor me:

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Na vijf maanden gewerkt te hebben aan dezelfde tafel is hier het resultaat. Nu is het jouw
beurt om via het boek, het voor-boek, het woord, het goede zaad te zaaien van documentatie,
instituut en Mundaneum.[2]
MADAME C.02
EN

She serves us coffee from a ceramic coffee pot and also a cake bought at the bakery next
door. It's all written in the files she reminds us repeatedly, and tells us about one day in the
sixties, when her husband returned home, telling her excitedly that he discovered the
Mundaneum at Chaussée de Louvain in Brussels. Ever since, he would return to the same
building, making friends with the friends of the Palais Mondial, those dedicated caretakers of
the immense paper heritage.
I haven't been there so often myself, she says. But I do remember there were cats, to keep the
mice away from the paper. And my husband loved cats. So in the eighties, when he was
finally in a position to save the archives, the cats had to be taken care of too." Hij wanted to
write the cats were written into the inventory.
We finish our coffee and she takes us behind a curtain that separates the salon from a small
office. She shows us four green binders that contain the meticulously filed papers of her late
husband pertaining to the Mundaneum. In the third is the Donation act that describes the
transfer of the archives from the Friends of the Palais Mondial to the Centre de Lecture
Public of the French community.
In the inventory, the cats are nowhere to be found.[3]
NL

Ze schenkt ons koffie uit een keramieken koffiepot en serveert gebak dat ze bij de
naburige bakkerij kocht. Herhaaldelijk herinnert ze ons eraan dat 'het allemaal geschreven
staat in de documenten'. Ze vertelt ons dat in de jaren zestig, haar man op een dag
thuiskwam en opgewonden vertelde dat hij het Mundaneum ontdekt had op de Leuvense
Steenweg in Brussel. Sindsdien keerde hij daar regelmatig terug om de vrienden van het
Palais Mondial te ontmoeten: de toegewijde verzorgers van die immense papieren erfenis.
Ik ben er zelf niet zo vaak geweest, zegt ze. Maar ik herinner me dat er katten waren om de
muizen weg te houden van al het papier. En mijn man hield van katten. In de jaren tachtig,
toen hij eindelijk een positie had die hem in staat stelde om de archieven te redden, moest er
ook voor de katten worden gezorgd. Hij wilde de katten opnemen in de inventaris.
We drinken onze koffie op en ze neemt ons mee achter een gordijn dat de salon van een
klein kantoor scheidt. Ze toont ons vier groene mappen met de keurig geordende papieren
van haar voormalige echtgenoot over het Mundaneum. In de derde map bevindt zich de akte

die de overdracht van de archieven beschrijft van de Vrienden van het Palais Mondial aan
het Centre de Lecture Public van de Franse Gemeenschap (CLPCF).
In de inventaris is geen spoor van de katten te vinden.[4]
MADAME C.03
EN

In a margarine box, between thousands of notes, tickets, postcards, letters, all folded to the
size of an index card, we find this:

Paul, leave me the key to mythe house, I forgot mine. Put it on your desk, in the small index
card box.[5]
NL

In een grote margarinedoos, tussen duizenden bonnetjes, aantekeningen, briefkaarten, en
brieven, allemaal gevouwen op maat van een indexkaart, vinden we een bericht:

Paul, laat je de sleutel van mijnhet huis voor mij achter, ik ben de mijne vergeten. Stop hem in
het kleine indexkaartdoosje op je bureau.[6]

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Last
Revision:
2·08·2016

1. EN
Wilhelmina Coops came from The Netherlands to Brussels in 1932 to learn French. She was instrumental in transforming
Le Traité de Documentation into a printed book.
2. NL
Wilhelmina Coops kwam in 1932 uit Nederland naar Brussel om Frans te leren. Ze hielp het manuscript voor Le Traité de
Documentation omzetten naar een gedrukt boek.
3. EN
The act is dated April 4 1985. Madame Canonne is a librarian, widow of André Canonne († 1990). She is custodian of
the documents relating to the wanderings of The Mundaneum in Brussels.
4. NL
De akte is gedateerd op 4 april 1985. Madame Canonne is bibliothecaresse en weduwe van André Canonne († 1990).
Ze is de bewaarster van documenten die gerelateerd zijn aan de omzwervingen van het Mundaneum in Brussel.
5. EN
Cato van Nederhasselt, second wife of Paul Otlet, collaborated with her husband on many projects. Her family fortune kept
the Mundaneum running after other sources had dried up.
6. NL
Cato van Nederhasselt, de tweede vrouw van Paul Otlet, werkte met haar man aan vele projecten. Nadat alle andere
bronnen waren uitgeput hield haar familiefortuin het Mundaneum draaiende.

A Preemptive
History
of the
Google
Cultural
Institute
GERALDINE JUÁREZ

I. ORGANIZING INFORMATION IS NEVER INNOCENT

Six years ago, Google, an Alphabet company, launched a new project: The Google Art
Project. The official history, the one written by Google and distributed mainly through
tailored press releases and corporate news bits, tells us that it all started as “a 20% project
within Google in 2010 and had its first public showing in 2011. It was 17 museums,
coming together in a very interesting online platform, to allow users to essentially explore art
in a very new and different way."[1] While Google Books faced legal challenges and the
European Commission launched its antitrust case against Google in 2010, the Google Art
Project, not coincidentally, scaled up gradually, resulting in the Google Cultural Institute with
headquarters in Paris, “whose mission is to make the world's culture accessible online.”[2]
The Google Cultural Institute is strictly divided in Art Project, Historical Moments and
World Wonders, roughly corresponding to fine art, world history and material culture.
Technically, the Google Cultural Institute can be described as a database that powers a
repository of high-resolution images of fine art, objects, documents and ephemera, as well as
information about and from their ‘partners’ - the public museums, galleries and cultural
institutions that provide this cultural material - such as 3D tour views and street-view maps.
So far and counting, the Google Cultural Institute hosts 177 digital reproductions of selected
paintings in gigapixel resolution and 320 3D versions of different objects, together with
multiple thematic slide shows curated in collaboration with their partners or by their users.

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According to their website, in their ‘Lab’ they develop the “new technology to help partners
publish their collections online and reach new audiences, as seen in the Google Art Project,
Historic Moments and World Wonders initiatives.” These services are offered – not by
chance – as a philanthropic service to public institutions that increasingly need to justify their
existence in face of cuts and other managerial demands of the austerity policies in Europe
and elsewhere.
The Google Cultural Institute “would be unlikely, even unthinkable, absent the chronic and
politically induced starvation of publicly funded cultural institutions even throughout the
wealthy countries”[3]. It is important to understand that what Google is really doing is
bankrolling the technical infrastructure and labour needed to turn culture into data. In this
way it can be easily managed and feed all kind of products needed in the neoliberal city to
promote and exploit these cultural ‘assets’, in order to compete with other urban centres in
the global stage, but also, to feed Google’s unstoppable accumulation of information.
The head of the Google Cultural Institute knows there are a lot of questions about their
activities but Alphabet chose to label legitimate critiques as misunderstandings: “This is our
biggest battle, this constant misunderstanding of why the Cultural Institute actually exists.”[4]
The Google Cultural Institute, much like many other cultural endeavours of Google like
Google Books and their Digital Revolution art exhibition, has been subject to a few but
much needed critiques, such as Powered by Google: Widening Access and Tightening
Corporate Control (Schiller & Yeo 2014), an in-depth account of the origins of this cultural
intervention and its role in the resurgence of welfare capitalism, “where people are referred to
corporations rather than states for such services as they receive; where corporate capital
routinely arrogates to itself the right to broker public discourse; and where history and art
remain saturated with the preferences and priorities of elite social classes.”[5]
Known as one, if not the first essay that dissects Google's use of information and the rhetoric
of democratization behind it to reorganize cultural public institutions as a “site of profitmaking”, Schiller & Yeo’s text is fundamental to understand the evolution of the Google
Cultural Institute within the historical context of digital capitalism, where the global
dependency in communication and information technologies is directly linked to the current
crisis of accumulation and where Google's archive fever “evinces a breath-taking cultural and
ideological range.”[6]
II. WHO COLONIZES THE COLONIZERS?

The Google Cultural Institute is a complex subject of interest since it reflects the colonial
impulses embedded in the scientific and economic desires that formed the very collections
which the Google Cultural Institute now mediates and accumulates in its database.

Who colonizes the colonizers? It is a very difficult issue which I have raised before in an
essay dedicated to the Google Cultural Institute, Alfred Russel Wallace and the colonial
impulse behind archive fevers from the 19th but also the 21st century. I have no answer yet.
But a critique of the Google Cultural Institute where their motivations are interpreted as
merely colonialist, would be misleading and counterproductive. It is not their goal to slave and
exploit whole populations and its resources in order to impose a new ideology and civilise
barbarians in the same sense and way that European countries did during the Colonization.
Additionally, it would be unfair and disrespectful to all those who still have to deal with the
endless effects of Colonization, that have exacerbated with the expansion of economic
globalisation.
The conflation of technology and science that has produced the knowledge to create such an
entity as Google and its derivatives, such as the Cultural Institute, together with the scale of
its impact on a society where information technology is the dominant form of technology,
makes technocolonialism a more accurate term to describe Google's cultural interventions
from my perspective.
Although technocolonization shares many traits and elements with the colonial project,
starting with the exploitation of materials needed to produce information and media
technologies – and the related conflicts that this produces –, information technologies still
differ from ships and canons. However, the commercial function of maritime technologies is
the same as the free – as in free trade – services deployed by Google or Facebook’s drones
beaming internet in Africa, although the networked aspect of information technologies is
significantly different at the infrastructure level.
There is no official definition of technocolonialism, but it is important to understand it as a
continuation of the idea of Enlightenment that gave birth to the impulse to collect, organise
and manage information in the 19th century. My use of this term aims to emphasize and
situate contemporary accumulation and management of information and data within a
technoscientific landscape driven by “profit above else” as a “logical extension of the surplus
value accumulated through colonialism and slavery.”[7]
Unlike in colonial times, in contemporary technocolonialism the important narrative is not the
supremacy of a specific human culture. Technological culture is the saviour. It doesn’t matter
if the culture is Muslim, French or Mayan, the goal is to have the best technologies to turn it
into data, rank it, produce content from it and create experiences that can be monetized.
It only makes sense that Google, a company with a mission of to organise the world’s
information for profit, found ideal partners in the very institutions that were previously in
charge of organising the world’s knowledge. But as I pointed out before, it is paradoxical that
the Google Cultural Institute is dedicated to collect information from museums created under
Colonialism in order to elevate a certain culture and way of seeing the world above others.
Today we know and are able to challenge the dominant narratives around cultural heritage,

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because these institutions have an actual record in history and not only a story produced for
the ‘about’ section of a website, like in the case of the Google Cultural Institute.
“What museums should perhaps do is make visitors aware that this is not the only way of
seeing things. That the museum – the installation, the arrangement, the collection – has a
history, and that it also has an ideological baggage”[8]. But the Google Cultural Institute is
not a museum, it is a database with an interface that enables to browse cultural content.
Unlike the prestigious museums it collaborates with, it lacks a history situated in a specific
cultural discourse. It is about fine art, world wonders and historical moments in a general
sense. The Google Cultural Institute has a clear corporate and philanthropic mission but it
lacks a point of view and a defined position towards the cultural material that it handles. This
is not surprising since Google has always avoided to take a stand, it is all techno-determinism
and the noble mission of organising the world’s information to make the world better. But
“brokering and hoarding information are a dangerous form of techno-colonialism.”[8]
Looking for a cultural narrative beyond the Californian ideology, Alphabet's search engine
found in Paul Otlet and the Mundaneum the perfect cover to insert their philanthropic
services in the history of information science beyond Silicon Valley. After all, they
understand that “ownership over the historical narratives and their material correlates
becomes a tool for demonstrating and realizing economic claims”.[9]
After establishing a data centre in the Belgian city of Mons, home of the Mundaneum
archive center, Google lent its support to "the Mons 2015 adventure, in particular by
working with our longtime partners, the Mundaneum archive. More than a century ago, two
visionary Belgians envisioned the World Wide Web’s architecture of hyperlinks and
indexation of information, not on computers, but on paper cards. Their creation was called
the Mundaneum.”[10]

On the occasion of the 147th birthday of Paul Otlet, a Doodle in the homepage of the
Alphabet spelled the name of its company using the ‘drawers of the Mundaneum’ to form the
words G O O G L E: “Today’s Doodle pays tribute to Paul’s pioneering work on the

Mundaneum. The collection of knowledge stored in the Mundaneum’s drawers are the
foundational work for everything that happens at Google. In early drafts, you can watch the
concept come to life.”[11]
III. GOOGLE CULTURAL HISTORY

The dematerialisation of public collections using infrastructure and services bankrolled by
private actors like the GCI needs to be questioned and analyzed further in the context of
heterotopic institutions, to understand the new forms taken by the endless tension between
knowledge/power at the core of contemporary archivalism, where the architecture of the
interface replaces and acts on behalf of the museum, and the body of the visitor is reduced to
the fingers of a user capable of browsing endless cultural assets.
At a time when cultural institutions should be decolonised instead of googlified, it is vital to
discuss a project such as the Google Cultural Institute and its continuous expansion – which
is inversely proportional to the failure of the governments and the passivity of institutions
seduced by gadgets[12].
However, the dialogue is fragmented between limited academic accounts, corporate press
releases, isolated artistic interventions, specialised conferences and news reports. Femke
Snelting suggests that we must “find the patience to build a relation to these histories in ways
that make sense.” To do so, we need to excavate and assemble a better account of the
history of the Google Cultural Institute. Building upon Schiller & Yeo’s seminal text, the
following timeline is my contribution to this task and an attempt to put together the pieces, by
situating them in a broader economic and political context beyond the official history told by
the Google Cultural Institute. A closer inspection of the events reveals that the escalation of

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Alphabet's cultural interventions often emerge after a legal challenge against their economic
hegemony in Europe was initiated.
2009
ERIC SCHMIDT VISITS IRAQ

A news report from the Wall Street Journal[13] as well as an AP report on Youtube[14] confirm
the new Google venture in the field of historical collections. The executive chairman of
Alphabet declared: “I can think of no better use of our time and our resources to make the
images and ideas from your civilization, from the very beginning of time, available to a billion
people worldwide.”
A detailed account and reflection of this visit, its background and agenda can be found in
Powered by Google: Widening Access and Tightening Corporate Control. (Schiller & Yeo
2014)
FRANCE REACTS AGAINST GOOGLE BOOKS

In relation to the Google Books dispute in Europe, Reuters reported in 2009 that France's
ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy “pledged hundreds of millions of euros toward a separate
digitization program, saying he would not permit France to be “stripped of our heritage to the
benefit of a big company, no matter how friendly, big or American it is.”[15]

Although the reactionary and nationalistic agenda of Sarkozy should not be celebrated, it is
important to note that the first open attack on Google’s cultural agenda came from the French
government. Four years later, the Google Cultural Institute establishes its headquarters in
Paris.
2010
EUROPEAN COMMISSION LAUNCHES AN ANTITRUST INVESTIGATION AGAINST
GOOGLE.

The European Commission has decided to open an antitrust investigation into
allegations that Google Inc. has abused a dominant position in online search, in
violation of European Union rules (Article 102 TFEU). The opening of formal
proceedings follows complaints by search service providers about unfavourable
treatment of their services in Google's unpaid and sponsored search results coupled
with an alleged preferential placement of Google's own services. This initiation of
proceedings does not imply that the Commission has proof of any infringements. It
only signifies that the Commission will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as
[16]
a matter of priority.
THE GOOGLE ART PROJECT STARTS AS A 20% PROJECT UNDER THE DIRECTION
OF AMIT SOOD.

According to the Guardian[17], and other news reports, Google's cultural project is started by
passionate art “googlers”.
GOOGLE ANNOUNCES ITS PLANS TO BUILD A EUROPEAN CULTURAL INSTITUTE IN
FRANCE

Referring to France as one of the most important centres for culture and technology, Google
CEO Eric Schmidt formally announces the creation of a centre "dedicated to technology,
especially noting the promotion of past, present and future European cultures."[18]
2011
GOOGLE ART PROJECT LAUNCHES IN TATE LONDON.

In February the new ‘product’ is officially presented. The introduction[19] emphasises that it
started as a 20% project, meaning a project that lacked corporate mandate.
According to the “Our Story”[20] section of the Google Cultural Institute, the history of the
Google Art Project starts with the integration of 140,000 assets from the Yad Vashem
World Holocaust Centre, followed by the inclusion of the Nelson Mandela Archives in the
Historical Moments section of the Google Cultural Institute.

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Later in August, Eric Schmidt declares that education should bring art and science together
just like in “the glory days of the Victorian Era”.[21]
2012
EU DATA AUTHORITIES INITIATE A NEW INVESTIGATION INTO GOOGLE AND
THEIR NEW TERMS OF USE.

At the request of the French authorities, the European Union initiates an investigation against
Google, related to the breach of data privacy due to the new terms of use published by
Google on 1 March 2012.[22]
THE GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE CONTINUES TO DIGITALIZE CULTURAL
‘ASSETS’.

According to the Google Cultural Institute website, 151 partners join the Google Art
Project including France's Musée D’Orsay. The World Wonders section is launched
including partnerships with the likes of UNESCO. By October, the platform is rebranded
and re-launched including over 400+ partners.
2013
GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE HEADQUARTERS OPENS IN PARIS.

On 10 December, the new French headquarters open in 8 rue de Londres. The French
Minister Aurélie Filippetti cancels her attendance as she doesn’t “wish to appear as a
guarantee for an operation that still raises a certain number of questions."[23]
BRITISH TAX AUTHORITIES INITIATE INVESTIGATION INTO GOOGLE'S TAX
SCHEME

HM Customs and Revenue Committee inquiry brands Google's tax operations in the UK
via Ireland as "devious, calculated and, in my view, unethical".[24]
2014
EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE RULES ON THE “RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN”
AGAINST GOOGLE.

The controversial ruling holds search engines responsible for the personal data that it handles
and under European Law the court ruled “that the operator is, in certain circumstances,
obliged to remove links to web pages that are published by third parties and contain
information relating to a person from the list of results displayed following a search made on

the basis of that person’s name. The Court makes it clear that such an obligation may also
exist in a case where that name or information is not erased beforehand or simultaneously
from those web pages, and even, as the case may be, when its publication in itself on those
pages is lawful.”[25]
DIGITAL REVOLUTION AT BARBICAN UK

Google sponsors the exhibition Digital Revolution[26] and commission artworks under the
brand “Dev-art: art made with code.[27]”. The exhibition later tours to the Tekniska Museet in
Stockholm.[28]
GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE'S “THE LAB” OPENS

“Here creative experts and technology come together share ideas and build new ways to
experience art and culture.”[29]
GOOGLE EXPRESSED ITS PLANS TO SUPPORT THE CITY OF MONS, EUROPEAN
CAPITAL OF CULTURE IN 2015.

A press release from Google[30] describes the new partnership with the Belgian city of Mons
as a result of their position as local employer and investor in the city, since one of their two
major data centres in Europe is located there.
2015
EU COMMISSION SENDS STATEMENT OF OBJECTIONS TO GOOGLE.

The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections to Google alleging the
company has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search
services in the European Economic Area (EEA) by systematically favouring its own
[31]
comparison shopping product in its general search results pages.”

Google rejects the accusations as “wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics”.[32]
EUROPEAN COMMISSION STARTS INVESTIGATION INTO ANDROID.

The Commission will assess if, by entering into anticompetitive agreements and/or by
abusing a possible dominant position, Google has illegally hindered the development
and market access of rival mobile operating systems, mobile communication
applications and services in the European Economic Area (EEA). This investigation
is distinct and separate from the Commission investigation into Google's search
[33]
business.
GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE CONTINUES TO EXPAND.

