History of Information Fall 2007 banner image

Spring 2009: Tuesday and Thursday 9:30am to 11am

Also listed as:
Cogsci C103
Media Studies C104C
History C192

Room and Instructor Info

Class Schedule and Readings

Course Requirements


Mid-term study guide - Exemplary essay responses

Final study guide



180 Tan


Paul Duguid
203A South Hall
Office Hours: Thu 11:30-1:00
(510) 643-3894

Geoffrey Nunberg
203A South Hall
Office Hours: Tues 11:15-12:15, 1:15-2
(510) 643-3894

Course TA:

Megan Finn
TBA South Hall
Office Hours: TBA
(510) 643-3894

Class Schedule & Readings:

All slides are in .pdf format.

Week 1

22 Jan: Introduction: Why "History of Information"?

24 Jan: Talking about information Geoff's slides Paul's slides

Week 2
27 Jan: On Determinism

Paul's slides

29 Jan: The First Technologies of Information: Writing Systems

Geoff's Slides

Week 3
3 Feb: Cultural Effects of Writing

Geoff's Slides

5 Feb: Manuscript Culture

Paul's Slides

Week 4
10 Feb: Print Culture

Paul's Slides

12 Feb: Emergence of the Public Sphere

Geoff's Slides

Week 5
17 Feb: Scientific information

Paul's Slides

19 Feb: Reference Books and the Organization of Knowledge

Geoff's Slides

Week 6
24 Feb: Science & Statistics, continued

Paul's Slides

26 Feb: Information Work

Paul's Slides

Week 7
3 Mar: Reference Books and the Organization of Knowledge, continued.

5 Mar: The Modern Postal System (David Henkin to guest lecture.)

Week 8
10 Mar: Point-to-Point: Telephone & Telegraph

Paul's Slides

12 Mar: The Growth of Literacy and the 19th-century Public Sphere

Geoff's Slides

Week 9

19 Mar: Visual Information (David Rumsey to guest lecture)


Week 11
31 Mar: Technologies of the Image: Photography 

Geoff's Slides

2 Apr: Broadcast: Radio & Television

Geoff's Slides

Week 12
7 Apr: Broadcast, cont.

9 Apr: Advertising

Paul's Slides

Week 13
14 Apr: Information as property

Paul's Slides-Advertising 2

Paul's Slides-Information as Property 1

16 Apr: Advent of the computer

Paul's Slides-Information as Property

Paul's Slides-Advent of the Computer

Week 14
21 Apr:
Politics and Propaganda

Geoff's Slides

23 Apr: Advent of the Internet

Geoff's Slides

Week 15
28 Apr: Information and disasters (Megan Finn to guest lecture)

30 Apr: Storage, Search, Web 2.0

Week 16
5 May: Social Implications of the Internet (I)

Paul's slides (Search)
Paul's slides (Social Implications)

7 May: Social Implications of the Internet (II)

Geoff's slides


Course Requirements:

Reading assignments (20% of course grade):

There will be 10 readings assignments, each involving submission of a one- or two-paragraph answer to one of a list of several questions about the reading.  Responses should be concise and no more than 200 words.   Assignments are to be turned in via bSpace by the time and date specified.  No late assignments will be accepted.  No assignments will be accepted over email. Assignments will not be letter-graded. 2.5 point will be given for turning in an assignment with a coherent argument. Each student will get 2 free rides for missed assignments (thus only 8 assignments will count).  

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.