Syllabus

Week 1

19 Jan: Introduction: Why “History of Information”?

Geoff’s Slides
Paul’s Slides

21 Jan: Talking about information
Paul’s Slides

Week 2

26 Jan: Technological Determinism
Paul’s Slides

Required reading:

  • Hughes, Thomas P. 1993. “War and Acquired Characteristics.” pp 285-323 in Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930.  Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Heilbroner, Robert L. 1994. “Do Machines Make History?”, Technology and Culture 8(3):335-345.

Additional material:

28 Jan: The First Technologies of Information: Writing Systems

Geoff’s slides

Required reading:

  • Marshack, Alexander. 1999. “The Art and Symbols of Ice-Age Man,” in David Crowley, ed. Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society. Allyn & Bacon. Pp. 5-14
  • Robinson, Andrew. 1999. “The Origins of Writing.” In David Crowley, ed. Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society. Allyn & Bacon. pp 36-42

Week 3
2 Feb: Cultural Effects of Writing

Geoff’s slides

Required reading:

Additional material:

4 Feb: Manuscript Culture
Paul’s Slides

Required reading:

  • Plato. 1973/360 bce. Phaedrus & the Seventh & Eighth Letters. W. Hamilton, trans. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
    Read:
    “Prelude,” pp 21-26, and then
    “The inferiority of the written to the spoken word” & “Recapitulation and conclusion,” pp. 95-103.
  • Trithemius, Johannes. 1974/1492. In Praise of Scribes. R. Behrendt, ed. Lawrence, KA: Coronado Press.
    Read:
    Chapters I-III, V-VII, XIV.

Week 4
9 Feb: Print culture

Paul’s Slides

Required reading:

  • Eisenstein, Elizabeth. 1983. “Some Features of Print Culture,” pp 42-91 in Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Optional reading:

  • McLuhan, Marshall.  1962. “The Galaxy Reconfigured or the Plight of Mass Man in an Individualist Society,” pp 265-279 in The Gutenberg Galaxy: the making of typographic man. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto press.

Additional material:

  • Watch: Fry, Stephen. Stephen Fry and the Gutenberg Press from the series “The Medieval Season: take a trip inside the medieval mind” on BBC4. (There are 6 parts which will take about 60 minutes total to watch.)

11 Feb: Emergence of the public sphere
Geoff’s slides

Required reading:

Week 5

16 Feb: Scientific information
Paul’s Slides

Required reading:

  • Sprat, Thomas. 1667. pp 60-79 in The History of the Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge London.  Read from: from p. 60 “I come now to the Second Period of my Narration…” to p. 79, “The Royal Society will become Immortal.”
  • Note: The Royal Society was founded in England in 1660. It still exists today — this year is its 350th anniversary— and claims to be the world’s oldest scientific society. Thomas Sprat (1635-1713), the author of the work you have to read, was a student of one of the founders. He joined the Society in 1663 and was asked to write the Society’s history. In this book, then, we have a contemporary, insider’s account of the founding of a very influential society, one that people argue was at the center of the “scientific revolution.” Because it was written in the seventeenth century, however, the text is a challenge. But it is manageable and even rewarding with patience. Take it slowly–the section you have to read, pages 60-79, is not very long. If you keep going, what is at first confusing may become clear (or irrelevant). Mark up passages that don’t make sense (as well as those that interest you) to discuss in class, but keep on reading. As you read, ask yourself how much this does or does not resemble what we think of as modern science.

    If you click on the links in the text, you will be able to see each page as it appeared in the original book. (And if you just want the plain text of the section you have to read without distractions, you can download it here.)

Additional material:

18 Feb: Reference books and the organization of knowledge

Geoff’s slides

Required reading:

  • McArthur, Tom. 1986. Ch 12-15, pp. 91-133 in Worlds of Reference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Week 6

23 Feb: Information and Intelligence (Alejandra Dubcovsky, guest lecturer)
Paul’s Slides
Alejandra’s Slides

Required reading:

Additional material:

25 Feb: The postal system (David Henkin, guest lecturer)

Required reading:

  • Henkin, David. 2007. Becoming Postal, pp 15-41 in The Postal Age: The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-Century America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Week 7

2 Mar: Narrowcast: telegraph & telephone

Paul’s Slides

Required reading:

  • “Electro-Magnetic Telegraphs,” H. Rpt 753 (to Accompany Bill H.R. 713)  25th Congress, 2nd Session, April 6, 1838
  • Alexander Graham Bell, “To the Capitalists of the Bell Telephone Company,” Kensington (UK), March 25, 1978
  • Samuel Colt & William Robinson, “To the Public,” New York, May 20, 1846
  • Note:These three documents are available in bspace resources. Two are copies made from 19th century originals and consequently are not completely legible. Do your best to read them–and find out what it feels like to be a historian.