According to the ‘Our Story’ section of the Google Cultural Institute, the Street Art project
now has 10,000 assets. A new extension displays art from the Google Art Project in the
Chrome browser and “art lovers can wear art on their wrists via Android art”. By August,

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the project has more than 850 partners using their tools, 4.7 million assets in its collection
and more than 1500 curated exhibitions.
TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL REVEALS GOOGLE AS SECOND BIGGEST
[34]
CORPORATE LOBBYISTS OPERATING IN BRUSSELS.

ALPHABET INC. IS ESTABLISHED ON OCTOBER 2ND.

“Alphabet Inc. (commonly known as Alphabet) is an American multinational conglomerate
created in 2015 as the parent company of Google and several other companies previously
owned by or tied to Google.”[35]
PAUL OTLET DOODLE AND MUNDANEUM-GOOGLE EXHIBITIONS.

Google creates a doodle for their homepage on the occasion of the 147th birthday of Paul
Otlet[36] and produces the slide shows Towards the Information Age, Mapping Knowledge
and The 100th Anniversary of a Nobel Peace Prize, all hosted by the Google Cultural
Institute.
“The Mundaneum and Google have worked closely together to curate 9 exclusive online
exhibitions for the Google Cultural Institute. The team behind the reopening of the

Mundaneum this year also worked with the Cultural Institute engineers to launch a dedicated
mobile app.”[37]
GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE PARTNERS WITH THE BRITISH MUSEUM.

The British Museum announce a “unique partnership” where over 4,500 assets can be
“seen online in just a few clicks”. In the official press release, the director of the museum,
Neil McGregor, said “The world today has changed, the way we access information has
been revolutionised by digital technology. This enables us to gives the Enlightenment ideal
on which the Museum was founded a new reality. It is now possible to make our collection
accessible, explorable and enjoyable not just for those who physically visit, but to everybody
with a computer or a mobile device. ”[38]
GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE ADDS A PERFORMING ARTS SECTION.

Over 60 performing arts (dance, drama, music, opera) organizations and performers join the
assets collection of the Google Cultural Institute [39]
2016
CODA

The Google Culture Institute has quietly changed the name of its platform to “Google Art &
Culture”. The website has been also restructured, and categories have been simplified into
“Arts”, “History” and “Wonders”. Its partners and projects are placed at the top of their
“Menu”. It is now possible to browse artists and mediums trough time and by color. The site

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offers a daily digest of art and history, but also cityscapes, galleries and street art views are
only one click away.

An important aspect of this make-over is the way in which it reveals its own instability as a
cultural archive. Before the upgrade, the link http://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/assetviewer/text-as-set-cell-0?exhibitId=QQ-RRh0A would take you to "The origins of the
Internet in Europe”, the page dedicated to the Mundaneum and Paul Otlet. Now it takes
you to a 404 error page. No timestamp, no redirect. No archived copy recorded in the
Wayback Machine. The structure of the new link for this "exhibition" still hints at some sort
of beta state: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/exhibit/QQ-RRh0A . How
long can we rely on this cultural institute/beta link?
Should the “curator of the world”[40], as Amit Sood is described in media, take some
responsibility over the reliability of the structure in which Google Arts & Culture displays the
cultural material extracted from public institutions and, that unlike Google, need to do so by
mandate? Or should we all just take his word and look away: “I fell into this by mistake.”[41]?

Last
Revision:
2·08·2016

1. Caines, Matthew. “Arts head: Amit Sood, director, Google Cultural Institute” The Guardian. Dec 3, 2013. http://
www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2013/dec/03/amit sood-google-culturalinstitute-art-project
2. Google Paris. Accessed Dec 22, 2016 http://www.google.se/about/careers/locations/paris/

3. Schiller, Dan & Yeo, Shinjoung. “Powered By Google: Widening Access And Tightening Corporate Control.” (In Aceti, D.
L. (Ed.). Red Art: New Utopias in Data Capitalism: Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Vol. 20, No. 1. London: Goldsmiths
University Press. 2014):48
4. Down, Maureen. “The Google Art Heist”. The New York Times. Sept 12, 2015 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/
opinion/sunday/the-google-art-heist.html
5. Schiller, Dan & Shinjoung Yeo. “Powered By Google: Widening Access And Tightening Corporate Control.”, 48
6. Schiller, Dan & Yeo, Shinjoung. “Powered By Google: Widening Access And Tightening Corporate Control.”, 48
7. Davis, Heather & Turpin, Etienne, eds. Art in the Antropocene (London: Open Humanities Press. 2015), 7
8. Bush, Randy. Psg.com On techno-colonialism. (blog) June 13, 2015. Accessed Dec 22, 2015 https://psg.com/ontechnocolonialism.html
9. Starzmann, Maria Theresia. “Cultural Imperialism and Heritage Politics in the Event of Armed Conflict: Prospects for an
‘Activist Archaeology’”. Archeologies. Vol. 4 No. 3 (2008):376
10. Echikson, William. Partnering in Belgium to create a capital of culture (blog) March 20, 2014. Accessed Dec 22, 2015
http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.se/2014/03/partnering-in-belgium-to-create-capital.html
11. Google. Mundaneum co-founder Paul Otlet's 147th Birthday (blog) August 23, 2015. Accessed Dec 22, 2015 http://
www.google.com/doodles/mundaneum-co-founder-paul-otlets-147th-birthday
12. eg. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/thelab/#experiments
13. Lavallee, Andrew. “Google CEO: A New Iraq Means Business Opportunities.” Wall Street Journal. Nov 24, 2009 http://
blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/11/24/google-ceo-a-new-iraq-means-business-opportunities/
14. Associated Press. Google Documents Iraqi Museum Treasures (on-line video November 24, 2009) https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqtgtdBvA9k
15. Jarry, Emmanuel. “France's Sarkozy takes on Google in books dispute.” Reuters. December 8, 2009. http://
www.reuters.com/article/us-france-google-sarkozy-idUSTRE5B73E320091208
16. European Commission. Antitrust: Commission probes allegations of antitrust violations by Google (Brussels 2010) http://
europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-10-1624_en.htm
17. Caines, Matthew. “Arts head: Amit Sood, director, Google Cultural Institute” The Guardian. December 3, 2013. http://
www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2013/dec/03/amit sood google-culturalinstitute-art-project
18. Cyrus, Farivar. "Google to build R&D facility and 'European cultural center' in France.” Deutsche Welle. September 9,
2010. http://www.dw.com/en/google-to-build-rd-facility-and-european-cultural-center-in-france/a-5993560
19. Google Art Project. Art Project V1 - Launch Event at Tate Britain. (on-line video February 1, 2011) https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsynsSWVvnM
20. Google Cultural Institute. Accessed Dec 18, 2015. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/about/partners/
21. Robinson, James. “Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, condemns British education system” The Guardian. August 26, 2011
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/aug/26/eric-schmidt-chairman-google-education
22. European Commission. Letter addressed to Google by the Article 29 Group (Brussels 2012) http://ec.europa.eu/justice/
data-protection/article-29/documentation/other-document/files/2012/20121016_letter_to_google_en.pdf
23. Willsher, Kim. “Google Cultural Institute's Paris opening snubbed by French minister.” The Guardian. December 10, 2013
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/10/google-cultural-institute-france-minister-snub
24. Bowers, Simon & Syal, Rajeev. “MP on Google tax avoidance scheme: 'I think that you do evil'”. The Guardian. May 16,
2013. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/may/16/google-told-by-mp you-do-do-evil
25. Court of Justice of the European Union. Press-release No 70/14 (Luxembourg, 2014) http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/
docs/application/pdf/2014-05/cp140070en.pdf
26. Barbican. “Digital Revolution.” Accessed December 15, 2015 https://www.barbican.org.uk/bie/upcoming-digital-revolution
27. Google. “Dev Art”. Accessed December 15, 2015 https://devart.withgoogle.com/
28. Tekniska Museet. “Digital Revolution.” Accessed December 15, 2015 http://www.tekniskamuseet.se/1/5554.html
29. Google Cultural Institute. Accessed December 15, 2015. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/thelab/
30. Echikson,William. Partnering in Belgium to create a capital of culture (blog) March 20, 2014. Accessed Dec 22, 2015
http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.se/2014/03/partnering-in-belgium-to-create-capital.html
31. European Commission. Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping service;
opens separate formal investigation on Android. (Brussels 2015) http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4780_en.htm
32. Yun Chee, Foo. “Google rejects 'unfounded' EU antitrust charges of market abuse” Reuters. (August 27, 2015) http://
www.reuters.com/article/us-google-eu-antitrust-idUSKCN0QW20F20150827
33. European Commission. Antitrust: Commission sends Statement

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34. Transparency International. Lobby meetings with EU policy-makers dominated by corporate interests (blog) June 24, 2015.
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35. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. s.v. “Alphabet Inc,” (accessed Jan 25, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphabet_Inc
.
36. Google. Mundaneum co-founder Paul Otlet's 147th Birthday (blog) August 23, 2015. Accessed Dec 22, 2015 http://
www.google.com/doodles/mundaneum-co-founder-paul-otlets-147th-birthday
37. Google. Mundaneum co-founder Paul Otlet's 147th Birthday
38. The British Museum. The British Museum’s unparalleled world collection at your fingertips. (blog) November 12, 2015.
Accessed December 22, 2015. https://www.britishmuseum.org/about_us/news_and_press/press_releases/2015/
with_google.aspx
39. Sood, Amit. Step on stage with the Google Cultural Institute (blog) December 1, 2015. Accessed December 22, 2015.
https://googleblog.blogspot.se/2015/12/step-on-stage-with-google-cultural.html
40. Sam Sundberg “Världsarvet enligt Google”. Svenska Dagbladet. March 27, 2016 http://www.svd.se/varldsarvet-enligtgoogle
41. TED. Amit Sood: Every piece of art you've ever wanted to see up close and searchable. (on-line video February 2016)
https://www.ted.com/talks/amit_sood_every_piece_of_art_you_ve_ever_wanted_to_see_up_close_and_searchable/

Une
histoire
préventive
du
Google
Cultural
Institute
GERALDINE JUÁREZ

I. L'ORGANISATION DE L'INFORMATION N'EST JAMAIS
INNOCENTE

Il y a six ans, Google, une entreprise d'Alphabet a lancé un nouveau projet : le Google Art
Project. L'histoire officielle, celle écrite par Google et distribuée principalement à travers des
communiqués de presse sur mesure et de brèves informations commerciales, nous dit que
tout a commencé « en 2010, avec un projet ou Google intervenait à 20%, qui fut présenté
au public pour la première fois en 2011. Il s'agissait de 17 musées réunis dans une
plateforme en ligne très intéressante afin de permettre aux utilisateurs de découvrir l'art d'une
manière tout à fait nouvelle et différente. »[1] Tandis que Google Books faisait face à des
problèmes d'ordre légal et que la Commission européenne lançait son enquête antitrust
contre Google en 2010, le Google Art Project prenait, non pas par hasard, de l'ampleur.
Cela conduisit à la création du Google Art Institute dont le siège se trouve à Paris et « dont
la mission est de rendre la culture mondiale accessible en ligne ».[2]
Le Google Cultural Institute est clairement divisé en sections : Art Project, Historical
Moments et World Wonders. Cela correspond dans les grandes lignes à beaux-arts, histoire
du monde et matériel culturel. Techniquement, le Google Cultural Institute peut être décrit
comme une base de données qui alimente un dépositaire d'images haute résolution
représentant des objets d'art, des objets, des documents, des éphémères ainsi que
d'informations à propos, et provenant, de leurs « partenaires » - les musées publics, les

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galeries et les institutions culturelles qui offrent ce matériel culturel -des visites en 3D et des
cartes faites à partir de "street view". Pour le moment, le Google Cultural Institute compte
177 reproductions numériques d'une sélection de peintures dans une résolution de l'ordre
des giga pixels et 320 différents objets en 3D ainsi que de multiples diapositives thématiques
choisies en collaboration avec leurs partenaires ou par leurs utilisateurs.
Selon leur site, dans leur « Lab », ils développent une « nouvelle technologie afin d'aider
leurs partenaires à publier leurs collections en ligne et à toucher de nouveaux publics, comme
l'ont fait les initiatives du Google Art Project, Historic Moments et Words Wonders. » Ce
n'est pas un hasard que ces services soient proposés comme une oeuvre philanthropique aux
institutions publiques qui sont de plus en plus amenées à justifier leur existence face aux
réductions budgétaires et aux autres exigences en matière de gestion des politiques
d'austérité en Europe et ailleurs. « Il est peu probable et même impensable que [le Google
Cultural Institute] fasse disparaitre la famine chronique des institutions culturelles de service
public causée par la politique et présente même dans les pays riches »[3]. Il est important de
comprendre que Google est réellement en train de financer l'infrastructure technique et le
travail nécessaire à la transformation de la culture en données. De cette manière, Google
s'assure que la culture peut être facilement gérée et nourrir toute sortes de produits
nécessaires à la ville néolibérale, afin de promouvoir et d'exploiter ces « biens » culturels, et
de soutenir la compétition avec d'autres centres urbains au niveau mondial, mais également
l'instatiable apétit d'informations de Google.
Le dirigeant du Google Cultural Institute est conscient qu'il existe un grand nombre
d'interrogations autour de leurs activités, cependant, Alphabet a choisi d'appeler les critiques
légitimes: des malentendus ; « Notre plus grand combat est ce malentendu permanent sur les
raisons de l'existence du Cultural Institute »[4] Le Google Cultural Institute, comme beaucoup
d'autres efforts culturels de Google, tels que Google Books et leur exposition artistique
Digital Revolution, a été le sujet de quelques critiques bien nécessaires, comme Powered by
Google: Widening Access and Tightening Corporate Control (Schiller & Yeo 2014); un
compte rendu détaillé des origines de cette intervention culturelle et de son rôle dans la
résurgence du capitalisme social: « là où les gens sont renvoyés aux corporations plutôt
qu'aux États pour des services qu'ils reçoivent ; là où le capital des entreprises a l'habitude
de se donner le droit de négocier le discours public ; et où l'histoire et l'art restent saturés par
les préférences et les priorités des classes de l'élite sociale. »[5]
Connu comme l'un, peut-être le seul essai d'analyse de l'utilisation des informations par
Google et de la rhétorique de démocratisation se trouvant en amont pour réorganiser les
institutions publiques culturelles en un « espace de profit », le texte de Schiller & Yeo est
fondamental pour la compréhension de l'évolution du Google Cultural Institute dans le
contexte historique du capitalisme numérique, où la dépendance mondiale aux technologies
de l'information est directement liée à la crise actuelle d'accumulation et, où la fièvre
d'archivage de Google « évince sa portée culturelle et idéologique à couper le souffle ».[6]

II. QUI COLONISE LES COLONS ?

Le Google Cultural Institute est un sujet de débat intéressant puisqu'il reflète les pulsions
colonialistes ancrées dans les désirs scientifiques et économiques qui ont formé ces mêmes
collections que le Google Cultural Institute négocie et accumule dans sa base de données.
Qui colonise les colons ? C'est une problématique très difficile que j'ai soulevée
précédemment dans un essai dédié au Google Cultural Institute, Alfred Russel Wallace et
les pulsions colonialistes derrière les fièvres d'archivage du 19e et du 20e siècles. Je n'ai pas
encore de réponse. Pourtant, une critique du Google Cultural Institute dans laquelle ses
motivations sont interprétées comme simplement colonialistes serait trompeuse et contreproductive. Leur but n'est pas d'asservir et d'exploiter la population tout entière et ses
ressources afin d'imposer une nouvelle idéologie et de civiliser les barbares dans la même
optique que celle des pays européens durant la colonisation. De plus, cela serait injuste et
irrespectueux vis-à-vis de tous ceux qui subissent encore les effets permanents de la
colonisation, exacerbés par l'expansion de la mondialisation économique.
Selon moi, l'assemblage de la technologie et de la science qui a produit le savoir à l'origine
de la création d'entités telles que Google et de ses dérivés, comme le Cultural Institute; ainsi
que la portée de son impact sur une société où la technologie de l'information est la forme de
technologie dominante, font de "technocolonialisme" un terme plus précis pour décrire les
interventions culturelles de Google. Même si la technocolonilisation partage de nombreux
traits et éléments avec le projet colonial, comme l'exploitation des matériaux nécessaires à la
production d'informations et de technologies médiatiques - ainsi que les conflits qui en
découlent - les technologies de l'information sont tout de même différentes des navires et des
canons. Cependant, la fonction commerciale des technologies maritimes est identique aux
services libres - comme dans libre échange - déployés par les drones de Google ou Facebook
qui fournissent internet à l'Afrique, même si la mise en réseau des technologies de
l'information est largement différent en matière d'infrastructure.
Il n'existe pas de définition officielle du technocolonialisme, mais il est important de le
comprendre comme une continuité des idées des Lumières qui a été à l'origine du désir de
rassembler, d'organiser et de gérer les informations au 19e siècle. Mon utilisation de ce
terme a pour objectif de souligner et de situer l'accumulation contemporaine, ainsi que la
gestion de l'information et des données au sein d'un paysage scientifique dirigé par l'idée « du
profit avant tout » comme une « extension logique de la valeur du surplus accumulée à
travers le colonialisme et l'esclavage ».[7]
Contrairement à l'époque coloniale, dans le technocolonialisme contemporain, la narration
n'est pas la suprématie d'une culture humaine spécifique. La culture technologique est le
sauveur. Peu importe que vous soyez musulman, français ou maya, l'objectif est d'obtenir les
meilleures technologies pour transformer la vie en données, les classifier, produire un contenu
à partir de celles-ci et créer des expériences pouvant être monétisées.

