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World Projects

Global Information before World War I

2014
Author:

Markus Krajewski
Translated by Charles Marcrum II

World Projects

Before Google and globalization, big-thinking Germans brought the world closer together

A leading scholar of media archaeology, Markus Krajewski explores the history of globalization by examining several large-scale projects that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, shared a grand yet unachievable goal: bringing order to the world. He shows how media, technological structures, and naked human ambition paved the way for global-scale ventures that created the first “world wide web.”

This is a fascinating—and very entertaining—study. It weaves a tapestry of early technological globalization made up of projects, pipe dreams, and propaganda. There is on the part of the author a noticeable affection for these world infatuations, but there is also the necessary amount of gentle mockery when they become too unworldly.

Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, University of British Columbia

Markus Krajewski is emerging as a leading scholar in the field of media archaeology, which seeks to trace cultural history through the media networks that enable and structure it. In World Projects he opens a new portal into the history of globalization by examining several large-scale projects that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, shared a grand yet unachievable goal: bringing order to the world.

Drawing from a broad array of archival materials, Krajewski reveals how expanding commercial relations, growing international scientific agreements, and an imperial monopolization of the political realm spawned ambitious global projects. World Projects contends that the late nineteenth-century networks of cables, routes, and shipping lines—of junctions, crossovers, and transfers—merged into a “multimedia system” that was a prerequisite for conceiving a world project. As examples, he presents the work of three big-thinking “plansmiths,” each of whose work mediates between two discursive fields: the chemist and natural philosopher Wilhelm Ostwald, who spent years promoting a “world auxiliary language” and a world currency; the self-taught “engineer” and self-anointed authority on science and technology Franz Maria Feldhaus, who labored to produce an all-encompassing “world history of technology”; and Walther Rathenau, who put economics to the service of politics and quickly transformed the German economy.

With a keen eye for the outlandish as well as the outsized, Krajewski shows how media, technological structures, and naked human ambition paved the way for global-scale ventures that together created the first “world wide web.”

World Projects

Markus Krajewski is professor of media history and theory at the University of Basel, Switzerland. He is the author of Paper Machines: About Cards and Catalogs, 1548 –1929.

Charles Marcrum II is a translator of nonfiction and literary works. He earned an AM degree in Germanic languages and literatures from Harvard University.

World Projects

This is a fascinating—and very entertaining—study. It weaves a tapestry of early technological globalization made up of projects, pipe dreams, and propaganda. There is on the part of the author a noticeable affection for these world infatuations, but there is also the necessary amount of gentle mockery when they become too unworldly.

Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, University of British Columbia

World Projects carves out a much needed space for human involvement in networked systems and, by doing so, comments on our own struggles for agency within our highly “globalized” networks today.

Los Angeles Review of Books

World Projects

Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

1. The World around 1900
2. The Unity of Diversity: Wilhelm Ostwald’s World Formations
3. World History of Technology: Dr. Franz Maria Feldhaus
4. Systems Economy: Walther Rathenau, Man of the World
5. As for the Rest: In Search of the World’s Remains

Notes
Bibliography
Index