Streaming Media

Location

Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania

Event Website

http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/lectures/scienceinfo_program.html

Start Date

24-2-2017 2:00 PM

End Date

24-2-2017 3:15 PM

Document Type

Presentation

Description

Rachel Sagner Buurma, Swarthmore College

Henry Wheatley's General Index: Knowledge Organization, Fictional Representation, and Information Utopianism in the 1870s

Henry Wheatley's idea for a General Index can seem like an early prototype of grander, better-known universal knowledge projects like those of Otlet and La Fontaine. It can also read as a local, British precursor of the larger, more international, and better-organized projects to come. Yet Wheatley's focus on the proposed General Index's partiality, extensibility, and engagement with practices of personal knowledge collection and organization sets it apart from later, more universalizing and totalizing knowledge organization projects. Wheatley's design for the General Index imagined it knitting together the fragmented notes of all types of researchers; he planned for it to connect individual and idiosyncratic knowledge creation practices with the practices and standards of emerging institutions of knowledge organization. After describing Wheatley's vision of the General Index in the context of mid-Victorian ideas about indexing, knowledge organization, and bibliographic control, I will briefly consider how this extensible, partial, index-based knowledge organization system was implemented by best-selling (and now nearly forgotten) Victorian novelist Charles Reade. Examining Reade's engagement with existing theories and practices of knowledge organization like those Wheatley embodied in the idea of the General Index, I will reveal the significant social and cultural presence of this alternate information utopianism by tracking it through theories of fictional representation as well as everyday practices of list-making. What might past models of knowledge organization like the General Index - models that center individual agents and do not necessarily align information utopianism with universalism and totality - offer our thinking about contemporary information utopianisms?

Evan Hepler-Smith, Harvard University

Chemical Nomenclature, International Chemistry, and the Particulars of Universalism, 1910-1930

In the field of organic chemistry, around the turn of the twentieth century, universalism in disciplinary politics and information management went hand-in-hand. Across Europe and America, tens of thousands of new synthetic compounds were transforming chemistry and commerce, and reform-minded chemists saw the development of international rules of nomenclature as the key to putting both chemicals and chemists in order.

The standardization of nomenclature and terminology is often taken for granted as typical subject matter for international cooperation. But what were the affinities that bound nomenclature reform and international organizations together in the first place? Members of the upper echelons of European academic chemistry, dissatisfied with the fragmented, contentious character of many international chemical meetings, made nomenclature the centerpiece of a different sort of organization. Crucially, such chemists saw nomenclature as something that mattered to everyone in their field, but did not matter too much to anyone. In the decades preceding World War I, chemical naming became the central problem around which a transnational chemical elite built institutions for intimate and wide-ranging intellectual exchange. Nomenclature reform played a different role within the international chemical organizations of the 1920s. Attending carefully to the official and unofficial work of the members of the nomenclature commission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, I demonstrate that international cooperation was not a default state to which science reverted when political tensions ebbed, nor a fragile compromise shattered once and for all by war. For some, chemical naming was a means for establishing the legitimacy of an institution riven by political divisions, while for others, it was a means of breaking down these divisions.

Comments

YouTube recording of Rachel Sagner Buurma begins at 1:55.

YouTube recording of Evan Hepler-Smith begins at 36:31.

Share

COinS
 
Feb 24th, 2:00 PM Feb 24th, 3:15 PM

Session 3: Universal Words

Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania

Rachel Sagner Buurma, Swarthmore College

Henry Wheatley's General Index: Knowledge Organization, Fictional Representation, and Information Utopianism in the 1870s

Henry Wheatley's idea for a General Index can seem like an early prototype of grander, better-known universal knowledge projects like those of Otlet and La Fontaine. It can also read as a local, British precursor of the larger, more international, and better-organized projects to come. Yet Wheatley's focus on the proposed General Index's partiality, extensibility, and engagement with practices of personal knowledge collection and organization sets it apart from later, more universalizing and totalizing knowledge organization projects. Wheatley's design for the General Index imagined it knitting together the fragmented notes of all types of researchers; he planned for it to connect individual and idiosyncratic knowledge creation practices with the practices and standards of emerging institutions of knowledge organization. After describing Wheatley's vision of the General Index in the context of mid-Victorian ideas about indexing, knowledge organization, and bibliographic control, I will briefly consider how this extensible, partial, index-based knowledge organization system was implemented by best-selling (and now nearly forgotten) Victorian novelist Charles Reade. Examining Reade's engagement with existing theories and practices of knowledge organization like those Wheatley embodied in the idea of the General Index, I will reveal the significant social and cultural presence of this alternate information utopianism by tracking it through theories of fictional representation as well as everyday practices of list-making. What might past models of knowledge organization like the General Index - models that center individual agents and do not necessarily align information utopianism with universalism and totality - offer our thinking about contemporary information utopianisms?

Evan Hepler-Smith, Harvard University

Chemical Nomenclature, International Chemistry, and the Particulars of Universalism, 1910-1930

In the field of organic chemistry, around the turn of the twentieth century, universalism in disciplinary politics and information management went hand-in-hand. Across Europe and America, tens of thousands of new synthetic compounds were transforming chemistry and commerce, and reform-minded chemists saw the development of international rules of nomenclature as the key to putting both chemicals and chemists in order.

The standardization of nomenclature and terminology is often taken for granted as typical subject matter for international cooperation. But what were the affinities that bound nomenclature reform and international organizations together in the first place? Members of the upper echelons of European academic chemistry, dissatisfied with the fragmented, contentious character of many international chemical meetings, made nomenclature the centerpiece of a different sort of organization. Crucially, such chemists saw nomenclature as something that mattered to everyone in their field, but did not matter too much to anyone. In the decades preceding World War I, chemical naming became the central problem around which a transnational chemical elite built institutions for intimate and wide-ranging intellectual exchange. Nomenclature reform played a different role within the international chemical organizations of the 1920s. Attending carefully to the official and unofficial work of the members of the nomenclature commission of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, I demonstrate that international cooperation was not a default state to which science reverted when political tensions ebbed, nor a fragile compromise shattered once and for all by war. For some, chemical naming was a means for establishing the legitimacy of an institution riven by political divisions, while for others, it was a means of breaking down these divisions.

https://repository.upenn.edu/science_of_information/sessions/session/5