Epistemology Of Lists

Adam Rothstein has a beautiful exploration of lists, stemming from his childhood love with library card catalogs.

The random idiosyncrasy that such an expansive list allows may have no more critical depth than scanning newspaper headlines, looking for secret messages. But this sort of list is precisely like the written content of the internet. The internet is a series of lists, connected by cross-referenced hyperlinks. Whether one is taking a stroll through Wikipedia, or reading the most compelling links from one’s social media timeline, one is browsing a series of lists. Particular line items expand into full essays, and long reads collapse back into tweets. From the most thoughtful syllabus to the most obnoxious listicle to the strangest permutations of weird twitter, we are browsing a vast meta-card catalog—a veritable list of lists. The nodes of the network jump into line, and we follow it until the tracks fade to scratch marks, which fade to natural erosion, dust swept by the twisting path of the wind. And then we pick up another trail, or we create one ourselves.

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