Intertwingularity is a term coined by Ted Nelson to express the complexity of interrelations in human knowledge.

Nelson wrote in Computer Lib/Dream Machines (Nelson 1974, p. DM45): "EVERYTHING IS DEEPLY INTERTWINGLED. In an important sense there are no "subjects" at all; there is only all knowledge, since the cross-connections among the myriad topics of this world simply cannot be divided up neatly."[1]

He added the following comment in the revised edition (Nelson 1987, p. DM31): "Hierarchical and sequential structures, especially popular since Gutenberg, are usually forced and artificial. Intertwingularity is not generally acknowledged—people keep pretending they can make things hierarchical, categorizable and sequential when they can't."[2]

Intertwingularity is related to Nelson's coined term hypertext, partially inspired by "As We May Think" (1945) by Vannevar Bush.[3]


Peter Morville, an influential figure in information architecture, discusses intertwingularity in some of his books. In Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become (2005), Morville uses the concept of intertwingularity to describe the experience of using hypertext on the web and starting to use computers embedded in everyday objects, known as ubiquitous computing.[4] In 2014, he published a book called Intertwingled: Information Changes Everything about the intertwingularity of the universe, crediting Nelson with the word.[5]

David Weinberger wrote about intertwingularity in Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder in 2008, explaining that providing unique identifiers for items helps enable intertwingularity.[6]

The concept of intertwingularity was celebrated at the "Intertwingled: The Work and Influence of Ted Nelson" conference on April 14, 2014 at Chapman University.[7][8] The organizers published a book called Intertwingled: The Work and Influence of Ted Nelson in 2015, with articles about Nelson's work and legacy.[9] One of the organizers of the conference and editors of the book, Douglas Dechow, said, "In the 1960s, he saw a world of networked, interlinked – intertwingled, if you will – documents where all of the world’s knowledge is able to interact and intermingle[...] He was the first, or among the first, people to have that idea."[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Nelson, Theodor (1974), Computer Lib: You can and must understand computers now/Dream Machines: New freedoms through computer screens—a minority report (1st ed.), South Bend, IN: the distributors, ISBN 0-89347-002-3
  2. ^ Nelson, Theodor (1987), Computer Lib/Dream Machines (Rev. ed.), Redmond, WA: Tempus Books of Microsoft Press, ISBN 0-914845-49-7
  3. ^ F., G. (June 17, 2014). "A Kubla Khan-do attitude". The Economist. Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  4. ^ Morville, Peter (2005-09-26). Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become. "O'Reilly Media, Inc.". pp. 64–65. ISBN 9780596553012.
  5. ^ Morville, Peter. "Intertwingled". Intertwingled. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
  6. ^ Weinberger, David (2008-04-29). Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. Macmillan. pp. 125–128. ISBN 9780805088113. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  7. ^ Dechow, Douglas (2014-04-18). "Intertwingled: The Work and Influence of Ted Nelson". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
  8. ^ "Intertwingled: The Work and Influence of Ted Nelson". Chapman University. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
  9. ^ Intertwingled - The Work and Influence of Ted Nelson. Springer. Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  10. ^ Hamilton, Ian (April 25, 2014). "'Intertwingled' at Chapman muses on how Web could have been". The Orange County Register. Retrieved August 15, 2015.

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