The role of Paul Otlet in information science.

Visualising Paul Otlet’s work and the events surrounding it on a timeline (DOCAM 2019 Poster)

Jean David (, Université Bordeaux Montaigne,

Henri Sergent (, CNRS

Olivier Le Deuff ( Université Bordeaux Montaigne ,

Arthur Perret ( Université Bordeaux Montaigne,

Bertrand Müller ( CNRS-Centre Maurice Halbwachs,

Clément Borel ( , Université Bordeaux Montaigne

 HyperOtlet is a transdisciplinary project (funded by the Agence Nationale de Recherche) about a major work in the history of information science: le Traité de documentation, published in 1934 by Paul Otlet (1868–1944).

Our poster for Docam2019 will display Otlet’s key biographical events and written works on a timeline within a larger scope of the history of documentary regimes (Muller 2011), historical context, technological progress of the document and his materiality, rediscovery of Otlet’s work (Boyd, 1994), the redocumentarisation of his legacy (Pédauque, 2007) and Digital humanities (Le Deuff, 2018).

One of the first objectives of the timeline was to be able to represent bibliographic data chronologically. We have produced under Zotero a bibliography of the works of Paul Otlet as well as a list of works on Paul Otlet.

For the timeline, we chose to represent only the works of Paul Otlet by resituating them in other contexts:

– the main events of the life of Paul otlet (biography)

– the main events of the associations created by Otlet with Lafontaine

– the historical context

– the scientific context

We decide to add events after the death of Paul Otlet to explain his legacy and the influence of his work and thought until today.

Our static display will provide a link to an interactive online data visualisation (shortened URL or QR) thus enabling more editorialisation (Vitali-Rosati, 2014) possibilities. It is based on timeline.js (Northwestern University Knight Lab)

In this augmented/enriched visualisation, we will provide links to other documents and media. Our timeline is to be reused on different web supports (HyperOtlet project’s blog, Social Media, future presentations) providing more user interaction beyond the classical conference poster materiality (finite and static).


Le Deuff, Olivier. May 2018. “HyperOtlet: entre héritage et design prospectif pour les humanités digitales”. May 13–15, 2015, 5th Hyperheritage International Symposium Heritage and experience design in the digital age. University of Constantine 3 | Constantine, Algeria.

Müller, Bertrand. 2011. De l’archive au document. Remarques sur l’évolution des régimes documentaires entre le XIXe et le XXIe siècle. Territoires contemporains, Centre Georges Chevrier (CGC), Université de Bourgogne,

Otlet, Paul. 1911. “L’avenir du livre et de la Bibliographíe”. Bruxelles; Paris; Zurich: Institut International de Bibliographie.

Otlet, Paul. 1934. “Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre : théorie et pratique”. Bruxelles: Editions Mundaneum-Palais Mondial.

Pédauque, Roger. T. 2007. “La redocumentarisation du monde”. Toulouse: Cépuadès-Editions.

Rayward, W. Boyd. 1994. “Some Schemes for Restructuring and Mobilising Information in Documents: A Historical Perspective.” Information Processing & Management 30: pages 163-75.

Salaün, Jean.-Michel. 2007. “La redocumentarisation, un défi pour les sciences de l’information”. Etude de communication, (30)

Vitali-Rosati, Marcello, 2014. “Qu’est-ce que l’éditorialisation ? Suite”. Culture numérique.

Keywords : Paul Otlet, timeline, visualisation of information, bibliography, zotero

PDF of the poster available: HyperOtletTimelinePosterDocam2019

The Architext of Biblion: Digital Echoes of Paul Otlet

Available on Arthur Perret’s website


Paul Otlet’s 1934 Traité de documentation is a landmark publication, but its considerable scope, complex structure and sheer volume make it a particularly challenging resource to use. This paper reports on an experiment in which visual methods and lexicometry are used to understand how the Traité is organized and what it is about. We describe the underlying logic of the experiment using the concepts of biblion and architext, then process the table of contents and full text of the book with several visualization methods, discussing their output. This allows us to confirm and expand on previous qualitative appraisal of the book, using quantitative methods. While primarily focused on the value of digital hermeneutics, the paper also touches on the heuristic potential of visualization when used as a methodology for data exploration.


Perret, Arthur (2018) “The Architext of Biblion: Digital Echoes of Paul Otlet,” Proceedings from the Document Academy: Vol. 5 : Iss. 2 , Article 6. 
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