The Second Gutenberg revolution
Anyone who reads Victor Hugo's the Hunchback of Notre Dame will be surprised to learn that the major theme of the story was the rivalry between the book and the building as the major medium of communication. The Cathedral of Notre Dame itself symbolized the old way in which men came to knowledge in a preliterate age. One reviewer at Amazon highlights this. He quotes Hugo waxing eloquent on the subject of form, function and time:
"...human thought, in changing its form, was about to change its mode of expression; that the dominant idea of each generation would no longer be written with the same matter, and in the same manner; that the book of stone, so solid and so durable, was about to make way for the book of paper"
Fast forward to 2006. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Dale Hoiberg, senior vice president and editor in chief of Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc are debating on the subject of whether "Wikipedia Will Mean the End Of Traditional Encyclopedias" at the WSJ online. I am not without sympathy for the book, which once displaced the Cathedral and is now under attack by an ethereal web more abstract than itself. When will the time come when traditional readers mount the spire of the highest paper library to rage out to the crowds, his muse in his arms, as Quasimodo once did, in both defiance and despair: "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!"?