Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Man Who Wanted to Classify the World (2002)

Fran├žoise Levie


Paul Otlet, a Belgian Utopian little known in America. Otlet invented an international classification scheme called Universal Decimal Classification used for books, photographs and other documents. He invented microfilm. He invented the ubiquitous index card catalog used in most libraries. But as he says in the film, "I think in terms of the universal" and his ambitions were much larger. Otlet began organizing existing international organizations into one grand inter-organization -- the Union of International Organizations -- which inspired the League of Nations. His one failure was to build an ultimate World City in Europe, but it was not for a lack of trying.

But his most amazing invention (in retrospect) was his invention of hypertext, multi-media, and the web. He didn't use these words of course. He called it the International Network for Universal Documentation.
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