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En toute logique, pour Google, une entreprise dont la mission est d'organiser les informations
du monde en vue de générer un profit, les institutions qui étaient auparavant chargées de
l'organisation de la connaissance du monde constituent des partenaires idéaux. Cependant,
comme indiqué plus tôt, l'engagement du Google Cultural Institute à rassembler les
informations des musées créés durant la période coloniale afin d'élever une certaine culture et
une manière supérieure de voir le monde est paradoxal. Aujourd'hui, nous sommes au
courant et nous sommes capables de défier les narrations dominantes autour du patrimoine
culturel, car ces institutions ont un véritable récit de l'histoire qui ne se limite pas à la
production de la section « à propos » d'un site internet, comme celui du Google Cultural
Institute. « Ce que les musées devraient peut-être faire, c'est amener les visiteurs à prendre
conscience que ce n'est pas la seule manière de voir les choses. Que le musée, à savoir
l'installation, la disposition et la collection, possède une histoire et qu'il dispose également
d'un bagage idéologique »[8]. Cependant, le Google Cultural Institute n'est pas un musée,
c'est une base de données disposant d'une interface qui permet de parcourir le contenu
culturel. Contrairement aux prestigieux musées avec lesquels il collabore, il manque d'une
histoire située dans un discours culturel spécifique. Il s'agit d'objets d'art, de merveilles du
monde et de moments historiques au sens large. La mission du Google Cultural Institute est
clairement commerciale et philanthropique, mais celui-ci manque d'un point de vue et d'une
position définie vis-à-vis du matériel culturel qu'il traite. Ce n'est pas surprenant puisque
Google a toujours évité de prendre position, tout est question de technodéterminisme et de la
noble mission d'organiser les informations du monde afin de le rendre meilleur. Cependant,
« la négociation et le rassemblement d'informations sont une forme dangereuse de
technocolonialisme ».[8]
En cherchant une narration culturelle dépassant l'idéologie californienne, le moteur de
recherche d'Alphabet a trouvé dans Paul Otlet et le Mundaneum la couverture parfaite pour
intégrer ses services philanthropiques dans l'histoire de la science de l'information, au-delà de
la Silicon Valley. Après tout, ils comprennent que « la possession des narrations historiques
et de leurs corrélats matériels devient un outil de manifestation et de réalisation des
revendications économiques ».[9]
Après avoir établi un centre de données dans la ville belge de Mons, ville du Mundaneum,
Google a offert son soutien à « l'aventure Mons 2015, en particulier en travaillant avec nos
partenaires de longue date, les archives du Mundaneum. Plus d'un siècle auparavant, deux
visionnaires belges ont imaginé l'architecture du World Wide Web d'hyperliens et

d'indexation de l'information, non pas sur des ordinateurs, mais sur des cartes de papier.
Leur création était appelée Mundaneum. »[10]

À l'occasion du 147e anniversaire de Paul Otlet, un Doodle sur la page d'Alphabet épelait
le nom de son entreprise en utilisant « les tiroirs du Mundaneum » pour former le mot G O
O G L E : « Aujourd'hui, Doodle rend hommage au travail pionnier de Paul sur le
Mundaneum. La collection de connaissances emmagasinées dans les tiroirs du Mundaneum
constituent un travail fondamental pour tout ce qui se fait chez Google. Dès les premiers
essais, vous pouvez voir ce concept prendre vie. »[11]
III. GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE

La dématérialisation des collections publiques à l'aide d'une infrastructure et de services
financés par des acteurs privés, tels que le GCI, doit être questionnée et analysée plus en
profondeur par des institutions hétérotopes pour comprendre les nouvelles formes prises par
une tension infinie entre connaissance/pouvoir au cœur d'un archivage contemporain, où
l'architecture de l'interface remplace et agit au nom du musée et où le visiteur est réduit aux
doigts d'un utilisateur capable de parcourir un nombre infini de biens culturels. À l'époque
où les institutions culturelles devraient être décolonisées plutôt que googlifiées, il est capital
d'aborder la question d'un projet tel que le Google Cultural Institute et son expansion
continue et inversement proportionnelle à l'échec des gouvernements et à la passivité des
institutions séduites par les gadgets[12].
Cependant, le dialogue est fragmenté entre les comptes rendus académiques, les
communiqués de presse, les interventions artistiques isolées, les conférences spécialisées et
les bulletins d'informations. Selon Femke Snelting, nous devons « trouver la patience de
construire une relation à ces théories de manière cohérente ». Pour ce faire, nous devons
approfondir et assembler un meilleur compte rendu de l'histoire du Google Cultural Institute.
Construite à partir du texte phare de Schiller & Yeo, la ligne du temps suivante est ma
contribution à cette tâche et à une tentative d'assembler des morceaux en les situant dans un
contexte politique et économique plus large allant au-delà de l'histoire officielle racontée par

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le Google Cultural Institute. Une inspection plus minutieuse des événements révèle que
l'escalade des interventions culturelles d'Alphabet se produit généralement après l'apparition
d'un défi juridique pour l'hégémonie économique en Europe.
2009
ERIC SCHMIDT VISITE L'IRAK

Un bulletin d'informations du Wall Street Journal[13] ainsi qu'un rapport de l'AP Youtube[14]
confirment le nouveau projet de Google dans le domaine de collections historiques. Le
président exécutif d'Alphabet déclare : « je ne peux pas imaginer une meilleure manière
d'utiliser notre temps et nos ressources qu'en rendant disponibles les images et les idées de
notre civilisation, depuis son origine, pour un milliard de personnes à travers le monde. »
Un compte rendu détaillé de la réflexion de cette visite, son contexte et son programme se
trouvent dans Powered by Google: Widening Access and Tightening Corporate Control.
(Schiller & Yeo 2014)
LA FRANCE RÉAGIT À L'ENCONTRE DE GOOGLE BOOKS

Concernant le conflit impliquant Google Books en Europe, Reuters a déclaré qu'en 2009,
l'ancien président français, Nicolas Sarkozy « avait promis des centaines de millions d'euros à
un programme de numérisation distinct, disant qu'il ne permettrait pas à la France “d'être

dépouillée de son patrimoine au profit d'une grande entreprise, peu importe si celle-ci était
sympathique, grande ou américaine.” »[15]
Cependant, même si le programme réactionnaire et nationaliste de Nicolas Sarkozy ne doit
pas être félicité, il est important de noter que la première attaque ouverte à l'encontre du
programme culturel de Google est venue du gouvernement français. Quatre ans plus tard, le
Google Cultural Institute établissait son siège à Paris.
2010
LA COMMISSION EUROPÉENNE LANCE UNE ENQUÊTE ANTITRUST À L'ENCONTRE DE
GOOGLE.

La Commission européenne a décidé d'ouvrir une enquête antitrust à partir des
allégations selon lesquelles Google Inc. aurait abusé de sa position dominante de
moteur de recherche, en violation avec le règlement de l'Union européenne (Article
102 TFUE). L'ouverture de procédures formelles fait suite aux plaintes déposées par
des fournisseurs de service de recherche relatives à un traitement défavorable de leurs
services dans les résultats de recherche gratuits et payants de Google, ainsi qu'au
placement préférentiel des propres services de Google. Le lancement des procédures ne
signifie pas que la Commission dispose d'une quelconque preuve d'infraction. Cela
signifie seulement que la Commission va mener une enquête poussée et prioritaire sur
[16]
l'affaire.
LE GOOGLE ART PROJECT A COMMENCÉ COMME PROJET 20 % SOUS LA DIRECTION
D'AMIT SOOD.

D'après The Guardian[17], ainsi que d'autres bulletins d'informations, le projet culturel de
Google a été lancé par des « googleurs » passionnés d'art.
GOOGLE ANNONCE SON PROJET DE CONSTRUCTION D'UN EUROPEAN CULTURAL
CENTER EN FRANCE.

Faisant référence à la France comme à l'un des plus importants centres pour la culture et la
technologie, le PDG de Google, Eric Schmidt, a annoncé officiellement la création d'un
centre « dédié à la technologie, particulièrement en faveur de la promotion des cultures
européennes passées, présentes et futures ».[18]
2011
LE GOOGLE ART PROJECT EST LANCÉ À LA TATE LONDON.

En février, le nouveau « produit » a été officiellement présenté. La présentation[19] souligne
que l'idée a commencé avec un projet 20 %, un projet qui n'émanait donc pas d'un mandat
d'entreprise.

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D'après la section « Our Story »[20] du Google Cultural Institute, l'histoire du Google Art
Project commence avec l'intégration de 140 000 pièces du Yad Vashem World Holocaust
Centre, suivie de l'intégration des archives de Nelson Mandela dans la section "Historical
Moments" du Google Cultural Institute.
Plus tard au mois d'août, Eric Schmidt déclara que l'éducation devrait rassembler l'art et la
science comme lors des « jours glorieux de l'époque victorienne ».[21]
2012
LES AUTORITÉS DES DONNÉES DE L'UE LANCENT UNE NOUVELLE ENQUÊTE SUR
GOOGLE ET SES NOUVEAUX TERMES D'UTILISATION.

À la demande des autorités françaises, l'Union européenne lance une enquête à l'encontre
de Google concernant une violation des données privées causée par les nouveaux termes
d'utilisation publiés par Google le 1er mars 2012.[22]
LE GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE CONTINUE À NUMÉRISER LES « BIENS »
CULTURELS.

D'après le site du Google Cultural Institute, 151 partenaires ont rejoint le Google Art
Project, y compris le Musée d'Orsay en France. La section World of Wonders est lancée
avec des partenariats comme celui de l'UNESCO. Au mois d'octobre, la plateforme avait
changé d'image et était relancée avec plus de 400 partenaires.
2013
LE SIÈGE DU GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE OUVRE À PARIS.

Le 10 décembre, le nouveau siège français ouvre au numéro 8 rue de Londres. La ministre
française, Aurélie Filippetti, annule sa participation à l'événement, car elle « ne souhaite pas
apparaitre comme une garantie à une opération qui soulève encore un certain nombre de
questions ».[23]
LES AUTORITÉS FISCALES BRITANNIQUES LANCENT UNE ENQUÊTE SUR LE PLAN
FISCAL DE GOOGLE.

L'enquêteur du HM Customs and Revenue Committee estime que les opérations fiscales de
Google au Royaume-Uni réalisées via l'Irlande sont « fourbes, calculées et, selon moi,
contraires à l'éthique ».[24]

2014
CONCERNANT LE « DROIT À L'OUBLI », LA COUR DE JUSTICE DE L'UE STATUE
CONTRE GOOGLE.

La décision controversée tient les moteurs de recherche responsables des données
personnelles qu'ils gèrent. Conformément à la loi européenne, la Cour a statué « que
l'opérateur est, dans certaines circonstances, obligé de retirer des liens vers des sites internet
publiés par un parti tiers et contenant des informations liées à une personne et apparaissant
dans la liste des résultats suite à une recherche basée sur le nom de cette personne. La Cour
établit clairement qu'une telle obligation peut également exister dans un cas où le nom, ou
l'information, n'est pas effacé préalablement de ces pages internet, et même, comme cela peut
être le cas, lorsque leur publication elle-même est légale. »[25]
RÉVOLUTION NUMÉRIQUE AU BARBICAN, ROYAUME-UNI

Google sponsorise l'exposition Digital Revolution[26] et les œuvres commissionnées sous le
nom « Dev-art: art made with code.[27] ». Le Tekniska Museet à Stockholm a ensuite
accueilli l'exposition.[28] « The Lab » du Google Cultural Institute ouvre « Ici, les experts
créatifs et la technologie se rassemblent pour partager des idées et construire de nouvelles
manières de profiter de l'art et de la culture. »[29]
GOOGLE FAIT CONNAITRE SON INTENTION DE SOUTENIR LA VILLE DE MONS,
CAPITALE EUROPÉENNE DE LA CULTURE EN 2015.

Un communiqué de presse de Google[30] décrit le nouveau partenariat avec la ville belge de
Mons comme le résultat de leur position d'employeur local et d'investisseur dans la ville où
se situe l'un de leurs deux principaux centres de données en Europe.
2015
LA COMMISSION DE L'UE ENVOIE UNE COMMUNICATION DES GRIEFS À GOOGLE.

La Commission européenne a envoyé une communication des griefs à Google, déclarant
que :
« l'entreprise avait abusé de sa position dominante sur les marchés des services
généraux de recherches internet dans l'espace économique européen en favorisant
systématiquement son propre produit de comparateur d'achats dans les pages de
[31]
résultats généraux de recherche. »

Google rejette les accusations, les jugeant « erronées d'un point de vue factuel, légal et
économique ».[32]

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LA COMMISSION EUROPÉENNE COMMENCE À ENQUÊTER SUR ANDROID.

La Commission déterminera si, en concluant des accords anti-compétitifs et/ou en abusant
d'une possible position dominante, Google a :
illégalement entravé le développement et l'accès au marché de systèmes mobiles
d'exploitation, d'applications mobiles de communication et des services de ses rivaux
dans l'espace économique européen. Cette enquête est distincte et séparée du travail
[33]
d'investigation sur le commerce de la recherche de Google.
LE GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE POURSUIT SON EXPANSION.

D'après la section « Our Story » du Google Cultural Institute, le projet Street Art contient à
présent 10 000 pièces. Une nouvelle extension affiche les oeuvres d'art du Google Art
Project dans le navigateur Chrome et « les amateurs d'art peuvent porter une œuvre au
poignet grâce à l'art Android ». Au mois d'août, le projet disposait de 850 partenaires
utilisant ses outils, de 4,7 millions de pièces dans sa collection et de plus de 1 500
expositions organisées.
TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL RÉVÈLE QUE GOOGLE EST LE DEUXIÈME PLUS
[34]
GRAND LOBBYISTE À BRUXELLES.

ALPHABET INC. EST CRÉÉ LE 2 OCTOBRE.

« Alphabet Inc. (connu sous le nom d'Alphabet) est un conglomérat multinational américain
créé en 2015 pour être la société mère de Google et de plusieurs entreprises appartenant
auparavant à Google ou y étant liées. »[35]
LE DOODLE PAUL OTLET ET LES EXPOSITIONS MUNDANEUM-GOOGLE.

Google crée un doodle pour sa page d'accueil à l'occasion du 147e anniversaire de Paul
Otlet[36] et des projections de diapositives Towards the Information Age, Mapping
Knowledge et The 100th Anniversary of a Nobel Peace Prize, toutes organisées par le
Google Cultural Institute.
« Le Mundaneum et Google ont étroitement collaboré pour organiser neuf expositions
en ligne exclusives pour le Google Cultural Institute. Cette année, l'équipe dans les
coulisses de la réouverture du Mundaneum a travaillé avec les ingénieurs du Cultural
[37]
Institute pour lancer une application mobile qui y est consacrée. »
LE GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE S'ASSOCIE AU BRITISH MUSEUM.

Le British Museum annonce un « partenariat unique » à travers lequel plus de 4 500 pièces
pourront être « visionnées en ligne en seulement quelques clics ». Dans le communiqué de
presse officiel, le directeur du musée, Neil McGregor, a déclaré « le monde a changé
aujourd'hui, notre manière d'accéder à l'information a été révolutionnée par la technologie
numérique. Cela permet de donner une nouvelle réalité à l'idéal des Lumières sur lequel le
Museum a été fondé. Il est à présent possible d'accéder à notre collection, d'explorer et de
profiter non seulement pour ceux qui la visitent en personne, mais pour tous ceux qui
disposent d'un ordinateur ou d'un appareil mobile. »[38]
LE GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE AJOUTE LA SECTION PERFORMING ARTS.

Plus de 60 organisations et interprètes d'art du spectacle (danse, théâtre, musique, opéra)
rejoignent la collection Google Cultural Institute[39]
2016

...
Last
Revision:
28·06·2016

1. Caines, Matthew. « Arts head: Amit Sood, director, Google Cultural Institute »The Guardian. 3 décembre 2013. http://
www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2013/dec/03/amit sood-google-culturalinstitute-art-project
2. Google Paris. Consulté le 22 décembre 2016 http://www.google.se/about/careers/locations/paris/

P.206

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3. Schiller, Dan & Yeo, Shinjoung. « Powered By Google: Widening Access And Tightening Corporate Control. » (In Aceti, D.
L. (Éd.). Red Art: New Utopias in Data Capitalism: Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Vol. 20, No. 1. Londres : Goldsmiths
University Press. 2014): 48
4. Down, Maureen. « The Google Art Heist ». The New York Times. 12 septembre 2015 http://
www.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/opinion/sunday/the-google-art-heist.html
5. Schiller, Dan & Shinjoung Yeo. « Powered By Google: Widening Access And Tightening Corporate Control. », 48
6. 6. Schiller, Dan & Yeo, Shinjoung. « Powered By Google: Widening Access And Tightening Corporate Control. », 48
7. Davis, Heather & Turpin, Etienne, eds. Art in the Antropocene (Londres : Open Humanities Press. 2015), 7
8. Bush, Randy. Psg.com On techno-colonialism. (blog) 13 juin 2015. Consulté le 22 décembre 2015 https://psg.com/ontechnocolonialism.html
9. Starzmann, Maria Theresia. « Cultural Imperialism and Heritage Politics in the Event of Armed Conflict: Prospects for an
‘Activist Archaeology’ ». Archeologies. Vol. 4 n° 3 (2008):376
10. Echikson,William. Partnering in Belgium to create a capital of culture (blog) 10 mars 2014. Consulté le 22 décembre 2015
http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.se/2014/03/partnering-in-belgium-to-create-capital.html
11. Google. Mundaneum co-founder Paul Otlet's 147th Birthday (blog) 23 août, 2015. Consulté le 22 décembre 2015 http://
www.google.com/doodles/mundaneum-co-founder-paul-otlets-147th-birthday
12. ex. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/thelab/#experiments
13. 13. Lavallee, Andrew. « Google CEO: A New Iraq Means Business Opportunities. » Wall Street Journal. 24 novembre
2009 http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/11/24/google-ceo-a-new-iraq-means-business-opportunities/
14. 14. Associated Press. Google Documents Iraqi Museum Treasures (vidéo en ligne 24 novembre 2009) https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqtgtdBvA9k
15. Jarry, Emmanuel. « France's Sarkozy takes on Google in books dispute. » Reuters. 8 décembre 2009. http://
www.reuters.com/article/us-france-google-sarkozy-idUSTRE5B73E320091208
16. European Commission. Antitrust: Commission probes allegations of antitrust violations by Google (Bruxelles 2010) http://
europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-10-1624_en.htm
17. Caines, Matthew. “Arts head: Amit Sood, director, Google Cultural Institute »The Guardian. 3 décembre 2013. http://
www.theguardian.com/culture-professionals-network/culture-professionals-blog/2013/dec/03/amit sood google-culturalinstitute-art-project
18. Cyrus, Farivar. « Google to build R&D facility and 'European cultural center' in France. » Deutsche Welle. 9 septembre
2010. http://www.dw.com/en/google-to-build-rd-facility-and-european-cultural-center-in-france/a-5993560
19. 19. Google Art Project. Art Project V1 - Launch Event at Tate Britain. (vidéo en ligne le 1er février 2011) https://
www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsynsSWVvnM
20. Google Cultural Institute. Consulté le 18 décembre 2015. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/about/partners/
21. Robinson, James. « Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, condemns British education system » The Guardian. 26 août 2011
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/aug/26/eric-schmidt-chairman-google-education
22. European Commission. Letter addressed to Google by the Article 29 Group (Bruxelles 2012) http://ec.europa.eu/justice/
data-protection/article-29/documentation/other-document/files/2012/20121016_letter_to_google_en.pdf
23. Willsher, Kim. « Google Cultural Institute's Paris opening snubbed by French minister. » The Guardian. 10 décembre, 2013
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/10/google-cultural-institute-france-minister-snub
24. 24. Bowers, Simon & Syal, Rajeev. « MP on Google tax avoidance scheme: 'I think that you do evil' ». The Guardian. 16
mai 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/may/16/google-told-by-mp you-do-do-evil
25. Court of Justice of the European Union. Press-release No 70/14 (Luxembourg, 2014) http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/
docs/application/pdf/2014-05/cp140070en.pdf
26. Barbican. « Digital Revolution. » Consulté le 15 décembre 2015 https://www.barbican.org.uk/bie/upcoming-digital-revolution
27. Google. « Dev Art ». Consulté le 15 décembre 2015 https://devart.withgoogle.com/
28. Tekniska Museet. « Digital Revolution. » Consulté le 15 décembre 2015 http://www.tekniskamuseet.se/1/5554.html
29. Google Cultural Institute. Consulté le 15 décembre 2015. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/thelab/
30. Echikson,William. Partnering in Belgium to create a capital of culture (blog) 10 mars 2014. Consulté le 22 décembre 2015
http://googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.se/2014/03/partnering-in-belgium-to-create-capital.html
31. European Commission. Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on comparison shopping service;
opens separate formal investigation on Android. (Bruxelles 2015) http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4780_en.htm
32. Yun Chee, Foo. « Google rejects 'unfounded' EU antitrust charges of market abuse » Reuters. (27 août 2015) http://
www.reuters.com/article/us-google-eu-antitrust-idUSKCN0QW20F20150827
33. European Commission. Antitrust: Commission sends Statement

34. Transparency International. Lobby meetings with EU policy-makers dominated by corporate interests (blog) 24 juin 2015.
Consulté le mardi 22 décembre 2015. http://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/
lobby_meetings_with_eu_policy_makers_dominated_by_corporate_interests
35. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. s.v. “Alphabet Inc,” (consulté le 25 janvier 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Alphabet_Inc.
36. Google. Mundaneum co-founder Paul Otlet's 147th Birthday (blog) 23 août, 2015. Consulté le 22 décembre 2015 http://
www.google.com/doodles/mundaneum-co-founder-paul-otlets-147th-birthday
37. Google. Mundaneum co-founder Paul Otlet's 147th Birthday
38. The British Museum. The British Museum’s unparalleled world collection at your fingertips. (blog) Novembre 12, 2015.
Consulté le mardi 22 décembre 2015. https://www.britishmuseum.org/about_us/news_and_press/press_releases/2015/
with_google.aspx
39. Sood, Amit. Step on stage with the Google Cultural Institute (blog) 1er décembre 2015. Consulté le mardi 22 décembre
2015. https://googleblog.blogspot.se/2015/12/step-on-stage-with-google-cultural.html

