Note: Required readings not linked to in this page will be in the reader.
22 Jan: Introduction: Why “History of Information?”
24 Jan: The “Age of Information”
29 Jan: Technological Determinism
- McLuhan, Marshall. 1964. Understanding Media. New York: McGraw-Hill.
read “Preface to Third Printing” pp. v-x; & “Introduction,” & “The Medium is the Message” pp. 3-21.
- Williams, Raymond. 1974. Television and Cultural Form.New York: Schocken Books.
read Chapter 1, introduction and sections a & b, pp. 9-19; & Chapter 5, section c, pp. 126-128.
31 Jan: First Technologies: Writing
- 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.
- Drucker, Johanna, 1999, “The Alphabet,” in David Crowley, ed. Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society. Allyn & Bacon. Pp. 46-55.
5 Feb: Cultural Effects of Writing
- Havelock, Eric, “The Greek Legacy,” in David Crowley, ed. Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society. Allyn & Bacon. Pp. 55-62.
- Gough, Kathleen. 1968. Implications of literacy in traditional China and India. In Goody, Jack (ed.). Literacy in Traditional Societies.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 44-56.
- Scribner, Silvia and Michael Cole. 1988. “Unpackaging Literacy.” Social Science Information, 17, 1.
7 Feb: Manuscript Culture
- Plato. 1973 [c. 360 bce]. Phaedrus & the Seventh & Eighth Letters. W. Hamilton, trans. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
read “Prelude,” pp. 21-26; & “The Inferiority of the Written to the Spoken Word” & “Recapitulation and Conclusion” pp. 95-103.
- Trithemius, Johannes. 1974 . In Praise of Scribes. R. Behrendt, ed. Lawrence, KA: Coronado Press.
read Chapters I-III, V-VII, XIV.
Note: We are now going back to “primary texts,” texts that discuss the changes we are interested in as they happened. As you read these texts, one almost 2500 years old, the other more than 500 years old, ask yourself whether these have anything to tell us about information in the modern world. Be prepared to discuss your reactions in class. (The Trithemius is a “parallel text” with Latin facing English. Only those fluent in Latin need read the Latin pages.)
12 Feb: Print ‘Revolution’
- Knox, Vicesimus. 1817, Essays, Moral and Literary (seventeenth edition). London.
read “Introductory Remarks on the Art of Printing” pp. 76-81; “On the Circumstances which Led to the Discovery of the Art of Printing, with Miscellaneous Remarks on It” pp. 81-87; & “On the Moral, Political, and Religious Effects of Printing, with Concluding remarks” pp 87-96.
- “How Luther Went Viral”, Economist, 2011, Dec 17.
- Listen to Economist discussion at the same link.
14 Feb: Scientific ‘Revolution’
- Sprat, Thomas. 1667. pp 60-79 in The History of the Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge London.
Sprat divides his history into three parts. The first gives the background of the group which formed the Royal Society. The second describes what they did that earned them the title “Royal Society” (in 1662). And the third describes what they did between 1662 and the publication of Sprat’s book in 1667. You are asked to read from the second part, so
Start at page 60–page numbers are given in bold within square brackets, so scroll down until you see  then look for the paragraph that begins, “I come now to the Second Period of my Narration…” and read to p. 79, “The Royal Society will become Immortal.”
Note: The Royal Society was founded in England in 1660. It still exists today-2010 was 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, 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 go to Early English Books Online, you will be able to see the pages as they appeared in the original book.
- [Steele, Richard], 1712. “Essay against Quacks,” The Spectator 8 (572).
- For a recent appraisal of the Society see,
Powell, Michael. 2012. “A Redoubt of Learning Holds Firm” New York Times September 3.
- Zwerdling, Daniel & Margot Williams. 2013. “Is Sustainable-Labeled Seafood Really Sustainable?” National Public Radio, February 11.
