Markus Krajewski – World Projects: Global Information before World War I


University of Minnesota Press, ISBN-13: 978-0816695935, English, 328 pages, 2014, USA

When did “globalisation” truly start? Digging through history it would be easy to go back a few decades, as the internet was starting to become so pervasive. But exactly how far can we go back in time before we cannot anymore compare to current conditions? The pivotal moment is undoubtedly the beginning of the twentieth century with the new impetus of electricity inducing a sudden change in the speed of information distribution and transportation, leading to the perception of the world as a single space. In the first two decades this process moved forward until the first world war, with the implementation of visionary “systems” to culturally and structurally “unify.” Krajewski has thoroughly researched this topic, digging into archives (especially German language ones) and unfolding projects relevant to the understanding of contemporaneity. The restriction of space, in terms of the feeling of a whole world involved simultaneously, is described by the author as an ante-litteram “world wide web” with human “software” making it work on both intellectual and functional levels, governing the relationship between entities/nodes. Beyond naive and megalomaniac attitudes, the prefix “world”, so trendy during la belle époque, is used to define, among others, projects like Ostwald’s ambitious “world auxiliary language” and “world currency.” Suffering occasionally from the translation from German, the book may sometimes be intricate, but is nevertheless always informative and has true worth for researchers and media archeologists.