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Special:Disambiguation
The following is a list of all disambiguation pages on Mondotheque.
A page is treated as a disambiguation page if it contains the tag __DISAMBIG__ (or an
equivalent alias).
Showing below up to 15 results in range #1 to #15.
View (previous 50 | next 50) (20 | 50 | 100 | 250 | 500)
1. Biblion may refer to:
◦ Biblion (category), a subcategory of the category: Index Traité de
documentation
◦ Biblion (Traité de documentation), term used by Paul
Otlet to define all categories of books and documents in a section of Traité de
documentation
◦ Biblion (unity), the smallest document or intellectual unit
2. Cultural Institute may refer to:
◦ A Cultural Institute (organisation) , such as The
Mundaneum Archive Center in Mons
◦ Cultural Institute (project), a critical interrogation of
cultural institutions in neo-liberal times, developed by amongst others
Geraldine Juárez
◦ The Google Cultural Institute, a project offering
"Technologies that make the world’s culture accessible to anyone, anywhere."
3. L'EVANGELISTE may refer to:
◦ Vint Cerf, so-called 'internet evangelist', or 'father of the internet',
working at LA MÉGA-ENTREPRISE
◦ Jiddu Krishnamurti, priest at the 'Order of the Star', a theosophist
splinter group that Paul Otlet related to
◦ Sir Tim Berners Lee, 'open data evangelist', heading the World Wide
Web consortium (W3C)

4. L'UTOPISTE may refer to:
◦ Paul Otlet, documentalist, universalist, internationalist, indexalist. At
times considered as the 'father of information science', or 'visionary inventor of
the internet on paper'
◦ Le Corbusier, architect, universalist, internationalist. Worked with Paul
Otlet on plans for a City of knowledge
◦ Otto Neurath , philosopher of science, sociologist, political economist.
Hosted a branch of Mundaneum in The Hague
◦ Ted Nelson , technologist, philosopher, sociologist. Coined the terms
hypertext, hypermedia, transclusion, virtuality and intertwingularity
5. LA CAPITALE may refer to:
◦ Brussels, capital of Flanders and Europe
◦ Genève , world civic center
6. LA MANAGER may refer to:
◦ Delphine Jenart, assistant director at the Mundaneum Archive Center
in Mons.
◦ Bill Echikson, former public relations officer at Google, coordinating
communications for the European Union, and for all of Southern, Eastern
Europe, Middle East and Africa. Handled the company’s high profile
antitrust and other policy-related issues in Europe.
7. LA MÉGA-ENTREPRISE may refer to:
◦ Google inc, or Alphabet, sometimes referred to as "Crystal
Computing", "Project02", "Saturn" or "Green Box Computing"
◦ Carnegie Steel Company, supporter of the Mundaneum in Brussels
and the Peace Palace in The Hague
8. LA RÉGION may refer to:
◦ Wallonia (Belgium), or La Wallonie. Former mining area, homebase of former prime minister Elio di Rupo, location of two Google
datacenters and the Mundaneum Archive Center
◦ Groningen (The Netherlands), future location of a Google data
center in Eemshaven
◦ Hamina (Finland), location of a Google data center

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9. LE BIOGRAPHE is used for persons that are instrumental in constructing the
narrative of Paul Otlet. It may refer to:
◦ André Canonne, librarian and director of the Centre de Lecture
publique de la Communauté française (CLPCF). Discovers the
Mundaneum in the 1960s. Publishes a facsimile edition of the Traité de
documentation (1989) and prepares the opening of Espace Mundaneum in
Brussels at Place Rogier (1990)
◦ Warden Boyd Rayward, librarian scientist, discovers the Mundaneum
in the 1970s. Writes the first biography of Paul Otlet in English: The
Universe of Information: the Work of Paul Otlet for Documentation and
international Organization (1975)
◦ Benoît Peeters and François Schuiten , comics-writers and
scenographers, discover the Mundaneum in the 1980s. The archivist in the
graphic novel Les Cités Obscures (1983) is modelled on Paul Otlet
◦ Françoise Levie, filmmaker, discovers the Mundaneum in the 1990s.
Author of the fictionalised biography The man who wanted to classify the
world (2002)
◦ Alex Wright, writer and journalist, discovers the Mundaneum in 2003.
Author of Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information
Age (2014)
10. LE DIRECTEUR may refer to:
◦ Harm Post, director of Groningen Sea Ports, future location of a Google
data center
◦ Andrew Carnegie, director of Carnegy Steel Company, sponsor of the
Mundaneum
◦ André Canonne, director of the Centre de Lecture publique de la
Communauté française (CLPCF) and guardian of the Mundaneum. See
also: LE BIOGRAPHE
◦ Jean-Paul Deplus, president of the current Mundaneum association,
but often referred to as LE DIRECTEUR
◦ Amid Sood, director (later 'founder') of the Google Cultural Institute and
Google Art Project
◦ Steve Crossan, director (sometimes 'founder' or 'head') of the Google
Cultural Institute
11. LE POLITICIEN may refer to:
◦ Elio di Rupo, former prime minister of Belgium and mayor of Mons

◦ Henri Lafontaine, Belgium lawyer and statesman, working with Paul
Otlet to realise the Mundaneum
◦ Nicolas Sarkozy, former president of France, negotiating deals with
LA MÉGA-ENTREPRISE
12. LE ROI may refer to:
◦ Leopold II, reigned as King of the Belgians from 1865 until 1909.
Exploited Congo as a private colonial venture. Patron of the Mundaneum
project
◦ Albert II, reigned as King of the Belgians from 1993 until his
abdication in 2013. Visited LA MÉGA-ENTREPRISE in 2008
13. Monde may refer to:
◦ Monde (Univers) means world in French and is used in many
drawings and schemes by Paul Otlet. See for example: World + Brain and
Mundaneum
◦ Monde (Publication), Essai d'universalisme. Last book published
by Paul Otlet (1935)
◦ Mondialisation , Term coined by Paul Otlet (1916)
14. Mundaneum may refer to:
◦ Mundaneum (Utopia) , a project designed by Paul Otlet and Henri
Lafontaine
◦ Mundaneum (Archive Centre) , a cultural institution in Mons,
housing the archives of Paul Otlet and Henri Lafontaine since 1993
15. Urbanisme may refer to:
◦ Urban planning, a technical and political process concerned with the
use of land, protection and use of the environment, public welfare, and the
design of the urban environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure
passing into and out of urban areas such as transportation, communications,
and distribution networks.
◦ Urbanisme (Publication), a book by Le Corbusier (1925).
View (previous 50 | next 50) (20 | 50 | 100 | 250 | 500)

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Location,
location,
location

From
Paper
Mill to
Google
Data
Center
SHINJOUNG YEO

Every second of every day, billions of people around the world are googling, mapping, liking,
tweeting, reading, writing, watching, communicating, and working over the Internet.
According to Cisco, global Internet traffic will surpass one zettabyte – nearly a trillion
gigabytes! – in 2016, which equates to 667 trillion feature-length films.[1] Internet traffic is
expected to double by 2019[2] as the internet ever increasingly weaves itself into the very
fabric of many people’s daily lives.
Internet search giant Google – since August, 2015 a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.[3] – is one
of the major conduits of our social activities on the Web. It processes over 3.3 billion
searches each and every day, 105 billon searches per month or 1.3 trillion per year,[4] and is
responsible for over 88% Internet search activity around the globe.[5] Predicating its business
on people’s everyday information activity – search – in 2015, Google generated $74.54
billion dollars,[6] equivalent to or more than the GDP of some countries. The vast majority of
Google’s revenue – $ 67.39 billion dollars[7] – from advertising on its various platforms
including Google search, YouTube, AdSense products, Chrome OS, Android etc.; the
company is rapidly expanding its business to other sectors like cloud services, health,
education, self-driving cars, internet of things, life sciences, and the like. Google’s lucrative
internet business does not only generate profits. As Google’s chief economist Hal Varian
states:
…it also generates torrents of data about users’ tastes and habits, data that Google
then sifts and processes in order to predict future consumer behavior, find ways to
improve its products, and sell more ads. This is the heart and soul of Googlenomics.
It’s a system of constant self-analysis: a data-fueled feedback loop that defines not only
[8]
Google’s future but the future of anyone who does business online.

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Google’s business model is emblematic of the “new economy” which is primarily built around
data and information. The “new economy” – the term popularized in the 1990s during the
first dot-com boom – is often distinguished by the mainstream discourse from the traditional
industrial economy that demands large-scale investment of physical capital and produces
material goods and instead emphasizes the unique nature of information and purports to be
less resource-intensive. Originating in the 1960s, post-industrial theorists asserted the
emergence of the “new” economy, claiming that the increase of highly-skilled information
workers, widespread application of information technologies, along with the decrease of
manual labor, would bring a new mode of production and fundamental changes in
exploitative capitalist social relations.[9]
Has the “new” economy challenged capitalist social relations and transcended the material
world? Google and other Internet companies have been investing heavily in industrial-scale
real estate around the world and continue to build large-scale physical infrastructure in the
way of data centers where the world’s bits and bytes are stored, processed and delivered.
The term “tube” or “cloud” or “weightless” often gives us a façade that our newly marketed
social and cultural activities over the Internet transcend the physical realm and occur in the
vapors of the Internet; far from this perception, however, every bit of information in the “new
economy” is transmitted through and located in physical space, on very real and very large
infrastructure encomapssing existing power structures from phone lines and fiber optics to
data centers to transnatonal underseas telecommunication cables.
There is much boosterism and celebration that the “new economy” holds the keys to
individual freedom, liberty and democratic participation and will free labor from exploitation;
however, the material/physical base that supports the economy and our everyday lives tells a
very different story. My analysis presents an integral piece of the physical infrastructure
behind the “new economy” and the space embedded in that infrastructure in order to
elucidate that the “new economy” does not occur in an abstract place but rather is manifested
in the concrete material world, one deeply embedded in capitalist development which
reproduces structural inequality on a global scale. Specifically, the analysis will focus on
Google’s growing large-scale data center infrastructure that is restructuring and reconfiguring
previously declining industrial cities and towns as new production places within the US and
around the world.
Today, data centers are found in nearly every sector of the economy: financial services,
media, high-tech, education, retail, medical, government etc. The study of the development of
data centers in each of these sectors could be separate projects in and of themselves;
however, for this project, I will only look at Google as a window into the “new” economy, the

company which has led the way in the internet sector in building out and linking up data
centers as it expands its territory of profit.[10]
DATA CENTRES IN CONTEXT

The concepts of “spatial fix” by critical geographer David Harvey[11] and “digital capitalism”
by historian of communication and information Dan Schiller[12] are useful to contextualize and
place the emergence of large-scale data centers within capitalist development. Harvey
illustrates the notion of spatial fix to explicate and situate the geographical dynamics and crisis
tendency of capitalism with over-accumulation and under-consumption. Harvey’s spatial fix
has dual meanings. One meaning is that it is necessary for capital to have a fixed space –
physical infrastructure (transportation, communications, highways, power etc.) as well as a
built environment – in order to facilitate capital’s geographical expansion. The other meaning
is a fix or solution for capitalists’ crisis through geographical expansion and reorganization of
space as capital searches for new markets and temporarily relocates to more profitable space
– new accumulation sites and territories. This temporal spatial fix will lead capital to leave
behind existing physical infrastructure and built environments as it shifts to new temporal
fixed spaces in order to cultivate new markets.
Building on Harvey’s work, Schiller introduced the concept of digital capitalism in response
to the 1970’s crisis of capitalism in which information became that “spatial-temporal fix” or
“pole of growth.”[13] To renew capitalist crisis from the worst economic downturn of the
1970s, a massive amount of information and communication technologies were introduced
across the length and breadth of economic sectors as capitalism shifted to a more informationintensive economy – digital capitalism. Today digital capitalism grips every sector, as it has
expanded and extended beyond information industries and reorganized the entire economy
from manufacturing production to finance to science to education to arts and health and
impacts every iota of people’s social lives.[14] Current growth of large-scale data centers by
Internet companies and their reoccupation of industrial towns needs to be situated within the
context of the development of digital capitalism.
FROM MANUFACTURING FACTORY TO DATA FACTORY

Large-scale data centers – sometimes called “server farms” in an oddly quaint allusion to the
pre-industrial agrarian society – are centralized facilities that primarily contain large numbers
of servers and computer equipment used for data processing, data storage, and high-speed
telecommunications. In a sense, data centers are similar to the capitalist factory system; but
instead of a linear process of input of raw materials to
output of material goods for mass consumption, they input
mass data in order to facilitate and expand the endless
cycle of commodification – an Ouroboros-like machine.
As the factory system enables the production of more

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From X = Y:
In these proposals, Otlet's archival

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goods at a lower cost through automation and control of labor to maximize profit, data centers
have been developed to process large quantities of bits and bytes as fast as possible and at as
low a cost as possible through automation and centralization. The data center is a hyperautomated digital factory system that enables the operation of hundreds of thousands of
servers through centralization in order to conduct business around the clock and around the
globe. Compared to traditional industrial factories that produce material goods and generally
employ entire towns if not cities, large-scale data centers each generally employ fewer than
100 full-time employees – most of these employees are either engineers or security guards.
In a way, data centers are the ultimate automated factory. Moreover, the owner of a
traditional factory needs to acquire/purchase/extract raw materials to produce commodities;
however, much of the raw data for a data center are freely drawn from the labor and
everyday activities of Internet users without a direct cost to the data center. The factory
system is to industrial capitalism what data centers are becoming to digital capitalism.
THE GROWTH OF GOOGLE’S DATA FACTORIES

Today, there is a growing arms race among leading Internet companies – Google, Microsoft,
Amazon, Facebook, IBM – in building out large-scale data centers around the globe.[16]
Among these companies, Google has so far been leading in terms of scale and capital
investment. In 2014, the company spent $11 billion for real estate purchases, production
equipment, and data center construction,[17] compared to Amazon which spent $4.9 billion
and Facebook with $1.8 billion in the same year.[18]
Until 2002, Google rented only one collocation facility in Santa Clara, California to house
about 300 servers.[19] However, by 2003 the company had started to purchase entire
collocation buildings that were cheaply available due to overexpansion during the dot.com
era. Google soon began to design and build its own data centers containing thousands of
custom-built servers as Google expanded its services and global market and responded to
competitive pressures. Initially, Google was highly secretive about its data center locations
and related technologies; a former Google employee called this Google’s “Manhattan
project.” However, in 2012, Google began to open up its data centers. While this seems
like Google’s had a change of heart and wants to be more transparent about their data
centers to the public, it is in reality more about Google’s self-serving public relations
onslaught to show how its cloud infrastructure is superior to Google’s competitors and to
secure future cloud clients.[20]
As of 2016, Google has data centers in 14 locations around the globe – eight in Americas,
two in Asia and four in Europe – with an unknown number of collocated centers – ones in
which space, servers, and infrastructure are shared with other companies – in undisclosed
locations. The sheer size of Google’s data centers is reflected in its server chip consumption.
In all, Google supposedly accounts for 5% of all server chips sold in the world,[21] and it is
even affecting the price of chips as the company is one of biggest chip buyers. Google’s
recent allying with Qualcomm for its new chip has become a threat to Intel – Google has

been the largest customer of the world’s largest chip maker for quite some time.[22] According
to Steven Levy, Google admitted that, “it is the largest computing manufacturer in the world
– making its own servers requires it to build more units every year than the industry giants
HP, Dell, and Lenovo.”[23] Moreover, Google has been amassing cheap “dark fibre” – fibre
optic cables that were laid down during the 1990s dot.com boom by now-defunct telecom
firms betting on increased internet traffic[24] - constructing Google’s fibre optic cables in US
cities,[25] and investing in building massive undersea cables to maintain its dominance and
expand its markets by controlling Internet infrastructure.[26]
With its own customized servers and software, Google is building a massive data center
network infrastructure, delivering its service at unprecedented speeds around the clock and
around the world. According to one report, Google’s global network of data centers, with a
capacity to deliver 1-petabit-per-second bandwidth, is powerful enough to read all of the
scanned books in the Library of Congress in a fraction of a second.[27] New York Times
columnist Pascal Zachary once reported:
…I believe that the physical network is Google’s “secret sauce,” its premier competitive
advantage. While a brilliant lone wolf can conceive of a dazzling algorithm, only a
super wealthy and well-managed organization can run what is arguably the most
valuable computer network on the planet. Without the computer network, Google is
[28]
nothing.

Where then is Google’s secret sauce physically located? Despite its massiveness, Google’s
data center infrastructure and locations have been invisible to millions of everyday Google
users around the globe – users assume that Google is ubiquitous, the largest cloud in the
‘net.’ However, this infrastructure is no longer unnoticed since the infrastructure needed to
support the “new economy” is beginning to occupy and transform our landscapes and
building a new fixed network of global digital production space.
NEW NETWORK OF DIGITAL PRODUCTION SPACE:
RESTRUCTURING INDUSTRIAL CITIES

While Google’s data traffic and exchange extends well beyond geographic boundaries, its
physical plants are fixed in places where digital goods and services are processed and
produced. For the production of material goods, access to cheap labor has long been one of
the primary criteria for companies to select their places of production; but for data centers, a
large quantity of cheap labor is not as important since they require only a small number of
employees. The common characteristics necessary for data center sites have so far been:
good fiber-optic infrastructure; cheap and reliable power sources for cooling and running
servers, geographical diversity for redundancy and speed, cheap land, and locations close to
target markets.[29] Today, if one finds geographical areas in the world with some combination
of these factors, there will likely be data centers there or in the planning stages for the near
future.

