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Saturday, February 10, 2007

The new paradigm...

Reading Jeffery Toobin’s essay on Google’s library-scanning project in last week’s New Yorker over my egg and toast this morning, I encounter a remarkable insight. A David Clancy, director of the scanning project, remarks that the web “is a network…Books are not part of a network.” So the scanning project aims to create a network of books that will, imaginably, replace the existing system of individual texts seeking individual buyers, or at least readers. For the first time I see the revolutionary paradigm that the combination of the web and search engines embody. It occurs to me that the new system will be a global version of the tiny networks created by library-classification schemes, consisting of all the works clustered on adjacent shelves, read by the “search engine” each scholar became when scanning along the rows of titles. The once nearly random connections I made while researching will become available on a planetary scale. Then the entirety of the written universe will become searchable, and in the coordinated way made possible by Google’s algorithms.

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