Week 1

July 7

Introduction; What is History of Information, and Why Examine It?

Note: no reading is required in advance of this class.

July 9

Technological Determinism; Consequences; Alternatives

HOFI-20100709 slides

103.1 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.

Week 2

July 12

Writing Systems and its cultural effects

HOFI-20100712 slides

103.2 slides

Required 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.
  • 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

July 14

Second cluster on Writing/ Literacy:

HOFI-20100714 slides

103.3 slides

Required reading:

Additional material:


July 16

Manuscript Culture, Archives, and the social implications of organized knowledge

HOFI-20100716 slides

103.4 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.
  • 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.

Week 3

July 19

Reference books and the organization of knowledge

HOFI-20100719 slides

103.4-expanded slides

Required reading:

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

July 21

Emergence of the public sphere

HOFI-20100721 slides

Required reading:

July 23

MIDTERM Exam (90 mins; starts promptly at 1:10)

Week 4

July 26

History  of Journalism

HOFI-20100726 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.

Politics and propaganda

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.

July 28

Politics and propaganda continued

HOFI-20100728 slides

July 30th


HOFI-20100730 slides

Required Reading:

Week 5

August 2


HOFI-20100802 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.

August 4

Narrowcast: telegraph & telephone

HOFI-20100804 slides

Required reading:

  • 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

Additional material: TBA

August 6

Photography: technologies of the image

HOFI-20100806 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.

Additional material:

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

Week 6

August 9

Advent of the computer

HOFI-20100809 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.”]
  • Berners-Lee, Tim. 2000. Chapters 1-3, pp. 1-34 in Weaving the Web. New York City: HarperCollins.

Additional material:

August 11


August 13

Final Exam

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