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Given these criteria, there has been an emerging trend of reconfiguration and conversion to
data centers of former industrial sites such as paper mills, printing plants, steel plants, textile
mills, auto plants, aluminum plants and coal plants. In the United States, and in particular rust
belt regions of the upper Northeast, Great Lakes and Midwest regions – previously hubs of
manufacturing industries and heart lands of both industrial capitalism and labor movements –
are turning (or attempting to turn) into hotspots for large-scale data centers for Internet
companies.[30] These cities are the remains of past crises of industrial capitalism as well as of
long labor struggles.
The reasons that former industrial sites in the US and other parts of the world are attractive
for data center conversion is that, starting in the 1970s, many factories had closed or moved
their operations overseas in search of ever-cheaper labor and concomitantly weak or
nonexistent labor laws, leaving behind solid physical plants and industrial infrastructures of
power, water and cooling systems once used to drive industrial machines and production lines
and now perfectly fit for data center development.[31] Especially, finding cheap energy is
crucial for companies like Google since data center energy costs are a major expenditure.
Moreover, many communities surrounding former industrial sites have struggled and become
distressed with increasing poverty, high unemployment and little labor power. Thus, under
the guise of “economic development,” many state and local governments have been eager to
lure data centers by offering lavish subsidies for IT companies. For at least the last five years,
state after state has legislated tax breaks for data centers and about a dozen states have
created customized incentives programs for data center operations.[32] State incentives range
from full or partial exemptions of sales/use taxes on equipment, construction materials, and in
some cases purchases of electricity and backup fuel.[33] This kind of corporate-centric
economic development is far from the construction of democratic cities that prioritize social
needs and collective interests, and reflects the environmental and long-term sustainability of
communities; but rather the goal is to, “create a good business climate and therefore to
optimize conditions for capital accumulation no matter what the consequences for
employment or social and environmental well-being.”[34]
Google’s first large-scale data center site is located in one of these struggling former industrial
towns. In 2006, Google opened its first data center in The Dalles – now nicknamed
Googleville – a town of a little over 15,000 located alongside the Columbia River and
about 80 miles east of Portland, Oregon. It is an ideal site in the sense that it is close to a
major metropolitan corridor (Seattle-Tacoma-Portland) to serve business interests and large
urban population centers; yet, cheap land, little organized labor, and the promise of cheap
electrical power from the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal governmental agency,
as well as a 15-year property tax exemption. In addition, The Dalles had already built a
fiber-optic loop as part of its economic development hoping to attract the IT industry.[35]
Not long ago, the residents of The Dalles and communities up and down the Columbia
River gorge relied on the aluminum industry, an industry which required massive amounts of

– in this case hydroelectric – power. Energy makes up 40 percent of the cost of aluminum
production[36] and was boosted by the war economies of World War II and the Korean war
as aluminum was used for various war products, especially aircraft. However, starting in
1980, aluminum smelter plants began to close and move out of the area, laid off their
workers and left their installed infrastructure behind.
Since then, The Dalles, like other industrial towns, has suffered from high unemployment,
poverty, aging population and budget-strapped schools, etc. Thus, the decision for Google to
build a data center the size of two football fields (68,680-square-foot storage buildings) in
order to take advantage of the preinstalled fiber optic infrastructure, relatively cheap
hydropower from the Dalles Dam, and tax benefits was presented as the new hope
for the
[37]
distressed town and a large employment opportunity for the town’s population.
There was much community excitement that Google’s arrival would mean an economic
revival for the struggling city and a better life for the poor , but no one could discuss about it
at the time of negotiations with Google because local officials involved in negotiations had all
signed nondisclosure agreements (NDAs);[38] they were required not to mention Google in
any way but were instead instructed to refer to the project as “Project 02.”[39] Google insisted
that the information it shared with representatives of The Dalles not be subject to public
records disclosures.[40] While public subsidies were a necessary precondition of building the
data center,[41] there were no transparency or open public debates on alternative visions of
development that reflects collective community interests.
Google’s highly anticipated data center in The Dalles opened in 2006, but it “opened” only
in the sense that it became operational. To this day, Google’s data center site is off-limits to
the community and is well-guarded, including multiple CCTV cameras which survey the
grounds around the clock. Google might boast of its corporate culture as “open” and “nonhierarchical” but this does not extend to the data centers within the community where Google
benefits as it extracts resources. Not only was the building process secretive, but access to the
data center itself is highly restricted. Data centers are well secured with several guards, gates
and checkpoints. Google’s data center has reshaped the landscape into a pseudo-militarized
zone as it is not far off from a top-secret military compound – access denied.
This kind of landscape is reproduced in other parts of the US as well. New data center hubs
have begun to emerge in other rural communities; one of them is in southwestern North
Carolina where the leading tech giants – Google, Facebook, Apple, Disney and American
Express – have built data centers in close proximity to each other. The cluster of data
centers is referred to as the “NC Data Center Corridor,”[42] a neologism used to market the
area.
At one time, the southwestern part of North Carolina had heavy concentration of highly
labor-intensive textiles and furniture industries that exploited the region’s cheap labor supply
and where workers fought long and hard for better working conditions and wages. However,
over the last 25 years, factories have closed and slowly moved out of the area and been

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relocated to Asia and Latin America.[43] As a result – and mirroring the situation in The
Dalles – the area has suffered a series of layoffs, chronically high unemployment rates and
poverty, but now is being rebranded as a center of the “new economy” geared toward
attracting high-tech industries. For many towns, abandoned manufacturing plants are no
longer an eyesore but rather are becoming major selling points to the IT industry. Rich
Miller, editor of Data Center Knowledge, stated, “one of the things that’s driving the
competitiveness of our area is the power capacity built for manufacturers in the past 50
years.”[44]
In 2008, Google opened a $600 million data center in Lenoir, NC, a town in Caldwell
County (population 18,228[45]). Lenoir was once known as the furniture capital of the South
but lost 1,120 jobs in 2006.[46] More than 300,000 furniture jobs moved away from the
United States during 2000 as factories relocate to China for cheaper labor and operational
costs.[47] In order to lure Google, Caldwell County and the City of Lenoir gave Google a
100 percent waiver on business property taxes, an 80 percent waiver on real estate property
taxes over the next 30 years,[48] and various other incentives. Former NC Governor Mike
Easley announced that, “this company will provide hundreds of good-paying, knowledgebased jobs that North Carolina’s citizens want;”[49] yet, he addressed neither the cost of
attracting Google for taxpayers – including those laid-off factory workers – nor the
environmental impact of the data center. In 2013, Google expanded its operation in Lenoir
with an additional $600 million investment, and as of 2015, it has 250 employees in its
220-plus acre data center site.[50]
The company continues its crusade of giving “hope” to distressed communities and now
“saving” the environment from the old coal-fueled industrial economy. Google’s latest project
in the US is in Widows Creek, Alabama where the company is converting a coal burning
power plant commissioned in 1952 – which has been polluting the area for years – to its 14
th data center powered by renewable power. Shifting from coal to renewable energy seems to
demonstrate how Google has gone “green” and is being a different kind of corporation that
cares for the environment. However, this is a highly calculated business decision given that
relying on renewable energy is more economical over the long term than coal – which is
more volatile as commodity prices greatly fluctuate.[51] Google is gobbling up renewable
energy deals around the world to procure cheap energy and power its data centers.[52]
However, Google’s “green” public relations also camouflage environmental damages that are
brought by the data center’s enormous power consumption, e-waste from hardware, rare
earth mining and the environmental damage over the entire supply chain.[53]
The trend of reoccupation of industrial sites by data centers is not confined to the US.
Google’s Internet business operates across territories and more than 50% of its revenues
come from outside the US. As Google’s domestic search market share has stabilized at
around 60% share, the company has aggressively moved to build data centers around the
world for its global expansion. One of Google’s most ambitious data center projects outside
the US was in Hamina, Finland where Google converted a paper mill to a data center.

In 2008, Stora Enso, the Finnish paper maker, in which the Finnish Government held 16%
of the company’s shares and controlled 34% of the company, shut down its Summa paper
mill on the site close to the city of Hamina in Southeastern Finland despite workers’
resistance against the closure.[54] The company shed 985 jobs including 485 from the
Summa plant.[55] Shortly after closing the plant, Stora Enso sold the 53 year-old paper mill
site to Google for roughly $52 million which included 410 acres of land and the paper mill
and its infrastructure itself.
Whitewashing the workers’ struggles, the Helsinki Times reported that, “everyone was
excited about Google coming to Finland. The news that the Internet giant had bought the old
Stora Enso mill in Hamina for a data centre was great news for a community stunned by job
losses and a slowing economy.”[56] However, the local elites recognized that jobs created by
Google would not drastically affect the city’s unemployment rate or alleviate the economic
plight for many people in the community, so they justified their decision by arguing that
connecting Google’s logo to the city’s image would result in increased investments in the
area.[57] The facility had roughly 125 full-time employees when Google announced its
Hamina operation’s expansion in 2013.[58] The data center is monitored by Google’s
customary CCTV cameras and motion detectors; even Google staff only have access to the
server halls after passing biometric authentication using iris recognition scanners.[59]
Like Google’s other data centers, Google’s decision to build a data center in Hamina is not
merely because of favorable existing infrastructure or natural resources. The location of
Hamina as its first Nordic data center is vital and strategic in terms of extending Google’s
reach into geographically dispersed markets, speed and management of data traffic. Hamina
is located close to the border with Russia and the area has long been known for good
Internet connectivity via Scandinavian telecommunications giant TeliaSonera, whose services
and international connections run right through the area of Hamina and reach into Russia as
well as to Sweden and Western Europe.[60] Eastern Europe has a growing Internet market
and Russia is one of the few countries where Google does not dominate the search market.
Yandex, Russia’s native language search engine, controls the Russian search market with
over 60% share.[61] By locating its infrastructure in Hamina, Google is establishing its
strategic global digital production beach-head for both the Nordic and Russian markets.
As Google is trying to maintain its global dominance and expand its business, the company
has continued to build out its data center operations on European soil. Besides Finland,
Google has built data centers in Dublin, Ireland, and St. Ghislain and Mons in Belgium,
which respectively had expanded their operations after their initial construction. However,
the stories of each of these data centers is similar: aluminum smelting plant town The Dalles,
Oregon and Lenoir North Carolina in the US, paper mill town Hamina, Finland, coalmining town Ghislain–Mons, Belgium and a warehouse converted data center in Dublin,
Ireland. Each of these were once industrial production sites and/or sites for the extraction of
environmental resources turned into data centers creating temporal production spaces to
accelerate digital capitalism. Google’s latest venture in Europe is in a seaport town of

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Eemshaven, Netherlands which hosts several power stations as well as the transatlantic fiberoptic cable which links the US and Europe.
To many struggling communities around the world, the building of Google’s large-scale data
centers has been presented by the company and by political elites as an opportunity to
participate in the “new economy” – as well as a veiled threat of being left behind from the
“new economy” – as if this would magically lead to the creation of prosperity and equality. In
reality, these cities and towns are being reorganized and reoccupied for corporate interests,
re-integrated into sites of capital accumulation and re-emerged as new networks of production
for capitalist development.
CONCLUSION

Is the current physical landscape that supports the “new economy” outside of capitalist social
relations? Does the process of the redevelopment of struggling former industrial cites by
building Google data centers under the slogan of participation in the “new economy” really
meet social needs, and express democratic values? The “new economy” is boasted about as if
it is radically different from past industrial capitalist development, the solution to myriad social
problems that hold the potential for growth outside of the capitalist realm; however, the “new
economy” operates deeply within the logic of capitalist development – constant technological
innovation, relocation and reconstruction of new physical production places to link
geographically dispersed markets, reduction of labor costs, removal of obstacles that hinder its
growth and continuous expansion. Google’s purely market-driven data centers illustrate that
the “new economy” built on data and information does not bypass physical infrastructures and
physical places for the production and distribution of digital commodities. Rather, it is firmly
anchored in the physical world and simply establishes new infrastructures on top of existing
industrial ones and a new network of production places to meet the needs of the processes of
digital commodities at the expense of environmental, labor and social well-being.
We celebrate the democratic possibilities of the “networked information economy” providing
for alternative space free from capitalist practices; however, it is vital to recognize that this
“new economy” in which we put our hopes is supported by, built on, and firmly planted in
our material world. The question that we need to ask ourselves is: given that our communities
and physical infrastructures continue to be configured to assist the reproduction of the social
relations of capitalism, how far can our “new economy” deliver on the democracy and social
justice for which we all strive?
Last
Revision:
3·07·2016

1. James Titcomb, “World’s internet traffic to surpass one zettabyte in 2016,” Telegraph, February 4, 2016, http://
www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/02/04/worlds-internet-traffic-to-surpass-one-zettabyte-in-2016/
2. Ibid.

3. Cade Metz, “A new company called Alphabet now owns Google,” Wired, August 10, 2015. http://wired.com/2015/08/
new-company-called-alphabet-owns-google/.
4. Google hasn’t released new data since 2012, but the data extrapolate from based on Google annual growth date. See Danny
Sullivan, “Google Still Doing At Least 1 Trillion Searches Per Year,” Search Engine Land, January 16, 2015, http://
searchengineland.com/google-1-trillion-searches-per-year-212940
5. This is Google’s desktop search engine market as of January 2016. See “Worldwide desktop market share of leading search
engines from January 2010 to January 2016,” Statista, http://www.statista.com/statistics/216573/worldwide-market-shareof-search-engines/.
6. “Annual revenue of Alphabet from 2011 to 2015 (in billions of US dollars),” Statista, http://www.statista.com/
statistics/507742/alphabet-annual-global-revenue/.
7. “Advertising revenue of Google from 2001 to 2015 (in billion U.S. dollars),” Statista, http://www.statista.com/
statistics/266249/advertising-revenue-of-google/.
8. Seven Levy, “Secret of Googlenomics: Data-Fueled Recipe Brews Profitability,” Wired, May 22, 2009, http://
www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/magazine/17-06/nep_googlenomics?currentPage=all.
9. Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture In Social Forecasting (New York: Basic Books, 1974); Alvin
Toffler, The Third Wave (New York: Morrow, 1980).
10. The term “territory of profit” is borrowed from Gary Fields’ book titled Territories of Profit: Communications, Capitalist
Development, and the Innovative Enterprises of G. F. Swift and Dell Computer (Stanford University Press, 2003)
11. David Harvey, Spaces of capital: towards a critical geography (New York: Routledge, 2001)
12. Top of FormDan Schiller, Digital capitalism networking the global market system (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1999).
13. Dan Schiller, “Power Under Pressure: Digital Capitalism In Crisis,” International Journal of Communication 5 (2011): 924–
941
14. Dan Schiller, “Digital capitalism: stagnation and contention?” Open Democracy, October 13, 2015, https://
www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/dan-schiller/digital-capitalism-stagnation-and-contention.
15. Ibid: 113-117.
16. Jason Hiner, “Why Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are racing to run your data center.” ZDNet, June 4, 2009, http://
www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/why-microsoft-google-and-amazon-are-racing-to-run-your-data-center/19733.
17. Derrick Harris, “Google had its biggest quarter ever for data center spending. Again,” Gigaom, February 4, 2015, https://
gigaom.com/2015/02/04/google-had-its-biggest-quarter-ever-for-data-center-spending-again/.
18. Ibid.
19. Steven Levy, In the plex: how Google thinks, works, and shapes our lives )New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011), 182.
20. Steven Levy, “Google Throws Open Doors to Its Top-Secret Data Center,” Wired, October 17 2012, http://
www.wired.com/2012/10/ff-inside-google-data-center/.
21. Cade Metz, “Google’s Hardware Endgame? Making Its Very Own Chips,” Wired, February 12, 2016, http://
www.wired.com/2016/02/googles-hardware-endgame-making-its-very-own-chips/.
22. Ian King and Jack Clark, “Qualcomm's Fledgling Server-Chip Efforts,” Bloomberg Business, February 3, 2016, http://
www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-03/google-said-to-endorse-qualcomm-s-fledgling-server-chip-efforts-ik6ud7qg.
23. Levy, In the Plex, 181.
24. In 2013, Wall Street Journal reported that Google controls more than 100,000 miles of routes around the world which was
considered bigger than US-based telecom company Sprint. See Drew FitzGerald and Spencer E. Ante, “Tech Firms Push to
Control Web's Pipes,” Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/
SB10001424052702304173704579262361885883936
25. Google is offering its gigabit-speed fiber optic Internet service in 10 US cities. Since Internet service is a precondition of
Google’s myriad Internet businesses, Google’s strategy is to control the pipes rather than relying on telecom firms. See Mike
Wehner, “Google Fiber is succeeding and cable companies are starting to feel the pressure,” Business Insider, April 15, 2015,
http://www.businessinsider.com/google-fiber-is-succeeding-and-cable-companies-are-starting-to-feel-the-pressure-2015-4;
Ethan Baron, “Google Fiber coming to San Francisco first,” San Jose Mercury News, February 26, 2016, http://
www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_29556617/sorry-san-jose-google-fiber-coming-san-francisco.
26. Tim Hornyak, “9 things you didn't know about Google's undersea cable,” Computerworld, July 14, 2015, http://
www.computerworld.com/article/2947841/network-hardware-solutions/9-things-you-didnt-know-about-googles-underseacable.html
27. Jaikumar Vijayan, “Google Gives Glimpse Inside Its Massive Data Center Network,” eWeek, June 18, 2015, http://
www.eweek.com/servers/google-gives-glimpse-inside-its-massive-data-center-network.html
28. Pascal Zachary, “Unsung Heroes Who Move Products Forward,” New York Times, September 30, 2007, http://
www.nytimes.com/2007/09/30/technology/30ping.html

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29. Tomas Freeman, Jones Lang, and Jason Warner, “What’s Important in the Data Center Location Decision,” Spring 2011,
http://www.areadevelopment.com/siteSelection/may2011/data-center-location-decision-factors2011-62626727.shtml
30. “From rust belt to data center green?” Green Data Center News, February 10, 2011, http://www.greendatacenternews.org/
articles/204867/from-rust-belt-to-data-center-green-by-doug-mohney/
31. Rich Miller, “North Carolina Emerges as Data Center Hub,” Data Center Knowledge, November 7, 2010, http://
www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2010/11/17/north-carolina-emerges-as-data-center-hub/.
32. David Chernicoff, “US tax breaks, state by state,” Datacenter Dynamics, January 6, 2016, http://
www.datacenterdynamics.com/design-build/us-tax-breaks-state-by-state/95428.fullarticle; Case Study: Server Farms,” Good
Job First, http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/corporate-subsidy-watch/server-farms.
33. John Leino, “The role of incentives in Data Center Location Decisions,” Critical Environment Practice, February 28, 2011,
http://www.cbrephoenix.com/wp_eig/?p=68.
34. David, Harvey, Spaces of global capitalism (London: Verso. 2006), 25.
35. Marsha Spellman, “Broadband, and Google, Come to Rural Oregon,” Broadband Properties, December 2005, http://
www.broadbandproperties.com/2005issues/dec05issues/spellman.pdf.
36. Ross Courtney “The Goldendale aluminum plant -- The death of a way of life,” Yakima Herald-Republic,” April 9, 2011,
http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2011/4/9/the-goldendale-aluminum-plant-the-death-of-a-way-of-life.
37. Ginger Strand, “Google’s addition to cheap electricity,” Harper Magazine, March 2008, https://web.archive.org/web/20080410194348/http://harpers.org/media/
slideshow/annot/2008-03/index.html.

38. Linda Rosencrance, “Top-secret Google data center almost completed,” Computerworld, June 16, 2006, http://
www.computerworld.com/article/2546445/data-center/top-secret-google-data-center-almost-completed.html.
39. Bryon Beck, “Welcome to Googleville America’s newest information superhighway begins On Oregon’s Silicon Prairie,”
Willamette Week, June 4, 2008, http://wweek.com/portland/article-9089-welcome_to_googleville.html.
40. Rich Miller, “Google & Facebook: A Tale of Two Data Centers,” Data Center Knowledge, August 2, 2010, http://
www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2010/08/10/google-facebook-a-tale-of-two-data-centers/
41. Ibid.
42. Alex Barkinka, “From textiles to tech, the state’s newest crop,” Reese News Lab, April 13, 2011, http://
reesenews.org/2011/04/13/from-textiles-to-tech-the-states-newest-crop/14263/.
43. “Textile & Apparel Overview,” North Carolina in the Global Economy, http://www.ncglobaleconomy.com/textiles/
overview.shtml.
44. Rich Miller, “The Apple-Google Data Center Corridor,” Data Center knowledge, August 4, 2009, http://
www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2009/08/04/the-apple-google-data-center-corridor/.
45. “2010 Decennial Census from the US Census Bureau,” http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/cf/1.0/en/place/Lenoir city,
North Carolina/POPULATION/DECENNIAL_CNT.
46. North Carolina in the Global Economy. Retrieved from http://www.soc.duke.edu/NC_GlobalEconomy/furniture/
workers.shtml
47. Frank Langfitt, Furniture Work Shifts From N.C. To South China. National Public Radio, December 1, 2009, http://
www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121576791&ft=1&f=121637143; Dan Morse, In North Carolina,
Furniture Makers Try to Stay Alive,” Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2004, http://www.wsj.com/articles/
SB107724173388134838; Robert Lacy, “Whither North Carolina Furniture Manufacturing,” Federal Reserve Bank of
Richmond, Working Paper Series, September 2004, https://www.richmondfed.org/~/media/richmondfedorg/publications/
research/working_papers/2004/pdf/wp04-7.pdf
48. Stephen Shankland, “Google gives itself leeway for N.C., data center,” Cnet, December 5, 2008, http://
news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10114349-93.html; Bill Bradley, “Cities Keep Giving Out Money for Server Farms, See
Very Few Jobs in Return,” Next City, August 15, 2013, https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/cities-keep-giving-out-money-forserver-farms-see-few-jobs-in-return.
49. Katherine Noyes, “Google Taps North Carolina for New Datacenter,” E-Commerce Times, January 19, 2007, http://
www.ecommercetimes.com/story/55266.html?wlc=1255976822
50. Getahn Ward, “Google to invest in new Clarksville data center,” Tennessean, December 22, 2015, http://
www.tennessean.com/story/money/real-estate/2015/12/21/google-invest-500m-new-clarksville-data-center/77474046/.
51. Ingrid Burrington, “The Environmental Toll of a Netflix Binge,” Atlantic, December 16, 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/
technology/archive/2015/12/there-are-no-clean-clouds/420744/.
52. Mark Bergen, “After Gates, Google Splurges on Green With Largest Renewable Energy Buy for Server Farms,” Re/code,
December 3, 2015, http://recode.net/2015/12/03/after-gates-google-splurges-on-green-with-largest-renewable-energy-buyfor-server-farms/.

