Information Obesity: The web site

Resources for chapter 4: A brief history of ICT

Perhaps unsurprisingly, online resources on this subject are legion: I have been selective on this page and referred only to those mentioned directly in the text of Information Obesity or - in a couple of cases - because they are of particularly high quality.

Vannevar Bush's 'As We May Think'

This seminal paper is freely available through the Atlantic Monthly site: As We May Think.

THINK: as you read it, consider the following questions:

  • do you think that Bush deserves to be considered a prophet of the Internet?
  • What values can you see driving the creation of the memex? (Think about these before reading pages 52-54 of IO).

For a picture of both Bush and a prototype memex, see this University of North Carolina page. You could also look at this timeline of Bush's life.

Other resources

Here is a link to the Request For Comments site. [page 45]

Link: the Parsons paper on ubiquitous computing [page 58]: it's fairly long, but has lots of other references.

Hard to tell whether this web site about Steve Mann and wearable computing is still being updated, but there are lots of links anyway. Or, see

Sat navs

I suppose I am a little unfair about satellite navigation systems [pages 59-60] but I will nevertheless always believe that they are a great way of getting people to stop thinking. Yes, they might bring benefits in terms of cost and efficiency but that's the point. We delegate our own cognition to the machine for short-term benefits (a quicker journey) but longer-term loss: loss of ability to map-read, navigate, understand features of the environment - and ultimately, to be able to make journeys (familiar or new) without the technology.

I said "every community has its anecdotes here": here is one from Hebden Bridge, and here's one from where my parents live, in Swaledale, North Yorkshire. Yes, in both cases the companies claim they will revise their maps and probably will... but it does not change the fact that anyone with a vague sense of self-responsibility would quickly see in both cases that the roads in question are patently unsuitable for all traffic (Swaledale) or long vehicles (Hebden Bridge). To even reach a point where one would be stuck on them reflects a vast level of faith in this technology: and one that, frankly, I have never shared.

However, to be even-handed about it, there has been research completed which suggests sat nav systems are a safety benefit - and I accept they may well be, as long as they are used actively and not passively by a driver. (I also note the research project in question was financed partly by satnav manufacturers - so draw your own conclusions.)

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