Category Archives: Mondotheque

A platform for experiments with the legacy of the universalist and documentalist Paul Otlet: drawings, images, systems, ideas. The site is hosted by the Brussels association for arts and media Constant, and named after Le Mondothèque, Otlet’s design for an imaginary device that could be at the same time archive, instrument, workstation, catalog and broadcasting machine. Mondotheque.be is inspired by the obstinate spirit of Paul Otlet, and wants to look at the way knowledge is managed and distributed today in a way that allows us to invent other futures and different narrations of the past.
http://mondotheque.be

If you want to contact The Mundaneum archive center in Mons/Bergen, please go here: http://mundaneum.org

Mondotheque: Manual for a Diffraction Machine

June 6, 2015 Mondotheque

Humanity is at a turning point in its history. The mass of available information is formidable. New instruments are necessary for simplifying and condensing it, or the intellect will never know how to overcome the difficulties which overwhelm it, nor realise the progress that it glimpses and to which it aspires”. (Paul Otlet, Traité de documentation, 1934)

mondotheque_detail_nb In 1993, the remains of Otlet’s extensive collection of documents were moved from Brussels to The Mundaneum Archive Center in Mons. Located in a former mining region in the south of Belgium, Mons is also right next to Google’s largest datacenter in Europe. Due to the re-branding of Otlet as a ‘founding father of the Internet’, and ‘visionary inventor of Google on paper’, his oeuvre received international attention. Simultaneously, local politicians are ceasing the moment, making The Mundaneum a central node in their rhetorical promise of turning the industrial heartland into a home for The Internet Age. Google — grateful for discovering their posthumous francophone roots — signed a collaboration contract with The Mundaneum in 2013. The archive center outsourced its digital archives to the search giant, allowing them to publish hundreds of documents on the website of The Google Cultural Institute.

Bringing the ever expanding entanglements gradually to light, a band of artists, archivists and activists formed. Wanting to make a difference from how geographically situated histories are meshed into generic slogans, concerned by faltering local governments pushing cultural infrastructures into the hands of global corporations and perplexed by the apparently still undigested dreams of universal knowledge, we decided to appropriate Mondothèque as a frame of reference. Imagined by Paul Otlet in 1934, La Mondothèque was to be a ’thinking machine’: archive, link generator, desk, catalog and broadcast station at the same time. The dreamed capacity of Mondothèque to combine scales, perspectives and media started to function as a diffraction device, as a platform to envision our modest but persistent interventions together.

Presentation in the context of the Public Library, Multimedia Institute – mi2, Zagreb (Croatia).

With: Dušan Barok (Monoskop); Anthony Davies & Rosemary Grennan (MayDay Rooms); Kenneth Goldsmith; Sebastian Lütgert & Jan Gerber (Open Media Library); Alberto Manguel; Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak (Multimedia Institute); María G. Perulero & Celia Gradín (Platoniq); Noa Treister (The Ignorant Schoolmaster and His Committees); Dubravka Sekulić; Što, kako i za koga / WHW.

The Internet on paper

February 16, 2015 Mondotheque

In 1934, documentalist Paul Otlet wrote: “Humanity is at a turning point in its history. The mass of available information is formidable. New instruments are necessary for simplifying and condensing it, or the intellect will never know how to overcome the difficulties which overwhelm it, nor realise the progress that it glimpses and to which it aspires”. Otlet considered radio, cinema, micro-fiche, phonograph and television all worthy substitutes for the book as information carrier. He envisaged them interconnected into a ‘radiated library’, an intellectual multi-media machine that would support the publication, consultation and creation of knowledge.

From industrial heartland to the Internet age (screen-capture). Video published by The Mundaneum, 2014

From industrial heartland to the Internet age (screen-capture). Video published by The Mundaneum, 2014

Since 1993, the remains of Otlet’s extensive collection of documents are being cared for by The Mundaneum archive center in Mons. Located in a former mining region in the south of Belgium, Mons is also right next to Google’s largest datacenter in Europe. Due to the recent re-branding of Otlet as ‘founding father of the Internet’, and ‘visionary inventor of Google on paper’, The Mundaneum has called international attention to his oeuvre. The Internet giant thankfully accepted the gift of posthumous francophone roots, and adopted The Mundaneum in return.

‘The Internet on paper’ traces various narrations of media in and around the work of Paul Otlet. It is a contribution in the context of Mondothèque, a platform for experiments by artists, archivists and activists concerned about the state of infrastructures for knowledge production.

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Presentation March 18 in Bergen, Norway. Contribution to The extension of many, a seminar curated by Dušan Barok for BEK, Bergen Center for Electronic Arts.

Treating the Traité

The Traité de documentation : le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique is an almost hypertextual book on documentation, written in the 1930’s by Paul Otlet. It has many cross-references, tables and illustrations; at times it is written in encyclopedic style, turns into a passionate manifesto, speculative fiction, and a practical manual for librarians. The pdf I have is badly OCR-ed and too heavy for reading comfortably on a digital device. So this morning I transformed the digital version into something that I can print at a copy shop.

I started with extracting the images from the pdf with the help of the imagemagick convert command:

$ mkdir spreads
$ convert Traite\ de\ documentation\ -\ Paul\ Otlet.pdf spreads/%03d.jpg

Continue reading

We don’t live in this kind of world

For the seminar Public Library. Über Infrastrukturen der Wissensbildung (Public Library. About infrastructures of knowledge formation), Femke prepares a new episode of Fathers of the Internet, charting the overtures between an Internet giant, local governments and a historical archive.

“In 1944, Belgium universalist and documentalist Paul Otlet died a disillusioned man. In his lifetime he only partially realised The Mundaneum, an encyclopedic survey of human knowledge which would ‘progressively constitute a permanent and complete representation of the entire world‘. While Otlet is being rediscovered as “a founding father of the Internet”, Google adopted the remains of his archive in Mons. Located in a former mining area in the south of Belgium, Mons is not only home town to prime minister Elio Di Rupo, but also conveniently located next to one of Google’s largest datacenters in Europe. This lecture explores the messy entanglements of faltering local governments, dreams of accessible knowledge, and the hopeful desire for corporate patronage.”

Fathers of the internet

January 1, 2014 Constant, Mondotheque

Belgium universalist, pacifist and documentalist Paul Otlet was recently recognized as ‘a founding father of the Internet’ by Google evangelist Vincent Cerf. While socialist Prime Minister Elio di Rupo lured the multinational to build a gigantesque datacenter in the region with the help of subsidies and tax-cuts, Google adopted the remains of Otlet’s archive in Mons. An ongoing investigation.

Files: https://gitorious.org/fathers-of-the-internet
Notes: http://pad.constantvzw.org/p/fathers