53. Burrington, “The Environmental Toll of a Netflix Binge.”; Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller, Greening the media (New
York: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2012)
54. “Finnish Paper Industry Uses Court Order to Block Government Protest,” IndustriAll Global Union, http://www.industriallunion.org/archive/icem/finnish-paper-industry-uses-court-order-to-block-government-protest.
55. Terhi Kinnunen and Tarmo Virki, “Stora to cut 985 jobs, close mills despite protests,” Reuter, January 17, 2008, http://
www.reuters.com/article/storaenso-idUSL1732158220080117; “Workers react to threat of closure of paper pulp mills,”
European Foundation, March 3, 2008, http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/articles/workers-react-tothreat-of-closure-of-paper-pulp-mills.
56. David Cord, “Welcome to Finland,” The Helsinki Times, April 9, 2009, http://www.helsinkitimes.fi/helsinkitimes/2009apr/
issue15-95/helsinki_times15-95.pdf.
57. Elina Kervinen, Google is busy turning the old Summa paper mill into a data centre. Helsingin Sanomat International Edition,
October 9, 2010, https://web.archive.org/web/20120610020753/http://www.hs.fi/english/article/Google+is+busy
+turning+the+old+Summa+paper+mill+into+a+data+centre/1135260141400.
58. “Google invests 450M in expansion of Hamina data centre,” Helsinki Times, November 4, 2013, http://
www.helsinkitimes.fi/business/8255-google-invests-450m-in-expansion-of-hamina-data-centre.html.
59. “Revealed: Google’s new mega data center in Finland,” Pingdon, September 15, 2010, http://
royal.pingdom.com/2010/09/15/googles-mega-data-center-in-finland/
60. Ibid.
61. Shiv Mehta, “What's Google Strategy for the Russian Market?” Investopedia, July 28, 2015, http://www.investopedia.com/
articles/investing/072815/whats-google-strategy-russian-market.asp.

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House,
City,
World,
Nation,
Globe
NATACHA ROUSSEL

This timeline starts in Brussels and is an attempt to situate some of the events
in the life, death and revival of the Mundaneum in relation to both local and
international events. By connecting several geographic locations at different
scales, this small research provokes cqrrelations in time and space that could help
formulate questions about the ways local events repeatedly mirror and
recompose global situations. Hopefully, it can also help to see which
contextual elements in the first iteration of the Mundaneum were different from
the current situation of our information economy.
The ambitious project of the Mundaneum was imagined by Paul Otlet with support of Henri
La Fontaine at the end of the 19th century. At that time colonialism was at its height,
bringing a steady stream of income to occidental countries which created a sense of security
that made everything seem possible. According to some of the most forward thinking persons
of the time it felt as if the intellectual and material benefits of rational thinking could
universally become the source of all goods. Far from any actual move towards independence,
the first tensions between colonial/commercial powers were starting to manifest themselves.
Already some conflicts erupted, mainly to defend commercial interests such as during the
Fashoda crisis and the Boers war. The sense of strength brought to colonial powers by the
large influx of money was however quickly tempered by World War I that was about to
shake up modern European society.
In this context Henri La Fontaine, energised by Paul Otlet's encompassing view of
classification systems and standards, strongly associates the Mundaneum project with an ideal
of world peace. This was a conscious process of thought; they believed that this universal
archive of all knowledge represented a resource for the promotion of education towards the

development of better social relations. While Otlet and La Fontaine were not directly
concerned with economical and colonial issues, their ideals were nevertheless fed by the
wealth of the epoch. The Mundaneum archives were furthermore established with a clear
intention, and a major effort was done to include documents that referred to often neglected
topics or that could be considered as alternative thinking, such as the well known archives of
the feminist movement in Belgium and information on anarchism and pacifism. In line with
the general dynamism caused by a growing wealth in Europe at the turn of the century, the
Mundaneum project seemed to be always growing in size and ambition. It also clearly
appears that the project was embedded in the international and 'politico-economical' context
of its time and in many aspects linked to a larger movement that engaged civil society towards
a proto-structure of networked society. Via the development of infrastructures for
communication and international regulations, Henri La Fontaine was part of several
international initiatives. For example he launched the 'Bureau International de la paix' as
early as 1907 and a few years after, in 1910, the 'International Union of Associations'.
Overall his interventions helped to root the process of archive collection in a larger network
of associations and regulatory structures. Otlet's view of archives and organisation extended
to all domains and La Fontaine asserted that general peace could be achieved through social
development by the means of education and access to knowledge. Their common view was
nurtured by an acute perception of their epoch, they observed and often contributed to most
of the major experiments that were triggered by the ongoing reflection about the new
organisation modalities of society.
The ever ambitious process of building the Mundaneum
From The Itinerant Archive (print):
archives took place in the context of a growing
Museology merged with the
internationalisation of society, while at the same time the
International Institute of Bibliography
social gap was increasing due to the expansion of
(IIB) which had its offices in the
same building. The ever-expanding
industrial society. Furthermore, the internationalisation of
index card catalog had already been
finances and relations did not only concern industrial
accessible to the public since 1914.
society, it also acted as a motivation to structure social
The project would be later known as
the World Palace or Mundaneum.
and political networks, among others via political
Here, Paul Otlet and Henri La
negotiations and the institution of civil society
Fontaine started to work on their
Encyclopaedia Universalis
organisations. Several broad structures dedicated to the
Mundaneum, an illustrated
regulation of international relations were created
encyclopaedia in the form of a mobile
simultaneous with the worldwide spreading of an
exhibition.
industrial economy. They aimed to formulate a world
view that would be based on international agreements
and communication systems regulated by governments and structured via civil society
organisations, rather than leaving everything to individual and commercial initiatives. Otlet
and La Fontaine spent a large part of their lives attempting to formulate a mondial society.
While La Fontaine clearly supported international networks of civil society organisations,
Otlet, according to Vincent Capdepuy[1], was the first person to use the French term
Mondialisation far ahead of his time, advocating what would become after World War II an
important movement that claimed to work for the development of an international regulatory

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P.229

system. Otlet also mentioned that this 'Mondial' process was directly related to the necessity
of a new repartition and the regulation of natural goods (think: diamonds and gold ...), he
writes:
« Un droit nouveau doit remplacer alors le droit ancien pour préparer et organiser une
nouvelle répartition. La “question sociale” a posé le problème à l’intérieur ; “la question
internationale” pose le même problème à l’extérieur entre peuples. Notre époque a
poursuivi une certaine socialisation de biens. […] Il s’agit, si l’on peut employer cette
expression, de socialiser le droit international, comme on a socialisé le droit privé, et de
[2]
prendre à l’égard des richesses naturelles des mesures de “mondialisation”. » .

The approaches of La Fontaine and Otlet already bear certain differences, as one
(Lafontaine) emphasises an organisation based on local civil society structures which implies
direct participation, while the other (Otlet) focuses more on management and global
organisation managed by a regulatory framework. It is interesting to look at these early
concepts that were participating to a larger movement called 'the first mondialisation', and
understand how they differ from current forms of globalisation which equally involve private
and public instances and various infrastructures.
The project of Otlet and Lafontaine took place in an era of international agreements over
communication networks. It is known and often a subject of fascination that the global project
of the Mundaneum also involved the conception of a technical infrastructure and
communication systems that were conceived in between the two World Wars. Some of them
such as the Mondotheque were imagined as prospective possibilities, but others were already
implemented at the time and formed the basis of an international communication network,
consisting of postal services and telegraph networks. It is less acknowledged that the epoch
was also a time of international agreements between countries, structuring and normalising
international life; some of these structures still form the basis of our actual global economy,
but they are all challenged by private capitalist structures. The existing postal and telegraph
networks covered the entire planet, and agreements that regulated the price of the stamp
allowing for postal services to be used internationally, were recent. They certainly were the
first ones during where international agreements regulated commercial interests to the benefit
of individual communication. Henri Lafontaine directly participated in these processes by
asking for the postal franchise to be waived for the transport of documents between
international libraries, to the benefit of among others the Mundaneum. Lafontaine was also
an important promoter of larger international movements that involved civil society
organisations; he was the main responsible for the 'Union internationale des associations', that
acted as a network of information-sharing, setting up modalities for exchange to the general
benefit of civil society. Furthermore, concerns were raised to rethink social organisation that
was harmed by industrial economy and this issue was addressed in Brussels by the brand
new discipline of sociology. The 'Ecole de Bruxelles'[3] in which Otlet and La Fontaine both
took part was already very early on trying to formulate a legal discourse that could help
address social inequalities, and eventually come up with regulations that could help 'reengineer' social organisation.

The Mundaneum project differentiates itself from contemporary enterprises such as Google,
not only by its intentions, but also by its organisational context as it clearly inscribed itself in
an international regulatory framework that was dedicated to the promotion of local civil
society. How can we understand the similarities and differences between the development of
the Mundaneum project and the current knowledge economy? The timeline below attempts
to re-situate the different events related to the rise and fall of the Mundaneum in order to help
situate the differences between past and contemporary processes.

DATE

EVENT

TYPE

1865

The International Union of telegraph STANDARD
, is set up it is an important element of the
organisation of a mondial communication
network and will further become the

SCALE

WORLD

International Telecommunication
[4]
Union (UTI) that is still active in regulating

and standardizing radio-communication.

1870

Franco-Prussian war.

EVENT

WORLD

1874

The ONU creates the General Postal
[5]
Union and aims to federate international
postal distribution.

STANDARD

WORLD

1875

General Conference on Weights and
Measures in Sèvres, France.

STANDARD

WORLD

1882

Triple Alliance,

EVENT

WORLD

1889

Henri Lafontaine creates La Société Belge EVENT
de l'arbitrage et de la paix.

NATION

1890's

First colonial wars (Fachoda crisis, Boers war EVENT
...).

WORLD

1890

Henri Lafontaine meets Paul Otlet.

PERSON

CITY

1891

Franco-Russian entente', preliminary to
the Triple entente that will be signed in
1907.

EVENT

WORLD

1891

Henri Lafontaine publishes an essay Pour une PUBLICATION NATION
bibliographie de la paix.

P.230

renewed in 1902.

P.231

1893

Otlet and Lafontaine start together the Office ASSOCIATION CITY
International de Bibliologie
Sociologique (OIBS).

1894

Henri Lafontaine is elected senator of the
province of Hainaut and later senator of the
province of Liège-Brabant.

EVENT

NATION

1895 2-4 First Conférence de Bibliographie at
ASSOCIATION CITY
September which it is decided to create the Institut
International de Bibliographie (IIB)
founded by Henri La Fontaine.
WORLD

1900

Congrès bibliographique
international in Paris.

EVENT

1903

Creation of the international Women's
suffrage alliance (IWSA) that will later
become the International Alliance of
Women.

ASSOCIATION WORLD

1904

Entente cordiale

between France and
England which defines their mutual zone of
colonial influence in Africa.

EVENT

WORLD

1905

First Moroccan crisis.

EVENT

WORLD

1907 June Otlet and Lafontaine organise a Central

ASSOCIATION CITY

Office for International Associations
that will become the International Union
of Associations (IUA) at the first
Congrès mondial des associations
internationales in Brussels in May 1910.

1907

Henri Lafontaine is elected president of the
Bureau international de la paix that
he previously initiated.

1908 July Congrès bibliographique
international in Brussels.

PERSON

NATION

EVENT

CITY

ASSOCIATION WORLD
1910 May Official Creation of the International
union of associations (IUA). In 1914,
it federates 230 organizations, a little more
than half of them still exist. The IUA promotes
internationalist aspirations and desire for peace.

ASSOCIATION WORLD

1910
25-27
August

Le Congrès International de
Bibliographie et de Documentation

1911

ASSOCIATION WORLD
More than 600 people and institutions are
listed as IIB members or refer to their methods,
specifically the UDC.

1913

Henri Lafontaine is awarded the Nobel Price EVENT
for Peace.

WORLD

1914

Germany declares war to France and invades
Belgium.

WORLD

1916

PUBLICATION WORLD
Lafontaine publishes The great solution:
magnissima charta while in exile in the United
States.

1919

deals with issues of international cooperation
between non-governmental organizations and
with the structure of universal documentation.

Opening of the Mundaneum or Palais
at the Cinquantenaire park.

EVENT

EVENT

CITY

Mondial

1919 June The Traité de Versailles marks the end EVENT
of World War I and creation of the Societé
28
Des Nations (SDN) that will later become
the United Nations (UN).

WORLD

ASSOCIATION NATION

1924

Creation (within the IIB), of the Central
Classification Commission focusing on
development of the Universal Decimal
Classification (UDC).

1931

The IIB becomes the International
Institute of documentation (IID) and
in 1938 and is named International
Federation of documentation (IDF).

ASSOCIATION WORLD

1934

Publication of Otlet's book Traité de
documentation.

PUBLICATION WORLD

1934

The Mundaneum is closed after a governmental MOVE
decision. A part of the archives are moved to
Rue Fétis 44, Brussels, home of Paul Otlet.

the

1939
Invasion of Poland by Germany, start of World EVENT
September War II.

P.232

HOUSE

WORLD

P.233

1941

MOVE
Some files from the Mundaneum collections
concerning international associations, are
transferred to Germany. They are assumed to
have propaganda value.

WORLD

1944

Death of Paul Otlet. He is buried in Etterbeek EVENT
cemetery.

CITY

1947

The International Telecomunication
Union (UTI) is attached to the UN.

STANDARD

GLOBE

Two separate ITU committees, the

STANDARD

GLOBE

STANDARD

GLOBE

1956

Consultive Committee for
International Telephony (CCIF) and the
Consultive Committee for
International Telegraphy (CCIT) are

joined to form the CCITT, an institute to create
standards, recommendations and models for
telecommunications.

1963

American Standard Code for
Information Interchange (ASCII)

developed.

is

1966

The ARPANET project is initiated.

1974

Telenet,

1986

First meeting of the Internet Engineering
Task Force (IETF) , the US-located informal

STANDARD

GLOBE

1992

Creation of The Internet Society, an
American association with international
vocation.

STANDARD

WORLD

1993

Elio Di Rupo organises the transport of the
Mundaneum archives from Brussels to 76 rue
de Nimy in Mons.

MOVE

NATION

2012

Failure of the World Conference on

STANDARD

GLOBE

founded.

ASSOCIATION NATION

the first public version of the Internet STANDARD

WORLD

organization that promotes open standards
along the lines of "rough consensus and running
code".

International Telecommunications

(WCIT) to reach an international agreement
on Internet regulation.

ADDITIONAL TIMELINES

• https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/la-premiere-guerre-mondiale
• http://www.telephonetribute.com/timeline.html
• https://www.reseau-canope.fr/savoirscdi/societe-de-linformation/le-monde-du-livreet-de-la-presse/histoire-du-livre-et-de-la-documentation/biographies/paul-otlet.html
• http://monoskop.org/Otlet
• http://archives.mundaneum.org/fr/historique
REFERENCES
Last
Revision:
28·06·2016

1. https://cybergeo.revues.org/24903%7CVincent Capdepuy, In the prism of the words. Globalization and the philological
argument
2. Paul Otlet, 1916, Les Problèmes internationaux et la Guerre, les conditions et les facteurs de la vie internationale, Genève/
Paris, Kundig/Rousseau, p. 76.
3. http://www.philodroit.be/IMG/pdf/bf_-_le_droit_global_selon_ecole_de_bruxelles_-2014-3.pdf?lang=fr
4. http://www.itu.int/en/Pages/default.aspx
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Postal_Union

P.234

P.235

The
Smart
City City of
Knowledge
DENNIS POHL

In Paul Otlet's words the Mundaneum is “an idea, an institution, a method, a
material corpus of works and collections, a building, a network.” It became a
lifelong project that he tried to establish together with Henri La Fontaine in
the beginning of the 20th century. The collaboration with Le Corbusier was
limited to the architectural draft of a centre of information, science, and
education, leading to the idea of a “World Civic Center” in Geneva.
Nevertheless the dialectical discourse between both Utopians did not restrict
itself to commissioned design, but reveals the relation between a specific
positivist conception of knowledge and architecture; the system of information
and the spatial distribution according to efficiency principles. A notion that lays
the foundation for what is now called the Smart City.
[1]

FORMULATING THE MUNDANEUM
“We’re on the verge of a historic moment for cities”

[2]

“We are at the beginning of a historic transformation in cities. At a time when the
concerns about urban equity, costs, health and the environment are intensifying,
unprecedented technological change is going to enable cities to be more efficient,
[3]
responsive, flexible and resilient.”

P.236

P.237

In 1927 Le Corbusier participated in the
design competition for the headquarters of
the League of Nations, but his designs were
rejected. It was then that he first met his
later cher ami Paul Otlet. Both were already
familiar with each other’s ideas and writings,
as evidenced by their use of schemes, but
also through the epistemic assumptions that
underlie their world views.

OTLET, SCHEME AND REALITY

CORBUSIER, CURRENT AND IDEAL
TRAFFIC CIRCULATION

Before meeting Le Corbusier, Otlet was
fascinated by the idea of urbanism as a
science, which systematically organizes all
elements of life in infrastructures of flows.
He was convinced to work with Van der
Swaelmen, who had already planned a
world city on the site of Tervuren near
Brussels in 1919.[4]

VAN DER SWAELMEN - TERVUREN, 1916

ends.

For Otlet it was the first time that two
notions from different practices came
together, namely an environment ordered
and structured according to principles of
rationalization and taylorization. On the one
hand, rationalization as an epistemic practice
that reduces all relationships to those of
definable means and ends. On the other
hand, taylorization as the possibility to
analyze and synthesize workflows according
to economic efficiency and productivity.
Nowadays, both principles are used
synonymously: if all modes of production are
reduced to labour, then its efficiency can be
rationally determined through means and

“By improving urban technology, it’s possible to significantly improve the lives of
billions of people around the world. […] we want to supercharge existing efforts in
areas such as housing, energy, transportation and government to solve real problems
[5]
that city-dwellers face every day.”

In the meantime, in 1922, Le Corbusier developed his theoretical model of the Plan Voisin,
which served as a blueprint for a vision of Paris with 3 million inhabitants. In the 1925
publication Urbanisme his main objective is to construct “a theoretically water-tight formula
to arrive at the fundamental principles of modern town planning.”[6] For Le Corbusier
“statistics are merciless things,” because they “show the past and foreshadow the future”[7],
therefore such a formula must be based on the objectivity of diagrams, data and maps.

CORBUSIER - SCHEME FOR THE TRAFFIC
CIRCULATION

P.238

P.239

OTLET'S FORMULA

Moreover, they “give us an exact picture of
our present state and also of former states;
[...] (through statistics) we are enabled to
penetrate the future and make those truths
our own which otherwise we could only
have guessed at.”[8] Based on the analysis of
statistical proofs he concluded that the
ancient city of Paris had to be demolished in
order to be replaced by a new one.
Nevertheless, he didn’t arrive at a concrete
formula but rather at a rough scheme.

