As We May Think

As We May Think







Often cited in the bibliometrics literature, Vannevar Bush provided a vision for how scholars can think about scholarship.  Instead of our narrow, disciplinary perspectives, his vision was about the “science of science” – keeping track of what we (and others) do for the purposes of better understanding what we (and others) do.  “Science has provided the swiftest communication between individuals; it has provided a record of ideas and has enabled man to manipulate and to make extracts from that record so hat knowledge evolves and endures throughout the life of a race rather than that of an individual.”  We may not give it much thought at the time, but the references we cite in our publications then becomes part of the record, establishing a pathway of connected ideas and influences.  We are obligated to do so and we have a range of motivations for doing so (a topic for another day).

Later he states, “He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory.” Information, artifacts of knowledge, and other such transactions are gaining speed in how quickly they are generated and it’s not often that we step back to examine these networks and patterns – yet more information.  We have the technology, but do we have the time?

As Herbert Simon said in 1971, “In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes.  What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”  This becomes the challenge – in 140 characters or less – with a half-life of 2.5 hours.


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