19 Feb: Emergence of the Public Sphere
- [Addison, Joseph] (“Uses of the Spectator”), The Spectator, No. 10, Tuesday, March 13, 1710-11.
- [Steele, Richard.] The Spectator No. 49,, Thursday, April 26, 1711.
- [Addison, Joseph] (“The Political Upholsterer”), The Tatler, No. 155, Thursday, April 6, 1710
- Darnton, Robert. 2000. “An Early Information Society: News and the Media in Eighteenth-Century Paris.” American Historical Review 105.1.
21 Feb: Reference Books and the Organization of Knowledge
- McArthur, Tom. 1986. Worlds of Reference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ch. 13, “Reference and Revolution” and Ch. 14, “Thematic Lexicography,” pp. 128-138 in the reader.
- Book of plates from Diderot’s Encylopedie at archive.org. Slide hand icon at bottom to browse.
- For fun: Nunberg, Geoffrey. 2013. “Noted.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 7.
26 Feb: Rise of Literacy and Standard Language
- McArthur, Tom. 1986. Worlds of Reference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chs. 12, “The Legislative Urge” and 14, “Thematic Lexicography,” pp. 121-127 and 139-143 in the reader.
- Johnson, Samuel. 1755. “Preface” to the Dictionary.
- Johnson, Samuel. 1785 (1755). A Dictionary of the English Language. Slide hand icon at the bottom and page forward/back until you come to the definition of dictionary.)
28 Feb: Unnoticed Revolutions? Time and Money
- Thompson, E.P. 1967. “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism.” Past & Present 38 (Dec): 56-97.
- Fisher, George, acceptant. 1748. The American Instructor: or, Young Man’s Best Companion …. Philadelphia.
Read: the Title Page and “Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written By an Old One” (pp 375-377).
5 Mar: Communications “Revolution”
- George, Henry. 1869. “The Western Union Telegraph and the California Press”.
- Beauchamp, Christopher. 2010. “Who Invented the Telephone? Lawyers, patents and the judgments of history. Technology and Culture, 51(4 October).
- John, Richard. 2010. Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
- 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.
7 Mar: The Telegraph in China
Guest Lecture: Tom Mullaney, Stanford University
12 Mar: Literacy and the Nineteenth Century Public Sphere
- Graff, Harvey.1987. “Literacy Learning in the Nineteenth Century” from The Legacies of Literacy: Continuities and Contradictions in Western Culture and Society. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, pp.260-264.
- Baron, Dennis. 1994. “The Literacy Complex.” (Web version of 1994 article; if you find it difficult to read the font, try installing the plug-in at readability.com)
- Henkin, David. 2006. “Becoming Postal.” Ch. 1 of The Postal Age, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pp.15-41.
- Stone, Lawrence. 1969. “Literacy and Education in England 1640-1900.” Past & Present 42: 69-139 (necessary to read only to p. 102).
- Henkin, Ch.6 “Mass Mailings” Pp. 148-171.
14 Mar: Technologies of the Image
- Newhall, Beaumont. 1964. “Prints from Paper,” “Portraits for the Million,” and “The Faithful Witness,” pp. 32-57 in The History of Photography, From 1839 to the Present Day. New York: Museum of Modern Art.
- Fineman, Mia. 2012 “Introduction” pp. 3-43 of Faking it. Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
- M[arcus] A[urelius] Root. 1864. “Uses of the Heliographic Art,” Pp. 26-31 of The Camera and the Pencil. Lippincott, Philadelphia.
- Sontag, Susan. 1977. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus & and Giroux. Chapter 1, “In Plato’s Cave.” The photographs discussed in the chapter can be found here:
19 Mar: Politics and Propaganda
- Schudson, Michael. 2003. “Where News Came From: The History of Journalism,” Ch. 4 in The Sociology of News, Norton. Pp. 64-89.
- 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.
21 Mar: Midterm
Spring Break. No Class.