A formula that includes every atomic entity
was instead developed by his later friend Otlet as an answer to the question he posed in
Monde, on whether the world can be expressed by a determined unifying entity. This is
Otlet’s dream: a “permanent and complete representation of the entire world,”[9] located in
one place.
Early on Otlet understood the active potential of Architecture and Urbanism as a dispositif, a
strategic apparatus, that places an individual in a specific environment and shapes his
understanding of the world.[10] A world that can be determined by ascertainable facts through
knowledge. He thought of his Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique
as an “architecture of ideas”, a manual to collect and organize the world's knowledge, hand in
hand with contemporary architectural developments. As new modernist forms and use of
materials propagated the abundance of decorative
From A bag but is language nothing
elements, Otlet believed in the possibility of language as
of words:
a model of 'raw data', reducing it to essential information
and unambiguous facts, while removing all inefficient
Tim Berners-Lee: [...] Make a
beautiful website, but first give us the
assets of ambiguity or subjectivity.
“Information, from which has been removed all dross and
foreign elements, will be set out in a quite analytical way.
It will be recorded on separate leaves or cards rather than
being confined in volumes,” which will allow the
standardized annotation of hypertext for the Universal
Decimal Classification (UDC).[11] Furthermore, the
“regulation through architecture and its tendency of a
total urbanism would help towards a better understanding
of the book Traité de documentation and it's right
functional and holistic desiderata.”[12] An abstraction
would enable Otlet to constitute the “equation of
urbanism” as a type of sociology (S): U = u(S), because
according to his definition, urbanism “is an art of

unadulterated data, we want the data.
We want unadulterated data. OK, we
have to ask for raw data now. And
I'm going to ask you to practice that,
OK? Can you say "raw"?
Audience: Raw.
Tim Berners-Lee: Can you say
"data"?
Audience: Data.
TBL: Can you say "now"?
Audience: Now!
TBL: Alright, "raw data now"!
[...]

From La ville intelligente - Ville de la
connaissance:
Étant donné que les nouvelles formes
modernistes et l'utilisation de
matériaux propageaient l'abondance
d'éléments décoratifs, Paul Otlet
croyait en la possibilité du langage
comme modèle de « données brutes »,
le réduisant aux informations
essentielles et aux faits sans ambiguïté,

distributing public space in order to raise general human happiness; urbanization is the result
of all activities which a society employs in order to reach its proposed goal; [and] a material
expression of its organization.”[13] The scientific position, which determines all characteristic
values of a certain region by a systematic classification and observation, was developed by the
Scottish biologist and town planner Patrick Geddes, who Paul Otlet invited to present his
Town Planning Exhibition to an international audience at the 1913 world exhibition in
Gent.[14] What Geddes inevitably takes further is the positivist belief in a totality of science,
which he unfolds from the ideas of Auguste Comte, Frederic Le Play and Elisée Reclus in
order to reach a unified understanding of an urban development in a special context. This
position would allow to represent the complexity of an inhabited environment through data.[15]
THINKING THE MUNDANEUM

The only person that Otlet considered capable of the architectural realization of the
Mundaneum was Le Corbusier, whom he approached for the first time in spring 1928. In
one of the first letters he addressed the need to link “the idea and the building, in all its
symbolic representation. […] Mundaneum opus maximum.” Aside from being a centre of
documentation, information, science and education, the complex should link the Union of
International Associations (UIA), which was founded by La Fontaine and Otlet in 1907,
and the League of Nations. “A material and moral representation of The greatest Society of
the nations (humanity);” an international city located on an extraterritorial area in Geneva.[16]
Despite their different backgrounds, they easily understood each other, since they “did
frequently use similar terms such as plan, analysis, classification, abstraction, standardization
and synthesis, not only to bring conceptual order into their disciplines and knowledge
organization, but also in human action.”[17] Moreover, the appearance of common terms in
their most significant publications is striking. Such as spirit, mankind, elements, work, system
and history, just to name a few. These circumstances led both Utopians to think the
Mundaneum as a system, rather than a singular central type of building; it was meant to
include as many resources in the development process as possible. Because the Mundaneum
is “an idea, an institution, a method, a material corpus of works and collections, a building, a
network,”[18] it had to be conceptualized as an “organic plan with the possibility to expand on
different scales with the multiplication of each part.”[19] The possibility of expansion and an
organic redistribution of elements adapted to new necessities and needs, is what guarantees
the system efficiency, namely by constantly integrating more resources. By designing and
standardizing forms of life up to the smallest element, modernism propagated a new form of
living which would ensure the utmost efficiency. Otlet supported and encouraged Le
Corbusier with his words: “The twentieth century is called upon to build a whole new
civilization. From efficiency to efficiency, from rationalization to rationalization, it must so raise
itself that it reaches total efficiency and rationalization. […] Architecture is one of the best
bases not only of reconstruction (the deforming and skimpy name given to the whole of postwar activities) but of intellectual and social construction to which our era should dare to lay
claim.”[20] Like the Wohnmaschine, in Corbusier’s famous housing project Unité d'habitation,

P.240

P.241

the distribution of elements is shaped according to man's needs. The premise which underlies
this notion is that man's needs and desires can be determined, normalized and standardized
following geometrical models of objectivity.
“making transportation more efficient and lowering the cost of living, reducing energy
[21]
usage and helping government operate more efficiently”
BUILDING THE MUNDANEUM

In the first working phase, from March to September 1928, the plans for the Mundaneum
seemed more a commissioned work than a collaboration. In the 3rd person singular, Otlet
submitted descriptions and organizational schemes which would represent the institutional
structures in a diagrammatic manner. In exchange, Le Corbusier drafted the architectural
plans and detailed descriptions, which led to the publication N° 128 Mundaneum, printed
by International Associations in Brussels.[22] Le Corbusier seemed a little less enthusiastic
about the Mundaneum project than Otlet, mainly because of his scepticism towards the
League of Nations, which he called a “misguided” and “pre-machinist creation.”[23] The
rejection of his proposal for the Palace for the League of Nations in 1927, expressed with
anger in a public announcement, might also play a role. However, the second phase, from
September 1928 to August 1929, was marked by a strong friendship evidenced by the rise
of the international debate after their first publications, letters starting with cher ami and their
agreement to advance the project to the next level by including more stakeholders and
developing the Cité mondiale. This led to the second publication by Paul Otlet, La Cité
mondiale in February 1929, which unexpectedly traumatized the diplomatic environment in
Geneva. Although both tried to organize personal meetings with key stakeholders, the project
didn't find support for its realization, especially after Switzerland had withdrawn its offer of
providing extraterritorial land for Cité mondiale. Instead, Le Corbusier focussed on his Ville
Radieuse concept, which was presented at the 3rd CIAM meeting in Brussels in 1930.[24]
He considered Cité mondiale as “a closed case”, and withdrew himself from the political
environment by considering himself without any political color, “since the groups that gather
around our ideas are, militaristic bourgeois, communists, monarchists, socialists, radicals,
League of Nations and fascists. When all colors are mixed, only white is the result. That
stands for prudence, neutrality, decantation and the human search for truth.”[25]
GOVERNING THE MUNDANEUM

Le Corbusier considered himself and his work “apolitical” or “above politics”.[26] Otlet,
however, was more aware of the political force of his project. “Yet it is important to predict.
To know in order to predict and to predict in order to control, was Comte's positive
philosophy. Prediction doesn't cost a thing, was added by a master of contemporary urbanism
(Le Corbusier).”[27] Lobbying for the Cité mondiale project, That prediction doesn't cost
anything and is “preparing the ways for the coming years”, Le Corbusier wrote to Arthur

Fontaine and Albert Thomas from the International Labor Organization that prediction is
free and “preparing the ways for the coming years”.[28] Free because statistical data is always
available, but he didn't seem to consider that prediction is a form of governing. A similar
premise underlies the present domination of the smart city ideologies, where large amounts of
data are used to predict for the sake of efficiency. Although most of the actors behind these
ideas consider themselves apolitical, the governmental aspect is more than obvious. A form of
control and government, which is not only biopolitical but rather epistemic. The data is not
only used to standardize units for architecture, but also to determine categories of knowledge
that restrict life to the normality of what can be classified. What becomes clear in this
juxtaposition of Le Corbusier's and Paul Otlet's work is that the standardization of
architecture goes hand in hand with an epistemic standardization because it limits what can
be thought, experienced and lived to what is already there. This architecture has to be
considered as an “epistemic object”, which exemplifies the cultural logic of its time.[29] By its
presence it brings the abstract cultural logic underlying its conception into the everyday
experience, and becomes with material, form and function an actor that performs an epistemic
practice on its inhabitants and users. In this case: the conception that everything can be
known, represented and (pre)determined through data.

P.242

P.243

1. Paul Otlet, Monde: essai d'universalisme - Connaissance du Monde, Sentiment du Monde, Action organisee et Plan du Monde
, (Bruxelles: Editiones Mundeum 1935): 448.
2. Steve Lohr, Sidewalk Labs, a Start-Up Created by Google, Has Bold Aims to Improve City Living New, in York Times
11.06.15, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/11/technology/sidewalk-labs-a-start-up-created-by-google-has-bold-aims-toimprove-city-living.html?_r=0, quoted here is Dan Doctoroff, founder of Google Sidewalk Labs

3. Dan Doctoroff, 10.06.2015, http://www.sidewalkinc.com/relevant
4. Giuliano Gresleri and Dario Matteoni. La Città Mondiale: Andersen, Hébrard, Otlet, Le Corbusier. (Venezia: Marsilio,
1982): 128; See also: L. Van der Swaelmen, Préliminaires d'art civique (Leynde 1916): 164 – 299.
5. Larry Page, Press release, 10.06.2015, http://www.sidewalkinc.com/
6. Le Corbusier, “A Contemporary City” in The City of Tomorrow and its Planning, (New York: Dover Publications 1987):
164.
7. ibid.: 105 & 126.
8. ibid.: 108.
9. Rayward, W Boyd, “Visions of Xanadu: Paul Otlet (1868–1944) and Hypertext” in Journal of the American Society for
Information Science, (Volume 45, Issue 4, May 1994): 235.
10. The french term dispositif or translated apparatus, refers to Michel Foucault's description of a merely strategic function, “a
thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms regulatory decisions, laws,
administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions – in short, the said as much as
the unsaid.” This distinction allows to go beyond the mere object, and rather deconstruct all elements involved in the production
conditions and relate them to the distribution of power. See: Michel Foucault, “Confessions of the Flesh (1977) interview”, in
Power/Knowledge Selected Interviews and Other Writings, Colin Gordon (Ed.), (New York: Pantheon Books 1980): 194 –
200.
11. Bernd Frohmann, “The role of facts in Paul Otlet’s modernist project of documentation”, in European Modernism and the
Information Society, Rayward, W.B. (Ed.), (London: Ashgate Publishers 2008): 79.
12. “La régularisation de l’architecture et sa tendance à l’urbanisme total aident à mieux comprendre le livre et ses propres
desiderata fonctionnels et intégraux.” See: Paul Otlet, Traité de documentation, (Bruxelles: Mundaneum, Palais Mondial,
1934): 329.
13. “L'urbanisme est l'art d'aménager l'espace collectif en vue d'accroîte le bonheur humain général; l'urbanisation est le résulat de
toute l'activité qu'une Société déploie pour arriver au but qu'elle se propose; l'expression matérielle (corporelle) de son
organisation.” ibid.: 205.
14. Thomas Pearce, Mettre des pierres autour des idées, Paul Otlet, de Cité Mondiale en de modernistische stedenbouw in de jaren
1930, (KU Leuven: PhD Thesis 2007): 39.
15. Volker Welter, Biopolis Patrick Geddes and the City of Life. (Cambridge, Mass: MIT 2003).
16. Letter from Paul Otlet to Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, Brussels 2nd April 1928. See: Giuliano Gresleri and Dario
Matteoni. La Città Mondiale: Andersen, Hébrard, Otlet, Le Corbusier. (Venezia: Marsilio, 1982): 221-223.
17. W. Boyd Rayward (Ed.), European Modernism and the Information Society. (London: Ashgate Publishers 2008): 129.
18. “Le Mundaneum est une Idée, une Institution, une Méthode, un Corps matériel de traveaux et collections, un Edifice, un
Réseau.” See: Paul Otlet, Monde: essai d'universalisme - Connaissance du Monde, Sentiment du Monde, Action organisee et
Plan du Monde, (Bruxelles: Editiones Mundeum 1935): 448.
19. Giuliano Gresleri and Dario Matteoni. La Città Mondiale: Andersen, Hébrard, Otlet, Le Corbusier. (Venezia: Marsilio,
1982): 223.
20. Le Corbusier, Radiant City, (New York: The Orion Press 1964): 27.
21. http://www.sidewalkinc.com/
22. Giuliano Gresleri and Dario Matteoni. La Città Mondiale: Andersen, Hébrard, Otlet, Le Corbusier. (Venezia: Marsilio,
1982): 128
23. ibid.: 232.
24. ibid.: 129.
25. ibid.: 255.
26. Eric Paul Mumford, The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928-1960, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002): 20.
27. “Savoir, pour prévoir afin de pouvoir, a été la lumineuse formule de Comte. Prévoir ne coûte rien, a ajouté un maître de
l'urbanisme contemporain (Le Corbusier).” See: Paul Otlet, Monde: essai d'universalisme - Connaissance du Monde,
Sentiment du Monde, Action organisee et Plan du Monde, (Bruxelles: Editiones Mundeum 1935): 407.
28. Giuliano Gresleri and Dario Matteoni. La Città Mondiale: Andersen, Hébrard, Otlet, Le Corbusier. (Venezia: Marsilio,
1982): 241.
29. Considering architecture as an object of knowledge formation, the term “epistemic object” by the German philosopher Günter
Abel, helps bring forth the epistemic characteristic of architecture. Epistemic objects according to Abel are these, on which our
knowledge and empiric curiosity are focused. They are objects that perform an active contribution to what can be thought and
how it can be thought. Moreover because one cannot avoid architecture, it determines our boundaries (of thinking). See:
Günter Abel, Epistemische Objekte – was sind sie und was macht sie so wertvoll?, in: Hingst, Kai-Michael; Liatsi, Maria
(ed.), (Tübingen: Pragmata, 2008).

P.244

P.245

La ville
intelligente
- Ville
de la
connaissance
DENNIS POHL

Selon les mots de Paul Otlet, le Mundaneum est « une idée, une institution,
une méthode, un corpus matériel de travaux et de collections, une construction,
un réseau. » Il est devenu le projet d'une vie qu'il a tenté de mettre sur pied
avec Henri La Fontaine au début du 20e siècle. La collaboration avec Le
Corbusier se limitait au projet architectural d'un centre d'informations, de
science et d'éducation qui conduira à l'idée d'un « World Civic Center », à
Genève. Cependant, le discours dialectique entre les deux utopistes ne s'est
pas limité à une réalisation commissionnée, il a révélé la relation entre une
conception positiviste spécifique de la connaissance et l'architecture ; le
système de l'information et la distribution spatiale d'après des principes
d'efficacité. Une notion qui a apporté la base de ce qu'on appelle aujourd'hui
la Ville intelligente.
[1]

FORMULER LE MONDANEUM
[2]

« Nous sommes à l'aube d'un moment historique pour les villes » « Nous sommes à
l'aube d'une transformation historique des villes À une époque où les préoccupations
pour l'égalité urbaine, les coûts, la santé et l'environnement augmentent, un
changement technologique sans précédent va permettre aux villes d'être plus efficaces,
[3]
réactives, flexibles et résistantes. »

P.246

P.247

OTLET, SCHÉMA ET RÉALITÉ

CORBUSIER, CIRCULATION DU TRAFIC
ACTUELLE ET IDÉALE

En 1927, Le Corbusier a participé à une
compétition de design pour le siège de la
Ligue des nations. Cependant, ses
propositions furent rejetées. C'est à ce
moment qu'il a rencontré, pour la première
fois, son cher ami Paul Otlet. Tous deux
connaissaient déjà les idées et les écrits de
l'autre, comme le montre leur utilisation des
plans, mais également les suppositions
épistémiques à la base de leur vues sur le
monde. Avant de rencontrer Le Corbusier,
Paul Otlet était fasciné par l'idée d'un
urbanisme scientifique qui organise
systématiquement tous les éléments de la vie
par des infrastructures de flux. Il avait été
convaincu de travailler avec Van der
Saelmen, qui avait déjà prévu une ville
monde sur le site de Tervuren, près de
Bruxelles, en 1919.[4]

Pour Paul Otlet, c'était la première fois que
deux notions de pratiques différentes se
rassemblaient, à savoir un environnement
ordonné et structuré d'après des principes de
rationalisation et de taylorisme. D'un côté, la
rationalisation: une pratique épistémique qui
réduit toutes les relations à des moyens et
des fins définissables. D'un autre, le
taylorisme: une possibilité d'analyse et de
synthèse des flux de travail fonctionnant
selon les règles de l'efficacité économique et
VAN DER SWAELMEN - TERVUREN, 1916
productive. De nos jours, les deux principes
sont considérés comme des synonymes : si
tous les modes de production sont réduits au
travail, alors l'efficacité peut être rationnellement déterminée à par les moyens et les fins.
« En améliorant la technologie urbaine, il est possible d'améliorer de manière
significative la vie de milliards de gens dans le monde. […] nous voulons encourager
les efforts existants dans des domaines comme l'hébergement, l'énergie, le transport et le
gouvernement afin de résoudre des problèmes réels auxquels les citadins font face au
[5]
quotidien. »

Pendant ce temps, en 1922, Le Corbusier avait développé son modèle théorique du Plan
Voisin qui a servi de projet pour une vision de Paris avec trois millions d'habitants. Dans la
publication de 1925 d'Urbanisme, son objectif principal est la construction « d'un édifice
théoretique rigoureux, à formuler des principes fondamentaux d'urbanisme moderne. »[6] Pour
Le Corbusier, « la statistique est implacable », car « la statistique montre le passé et esquisse
l’avenir »[7], dès lors, une telle formule doit être basée sur l'objectivité des diagrammes, des
données et des cartes.

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De plus, « la statisique donne la situation
exacte de l’heure présente, mais aussi les
états antérieurs ; [...] (à travers les
statistiques) nous pouvons pénétrer dans
l’avenir et aquérir des certitudes anticipées ».
[8]
À partir de l'analyse des preuves
statistiques, il conclut que la vieille ville de
Paris devait être démolie afin d'être
remplacée par une nouvelle. Cependant, il
n'est pas arrivé à une formule concrète, mais
à un plan approximatif.
CORBUSIER - SCHÉMA POUR UNE
CIRCULATION DU TRAFIC

À la place, une formule comprenant chaque
entité atomique fut développée par son ami
Paul Otlet en réponse à la question qu'il
publia dans Monde pour savoir si le monde
pouvait être exprimé par une entité
unificatrice déterminée. Voici le rêve de
Paul Otlet : une « représentation
permanente et complète du monde entier »[9]
dans un même endroit.

Paul Otlet comprit rapidement le potentiel
actif de l'architecture et de l'urbanisme en
LA FORMULE D'OTLET
tant que dispositif stratégique qui place un
individu dans un environnement spécifique
et façonne sa compréhension du monde.[10]
Un monde qui peut être déterminé par des faits vérifiables à travers la connaissance. Il a
pensé son Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique comme une
« architecture des idées », un manuel pour collecter et organiser la connaissance du monde
en l'association avec les développements architecturaux contemporains.

Étant donné que les nouvelles formes modernistes et
l'utilisation de matériaux propageaient l'abondance
d'éléments décoratifs, Paul Otlet croyait en la possibilité
du langage comme modèle de « données brutes », le
réduisant aux informations essentielles et aux faits sans
ambiguïté, tout en se débarrassant de tous les éléments
inefficaces et subjectifs.

