I was inspired by a piece I read during my Christmas holiday titled “In Defense of the Memory Theater”.
In it, Nathan Schneider describes his bookshelf as a rotating amalgam of whatever my heart desired from the library. Personally, my needs for such a shelf are based much more around being able to quickly retrieve information I unearthed or researched quite some time ago which has suddenly become important to a situation that could benefit from related wisdom.
Nathan presents a hypothetical bookshelf manifesto to cover the basic needs that technology, and more specifically web content management systems, must provide:
for-life, liberatedness, and the pursuit of eclecticism
Look familiar? It should – it’s the tagline of this site.
Break down the manifesto into three parts:
- for-life: preserve the collection
- liberatedness: truly ours, completely free
- the pursuit of eclecticism: no censorship
“For-life” means the right to keep one’s books as long as one lives and, just as importantly, to pass them on to one’s descendants. They must not be take-away-able by the fiat of a far-away corporation. They must be in a medium and format that will be readable in a hundred years and, if we know what’s good for us, in five thousand.
“Liberatedness” means that the texts are truly ours to do with as we please, short of harming others. We can lend them to enemies and friends. We can mark them up or damage them. We can move them around wherever we like, and wherever the technology allows, freely organizing and categorizing them to all the limits of our private compulsions.
Finally, “the pursuit of eclecticism” means that there should be no limit on the breadth of our collections. Plainly, no censorship.
Nathan really nails it describing his own blog and how his collection is pieced together:
The journal I keep on this site is the notes toward an integration still discovering itself—an assembly of thought, education, and experience that is truthful and communicative. My tone and method is precisely speculative: every word is exactly hypothesis. I believe in the importance of free-ranging explanation, while recognizing fearfully that with even the most casual remark we are building ourselves and our world irrevocably.
I, you, we, need to stop committing time and energy to the creation of bookshelves that cannot be sustained. Not if life is really dedicated to building something of grander design than oneself.