Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages” as Want to Read:
Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  298 ratings  ·  49 reviews
The "information explosion" may seem like an acutely modern phenomenon, but we are not the first generation or even the first species to wrestle with the problem of information overload. Long before the advent of computers, human beings were collecting, storing, and organizing information: from Ice Age taxonomies to Sumerian archives, Greek libraries to Dark Age monasterie ...more
Paperback, 286 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Cornell University Press (first published January 1st 2007)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Glut, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Glut

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 998)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Feb 10, 2008 mcburton rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: information addicts
The beginning of this book disappointed me, the author discusses the Mastering of Information starting from single celled organisms evolving genetic coping mechanisms for an increasing amount of information. He uses this starting point to stroll into an epigenetic rationale for human's predisposition for hierarchical solutions to information overload problems. I don't buy it. Alex is definitely not a biologist (I used to be if that amounts to anything) and his intellectual weakness is demonstrat ...more
Gina Scioscia
A wonderful tour of the ways humans have sought to organize and impart knowledge and information. Wright tackles the disciplines of psychology, cultural anthropology and computer science, even illuminating by examples from evolutionary biology, how natural and necessary it is for us to sort, classify and categorize the world around us. He maintains that there is nothing new in the tension between hierarchical systems and social networks, and that this tension can be viewed as complementary rathe ...more
Intense, but v. readable book about the history of information systems. I was hooked at the intro. The author gives the standard scholarly "lots of people helped me--but all the errors are my own" admission, and then: "And perhaps I can take solace in knowing that even Linnaeus, the father of modern biology, was a devout believer in unicorns."
Nov 01, 2007 Melissa rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who already know who S.R. Ranganathan is
This book is essential reading for librarians, information architects, and other meta-knowledge geeks, but most others could probably skip it. I liked best the chapters on classification systems and alternative networked-computing models, but any book that namechecks memory palaces and Borges is cool by me throughout.
Alex Wright presents selections from the history of information to show how people throughout recorded (and, for that matter, pre-historic) time dealt with their need to organize and communicate information. Utilizing a simple definition of information, that "Information is the juxtaposition of data to create meaning," (p 10) Wright finds evidence of a need for human organization of information from our very beginnings. I had never thought of the development of symbolic representation itself, in ...more
Theresa Macphail
This is a well-written text about a subject that is difficult, if not impossible, to tackle in one, short book. As an introduction to the history of information, I think it's wonderful. It's fodder for more reading and thought-provoking. As someone who is beginning to think about "information" from an anthropological sense, I found Wright's overview very helpful.

However, that being said, I can see how someone with more knowledge might be frustrated with the glossing of entire centuries of histo
There are a few books that actually make you think and read them in a very active manner. This book is one such book. There are a lot of gaps in this book but still the subject and some questions it answers are actually quite profound.

Some questions that the book answers are as follows

How did different civilizations who were not connected develop language, folk knowledge and classifications.
Is information really that important a subject?
Where did it all start and how is it going as of now?
Is it
Terrible, simplified, uninspiring. The author wants to avoid future-technology over enthusiasm, and in stead falls for one-idé-explains-all romanticism and over interprets the explaining power of evolutionary psychology, which is just as naive.

For popular reading on categorization an organization of information from an evolutionary perspective, I suggest going for the mind/conciousnesses literature, something like the Ravenous Brain perhaps. However, Glut is an extremely fast read, ok as a refe
I don't think I can continue reading this because it frustrates me every few pages. Admittedly, I've only read the preface and part of the first chapter, but I can't believe how casually the author mentions, in that brief book span, that human characteristics like our drive to categorize and classify are "probably" epigenetic. This seems irresponsible and feels like cherry-picking data.

In the span of three dozen pages, the epigenome is never explained but is credited with carrying universal huma
Wendy White
Sep 02, 2010 Wendy White rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: information architects, information scientists, historians, internet scientists, archivists
Shelves: top-100
A book that utterly surprised me with its relevance to everything I am interested in. Cuts straight to the core of information sharing and how our recording and communicating devices have shaped our development from cave paintings to photo sharing websites.

I expected this book to mostly talk about modern information sharing, but it in fact pays an equal amount of attention to every era of human communication. I don't often get excited talking about history (unless we're talking mythology) and so
penny shima glanz
Glut started off with great promise discussing the history of classification and the rise of the written record, however it is perhaps a bit too ambitious for the 286 pages to fulfill the desires I had for it. I was looking for a balanced walk through the landscape from beads to scroll to scribe to today. I wanted to understand the technologies that lead to scroll and book and classification systems. There are areas where Wright did a detailed review of these, I found the chapter on "Illuminatin ...more
Really interesting stuff - if you're an information geek, that is. Although the first couple chapters are pretty obtuse, I love the breadth and scope he tackles, and the way he shows networks and hierarchies intersecting and tangling through time (which is why you need to read the first 2 chapters). Once he gets through the philosophy and settles into history, his writing moves right along. Great food for thought for those of us trying to "un-silo" library data and technologies. His discussion o ...more
This is a great book to recommend whenever someone asks you why you need a Masters degree to be a librarian. While much of what Wright covers is familiar territory for those of us in the field, he adds interesting juxtapositions and brings disparate parts of the story together in insightful ways.
Eugene Miya
I heard and saw Alex Wright's LongNow lecture (online) about the glut of data (I would not quite call it information).

The single most important thing/person this book exposes is Paul Otlet: who predated (his death) Bush's Memex (Atlantic article) by over a decade) with ideas which almost perfectly mimic Memex.

I recently, in advising another author, had Otlet mentioned back to me. And that refreshed my memory of this event.

The historic illustrations make this a better than average book about data
Dec 18, 2007 Keith rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: information historians
Glut started as a very interesting read looking the history or memory and how peoples brains appeared wired for particular hierarchical structures. The continued discussion into classification schemes and the difficulties associated with them was very interesting. For me the 20th century and beyond period was very light on and while it promised to explore what might be possible with new thinking and technology in terms of dealing with information overload it did not deliver. This area of the boo ...more
Devin Bruce
It's certainly an uneven book, at least in my experience: the looks at information technology in the preliterate age and the growth and development of the book and the library were fascinating and easy to navigate, but when the topic became more about networked information and computers I was struggling to get through the jargon. But it's a very well-organized and interesting look at how humans develop technology and technology guides humanity, and for that it earns a decent rating. However: I h ...more
a pretty accessible history of information management. wright discusses the dialectic between hierarchies and networks as the fundamental principle which has given rise to information architectures over the ages: from preliterate societies who embody their knowledge in their physical and social arrangements, to our world wide web.

if a few years ago someone told me that i would enjoy a book chapter on universal decimal classification, i wouldn't have believed it. yet, it would have been true.

i j
Libro bellissimo che analizza l'evoluzione dei modi in cui l'uomo, dalla preistoria ad oggi, ha affrontato il concetto di "informazione", dai quipu al web, passando per la biblioteca d'Alessandria e la CDD. Originale ma efficace la scelta di adoperare trasversalmente termini e concetti moderni per i fenomeni antichi: social network, interfaccia, ipertesto, ecc.

Ogni tanto appaiono qualche lacuna o qualche superficialità che, a causa della mia ignoranza, non so come interpretare: per esempio, perc
Douglas Summers-Stay
This is a history of systems of classification, beginning with magical and folk traditions, going through medieval, Renaissance and early modern systems, and ending with a discussion of the web. It's not the sort of thing a lot of people would find fascinating, but it really fit my interests. One detail I found interesting was the influence of Celtic scribe monks on the history of the way we write-- and why we associate Gothic writing with Germany and with everything old.
Oct 04, 2009 .keli. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: mlis
This book gives an interesting history not only of libraries and how they came to be as they are today (starting with the libraries of the Hittites), and how many were built to amazing proportions only to be destroyed when their societies fell, but also of language, alphabets, printing and publishing.

