And then seeing who’s related to him, then getting to Gertrude Stein and then Dorothy Parker, and then Kurt Vonnegut. The fact that there’s a reading of Slaughterhouse Five on Spotify? It’s something that previously was ephemeral. You would have to go into a record store. You would probably never think to order Vonnegut reading Slaughterhouse Five. There’s enough Slaughterhouse Five in the world that you don’t need any more.
Yet at the same time, it pops up and you’re like, “What does his voice sound like reading that?” And you listen to 2 or 3 minutes, and that was kind of enough. I read that story in high school, and I know it. Then you’re like, “Well, what’s up with Dorothy Parker over here, and what did T.S. Eliot sound like?”
So those are all in the canon, and then we start to get further and further afield, and there’s one recording on there that I love. This is the stuff that’s catalogued and organized, right? This is the structured ephemera, but it’s still 30 million songs, or 30 million tracks. So you go in, and there’s a reading that they did at Town Hall against the Vietnam War, and Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer are both there. You just realize: that is a very revealing, weird document, and then because now we have Wikipedia, you can track back some of those connections. You can start to get this really arbitrary sense of the world, and of how things fit together, and it’s very different than a couple paragraphs in a history book, and it’s very different than reading the biography of Sontag. It’s more direct and experiential.
The way to close that out is, I sort of feel that as you’re creating archives of stuff, you should have a conscious sense of how you’re going to participate in that glut.
RD: To be a good citizen of the data that’s structured but still far too massive for anybody to meaningfully make sense of it at a glance.