The Internet on paper

From Mondothèque

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Presentation March 18 in Bergen, Norway. Contribution to The extensions of many, a seminar curated by Dušan Barok for BEK, Bergen Center for Electronic Arts.


In 1934, documentalist Paul Otlet wrote:

“Humanity is at a turning point in its history. The mass of available information is formidable. New instruments are necessary for simplifying and condensing it, or the intellect will never know how to overcome the difficulties which overwhelm it, nor realise the progress that it glimpses and to which it aspires”.

Otlet considered radio, cinema, micro-fiche, phonograph and television all worthy substitutes for the book as information carrier. He envisaged them interconnected into a ‘radiated library’, an intellectual multi-media machine that would support the publication, consultation and creation of knowledge.

From industrial heartland to the Internet age (screen-capture). Video published by The Mundaneum, 2014

Since 1993, the remains of Otlet’s extensive collection of documents are being cared for by The Mundaneum archive center in Mons. Located in a former mining region in the south of Belgium, Mons is also right next to Google’s largest datacenter in Europe. Due to the recent re-branding of Otlet as ‘founding father of the Internet’, and ‘visionary inventor of Google on paper’, The Mundaneum has called international attention to his oeuvre. The Internet giant thankfully accepted the gift of posthumous francophone roots, and adopted The Mundaneum in return.

‘The Internet on paper’ traces various narrations of media in and around the work of Paul Otlet. It is a contribution in the context of Mondothèque, a platform for experiments by artists, archivists and activists concerned about the state of infrastructures for knowledge production.

Whatever we may try to understand, the process of communication is always conditioned by techniques of articulation. Knowledge can hardly be replicated from one embodied mind across others simply because language, images and sounds are the stuff in between and tear us apart.

Mundaneum ID

Screenshot from 2015-03-12 10-38-38.png
 Mundaneum idCaptionPersonSubjectCreatorRights
3Dcategories.pngEUM 14-120Dynamic visualization of the Plan MondialPaul Otlet
ARC-MUND-EUMC-3518-001 0.pngARC-MUND-EUMC-3518-001Schéma symbolisant la Cité Mondiale et le rattachement de tous les points de la Terre à la Cité. 07 mai 1943.Paul OtletPublic Domain
ARC-MUND-EUMC-3583-001 0.pngARC-MUND-EUMC-3583-001Atlas Bruxelles – Urbaneum - Belganeum - Mundaneum. Page de garde du chapitre 991 de l'Atlas de Bruxelles.Paul OtletPublic Domain
ARC-MUND-EUMC-3708-001.jpgARC-MUND-EUMC-3708-001Paul OtletPublic Domain
ARC-MUND-SPM-03-001 0.pngARC-MUND-EUMC-3518-001Paul OtletPublic Domain
ARC-MUNDA-EUMC-103-72.jpgARC-MUNDA-EUMC-103-72Paul OtletPublic Domain
ARC-MUNDA-EUMC-177.jpgARC-MUNDA-EUMC-177Paul OtletPublic Domain
ARC-MUNDA-EUMC3852.jpgARC-MUNDA-EUMC-3852Paul OtletPublic Domain
Bibliology.pngEUM 8435Bibliology-Documentation-Museography: Expression as a double interface between processes of documentation and of thoughtPaul Otlet
EUM3.Farde19.Documentation.jpgARC-MUNDA-EUM3??Paul OtletPublic Domain
Le monde en construction.pngEUM 9-81Otlet, ‘clavier’, manual and mechanical operationPaul Otlet
Mondial2.jpgARC-MUNDA-PV-RBU1900Office International de Bibliographie, Salle de repertoires
Multi otlet.jpgARC-MUNDA-EUMC-155-72Ce schéma de l'Encyclopedia Universalis Mundaneum illustre le côté précurseur de Paul Otlet en termes de télécommunication. Dès les années 1920, il imagine des systèmes de vidéoconférence et de consultation de livres à distance.Paul Otlet
Mundaneum and the world.pngEUM 14-120Mundaneum, transmitter of knowledgePaul Otlet
Travail intellectuel.pngEUM 8-74Otlet, ‘clavier’, manual and mechanical operationsPaul Otlet


Scanning fingerprints

Glued cards



Otlet's teapot + falling papers

The WeTransfer files: filesharing

The Technical problem

Michael Moss