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The Web Without a Spider

For those who may have missed Ben Zimmer’s article in the NY Times magazine last week about the origins of the term “world wide web”, here’s a link.

Apparently some of the other options for naming the web were “mine of information” and “the information mine”.  The article also speaks of prior literary and scientific allusions to a “world wide web”, one of which raised concerns about a central “spider” monitoring all communications.  I kind of like the idea of the spiderless web we have today, although never thought about the strangeness of referring to a spiderweb without a spider.

1 thought on “The Web Without a Spider”

  1. Reminds me of one of my favorite articles:

    Krieger N. Epidemiology and the web of causation: has anyone seen the spider? Soc Sci Med, 1994, 39:887-903

    As one magazine, explained,
    “Drawing deeply on history and philosophy, the article in Social Science and Medicine dismantles the central tenet of modern epidemiology: the belief that population patterns of health and disease spring from a complex (and rather gauzy) “web” of risk and protective factors. Krieger suggests the web approach is both short-sighted and cowardly because it focuses on individuals and ignores how and why diseases vary and shift across populations and over time. It looks at lots of narrow mechanisms and not at the overarching forces that set those mechanisms into play.”

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