Bush created an illustrative image of the potential for a computer/memex tool to aid us in recalling associations and information retrieval when he wrote:
”Man cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but he certainly ought to be able to learn from it. In minor ways he may even, for his records have relative permanency….Selection by association, rather than by indexing, may yet be mechanized. One cannot hope thus to equal the speed and flexibility with which the mind follows an associative trail, but it should be possible to beat the mind decisively in regard to the permanence and clarity of the items resurrected from storage. (p. 6)
Bush had so many present day realities well visualized years ago. Microfiche and photographic innovations could solve our storage problems, allowing us to place a vast library’s worth of data into a suitcase. His “memex” machine would allow us to instantly draw upon stored records, reconfigure them, and create associations beyond mere indexing. And we’d be able to consider all these records almost instantly while seated at a desktop. The potential Bush sees in “selecting by association” is a really compelling tool that online federated databases offer over a single library’s print resources. My LIS education so far has stressed that the innovations in this realm in terms of data retrieval, curation, reference and research have endless potential.
I’m open to a discussion of how we can hope to mediate these constant innovations? I remain interested in how collaborative knowledge can be fostered and shared? How the Internet will continue to evolve to aid us as a tool? How digital tools can pave the mind’s associative trail?