2 Apr: Information as Property
- Statute of Anne
- US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8.
- Copyright Act (1790)
- An Act Concerning Trade Marks and Names [CA 1863 155]
- from An Act to Revise, Consolidate, and Amend the Statutes Relating to Patents and Copyrights (1870), sections 77-84. [16 Stat 198 1848-1871]
- “The Trademark Cases” 100 US 82 (1879).
4 Apr: Broadcast
- 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.
9 Apr: Computer “Revolution”
- 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.
- Graham-Cumming, John. 2012 “The Greatest Machine Never Built,” TEDx (video). 29 April.
- Reinhold, Robert. 1982. “Study Says Technology Could Transform Society,” New York Times June 14.
- Babbage, Charles. 1832. “Registering Operations” and “On the Division of Mental Labour,” chapters 8 & 19 in On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures. [Google Books edition]
- Watch: Englebart, Douglas. 1968. “Doug Englebart 1968 Demo.” On MouseSite.
11 Apr: Visualizing Information
- Hagy, Jessica. (2010). Visualization: Indexed. In Steele & Iliinsky (Eds.), Beautiful Visualization: Looking at Data through the Eyes of Experts (pp. 353–367).
- Card, Mackinlay, & Shneiderman. (1999). Information Visualization. In Card, Mackinlay, & Shneiderman (Eds.), Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think (pp. 1–36).
16 Apr: Storage and Search
- Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, “Useful Void: The Art of Forgetting in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing,” KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP07-022. [download pdf from here]
- Bush, Vannevar. 1945. As We May Think, Atlantic Monthly; 176 (1): 101-108.
- NPR, Intelligence Squared Debate, 2008. Did Google Violate Its ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Motto?
- Nunberg, Geoffrey. 2010. “Google Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars.” Chronicle Review, August 31.
18 Apr: Advent of the Internet
- Berners-Lee, Tim. 2000. “info.cern.ch.” Chapters 1-3 in Weaving the Web. New York City: HarperCollins.
- Leiner, Barry M., Vinton G. Cerf, David D. Clark, Robert E. Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, Daniel C. Lynch, Jon Postel, Larry G. Roberts, Stephen Wolff, “A Brief History of the Internet,” The Internet Society.
23 Apr: Social Implications of the Internet (Part 1)
- Marshall, Alfred. 1920. “Industrial Organization, Continued. The Concentration of Industries in Particular Localities,” book IV chapter X (section iv.x.1-15), in Principles of Economics. London, Macmillan & Co.
- “The Revolution Begins at Last,” Economist,1995, Sept 30.
25 Apr: Big Data
Guest Lecture: Doug Cutting
- Halevy, Alon, Peter Norvig and Fernando Pereira. 2009. “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data.” IEEE Intelligent Systems, March-April. OR watch video of Norvig’s talk.
- Friedman, Uri. 2012. “Big Data: A Short History.” Foreign Policy, November.
- “The Petabyte Age: Because More Isn’t Just More — More Is Different,” Special number of Wired Magazine, June 23, 2008. See in particular Chris Anderson, “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete.”
Social Implications of the Internet (Part 2)
- boyd, danah. (Forthcoming). “White Flight in Networked Publics? How Race and Class Shaped American Teen Engagement with MySpace and Facebook.” In Digital Race Anthology (Eds. Lisa Nakamura and Peter Chow-White). Routledge.
- Smith, Zadie. “Generation Why,” (review of The Social Network andYou Are Not a Gadget, by Jason Lanier) The New York Review of Books, Nov. 25, 2010.
- Sunstein, Cass R. 2007. “The Polarization of Extremes.” The Chronicle Review, Dec. 14.
Social Implications of the Internet (Part 3), course wrap
- NOTE: Bring to class a large broadsheet newspaper (e.g., the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal)Required reading:
- Auletta, Ken. 2010. “Publish or Perish.” The New Yorker, April 26.