History of Information Fall 2007 banner image

MW 4-5:30

Also listed as:
Cogsci C103
Masscom C103
History C192

Room and Instructor Info

Class Schedule and Readings

Jump to this week in the syllabus

Course Requirements


Mid-term Exam Study Guide

Final Exam Study Guide


213 Wheeler Hall (click for room info including Ethernet info)


Paul Duguid
203A South Hall
Office Hours: Tues. 10-11
(510) 643-3894
Geoffrey Nunberg
203A South Hall
Office Hours: Wed. 2-4
(510) 643-3894

Course TA:

Alana Pechon
203A South Hall
Office Hours: Thu. 1-2
(510) 643-3894

Class Schedule & Readings:

All slides are in .pdf format.

1.1 Aug 27: Introduction: Why "History of Information"? Geoff's slides

1.2 Aug 29: Talking about information Geoff's slides Paul's slides

2.2 Sept 5: On Determinism slides

Assignment 1

3.1 Sept 10: The First Technologies of Information: Writing Systems slides

3.2 Sept. 12: Cultural Effects of Writing slides

Assignment 2

4.1 Sept 17: Manuscript Culture slides

4.2 Sept 19: Print Culture slides

Assignment 3

5.1 Sept 24: Emergence of the Public Sphere slides

5.2 Sept 26: Scientific information  slides

Assignment 4

6.1 Oct 1: Scientific Information, continued; Visual Information  see slides for previous class [updated 10/1]

6.2 Oct 3: Midterm

7.1 Oct. 8: Reference Books and the Organization of Knowledge slides

7.2 Oct 10: Information Work slides

Assignment 5

8.1 Oct. 15: The Growth of Literacy slides

8.2 Oct. 17: The 19th-century Public Sphere slides

Assignment 6

9.1 Oct 22: Point-to-Point: Telephone & Telegraph slides

9.2 Oct 24: The Modern Postal System

10.1 Oct 29: Intelligence & Information slides

Assignment 7

10.2 Oct. 31: Intelligence & Information (continued) slides

11.1 Nov 5: Technologies of the Image: Photography slides

11.2 Nov 7: Broadcast: Radio & Television slides

12.2 Nov 14: Politics, Propaganda, and Persuasion slides

13.1 Nov. 19: Advertising slides

Assignment 8

13.2 Nov. 21: Discussion Class

14.1 Nov 26: Advertising (continued) slides

14.2 Nov. 28: Advent of the computer slides

15.1 Dec 3: Advent of the Internet Paul's slides (PC) 

15.2 Dec 5: Storage, Search, Web 2.0 slides

Assignment 9

16.1 Dec. 10: Social Implications of the Internet. slides

Dec. 18, Tues., 8-11 AM Final Exam

Course Requirements:

Reading assignments (20% of course grade):

There will be 10 readings assignments, each involving submission of a one-paragraph answer to one of a list of several questions about the reading. Assignments are due on the day of the reading; no late assignments will be accepted. Assignments will not be letter-graded but only checked off as acceptable. Each student will get 2 free rides for missed assignments.

Midterm (30% of course grade)

Three essay questions, two from a list of questions provided in advance. One 10-point short-answer section asking for names, dates, etc.

Final (50% of course grade)

Five essay questions, most chosen from a list of questions provided in advance. One 10-point short-answer section asking for names, dates, etc.


From time to time we will give brief homework assignments to be discussed in class. No grade will be assigned for class participation as such, but we tend to look kindly on students who manifest a lively interest in the proceedings.

Exam questions will be based on material covered in readings, slides, and class discussion. Class slides will be posted shortly after each class.