If it’s not on Wikipedia, it doesn’t exist
Florian Brody is an internationally acclaimed digital media specialist with more than twenty years experience in electronic publishing in Europe and the U.S. He is the President of Brody Inc., a publishing company based in Los Angeles and Vienna that is dedicated to the emerging information society. With a background in linguistics and computer science, He teaches at Vienna University and Art Center College of Design. (1, page.xi)
According to his personal webpage, “Florian has been instrumental in developing groundbreaking media solutions and communication strategies for Fortune 500 companies, including Kodak, Apple and Accenture. Florian co-invented Voyager’s Expanded Books, the first electronic books to be read on a laptop, in 1991. (…) Florian studied Computer Science and Linguistics at the University of Vienna and worked as researcher in computer linguistics and film theory. (…) He frequently keynotes at events and is published in the field of digital media and electronic publishing.” (2)
In his 1999 article The Medium is the Memory, published as a chapter of The Digital Dialectic. New Essays on New Media, Florian Brody analyzes human development from the perspective of memory set in pure orality (ancient times) to machine-enhanced memory (modernity). Long gone are the times when knowledge was passed from mouth to mouth. Long gone are the times when monks in the Middle Ages caligraphed each separate edition manually. Even long gone are the times when a family could rarely afford more books than a single edition of the Bible. „The book has always been used in personal ways, as an extension of memory“ (3, p.2), „Between the covers lies a promise: the possession of a book will mystically extend the mind of the owner“ (4, p.3), „The book is a personal item, an extension of an individual’s memory” (5, p. 3). As with all “new media”, with the development of the moving image it had been widely argued that the rise of films will cause the demise of books. In the case of new computer-based media Brody argues that, unlike film, the digital media have the potential to emerge as a new type of book – “a memory machine in and of itself”.
The Memory Theatre, a concept used by Giulio Camillio, Giordano Bruno and later by the English hermetic philosopher Robert Fludd, was a theatre that would contain all the concepts and the knowledge of the world. By entering the theater, one would gain access to that knowledge and be able to grasp the concepts contained. The theatre was seen reversed – the information was set up in the auditorium and the user/reader was set on the stage, where he observed from him central position all the aspects presented to him: everything in the world, everything above and everything below. Later, the book becomes our memory theater. (6, p.7)
I read this and I instantly think about Kevin Kelly’s speech at the 2007 EG conference:
A computer connected to the Internet Internet IS the Memory Theatre! The amounts of information available online are vast and the growth of the Internet seems to be exponential. Kevin Kelly presented his statistics in 2007 and already then, after only 5,000 days of the Internet’s functioning, it was compared to the one of human brain.
Richard Koenigsberg comments on the video:
Sep 7 2009: Extremely interesting video. We are involved in a revolution. Without embracing the mystical dimension, what is clear is that the Web becomes a conduit for the thinking of the human race. Where does knowledge exist? It used to be that we identified libraries as the place of knowledge. Or bookstores. But am I really going to wander around the New York University library as I once did? The Web provides a center that contains all the knowledge one needs(…). (7)
Even university libraries offer access to their catalogues from home. In his book Planet Google: One Company’s Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know Randall Stross draws a very suggestive image of Google’s ambitions. The recent Google Wave tool will help Google access a lot of our personal data, while Google Books already offers access to huge amounts of copyrighted content (8). This was still not the case in 1999 when Brody wrote his article. Wikipedia was only launched in 2001 and the first public offering of Google’s search engine took place in 2004.
„It strikes me that we are in the midst of returning to a medieval model: deaccessioning our large scale personal libraries, unifying all our texts in the one place: the computer” (9, p.3). Writing this in the 90’s Brody couldn’t have known just how popular the MacBook will become. Our computers have indeed become our personal libraries, calendars, notebooks and in same cases, entire workstations.
In Brody’s eyes interactive multimedia, virtual reality and the Internet are hoped to serve as the ultimate memory machines which will help us to store everything forever: “(…) all knowledge, every story, the punch lines to the totality of human humor, all questions, the sum total of the answers” (10, p. 8). Is this not exactly what is happening right now? The Next Web has published a great iconographic of all of Google’s acquisitions thus far. Click on the link to see it. Industries mentioned stem from technology, web services, search to video, new, mobile, social, imaging and others. Google wants all the world’s information, is this not the case?
„Although text in a computer is far less stable than the written or printed word we assign it a very high truth-value. Early computer pioneer Joseph Weizenbaum of MIT remarked, <<My father used to say, „It is written in the holy books.”>> Today we say, „the computer tells us” (11, p.11). This is very much true. The computer tells us. Or to be more precise, Wikipedia tells us. The computer is the new book. I guess we can all agree with Brody that “The medium is the memory”. Wait, how did the original phrase go? – some of the less-exposed to McLuhan of us might ask. Just google it!
Other publications by Florian Brody:
The Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing: Multimedia Publishing. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.
Interaction Design. State of the Art and Future Developments. An argument for information design. Rockport Publishers 1998.
Books the Next Generation—Reading on the Electronic Frontier. Heidelberg: Springer,1996.
Tabula Rasa in: Cutting Edge Web Design, Rockport 1998.
My Home is my Memory is my Home. Mediamatic, Amsterdam 1995. (Doors of Perception Conference 2)
1. Brody, F. (1999). The Medium is the Memory In: Lunenfeld Peter (ed). The Digital Dialectic. New Essays on New Media. MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, Brody’s chapter available online: available at: http://www.brody.org/Brody/The_Medium_is_the_Memory__files/Brody_MediumMemory.pdf
2. Florian Brody homepage: http://www.brody.org/Brody/About.html;
3. Brody, F. (1999). The Medium is the Memory In: Lunenfeld Peter (ed). The Digital Dialectic. New Essays on New Media. MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts;
7. Richard Koenigsberg (2007), comment: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/kevin_kelly_on_the_next_5_000_days_of_the_web.html;
8. Randall Stross (2008), Planet Google: One Company’s Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know . Free Press;
9. Brody, F. (1999). The Medium is the Memory In: Lunenfeld Peter (ed). The Digital Dialectic. New Essays on New Media. MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts;