Class Schedule and Readings

For each day on the schedule, there are one or two required readings, videos, or other material. We expect you to come to class having thoroughly read or watched each of these and are prepared for discussion and an in-class quiz (see the course grading structure). For each day, we have also included a list of optional material. These provide supporting material in the form of both primary and secondary sources. We encourage you to skim through them if you find a topic particularly exciting!

Getting to the Readings

The upcoming class

Week 1 – July 6 to July 10

Monday, July 6 – Introduction – What is a history of information? What are the elements of the “information age”? And what do we mean by technological determinism?

Lecturer: Megan Finn and Dan Perkel

PDF Megan’s slides

Today we introduce the class and some key concepts that we will be returning to through out the course. Using the recent election in Iran as a starting point for discussion, we ask the questions: “What are the elements of the ‘Information Age’ “? What is meant by the “Twitter Revolution” and what does this label reveal and hide? Then we explore these questions in relation to the concept of technological determinism, the idea that (a) technology operates autonomously from society in some inevitable and progressive direction, and (b) that technology has measurable impacts and effects on society.

We will also walk through the syllabus, the course structure, the grading system, and tie up loose ends.


**Note: We do not expect you to have read in advance of this first class. However, unlike the rest of the “optional material” below, we do expect that when it’s time to present final group projects and write final papers, you will know the main arguments advanced in each of these two readings along with key terms and concepts. This is a great opportunity for you to learn to scan with purpose rather than try to read everything word for word (unless, of course, you want to!).

  • Heilbroner, Robert L. 1994. “Do Machines Make History?”, pp. 53-65 in Merrit Roe Smith & Leo Marx eds., Does Technology Drive History? Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
  • Bijker, Wiebe. 1995. “King of the Road: The Social Construction of the Safety Bicycle,” pp. 19 – 100 in Wiebe Bijker, Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs: Towards a Theory of Sociotechnical Change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wednesday, July 8 – Early technologies of information – Writing systems and the consequences of literacy

Lecture: Dan Perkel

Dan’s slides (including several near the end that we didn’t cover in class)

Required material:

  • Goody, Jack, and Ian Watt. 1963. The Consequences of Literacy. Comparative Studies in Society and History 5(3), 304-345.
  • Gough, Kathleen. 1968. Implications of literacy in traditional China and India. In Goody, Jack (ed.). Literacy in Traditional Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 69-84.

Goody and Watt’s essay is a classic in the study of literacy. It sparked considerable debate soon after it was first published in 1963, yet it has been enormously influential over the past four decades. Optionally, it is long and dense and will take some time to get through. We recommend not trying to read it all in one sitting and give yourself several hours. Kathleen Gough’s essay is among the first critiques of Goody and Watt’s argument about the consequences of literacy. She compares literacy in India and China to the sketch of Classical Greece, and just as importantly, to each other.

Questions for consideration: As you are reading Goody and Watt, ask yourself the following questions: Are Goody and Watt making a technologically determinist argument? If so, in what ways? If not, how would you argue against that claim? You’ll be expected to be able to write a short statement in class that argues one side or another, while being sensitive to the counter arguments. One way of trying to get at this question is by also asking yourself, how are Good and Watt defining “literacy”? And what does this term have to do with the alphabet? Remember, we are not asking you here whether or not you agree with Goody and Watt. Rather, we are asking you to understand their argument.

Optional material

  • Havelock, Eric. The Coming of Literate Communication to Western Culture. In Kintgen, Eugene R., Barry M. Kroll, Mike Rose (Eds.). Perspectives on Literacy. Southern Illinois University, 1988. Pp. 127-134.
  • Scribner, Silvia and Michael Cole. 1978. Unpackaging Literacy. Social Science Information, 17(1), 19-40.
  • Marshack, Alexander. 2006. The Art and Symbols of Ice-Age Man. In David Crowley (ed). Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society. Allyn & Bacon, 5-14.
  • Robinson, Andrew. 2006. The Origins of Writing. In Crowley, David (ed.). Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society. Allyn & Bacon, 36-42.

Friday, July 10 – Technologies of the manuscript and the book

Lecture: Megan Finn

Megan’s slides

Required material:

  • 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.
  • 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.)

Elizabeth Eisenstein’s provocative 1979 book Agent of Change is widely considered one of the most important books on the implications of printing and print culture.  Eisenstein looks at the “communications revolution” in the late 15th century as the printing press spread across Europe, and specifically, “how did this affect other historical developments?” (Eisenstein, p42).  According to Eisenstein, the “features of print culture” had a number of different attributes in Europe including the standardization of texts (p51), a reorganization in the thinking of readers (p64), and notions of diversity and individuality (p59).  Perhaps even more ambitiously, “Eisenstein argued, in sharp detail, that the printing press… had.. given rise to the transformations traditionally known as the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution.” [1]  We will consider Eisenstein’s claims about printing culture and the printing press in light of: (a) printing practices and technologies in non-European settings; (b) European manuscript practices in existence at the time Gutenberg “invented” the printing press; (c) debates between Eisenstein and another historian, Adrian Johns.

[1] Grafton, Anthony. AHR Forum: How Revolutionary Was the Print Revolution?. The American Historical Review 107.1 (2002)

Questions for consideration: What are the “features of print culture” which Eisenstein believes led to Reformation, Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution?  Historians believe that China had printing in the 8th century, and typography by the 11th century.  In light of this, should we reconsider Eisenstein’s arguments? Why or why not?

Optional material:

  • Watch: Burke, James. 1985. “The Day the Universe Changed” Episode 4: A Matter of Fact: Printing Transforms Knowledge . BBC (there are 5 parts which take about 45 minutes total to watch.)
  • Trithemius, Johannes. 1974/1492. In Praise of Scribes. R. Behrendt, ed. Lawrence, KA: Coronado Press. chapters I-III, V-VII, XIV.
  • Plato. 1973. Phaedrus & the Seventh & Eighth Letters. W. Hamilton, trans. Harmondsworth: Penguin. pp 21-26, “Prelude” pp. 95-103, “The inferiority of the written to the spoken word”, & “Recapitulation and conclusion”. (A different translation is available online here.)

Week 2 – July 13 – July 17

Monday, July 13 – Emergence of the public in Western Europe

Lecture: Megan Finn

PDF Megan’s slides

Today we will also be going to the Bancroft Library to visit their 19th Century printing press.

Today we examine the rise of “the public,” a special domain independent of state and private life.  In the 17th century, new forms of socialization emerged which supported the rise of “the public.”  The coffeehouse was the locus where a new class of “gentlemen” is identified.  These “gentlemen” meet independently of the court, and form their own opinions about the state, attempting to embody values of “impersonality and objectivity” (Hume). The new role of “the public” both replaces and complements the authority of the state.  Cowan’s chapters on Coffeehouses and Penny Universities provide a rich descriptions of these critical institutions.

Questions for consideration: What is the significance of the virtuosi?  Why were the virtuosi in coffeehouses?  Why was “the news” important to a notion of “the public”?  How did coffeehouses and penny universities support the rise of “the public”?

Required material:

  • Cowan, Brian. 2005. Inventing the Coffee House and Penny Universities, pp. 79- 112 in The Social Life of Coffee: The Emergence of the British Coffeehouse. New Haven. Yale University Press.

Optional material

Wednesday, July 15 – Information as property

Lecture: Dan Perkel

PDF Dan’s slides

On the heels of back-to-back lectures on the development of printing, the rise of “print culture,” and the emergence of the public, today we turn to a topic that we might think of as a clash of competition between competing claims about knowledge and competing institutions and groups of people engaged in the expanding sphere of commercial activity: the notion of intellectual property.

It is sometimes said that there are three primary branches of present-day intellectual property law: patents that govern the use of inventions, trademarks that control the use of brands and corporate identities, and copyrights that regulate the distribution and sale of the expression of ideas–whether expressed in the form of text, engravings, drawings, photographs, music, video, and even software code. In today’s class, the emphasis will be on the history of copyright law and its origins, paying particular attention to the evolution (or revolution?) in English law in the 18th century with some discussion of the origins of the so-called “intellectual property clause” in the United States Constitution near the end of that century.

Required material:

There are three key readings for the day all related to the history of copyright. The first is a secondary account, while the latter two are the first pieces of primary material that we have assigned in the class.

The first is Carla Hesse’s sweeping history, in which she argues that copyright as “an idea in the balance.” Hesse’s account moves us quickly through both time and space. She takes us back in time all the to Greece in 700 BCE, a period of time which we have looked at before in our discussions of writing and the alphabet. She also provides us with a partially global perspective with discussions of traditions in China, in Islamic societies, and in different Judeo-Christian philosophies, as she builds up to a set of critical changes to early modern Europe (some of which we have seen in past lectures) that set some of the foundations for the early regulation of printing and books, which we now refer to as “copy rights.”

One of these critical pieces of legislation was “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” (a.k.a The Statute of Anne, 1710), which is the second reading of the day. Many call the Statute of Anne the first copyright law in history, though at least a few take exception to that claim [e.g. 1]. The reading is short (less than six pages), but challenging. Luckily for us, we have a transcribed version online, which reduces though hardly eliminates, the challenge of reading 1700s English legal prose. We encourage you to make use of UC Berkeley’s subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary. If you have never used it, now is a good time to start (you’ll need to set up the proxy server, as you do for other readings, to access from off-campus).

The final reading of the day is considerably shorter and is even easier to read. Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution outlines the legislative branch of the U.S. Government, the Congress.  Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution outlines 18 powers granted to Congress, and one of those 18 clauses is what is sometimes now referred to as the “Intellectual Property Clause.”

Questions for consideration: According to Hesse, what were some of the political, economic, social, and cultural factors that paved the way for the 18th century debates over copyright? What key institutions were involved in these debates, and what groups of people all claimed some stake in the law? How, then, are these concerns addressed in the 1710 Statute of Anne? What specific provisions does it make? Jumping ahead almost 80 years to the United States Constitution, which clause is the so-called IP clause? What does it mandate Congress to do? And in contrast to the other 17 clauses, what is particularly unusual about this one just in the language? Finally, what “idea” is “in the balance” in Hesse’s argument and how do we see this balance represented in the IP Clause?

[1] Vaidhyanathan, Siva. 2001. Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Optional material:

Friday, July 17 – Reference Books and the Organization of Knowledge

Guest lecture – Geoff Nunberg, School of Information

PDF Geoff Nunberg’s slides from History of Information, Spring 2009 – Feb 19, 2009. These are similar, if not identical, to what he presented in class.

Professor Nunberg will provide an overview of the development of some early Western European references works, and some of the key characters involved.

The quiz for this class will be pretty straightforward.  We will ask you to identify (including year) and write one sentence about the significance of the following lexicographers/encyclopedists, reference works, or institutions:

  • Encyclopedia Britannica,
  • Academie Francaise,
  • Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge,
  • Samuel Johnson,
  • Noah Webster,
  • Denis Diderot,
  • Francis Bacon,
  • Oxford English Dictionary,
  • the Brothers Grimm, and
  • Peter Mark Roget.

Required material:

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

Week 3 – July 20-24

Monday, July 20 – The newspaper

Lecture: Megan Finn

PDF Megan’s slides

We will attempt look at the history of the newspaper in light of the rumored “Death of the Newspaper.”  The class will provide an overview of non-print news networks through the development of the earliest newsbooks and newspapers.  We will look at the American paper’s British roots, the focus of the class will be on American, and particularly, the California context.  We will address issues raised in the readings including Shudson’s account of the professionalization of journalism, and variations in notions of 19th century antebellum nonpartisanship explained by Midnich.  We will consider the different technical, political, and economic forces that have shaped the news business.

Question for consideration: Habermas and others have argued that newspapers became increasingly commercialized in parallel with the professionalization of journalism (Shudson, 71).  Do objectivity (OR nonpartisanship) support this shift?

Required material:

  • Schudson, Michael. 2003. “Where News Came From: The History of Journalism,” Ch. 4 in The Sociology of News, Norton. Pp. 64-89.
  • Mindich, David. 1998. “Nonpartisanship,” pp. 40-63 in Just the Facts: How “Objectivity” Came to Define American Journalism. New York: NYU Press.

Optional material:

Wednesday, July 22: Visual Information – The uses of the image (+ text)

Lecture: Dan Perkel
PDF Dan’s slides (part one)
PDF Dan’s slides (part two)

In today’s class, we are going to explore the theme of visual information, by talking about the production, circulation, and use of images (and often images used alongside text). Our main reading for the day comes from Drucker and McVarish’s newly published textbook on the history of graphic design. Throughout the book, and especially in today’s readings, Drucker and McVarish try to tell a story that balances many changes that are occuring around the same period of time including changes in/to: the technologies of media production; the forms of media being produced; social and cultural life; and business, professions, and economics.

In these two chapters that race us through the 19th Century, a period of industrialization in Europe and the United States, Drucker and McVarish introduce us to a number of different inventions and innovations in how printed images are created and duplicated in order to support the rise of mass media. These include new forms of engraiving, photograpy, and lithography, among others. These coincide with the rise of other inventions in what is now commonly known as the first and second industrial revolutions. Continuing the topic brought up in last Monday’s class, newspapers and journalism feature prominently in this history, as does the rise of mass advertising, a topic to be explored in more detail on Friday.

Finally, one theme that Drucker and McVarish subtly repeat is the tension between the rise of consumer demand due to setting particular expectations, the slow emergence of new innovations, and the use of particular media in order to meet those demands that sometimes pit old technologies against new ones, and at other times lead to forms of co-existence.

As you read through the material, don’t forget to take a look at the images, figures, and captions that Drucker and McVarish use to illustrate their points. They form an essential part of their argument and help drive home the importance of the long-standing uses of image and text side-by-side. Make use of the timelines that end each chapter to review key terms. And, take advantage of the glossary that we have given you (from their book as well) that defines the terms in bold. You will find it after the notes on the sources.

Questions for consideration: In class you will be asked to try to relate sets of changes to each other as a way of better understanding the historical material Drucker and McVarish present. Pay particular attention to the following and their significance: illustrated papers, the steam press, lithography, photography, “graphic art” and “commericial art”, the Linotype and Monotype machines, Halftone coloring, graphic journalism, advertising. You will not be expected to memorize these terms and their signifcance, but you should be familiar with all of them and be ready to go into some depth (with the help of the reading) on a few of them. As you explore the significance of these terms, ask yourself repeatedly: According to Drucker and McVarish, what is the relationship between these terms, what they follow historically, what they precede historically, what they stand in opposition to, and how they related to wider social, cultura, economic, and institutional changes.

Required material:

  • Drucker, Johanna and Emily McVarish. 2009. The Graphic Effects of Industrial Production: 1800-1850, and Mass Mediation: 1850-1900s. In Drucker, J and McVarish (Eds.) Graphic Design History – A Critical Guide. New Jersey: Pearson, 118-139.

Optional material/viewings:

  • Newhall, Beaumont. 1964. “Prints from Paper,” “Portraits for the Million,” “The Faithful Witness,” and “The Conquest of Action,” pp. 32-57 in The History of Photography, From 1839 to the Present Day. New York: Museum of Modern Art.
  • Sabin, Roger. 1996. Pioneers. Comic, Comix & Graphic Novels. London, UK: Phaidon Press Limited, 10-25.
  • Heer, Jeff. 2009. A Brief History of Data Visualization. Presentation to the Seminar on People, Computers, and Design. Stanford University, Stanford, CA. March 6, 2009. (Note: Click where it says “…using this video link” to watch the video. In the context of our class, the first thirty minutes is the relevant material, though all of it is interesting!)
  • Holston, Kenneth R,, (curator). 1996. The Illustrated Book, 1780-1830: selected from the collection of Harris N. Hollin. Department of Special Collections of the University of Pennsylvania Library.

Friday, July 24 – Advertising

Guest lecture: Paul Duguid, School of Information

Paul’s slides

In this class, we will look at (i) ways advertising is influenced by  technology, and ways advertising shapes the diffusion of technology (for example, advertising importantly took advantage of early printing techniques); (ii) the tumultuous relationship between advertising and the public sphere; and (iii) arguments and counter-arguments about whether advertising is informing or deceiving people, meeting desires or manufacturing them.

The public sphere is considered to be enormously significant in the development of democracy.  How is advertising is implicated in this development?  The newspaper business is dependent on advertising.  People argue that advertising pulling out of newspapers is contributing to the so-called demise of the newspaper which affects the public sphere.  So we are left with a compelling question: how much does advertising support the infrastructure for the public sphere?  Economist’s classic stance is that advertising informs people, satisfy their needs, and links producers and consumers.  The counter argument is that advertisers don’t give the whole truth – we have to look elsewhere for the rest of the information.  Not only do advertisers not give the whole truth, they are actually trying to create needs.

HOMEWORK (paper copy due at the beginning of class): Does advertising belong in a history of information course?  Use evidence from the article on Josiah Wedgwood and the chapter by Naomi Klein to respond to this question in 200-words.

Required material:

  • 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.
  • Joshi, Pradnya.  July 12, 2009.  “Approval by Blogger May Please a Sponsor.” New York Times.
  • Klein, Naomi. 2000. Part 1 from No Logo. New York: HarperCollins.

Week 4 – July 27-31

Monday, July 27 – Cases in Point-to-point: The postal service, telegraph and telephone

Lecture: Megan Finn

PDF Megan’s slides

(See PDF Dan’s slides (part two) for continuation of imagery lecture)

The telegraph, postal system, and telephone represent three different early information systems.  We will examine the development of these systems and their influence on 19th and 20th century America.  In particular, we will look at how private and public institutions shaped the deployment and early uses of the telegraph, telephone and postal system.  We will pay careful attention to the affordances of each information system, early conceptions of the systems as “point to point” or “broadcast” technologies, and how communication pricing shaped the ways in which the systems were used.

Questions for consideration: How did institutions shape the deployment and use of the telephone and postal system?  Bonus: Look at the telegraph as well.

Required material:

  • 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
  • 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.

Optional reading:

  • Friedlander, Amy. 1995. ‘Telegraphy: The Precursor to Telephony, 1837-1873’ and ‘The Period of Patent Monopoly, 1873-1894’, pp 10-38 in Amy Friedlander, Natural Monopoly and Universal Service: Telephones and Telegraphs in the U.S. Communications Infrastructure, 1837-1940. Washington, D.C. CNRI

Wednesday, July 29: Broadcast media in the home: Television and Radio

Guest Lecture: Abigail De Kosnik, Berkeley Center for New Media and Dept. of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

Video clips played in class:

PDF Dan’s slides on radio

Audio clips played in class:

“Routine events such as television,” writes Lynn Spigal (the author of today’s required material), “are part of the often invisible history of everyday life, a history that was not recorded by the people who lived it at the time” (2). In today’s class we focus on the medium of television, paying particular attention to an institution and set of social practices that we have not had the time to explore in detail in this history of information: the family and the activities of labor and leisure that took place in the home. Primarily using evidence from popular magazines of the day, as well as supporting material from television programs and corporate archival records, Spigal examines the period from 1948-1955 in the United States. While visions of television and innovations along the way were being worked on for decades before, it was during this time that the number of households that had a TV grew from 0.2% (in 1946, actually) to 65% in 1955 resulting in it becoming a “dominant mass medium” (2).

Rather than focusing on the role of corporations and the government, business decisions and policy-making, Spigal emphasizes the diverse ways in which anxieties about television framed how this now commonplace artifact found its way into American homes and how practices around the use of television were shaped by prior expectations of the gender relations, the use of space, and the use of time in and out of the home.

In the first chapter we have assigned, Spigal sets the stage by describing the Victorian home in the late 19th Century and the “doctrine of two spheres,” an idealized (and often misleading) way of describing a public and private split in labor and recreation. In this chapter, she also sets  the stage for the her social history of television by providing us with a short history of radio that is a critical precursor to television.

Following a chapter on the “moral panics” that circulated with the mainstream adoption of television (we did not assign you this chapter, though you might find it fascinating given your experiences with the internet), the second chapter we assigned focuses on two aspects of television use in the home during this period: first, how the television industry imagined its female audience and constructed an “ideal viewer”; and second, how other forms of popular media show the conflicts within this representation of the female housewife, with an particular emphasis on gender and spatial divisions in the home.

Questions for consideration.

How did radio’s transformation from its three early uses into a “domestic machine” (described in Chapter 1) pave the way for the aspects of television adoption Spigal describes in Chapter 3, both from the perspective of industry and the perspective?

In the third chapter, Spigal describes a number of “contradictions” (or paradoxes) in how the female viewer was idealized and how women’s roles in the home were depicted in relation to the television. What are some of these contradictions? How are they represented? What effects might they have had on the adoption of television in the decades that followed?

Finally, while we won’t ask you to speculate on this topic in a quiz, we’d like for you to think how the histories of other systems of information (some that we have discussed, other that we will in the future) might look if they focused on similar material and concerns as Spigal’s account of the television?

Required material:

  • Spigal, Lynn. 1992. “[Chapter One] Domestic Ideals and Family Amusements: From the Victorians to the Broadcast Age.” pp.18-35 and “[Chapter Three] Women’s Work” pp.73-98 in Make Room for TV. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Optional material:

  • Boddy, William. 2007 [1995]. “Television Begins.” In Crowley, David and Heyer, Paul (Eds). Communication in History, Technology, Culture, Society. New York: Pearson. 244-253.
  • 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.
  • de Sola Pool, Ithiel. 1983. “Broadcasting and The First Amendment” pp 108-150, “Cable Television and the End of Scarcity” pp151-188. In Technologies of Freedom: On free speech in an electroinc age. Massachusetss: Bellknap Press.

Friday July 31 – Some Origins of Modern Computing – The History of the Workstation

Guest lecture: Michael Buckland, School of Information

In today’s class, Professor Michael Buckland will be discussing the history of the modern workstation, by discussing some of the political forces, technical developments and visions of information organization and retrieval that paved the way for the development of what became “desktop computing” in the latter half of the 20th Century.

The first required reading is a piece that has been read, cited, and assigned in classes around the world in various departments. In it, Vannevar Bush outlines a vision for the future of scientific enterprise in a post-World War II world. His sketch of the Memex has had a huge impact on several generations of scientists and engineers, and several key elements of the described Memex have been said to have set the agenda for the development of the computer and what would eventually become the world wide web.

The second required reading discusses similar ideas put forth by a relatively unknown German scientist and engineer, a couple of decades before Bush’s seminal piece. They are two chapters pulled from Buckland’s biography of Emmanuel Goldberg, who had achieved some fame and prestige in the first half of the 20th Century, but whose name has been missing from the history of information science until early 1990s. We encourage you to supplement this reading by looking up some of the names of other people mentioned in the reading, in order to get a sense of the historical context of these chapters.

Finally, we come to the work of Douglas Englebart, who is credited with the invention of the first computer mouse as well as first implementation of a working hypertext system. One might also see in this video a vision of what a computer could be used for that is quite different from what Bush or Goldberg seem to describe.

HOMEWORK (paper copy due at the beginning of class): Bush and Goldberg described and–at least in Goldberg’s case–created devices that presumably would allow researchers and scientists to have the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. Therefore, one might make the argument that with the actual creation and widespread use of Goldberg’s Statistical Machine or Bush’s Memex, the contrast between Bush’s fame and Goldberg’s obscurity would not have been possible: researchers (including Bush) would have had quick and easy access to the historical and scientific record to know who invented what and when. In no more than 250 words, describe several of the features that the devices shared that would allow someone to make this argument in the first place and then tell us if you agree with that argument and why (or why not).

Required material:

Optional material:

  • Babbage, Charles.  1835.  “[Chapter 8] Registering Operations” and “[Chapter 20] On the Division of Mental Labour,” in On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures.
  • 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. (This one is in the Course Reader!)

Week 5 – August 3-7

Monday, August 3 –Regional advantages in the rise of modern computing

Guest lecture: AnnaLee Saxenian, Dean of the School of Information

In the 1970s Boston’s “Route 128” and the SF Bay Area’s “Silicon Valley” were the centers of the electronics industry, especially in their development of the products and processes that would create and sustain the computer industry: semiconductor, calculating machines, computers, and software. Over the course of the next two decades, while both regions experienced ups and downs, expansions and recessions, and both faced the threat of global competition, Silicon Valley emerged in the 1990s as a booming economy and the center of the computing and technology sector, while Route 128 faltered. In Regional Advantage, AnnaLee Saxenian asks why Silicon Valley succeeded while Route 128 struggled. She demonstrates why a number of other possible theories of organizations and economics don’t work, and makes the seminal case on the importance of regional industrial systems in determining the successes and failures of the two areas (see page 7 for her multi-faceted definition of a “regional industrial system”).

HOMEWORK (paper copy due at the beginning of class): Saxenian conducted this study and published this work when the internet was in its relative infancy, being used by the military and some academic institutions for very limited purposes. It seems possible that the same emphasis on local, regional factors no longer are as important as they were in the 1970s and 1980s now that companies can communicate easily with their employees, their supply chains and other supporting institutions around the world. Using evidence from the reading (so paying attention to the different aspects of the regional economies that Saxenian says distinguished Silicon Valley from Route 128), assess the claim that specific local features of regional industrial systems are far less important than they used to be, which would imply that Saxenian’s argument would no longer hold for a similar comparison being made today. Make your assessment in no more than 250 words.

Required material:

  • Saxenian, AnnaLee. 1996 [1994]. “[Introduction] Local Industrial Systems” pp.1-9“, “[Chapter 2] Silicon Valley: Competition and Community” pp.29-58. and “[Chapter 5] Running with Technology” pp.105-132.” In Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Optional material:

  • Levy, Steven. 1984. Hackers: heroes of the computer revolution. Doubleday.  ** This is highly recommended vacation reading. It’s fast paced, full of interesting characters and places. And you’ll learn something along the way!

Wednesday, August 5 – Origins of The Internet and the World Wide Web

Lecture: Megan Finn

Megan’s slides

Today we will examine some of the technical and social origins of the Web.  How did differnt layers of the “network stack” develop? What are the implications of the design of early networks such as Arpanet by ARPA?  How did early internet related practices and ideologies shape the web, as we think of it, today? And, we will examine Turner’s question: “How was it, then, that computers and computer networks became linked to visions of peer-to-peer ad-hocracy, a leveled marketplace, and a more authentic self?  Where did these visions come from?…”

HOMEWORK: Turner and Berners-Lee tell two very different stories about the origins of the Web.  Consider each author’s main point, and how each author makes their point. What does one story get you that the other story does not?  Which story helps you better understand the role of the internet in society today?   Please write a 200-word (max!) response that utilizes the reading material.

Required material:

  • Turner, Fred. 2005. Introduction and Chapter 5, pp 1-10, 141-175. From Counter-culture to Cyberculture. University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
  • Berners-Lee, Tim. 2000. Chapters 1-3, pp. 1-34 in Weaving the Web. New York
    City: HarperCollins.

Optional material:

  • Rheingold, Howard. 1993. Virtual Communities
  • Light, J, 1999. When Computers Were Women. Technology and Culture 40(3) 455-483.
  • Weiner, Norber, 1950. Preface and Chapter 1, pp 1-27. The Human Use of Human Beings. Da Capo Press.
  • Edwards, Paul N, 1996. Chapter 2, pp43-102. The Closed World. MIT Press.

Friday, August 7 – No Class!  Begin final essay!

Week 6 – August 10-14

Monday, August 10 –

Politics and the Internet: The case of Egypt at the turn of the 21st century

Guest lecture: Mahad Ibrahim, School of Information

Questions for consideration: Using the pieces by Warschauer, Wheeler and RAND, think about all the different ways in which political organizations use digital technology to act.  In what ways are organizations empowered?  Using these articles as evidence, argue the ways in which technology BOTH helps and hurts the common person in Egypt.

Required material:

Optional material:

Wednesday, August 12 – The information age: The “crisis” of literacy and “literacy” in times of crisis

Lecture: Dan Perkel and Megan Finn

Today we’ll be returning to some old themes and re-thinking them in new contexts with examples from Dan Perkel’s and Megan Finn’s research. In doing so, we play with some terms that are generally thought of rather uncritically as positive and negative: literacy and crisis. The new technologies of the information age are said to provide important ways to attack the purported problems with both.

All of the readings are optional, though we’d encourage you to follow the instructions of the first bullet and spend ten minutes looking again at the beginning of the Warschauer reading.

The chapters by Klinenberg and Fradkin are critical readings in how we think about crisis in society and raise questions as to how we are prone to seeing more information as the solution to disaster and crisis.

We will have an in-class activity and discussion and if you’re in class to participate, you’ll get the day’s quiz points.

Optional material:

  • Re-read– it was assigned for Monday–the first page and a half of Warschauer, M. (2003). Dissecting the “Digital Divide”: A Case Study in Egypt. The Information Society, 19(4), 297-304.
  • Klinenberg, Eric. 1997. Introduction and Chapter 1. pp 1-36 in Fighting for Air. Metropolitan Books: New York.
  • Fradkin, Philip L. 2005. “The Culture of Disasters” pp 263-288 in The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906. University of California Press: Berkeley.

Friday, August 14 – The future of the history of information

Lecture: Megan Finn and Dan Perkel

Today, we wrap up the class by looking both backwards and forwards. Both readings are optional, but we encourage you to look at both when you have some spare time and this class is behind you. The article by DiMaggio et al, published in 2001, is an important take on the the sociology of the interent that reviews dimensions of the work that had been done on the topic up until the turn of the millenium. It’s highly informative and is worth a look if you are interested in theorizing about the place of the internet and internet-practices in society as we approach 2010.

Optional material:

  • Nunberg, Geoffrey. 1996. “Farewell to the Information Age.” In Nunberg, Geoffrey (Ed.) The Future of the Book. Berkeley: UC Press, 103-138.
  • DiMaggio, Paul, Eszter Hargittai, W. Russell Neuman, and John P. Robinson. 2001. “Social Implications of the Internet.” Annual Review of Sociology 27. 307-336.

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