Granted, I probably wouldn't have picked it up were it not assigned in one of my classes, but I really did enjoy it.
I like historical surveys of information theory, consumption, display, transmission...This is one of those. I'm enjoying the depth of the anecdotes from the past - illiterate Irish monks illuminating sacred works, the great library of Alexandria, etc. - but I wish the book had been edited more rigorously. Because I work as an information architect, I appreciate the parallels to the "career" of scribes.
The beginning is the weakest part of this book. Once you make it pass the first couple of chapters or so, the book does get better. It is a fair introduction of the beginning of information systems. Too much of what Wright says however, comes off too casual (more journalistic than educated or academic). I would recommend this book as an introduction and jumping off point to other more informed sources.
Michael McGuire

Wright presents an interesting narrative, blending ideas from a range of disciplines. On the one hand, it's a smooth overview of the development of information management -- mainly from a library science viewpoint. On the other hand, some nicely evocative connections to spur further thought. Organized chronologically, the book seems weakest in regard to modern and future trends.
Feb 01, 2008 Corey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: library science people, geeks, historians
Anything James Burke says he wishes he wrote is worth checking out in my opinion.

A history of library sciences, but also of how we organize information generally- not just cultural history, but in our basic brain structure, cross-culturally. How information has been found, lost and given lesser or greater significance during the centuries.

I had to read this for a class and really enjoyed it. It kept getting better and better, and the last chapter really ties it all together. This is basically a history of the world centered around technology and human progress. I learned a lot, and have recently discovered that the information gleaned makes for interesting conversation starters with near strangers.
Gary Lang
This is mostly a history book. The applications we can derive from history are clear. This book is several years old; many of these ideas are already appearing in eBooks and search engines. Still, it's good to get a historical perspective on information management, so that we don't reinvent the wheel, or reinvent poorly.
A must-read for every LIS student and librarian; Wright provides a concise but still thorough overview of information and its organization, pointing to the roots of our current digital-driven era in the the libraries of Alexandria and the Renaissance. These are critical foundations that need to be explored and discussed.

This guide through the history of information systems is very readable. Depending on your field of expertise, you might find that much of the content is introductory. Wright does, however, manage to successfully communicate at least some novel concepts in the synthesis of topics covered within his historical study.
This book packed an incredible amount of information into 240 pages--the whole history of how humans have tried to organize information. It was slow going at times, but I might have learned more from it than from any other 240 pages I've read. If you're in to the history of books/information, it's great.
Nathanael (Boehm) Coyne
Just brilliant. A complete and interesting history of knowledge and information recording and sharing throughout the history of humanity right back from before cave etchings through to the Internet. Important background information for anyone who works in design and knowledge management.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 33 34 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder
  • The Portable MLIS: Insights from the Experts
  • The Social Life of Information
  • Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge
  • Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences
  • Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become
  • Foundations of Library and Information Science
  • What They Don't Teach You in Library School
  • What's the Alternative? Career Options for Librarians and Info Pros
  • Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals
  • Developing Library and Information Center Collections
  • Library: An Unquiet History
  • Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper
  • Revolting Librarians Redux: Radical Librarians Speak Out
  • Intellectual Foundation of Information Organization
  • The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System
  • Scrolling Forward: Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age
  • A Social History of Knowledge: From Gutenberg to Diderot, Based on the First Series of Vonhoff Lectures Given at the University of Groningen (Netherlands)
Alex Wright is a Brooklyn-based writer, researcher, and designer whose most recent book is Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age. His first book Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages, was hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "a penetrating and highly entertaining meditation on our information age and its historical roots."

Alex's writing has appeared in The Atla
More about Alex Wright...
Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland Open All the Way: Confessions From My Open Marriage Imagineering Field Guide to Epcot at Walt Disney World, The Birnbaum's Walt Disney World For Kids 2011

Share This Book

“Dewey was obsessed with efficiency. He even changed his name from “Melville” to “Melvil” as a time-saving gesture and briefly even changed his last name to “Dui.” 0 likes
More quotes…