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Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet

3.34  ·  Rating Details ·  136 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
Here is an intellectual entertainment, a sweeping history of the key institutions that have organized knowledge in the West from the classical period onward. With elegance and wit, this exhilarating history alights at the pivotal points of cultural transformation. The motivating question throughout: How does history help us understand the vast changes we are now experienci ...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published August 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton & Company
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My reaction to this book is pretty mixed. While it was interesting and prompted me to think a lot, I felt it was a slightly shallow treatment of its subject. The introduction proclaimed that it was not a history of the "great men and big ideas" of Western Intellectual history, but it reads very much that way (spoiler alert: Abelard did it). As it covered a lot of the same ground as books on the history of books and libraries in very similar ways (the movers and shakers rather than the underlying ...more
Mar 03, 2014 Caren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
This book takes a look at how humans transferred knowledge down through time, generation to generation. Of course, the most interesting chapter for me was the first one, on libraries. A subheading opens the chapter: "By transforming a largely oral scholarly culture into a largely written one, the library made the Greek intellectual tradition both portable and heritable." If you really think about the implications of that statement, doesn't its full import just strike you as amazing, and doesn't ...more
Luís Gouveia
Jun 16, 2013 Luís Gouveia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: digital, informação
Interessante e uma visão histórica sobre como colectivamente lidamos com o conhecimento, sua organização e preservação.

É também uma boa introdução ao contexto e integração da cultura Grega e sua influência no nosso mundo ocidental e discute de forma algo ligeira, mas interessante, a confrontação com outros blocos culturais como o Chinês e o Indiano e as suas diferenças.

Organizado em torno da ideia que as instituições é que moldam o conhecimento e que as pessoas que se destacaram serem mais repre
May 09, 2016 Ietrio rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: junk
The theme is very good. But the warnings started from reading the title: reinventing knowledge? And that is the precise level of the whole volume. Dull scholastic text following a story, the kind the Grimm Brothers would weave. 21st century humans know some vague references to a building that hosted many written information in the city of Alexandria. Yet these two authors are stopping short of the shopping list of Demetrius of Phaleron. They take texts that might as well have been the Farmer's A ...more
Feb 16, 2016 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a stab at intellectual history covering over two millennia. Neat jacket illustration!
The authors cover their sweeping topic in 6 chapters plus a useful Conclusion:
1. The Library - which I grade as B- at best. The logic fragmented, writing not crisp, observations not woven into a clear theme, and 'Library" only defined after 15 pages, not as a gathering "to amass scrolls" but a place for "collation, translation, and synthesis" and "to recombine contents and ad commentary and analysis." A s
Mackenzie Brooks
I think this was a good book but I just kept falling asleep every time I picked it up.
Sep 24, 2008 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want breadth and depth of historical understanding
This is one of the most creative historical studies I've read in a long time. McNeely and Wolverton situate the institutions of knowledge production and dissemination in six different eras. In each, their account suggests that different ways of creating knowledge affect the dominant forms (e.g. visual or aural) that it takes. Another key theme is the interplay of knowledge and power. Unlike Foucauldian approaches that sometimes reduce knowledge to a discourse of control and domination or naively ...more
Oscar Serna
Jan 08, 2015 Oscar Serna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, history
Wow! I'm very impressed with this book. It focused my mental picture of the humanity's best path forward! I believe this book can be studied as a springboard for a philosophy of acquiring knowledge as our life's purpose. Again, highly recommended by me for anyone wanting to understand how knowledge developed and changed throughout the history.
Tiffoknee the 3rd Conner
There was some very fascinating history in this book. Tidbits mainly. The authors did a respectable job of making a very ambitious argument in such a small book. However, I think the subjected matter would have been more appropriately respected with a series of works, rather than one somewhat disappointing piece. The introduction reveals that the authors (a married couple) gave coures at the University of Oregon which dealt with their theories surrounding the idea of the library, monastery, corr ...more
Feb 20, 2011 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reinventing Knowledge is a breezy read examining the history of knowledge from the library, through the monastery, the university, the republic of letters, the disciplines, and the laboratory. It is well written and contains excellent stories (experts will quibble about details - I could quibble about the author's choices of sources - religion is sometimes taken seriously and sometimes dismissed), though not always a coherent argument. But it is aware enough of the modern confusion of informati ...more
Mar 09, 2014 Calvin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
a very readable book about history of knowledge and how it was transmitted from ancient time to modern times. I got a lot of interesting knowledge, however some chapters are just plain boring.
Jul 26, 2014 Kasey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't remember much of this book. I think I blocked it out -- some of the content was interesting but it was more like a textbook to me.
Natalie Janes
Despite what I had been assured by my history teacher, this book was not a pleasant break from mandated school reads. I recommend it only for those of you who are either historians or common knowledge-savvy - definitely not, I discovered, an interesting read for a 9th grader. While this may go to say for countless books meant for an older crowd, I maintain that this book was genuinely boring. Aside from some intriguing anecdotes periodically placed throughout each chapter, these points never see ...more
Sep 13, 2011 Liam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"This book is thus a history of institutions of knowledge. It chronicles the six institutions that have dominated Western intellectual life since ancient times: the library, the monastery, the university, the Republic of Letters, the disciplines, and the laboratory. Together these institutions have safeguarded knowledge through the ages by acting as interfaces between scholars and the res of society. ... In times of upheaval, individuals and small communities reinvented knowledge in founding new ...more
Rachel Bayles
I really liked this book, but it needs to be twice as long to do what it's trying to do. And the last quarter of it is thoroughly jammed together. It does give the reader that feeling of excitement about the great sweep of knowledge development over the course of human history. And in doing so, forgives us for how far we haven't come. But it needs to expand on the overall story, or be much more cleverly edited.
May 06, 2010 Kristi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is my cup of tea. It discusses the history of learning and how we collect and retain knowledge, having chapters on libraries, monasteries, and universities, among others. It reminds me of a paper I wrote once on the connection between libraries and museums, both being institutions of collecting. Being an art history major and a librarian, this book facinated me.
Plamen Miltenoff
p. 90
the earliest and most important Parisian colleges were those of the newly established mendicant orders, the Dominicans and the Franciscans.
Dominican Guzman of Castile, established his order to combat heresy in urbanized Italy and Southern France, specifically among the Cathars, who practiced radically antimaterialistic Christianity, possibly transmitted from Bulgaria.
Jun 04, 2013 Thequaminator rated it it was ok
Some good points, but for the most part promises more than it delivers. It felt like that author was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and thus made some good points, but was not a great fit to the authors theory of knowledge. After all those words the conclusions were not very original, although the last chapters were better than the first couple.
Lauren Albert
This is a very broad overview of the institutions in which and through which knowledge was created--from the ancient library to the modern laboratory. A little too general for me since I've read other related histories. But if you haven't, it is a very interesting and readable overview.
Aug 28, 2009 Cklinet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
pretty basic examination of how the methods and purposes of knowledge change based upon the needs of society and changes in technology. Traces back to the classical era to modern times.
Jan 11, 2009 A. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A history of knowledge! Great premise, mostly well done. Dragged a little toward the end, but that may be my interests -- I was more curious about ancient history than about more modern history.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
This just didn't grab me enough for me to want to keep going. It did point me to some interesting other sources, though.
Denise Louise
Apr 07, 2013 Denise Louise rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned

This book is hard to slog through and not nearly as interesting as I had expected. Disappointing.
Paul Lee
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Alfredo Gonzalez
Alfredo Gonzalez rated it it was ok
Jul 19, 2016
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