From A bag but is language nothing
of words:
Tim Berners-Lee: [...] Make a
beautiful website, but first give us the
unadulterated data, we want the data.
We want unadulterated data. OK, we
have to ask for raw data now. And
I'm going to ask you to practice that,
OK? Can you say "raw"?

« Des informations, dont tout déchet et élément étrangers
Audience: Raw.
ont été supprimés, seront présentées d'une manière assez
analytique. Elles seront encodées sur différentes feuilles
Tim Berners-Lee: Can you say
"data"?
ou cartes plutôt que confinées dans des volumes, » ce qui
permettra l'annotation standardisée de l'hypertexte pour
Audience: Data.
la classification décimale universelle ( CDU ).[11] De plus,
TBL: Can you say "now"?
la « régulation à travers l'architecture et sa tendance à un
urbanisme total favoriseront une meilleure compréhension Audience: Now!
du livre Traité de documentation ainsi que du désidérata
TBL: Alright, "raw data now"!
fonctionnel et holistique adéquat. »[12] Une abstraction
[...]
permettrait à Paul Otlet de constituer « l'équation de
l'urbanisme » comme un type de sociologie : U = u(S),
car selon sa définition, l'urbanisme « L'urbanisme est l'art
From The Smart City - City of
d'aménager l'espace collectif en vue d'accroître le
Knowledge:
As new modernist forms and use of
bonheur humain général ; l'urbanisation est le résultat de
materials propagated the abundance
toute l'activité qu'une Société déploie pour arriver au but
of decorative elements, Otlet believed
qu'elle se propose ; l'expression matérielle (corporelle)
in the possibility of language as a
model of 'raw data', reducing it to
de son organisation. »[13] La position scientifique qui
essential information and
détermine toutes les valeurs caractéristiques d'une
unambiguous facts, while removing all
certaine région par une classification et une observation
inefficient assets of ambiguity or
subjectivity.
systémiques a été avancée par le biologiste écossais et
planificateur de villes, Patrick Geddes, qui fut invité par
Paul Otlet pour l'exposition universelle de 1913 à Gand
afin de présenter à un public international sa Town Planning Exhibition.[14] Patrick Geddes
allait inévitablement plus loin dans sa croyance positiviste en une totalité de la science, une
croyance qui découle des idées d'Auguste Compte, de Frederic Le Play et d'Elisée Reclus,
pour atteindre une compréhension unifiée du développement urbain dans un contexte
spécifique. Cette position permettrait de représenter à travers des données la complexité d'un
environnement habité.[15]
PENSER LE MUNDANEUM

La seule personne que Paul Otlet estimait capable de réaliser l'architecture du Mundaneum
était Le Corbusier, qu'il approcha pour la première fois au printemps 1928. Dans une de

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P.251

ses premières lettres, il évoqua le besoin de lier « l'idée et la construction, dans toute sa
représentation symbolique. […] Mundaneum opus maximum.” En plus d'être un centre de
documentation, d'informations, de science et d'éducation, le complexe devrait lier l'Union des
associations internationales (UAI), fondée par La Fontaine et Otlet en 1907, et la Ligue
des nations. « Une représentation morale et matérielle de The greatest Society of the nations
(humanité) ; » une ville internationale située dans une zone extraterritoriale à Genève.[16]
Malgré les différents milieux dont ils étaient issus, ils pouvaient facilement se comprendre
puisqu'ils « utilisaient fréquemment des termes similaires comme plan, analyse, classification,
abstraction, standardisation et synthèse, non seulement pour un ordre conceptuel dans leurs
disciplines et l'organisation de leur connaissance, mais également dans l'action humaine. »[17]
De plus, l'apparence des termes dans leurs publications les plus importantes est frappante.
Pour n'en nommer que quelques-uns : esprit, humanité, travail, système et histoire. Ces
circonstances ont conduit les deux utopistes à penser le Mundaneum comme un système
plutôt que comme un type de construction central singulier ; le processus de développement
cherchait à inclure autant de ressources que possible. Puisque « Le Mundaneum est une
Idée, une Institution, une Méthode, un Corps matériel de travaux et collections, un Édifice,
un Réseau. »[18] il devait être conceptualisé comme un « plan organique avec possibilité
d'expansion à différentes échelles grâce à la multiplication de chaque partie. »[19] La
possibilité d'expansion et la redistribution organique des éléments adaptées à de nouvelles
nécessités et besoins garantit l'efficacité du système, à savoir en intégrant plus de ressources
en permanence. En concevant et normalisant des formes de vie, même pour le plus petit
élément, le modernisme a propagé une nouvelle forme de vie qui garantirait l'efficacité
optimale. Paul Otlet a soutenu et encouragé Le Corbusier avec ces mots : « Le vingtième
siècle est appelé à construire une toute nouvelle civilisation. De l'efficacité à l'efficacité, de la
rationalisation à la rationalisation, il doit s'élever et atteindre l'efficacité et la rationalisation
totales. […] L'architecture est l'une des meilleures bases, non seulement de la reconstruction
(le nom étriqué et déformant donné à toutes les activités d'après-guerre), mais à la
construction intellectuelle et sociale à laquelle notre ère devrait oser prétendre. »[20] Comme la
Wohnmaschine, dans le célèbre projet d'habitation du Corbusier, Unité d'habitation, la
distribution des éléments est établie en fonction des besoins de l'homme. Le principe qui sous
tend cette notion est l'idée que les besoins et les désirs de l'homme peuvent être déterminés,
normalisés et standardisés selon des modèles géométriques d'objectivité.
« rendre le transport plus efficace et diminuer le coût de la vie, la consommation
[21]
d'énergie et aider le gouvernement à fonctionner plus efficacement »
CONSTRUIRE LE MUNDANEUM

Dans la première phase de travail, de mars à septembre 1928, les plans du Mundaneum
ressemblaient plus à un travail commissionné qu'à une collaboration. À la troisième personne
du singulier, Paul Otlet a soumis des descriptions et des projets organisationnels qui
représenteraient les structures institutionnelles de manière schématique. En échange, Le
Corbusier a réalisé le brouillon des plans architecturaux et les descriptions détaillées, ce qui

conduisit à la publication du N° 128 Mundaneum, imprimée par Associations
Internationales à Bruxelles.[22] Le Corbusier semblait un peu moins enthousiaste que Paul
Otlet concernant le Mundaneum, principalement à cause de son scepticisme vis-à-vis de la
Ligue des nations dont il disait qu'elle était « fourvoyée » et « une création prémachiniste ».[23]
Le rejet de sa proposition pour le palais de la Ligue des nations en 1927, exprimé avec
colère dans une déclaration publique, jouait peut-être également un rôle. Cependant, la
seconde phase, de septembre 1928 à août 1929, fut marquée par une amitié solide dont
témoigne l'amplification du débat international après leurs premières publications, des lettres
commençant par « cher ami », leur accord concernant l'avancement du projet au prochain
niveau avec l'intégration d'actionnaires et le développement de la Cité mondiale. Cela
conduisit à la seconde publication de Paul Otlet, la Cité mondiale, en février 1929, qui
traumatisa de manière inattendue l'environnement diplomatique de Genève. Même si tous
deux tentèrent d'organiser des entretiens personnels avec des acteurs clés, le projet ne trouva
pas de soutien pour sa réalisation, d'autant moins après le retrait de la proposition de la
Suisse de fournir un territoire extraterritorial pour la Cité mondiale. À la place, Le Corbusier
s'est concentré sur son concept de la Ville Radieuse qui fut présenté lors du 3e CIAM à
Bruxelles, en 1930.[24] Il considérait la Cité mondiale comme « une affaire classée » et s'était
retiré de l'environnement politique en considérant qu'il n'avait aucune couleur politique
« puisque les groupes qui se rassemblent autour de nos idées sont des bourgeois militaristes,
des communistes, des monarchistes, des socialistes, des radicaux, la Ligue des nations et des
fascistes. Lorsque toutes les couleurs sont mélangées, seul le blanc ressort. Il représente la
prudence, la neutralité, la décantation et la recherche humaine de la vérité. »[25]
DIRIGER LE MUNDANEUM

Le Corbusier considérait son travail et lui-même comme étant « apolitiques » ou « au-dessus
de la politique ».[26] Cependant, Paul Otlet était plus conscient de la force politique de ce
projet. « Savoir, pour prévoir afin de pouvoir, a été la lumineuse formule de Comte. Prévoir
ne coûte rien, a ajouté un maitre de l'urbanisme contemporain (Le Corbusier). »[27] En faisant
le lobby du projet de la Cité mondiale, cette prévision ne coûte rien et « prépare les années à
venir », Le Corbusier écrivit à Arthur Fontaine et Albert Thomas depuis l'Organisation
internationale de travail que la prévision était gratuite et « préparait les années à venir ».[28]
Gratuite, car les données statistiques sont toujours disponibles, cependant, il ne semblait pas
considérer la prévision comme une forme de pouvoir. Une prémisse similaire est à l'origine
de la domination actuelle des idéologies de la ville intelligente où de grandes quantités de
données sont utilisées pour prévoir au nom de l'efficacité. Même si la plupart des acteurs
derrière ces idées se considèrent apolitiques, l'aspect gouvernemental est plus qu'évident.
Une forme de contrôle et de gouvernement n'est pas seulement biopolitique, mais plutôt
épistémique. Les données sont non seulement utilisées pour standardiser les unités pour
l'architecture, mais également pour déterminer les catégories de connaissance qui restreignent
la vie à la normalité dans laquelle elle peut être classée. Dans cette juxtaposition du travail de
Le Corbusier et Paul Otlet, il devient clair que la standardisation de l'architecture va de pair

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avec une standardisation épistémique, car elle limite ce qui peut être pensé, ressenti et vécu à
ce qui existe déjà. Cette architecture doit être considérée comme un « objet épistémique »
qui illustre la logique culturelle de son époque.[29] Par sa présence, elle apporte la logique
culturelle abstraite sous-jacente à sa conception dans l'expérience quotidienne et devient, au
côté de la matière, de la forme et de la fonction, un acteur qui accomplit une pratique
épistémique sur ses habitants et ses usagers. Dans ce cas : la conception selon laquelle tout
peut être connu, représenté et (pré)déterminé à travers les données.

Last
Revision:
2·08·2016

1. Paul Otlet, Monde : essai d'universalisme - Connaissance du Monde, Sentiment du Monde, Action organisée et Plan du
Monde, (Bruxelles : Editiones Mundeum 1935) : 448.

P.254

P.255

2. Steve Lohr, Sidewalk Labs, a Start-Up Created by Google, Has Bold Aims to Improve City Living New, dans le York Times
11/06/15, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/11/technology/sidewalk-labs-a-start-up-created-by-google-has-bold-aims-toimprove-city-living.html?_r=0, citation de Dan Doctoroff, fondateur de Google Sidewalk Labs
3. Dan Doctoroff, 10/06/2015, http://www.sidewalkinc.com/relevant
4. Giuliano Gresleri et Dario Matteoni. La Città Mondiale : Andersen, Hébrard, Otlet, Le Corbusier. (Venise : Marsilio,
1982) : 128 ; Voir aussi : L. Van der Swaelmen, Préliminaires d'art civique (Leynde 1916) : 164 - 299.
5. Larry Page, Communiqué de presse, 10/06/2015, http://www.sidewalkinc.com/
6. Le Corbusier, « Une Ville Contemporaine » dans Urbanisme, (Paris : Les Éditions G. Crès & Cie 1924) : 158.
7. ibid. : 115 et 97.
8. ibid. : 100.
9. Rayward, W Boyd, « Visions of Xanadu: Paul Otlet (1868–1944) and Hypertext » dans le Journal of the American Society
for Information Science, (Volume 45, Numéro 4, mai 1994) : 235.
10. Le terme français « dispositif » fait référence à la description de Michel Foucault d'une fonction simplement stratégique, « un
ensemble réellement hétérogène constitué de discours, d'institutions, de formes architecturales, de décisions régulatrices, de lois,
de mesures administratives, de déclarations scientifiques, philosophiques, morales et de propositions philanthropiques. En
résumé, ce qui est dit comme ce qui ne l'est pas. » La distinction permet d'aller plus loin que le simple objet, et de déconstruire
tous les éléments impliqués dans les conditions de production et de les lier à la distribution des pouvoirs. Voir : Michel Foucault,
« Confessions of the Flesh (1977) interview », dans Power/Knowledge Selected Interviews and Other Writings, Colin
Gordon (Éd.), (New York : Pantheon Books 1980) : 194 - 200.
11. Bernd Frohmann, « The role of facts in Paul Otlet’s modernist project of documentation », dans European Modernism and the
Information Society, Rayward, W.B. (Éd.), (Londres : Ashgate Publishers 2008) : 79.
12. « La régularisation de l’architecture et sa tendance à l’urbanisme total aident à mieux comprendre le livre et ses propres
désiderata fonctionnels et intégraux. » Voir : Paul Otlet, Traité de documentation, (Bruxelles : Mundaneum, Palais Mondial,
1934) : 329.
13. ibid. : 205.
14. Thomas Pearce, Mettre des pierres autour des idées, Paul Otlet, de Cité Mondiale en de modernistische stedenbouw in de
jaren 1930, (KU Leuven : PhD Thesis 2007) : 39.
15. Volker Welter, Biopolis Patrick Geddes and the City of Life. (Cambridge, Mass : MIT 2003).
16. Lettre de Paul Otlet à Le Corbusier et Pierre Jeanneret, Bruxelles, 2 avril 1928. Voir : Giuliano Gresleri et Dario Matteoni.
La Città Mondiale : Andersen, Hébrard, Otlet, Le Corbusier. (Venise : Marsilio, 1982) : 221-223.
17. W. Boyd Rayward (Éd.), European Modernism and the Information Society. (Londres : Ashgate Publishers 2008) : 129.
18. Voir : Paul Otlet, Monde : essai d'universalisme - Connaissance du Monde, Sentiment du Monde, Action organisée et Plan du
Monde, (Bruxelles : Editiones Mundeum 1935) : 448.
19. Giuliano Gresleri et Dario Matteoni. La Città Mondiale : Andersen, Hébrard, Otlet, Le Corbusier. (Venise : Marsilio,
1982) : 223.
20. Le Corbusier, Radiant City, (New York : The Orion Press 1964) : 27.
21. http://www.sidewalkinc.com/
22. Giuliano Gresleri et Dario Matteoni. La Città Mondiale : Andersen, Hébrard, Otlet, Le Corbusier. (Venise : Marsilio,
1982) : 128
23. ibid. : 232.
24. ibid. : 129.
25. ibid. : 255.
26. Eric Paul Mumford, The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928-1960, (Cambridge : MIT Press, 2002) : 20.
27. Voir : Paul Otlet, Monde : essai d'universalisme - Connaissance du Monde, Sentiment du Monde, Action organisée et Plan du
Monde, (Bruxelles : Editiones Mundeum 1935) : 407.
28. Giuliano Gresleri et Dario Matteoni. La Città Mondiale : Andersen, Hébrard, Otlet, Le Corbusier. (Venise : Marsilio,
1982) : 241.
29. En considérant l'architecture comme un objet de formation du savoir, le terme « objet épistémique » du philosophe Günter Abel
aide à produire la caractéristique épistémique de l'architecture. D'après Günter Abel, les objets épistémiques sont ceux sur
lesquels notre connaissance et notre curiosité empirique sont concentrés. Ce sont des objets ont une contribution active en ce qui
concerne ce qui peut être pensé et la manière dont cela peut être pensé. De plus, puisque personne ne peut éviter l'architecture,
elle détermine nos limites (de pensée). Voir : Günter Abel, Epistemische Objekte – was sind sie und was macht sie so
wertvoll?, dans : Hingst, Kai-Michael; Liatsi, Maria (éd.), (Tübingen : Pragmata, 2008).

The
Itinerant
Archive
The project of the Mundaneum and its many protagonists is undoubtedly
linked to the context of early 19th century Brussels. King Leopold II , in an
attempt to awaken his countries' desire for greatness, let a steady stream of
capital flow into the city from his private colonies in Congo. Located on the
crossroad between France, Germany, The Netherlands and The United
Kingdom, the Belgium capital formed a fertile ground for ambitious institutional
projects with international ambitions, such as the Mundaneum. Its tragic
demise was unfortunately equally at home in Brussels. Already in Otlet's
lifetime, the project fell prey to the dis-interest of its former patrons, not
surprising after World War I had shaken their confidence in the beneficial
outcomes of a global knowledge infrastructure. A complex entanglement of disinterested management and provincial politics sent the numerous boxes and
folders on a long trajectory through Brussels, until they finally slipped out of
the city. It is telling that the Capital of Europe has been unable to hold on to its
pertinent past.

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This tour is a kind of itinerant monument to the Mundaneum in Brussels. It
takes you along the many temporary locations of the archives, guided by the
words of care-takers, reporters and biographers that have crossed it's path.
Following the increasingly dispersed and dwindling collection through the city
and centuries, you won't come across any material trace of its passage. You
might discover many unknown corners of Brussels though.
1919: MUSÉE INTERNATIONAL

Outre le Répertoire bibliographique universel et un Musée de la presse qui
comptera jusqu’à 200.000 spécimens de journaux du monde entier, on y trouvera
quelque 50 salles, sorte de musée de l’humanité technique et scientifique. Cette
décennie représente l’âge d’or pour le Mundaneum, même si le gros de ses
collections fut constitué entre 1895 et 1914, avant l’existence du Palais Mondial.
L’accroissement des collections ne se fera, par la suite, plus jamais dans les mêmes
[1]
proportions.
En 1920, le Musée international et les institutions créées par Paul Otlet et Henri
La Fontaine occupent une centaine de salles. L’ensemble sera désormais appelé
Palais Mondial ou Mundaneum. Dans les années 1920, Paul Otlet et Henri La
Fontaine mettront également sur pied l’Encyclopedia Universalis Mundaneum,
[2]
encyclopédie illustrée composée de tableaux sur planches mobiles.

Start at Parc du Cinquantenaire 11,
Brussels in front of the entrance of
what is now Autoworld.

In 1919, significantly delayed by World War I, the Musée international finally opened. The
project had been conceptualised by Paul Otlet and Henri Lafontaine already ten years
earlier and was meant to be a mix between a documentation center, conference venue and
educational display. It occupied the left wing of the magnificent buildings erected in the Parc
Cinquantenaire for the Grand Concours International des Sciences et de l'industrie.
Museology merged with the International Institute of
From House, City, World, Nation,
Bibliography (IIB) which had its offices in the same
Globe:
building. The ever-expanding index card catalog had
The ever ambitious process of
already been accessible to the public since 1914. The
building the Mundaneum archives
took place in the context of a growing
project would be later known as the World Palace or
internationalisation of society, while at
Mundaneum. Here, Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine
the same time the social gap was
started to work on their Encyclopaedia Universalis
increasing due to the expansion of
Mundaneum, an illustrated encyclopaedia in the form of a industrial society. Furthermore, the
internationalisation of finances and
mobile exhibition.
relations did not only concern
Walk under
the colonnade
to your
right, and
you will
recognise the
former entrance

industrial society, it also acted as a
motivation to structure social and
political networks, among others via
political negotiations and the
institution of civil society organisations.

of Le Palais Mondial.

Only a few years after its delayed opening, the ambitious project started to lose support from
the Belgium government, who preferred to use the vast exhibition spaces for commercial
activities. In 1922 and 1924, Le Palais Mondial was temporarily closed to make space for
an international rubber fair.

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1934: MUNDANEUM MOVED TO HOME OF PAUL OTLET

Si dans de telles conditions le Palais Mondial devait définitivement rester fermé, il
semble bien qu’il n’y aurait plus place dans notre Civilisation pour une institution
d’un caractère universel, inspirée de l’idéal indi