Too Much Information and the KWIC

Abstract

This paper takes a media archaeology look at the development of the Keyword-in-Context (KWIC) display by Peter Luhn and how the KWIC helped automate ways of disseminating information about information. The paper takes the development of the KWIC as an example of the development of a knowledge technology that frames knowledge in a certain way. The KWIC and other information technologies transform knowledge into information that can be quantified and processed. Developments like the KWIC are the beginning of language engineering—a new way of conceiving of text as information to be manipulated. Finally, the paper proposes a way of reflecting on developments like the KWIC by replicating these early technologies. Replications can take the form of demonstration devices or knowledge things that expose the processes in our infrastructure.

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Correspondence to Geoffrey Rockwell.

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Rockwell, G., Sinclair, S. Too Much Information and the KWIC. Fudan J. Hum. Soc. Sci. 11, 443–452 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40647-018-0230-2

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Keywords

  • KWIC
  • Keyword-in-Context
  • History of computing
  • Digital humanities
  • Peter luhn
  • Knowledge society