Midterm Essay Topics

Choose an essay topic a that addresses ONE of the following. Submit your topic for approval by March 7. Essays are due by 9:30 am on March 21. If you miss the deadline, you should take the in-class exam at that time.

Make sure to read the Midterm Essay Guidelines

(a) We have discussed several cases of information ‘revolution’ and methods for assessing them.

EITHER choose an instance of technological or informational change that has been proclaimed revolutionary and show whether the claim is justified or not

OR choose an instance that has not been claimed revolutionary and argue for its importance in contrast to the standard claims, and suggest why it has been overlooked.

In either case, use the examples that we have discussed to support your argument

(b) ”Many, if not most, of the cultural phenomena of the modern world derive from [the 18th century] — the periodical, the newspaper, the novel, the journalist, the critic, the public library, the concert, the public museum. Perhaps most important of all, it was then that ‘public opinion’ came to be recognized as the ultimate arbiter in matters of taste and politics.”–Tim Blanning, The Culture of Power.

Choose ONE example, either from Blanning’s list or from other seventeenth- or eighteenth-century developments mentioned in the class, and argue how the cultural phenomena came about.  Consider key technologies, people, places and social institutions that might have been critical to the cultural phenomena. Finally, argue about the significance of the cultural phenomena you have chosen to the history of information: Does the story that you have outlined support a technologically deterministic history of information?

(c) Assume that Phaedrus came to Socrates not with a scroll but a printed book. Write the ensuing dialog as Socrates contemplates the effect of the printing press on society.