- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: WW Norton; First Edition edition (July 15 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393065065
- ISBN-13: 978-0393065060
- Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 3 x 21.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 567 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #983,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria To The Internet Hardcover – Jul 15 2008
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An impressively cohesive story that is full of delightful characters and fascinating details. — Austin Chronicle
An inspiring read. — New Scientist
A sprightly, stimulating and surprising study. — The Scotsman
A magnificent overview of the history of knowledge production in the West. — Times Higher Education
About the Author
Ian F. McNeely teaches at the University of Oregon and lives in Eugene.
Lisa Wolverton teaches at the University of Oregon and lives in Eugene.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
On the positive side, there is some very interesting information in this book. The authors look at the history of how knowledge is created, transmitted and preserved, stretching from ancient Greece through the late twentieth century. This book does a good job of looking at each major shift in how knowledge has evolved, examining the similarities and differences between them. I have read this book twice, and picked up much more on the second reading, after having gotten used to the dry writing style. There are a number of patterns stretching through the historical material covered by the authors, which really made me think and wonder how these patterns will apply in today's world and into the future.
Unfortunately, getting at the gems of information presented by McNeely and Wolverton takes a lot of work on the reader's part. The book is written in a very dry, technical style with language that at times seems intentionally and unnecessarily complex and convoluted. This is why I gained so much more from my second reading, as much of the first was spent adapting to the complex writing and looking up unfamiliar terms. I would definitely recommend getting the Kindle version of this book as the built in dictionary makes the process much quicker and less painful.
The other main complaint I have about this book has to do with my expectations based on the title of the book. Given that the title includes "From Alexandria to the Internet" I expected the authors to take a close look at the current shift happening to internet-based collaboration, education and knowledge storage. However, the internet barely rated a few pages in the conclusion, with no real in-depth examination. I would have found the book to be much more satisfying if it had spent a chapter carrying the historical patterns built throughout the book into the present day, even if it did not speculate on what this could mean for the future.
In all, I found this book to definitely be worth reading. It has some valuable information, especially for those who love studying history. Getting the most out of this book does require active studying and effort, it is not a casual read. Given the effort and thought, however, there is a lot of good information to be had. Perhaps most importantly, it encourages thought about how the patterns of knowledge carried through history will affect us today and moving forward into the future.
The monastery preserved knowledge deep into the middle ages. With the close of the first millennia (shall we say Y1K?) the authors report that all sorts of apocalyptic ruminations were being proffered. But all the debate and discussion sparked by Y1K had an enormous upside as new continents were discovered and major cities hosted universities, the earliest ones appearing spontaneously in Bologna and Paris about 1100 A.D. By the early 1200s the Bible had been bound into codex form and divided by chapter and verse. It was during this time that Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274) produced the greatest summary of Christian commentary then existing, the Summa Theologica, and began airing a scholarly debate that had too often lain cloistered since Augustine (354 - 430). As Christendom extended its influence and reliable postal routes became established, scholars began to communicate not merely by congregating in universities, but by communicating in what was to be known as The Republic of Letters (1500 - 1800).
Overlapping this period, The Disciplines were established (1700 - 1900) first in Germany and then exported to the continent and abroad along with The Laboratory (1770 - 1970). The point of the dates is to indicate the shift to a new prevailing paradigm, not to signal the demise of the institutions; indeed, all are still with us, albeit in a form altered from their original. It now seems that the Internet is destined to become the primary knowledge sharing medium, but what of preservation? And what form will it ultimately take?
This then is the barest sketch of this book's fascinating contents. Ian McNeely and Lisa Wolverton are associate professors of history and the book benefits from their first rate scholarship. Far from stodgy, it is written in an engaging and conversational tone. It is eminently interesting and well organized; the two-line summaries that head each chapter give the "Cliff Notes" in advance. It is supported by an introduction, conclusion, copious notes, and an index. Knowledge management professionals are fortunate to have such an interesting and readable summary of the major knowledge preserving and disseminating institutions over the last two millennia. Accordingly, there is indeed some hope that the past may inform the future.