Messy Connections and Mysterious Processes

Michael Stephens prefaces “The Hyperlinked Library” with a header that displays Borges’ claim that “the library is unlimited and cyclical.”  Hold on!  Where is he going with this? This type of descriptive language is reserved for the mysterious processes of life – to describe the deep sustaining life forces of nature (biogeochemical and secret) and the murmurings of the human soul. Can we really make such a claim about the hyperlinked library?

Perhaps. As understanding of the potential resident in the hyperlinked library model grows for me, I find that I’m starting to frame it using biological terms like an ecology, a universe, a system, a web …. or webs. And, I’m no longer seeing a hyperlink as simply a universal resource locator (URL) embedded in html that directs the web browser to another location on the Internet. In fact, I’m seeing it much more organically.

Within the larger universe of the Internet, Weinberger describes hyperlinks as messy and non-symmetrical, connections made by real individuals based on what they care about and what they know, and where their feet are walking (my paraphrase). He, like Stephens, sees hyperlinks as creative points of connection, conversation, discovery and knowledge building. (I’m 13 years behind in my reading, but still found the ideas in Weinberger’s The Hyperlinked Organization timely and powerful.)

Hyperlinks serve the community (or tribe) they connect, as revealed in the ITHAKA 2009 Survey, that showed that faculty universally use citations (in the form of hyperlinks) from other journal articles to begin their research. Likewise, back-channel, as well as fore-channel, linkages build networks of communication that immediately alter organizational hierarchy or even the course of events (Rousch). In our age where technologies are created to make communication more ‘efficient’, hyperlinks are creating connected points of reflection within communities on topics of the moment and broadening individual and corporate expressive response.

ITHAKA (2011) Evolving Role of the Library: (Chapter 1 – p. 4-14)

Roush, W. (2005). “Social Machines” from Technology Review at

Stephens, M. (2011) The Hyperlinked Library:

Weinberger, D. (1999) Cluetrain Manifesto Chapter 5: The Hyperlinked Organization

One thought on “Messy Connections and Mysterious Processes

  1. Wowza – nice synthesis of the various parts of THL model. The Borges quote really speaks to me – we’ve always dealt with change… it will change libraries…and then we do it again. #philospohical?

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