Additional material:

  • Friedlander, Amy.  1995.  ‘Telegraphy: The Precursor to Telephony, 1837-1873’ pp 10-21 in Amy Friedlander, Natural Monopoly and Universal Service: Telephones and Telegraphs in the U.S. Communications Infrastructure, 1837-1940. Washington, D.C. CNRI.
  • Fischer, Claude S. 1992. Chapter 2 “The Telephone in America.” The Social History of the Telephone to 1940. University of California Press. Berkeley.  pp 33-59

4 Mar: Literacy and the 19th century public sphere

Geoff’s slides

Required reading:

  • Schudson, Michael. 2003. “Where News Came From: The History of Journalism,” Ch. 4 in The Sociology of News, Norton. Pp. 64-89.

Additional material:

  • Mindich, David. 1998. “Nonpartisanship,” pp. 40-63 in Just the Facts: How “Objectivity” Came to Define American Journalism. New York: NYU Press.
  • Stone, Lawrence. 1969. “Literacy and Education in England 1640-1900.” Past and Present 42: 69-139 (necessary to read only to p. 102).

Week 8

9 Mar: Photography: technologies of the image

Geoff’s slides

Required reading:

  • Newhall, Beaumont. 1964. “Prints from Paper,” “Portraits for the Million,” and “The Faithful Witness,”  pp. 31-58, 67-82 in The History of Photography, From 1839 to the Present Day. New York: Museum of Modern Art.

11 Mar: Advertising
Paul’s Slides

Required reading:

  • McKendrick, Neil. 1982. “Josiah Wedgwood and the Commercialization of the Potteries,” pp. 100-145 in McKendrick et al. Birth of a Consumer Society. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
  • Klein, Naomi. 2000. part 1 from No Logo

Week 9

16 Mar: Information as property
Paul’s Slides

Required reading:

  • “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned.” Available here
  • U.S. Constitution Article 1. Section 8, Clause 8.

Additional material:

18 Mar: MIDTERM

Week 10 – No class

Week 11

30 Mar: Politics and propaganda

Geoff’s slides

Required reading:

  • Marlin, Randall, 2002. “History of Propaganda,” pp. 62-94 in Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion, Toronto: Broadview Press.
  • Watch the first 10-minute segment of “Divide and Conquer,” one of the “Why We Fight” films that Frank Capra made for the Office of War Information in WWII. (If you want more, there are the other segments on this page.) Watch this brief video on the background of these films.
  • Watch the first 7-10 minutes of Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will,” and browse the rest to get the flavor of the rallies — it’s pretty repetitive.

1 Apr: Broadcast

Geoff’s slides

Required reading:

  • Czitrom, Daniel J. 1982. “The Ethereal Hearth: American Radio from Wireless through Broadcasting, 1892-1940.” in Media and the American Mind. University of North Carolina Press. Pp. 60-88.

Additional material:

  • Gitlin, Todd. 2001. “Supersaturation, Or, The Media Torrent And Disposable Feeling,” Ch. 1 of Media Unlimited, Metropolitan Books. Pp. 12-70.

Week 12

6 Apr: Advent of the computer
Paul’s Slides

Required reading:

  • Campbell-Kelly, Martin & William Aspray.  1996. “‘Babbage’s Dream Comes True,”  (pp. 53-104) in Martin Campbell-Kelly & William Aspray, Computer: A History of the Information Machine.  New York: Basic Books.
  • Menabrea, L.F. 1842. Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage, trans. Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace.
    [read the final paragraph before the “Notes by the translator. It begins “Now, admitting that such an engine …” and ends “… such an undertaking.”]

Additional material:

8 Apr: Information and disasters (Megan Finn, guest lecture)

Required reading:

  • Fradkin, Philip L. 2005. “The Culture of Disasters” pp 263-288 in The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906. University of California Press: Berkeley.

Additional material:

  • Klinenberg, Eric. 1997. Introduction and Chapter 1. pp 1-36 in Fighting for Air.Metropolitan Books: New York.

Week 13

13 Apr: Advent of the internet
Paul’s Slides

Required reading:

  • Berners-Lee, Tim. 2000. Chapters 1-3, pp. 1-34 in Weaving the Web. New York City: HarperCollins.

15 Apr: Storage and search
Paul’s Slides

Required reading:

  • Battelle, John. 2005. Epilogue, pp 281-4 in John Battelle, Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed our Culture. New York: Portfolio/Penguin.
  • Bush, Vannevar. 1945. As We May Think , Atlantic Monthly; 176 (1): 101-108

Additional material:

Week 14

20 Apr: Books, newspapers & the future of publications

Geoff’s slides

22 Apr: Social implications of the internet I
Paul’s slides

Required reading:

Additional material:

Week 15

27 Apr: Social implications of the internet II

Geoff’s slides

Required reading:

Additional material:

29 Apr: Valedictory

Geoff’s Slides

FINAL EXAM: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 11:30-2:30


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