World Projects. German Approaches of Standardizing Language, Currency and Thinking before WWI
(University of Basel)
Paper short abstract:
In my talk I will explore a selection of large-scale projects around 1900 that shared one goal: bringing order to the world by standardizing certain media as language (with an idiom like Esperanto, Ido, Volapük etc.), or even the basis of all thought with a globally standardized paper format.
Paper long abstract:
Before Google and globalization, big-thinking Germans tried to bring the world closer together: In my talk I will explore a neglected part in the history of globalization by examining a selection of large-scale projects that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, shared a grand yet unachievable goal: bringing order to the world. I will show how media, technological structures, and naked human ambition paved the way for global-scale ventures that created the first "world wide web." I will discuss the late nineteenth-century networks of cables, routes, and shipping lines—of junctions, crossovers, and transfers—merged into a "multimedia system" that was both, a prerequisite and an inspiration for conceiving a project with a global range. By example of the German chemist and natural philosopher Wilhelm Ostwald, who spent years promoting a "world auxiliary language" (in advocating for Ido, together with Louis Couturat), a world currency, and a globally standardized paper format (nowadays known as DIN A 4) as the basis of all thought, I will show how Internationalism was conceived as a result of certain media networks.
Closing the door on globalization: cultural nationalism and scientific internationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries