Z515 Spring 2015

Death of the document

“the page is dying as the predominant metaphor for organizing and presenting online information.” – Gene Smith

Morville’s perspecitve on the document 

Morville believes that the death of the document has been greatly exaggerated. He argues that the document will endure as a dominant form of information representation as long as we do, because it is not a product of technology, but a construct of the human mind. “Documents integrate content and structure making them the preeminent findable objects.”

“most content requires context and structure, and most authors write documents, not chunks.”

“what makes us think that XML will suddenly transform information into an amorphous gray goo that flows indiscriminately between containers and channels?”

Why I disagree

I think he’s wrong. I agree the document isn’t going away. I also agree that content requires context and authors write documents not chunks. But I think documents will cease to be the dominant way we consume information and it isn’t the ‘preeminent findable object’. I think he underestimates the ability of machines to combine information in new ways that is more relevant than the static document.

An example is IBM Watson application for lawyers called Ross. Most of what lawyers do is read documents. But a lot of times they don’t need to read the whole thing, just need to read the most relevant parts. Ross can read through tons of legal documents and pull out the relevant pieces and assemble them into a new format. This new way of presenting information arguably has better context and structure, because its specific for what you are looking for.

Ross “reads through the entire body of law and returns a cited answer and topical readings from case law, legislation and secondary sources to get you up-to-speed quickly.”


I think is example is representative of a much broader trend. The future is information that is pulled from many different sources and assembled into a dynamic piece of information. Its flexible, contextual, and personalized.

This entry was written by Eugene Mullen and published on March 26, 2015 at 7:09 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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