Info 218: Concepts of Information

School of Information, UC Berkeley, Spring 2011
Paul Duguid, Geoff Nunberg, instructors

Syllabus & Readings
Week 1
18 Jan: Introduction
Slides: Geoff

20 Jan:Exercise/discussion: I-School identities



  • Babbage, Charles. 1832. On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures. London: C. Knight.
  • Brouillon, Léon. 1956. Science and Information Theory. New York: Academic Press.
  • Hartley, R.V.L. 1928. "Transmission of Information," Bell System Technical Journal 535-584.
  • Machlup, Fritz. 1962. The Production and Distribution of Knowledge in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Sayre, Kenneth. 1976. Cybernetics and the Philosophy of Mind. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities press.
  • Schrader,Alvin M. 1984. "In Search of a Name: Information Science and Its Conceptual Antecedents," Library and Information Science Research 6(3): 227-272
  • Shannon,  C. E. 1948. "A Mathematical Theory of Communication," Bell Systems Technical Journal, July & October (Reprinted in ACM SIGMOBILE 5(1) 2001: 3-55
  • Shannon,  C. E. 1956. "The Bandwagon," IRE Transactions on Information Theory 2 (March): 3
  • Tuomi, Ilkka. 1999. "Data is More Than Knowledge: Implications of the Reversed Knowledge Hierarchy for Knowledge Management and Organizational Memory," Journal of Management Information Systems 16(3): 103-117.


Slides: Paul, Geoff

Week 2.
25 Jan: The history of "information"
  • Floridi, Luciano, 2010. Information: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford UP. Ch, 1, "The Information Revolution," pp. 3-18.
  • Nunberg, Geoffrey, 1996.  "Farewell to the Information Age" in G. Nunberg, ed., The Future of the Book, Berkeley: University of California Press. Read pp. 1-23.
Slides Geoff

27 Jan: Exercise/discussion: History of "information"

Week 3
1 Feb: The informational state
[I-School Conference panel]

3 Feb: Exercise/discussion: Producing and consuming information


Week 4
8 Feb: How much information?

Paul's slides

18th Century Collections

Reading: Background:
  • Bell, Daniel. 1976. The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting.New York, NY: Basic Books.
  • Brown, John Seely & Paul Duguid.  2000. "Limits to Information," chapter 1 in The Social Life of Information, Boston: Harvard University Press

  • Kallinkikos, Jannis. 2006. The Consequences of Information: Institutional Implications of Technological Change. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
  • Lesk, Michael. 1996.  "How Much Information is There in the World?"
  • Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor. 2009. Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, Cambridge: Harvard University Press
  • Porat, Marc U.  1977. The Information Economy: Sources and Methods for Measuring the Primary Information Sector, Washington,D.C.
10 Feb: Exercise/discussion: I-School conference

Week 5
15 Feb: News 1: information and rise of the public sphere

Paul's slides

Reading: Background:
  • Atherton, I. 1999. "The Itch Grown a Disease: Manuscript Transmission of News in the Early Seventeenth Century" in J. Raymond, ed., News, Nespapers and Society in Early Modern Britain. London: Frank Cass
  • Calhoun, Craig, ed. 1996. Habermas and the Public Sphere  (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996
  • Darnton, Robert. "An Enlightened Revolution," New York Review of Books 38 (17 October 24)
  • Fleck, Ludwik. 1979. Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • Lenoir, Timothy. 1997. Instituting Science: The Cultural Production of Scientific Disciplines. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press
  • Povvey, Mary. 1998. A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • Raymond, Joad, ed. 1999. News, Newspapers and Society in Early Modern Britain. London: Frank Cass
  • Sommerville, C. John. 1997. "Surfing the Coffeehouse," History Today 47(6): 8-10
17 Feb: Exercise/discussion

Background: Zeitgeist:
Week 6

Geoff's slides

22 Feb: News 2: Information and objectivity

Reading: Background: Zeitgeist:
25 Feb: Exercise/discussion

Week 7
1 Mar: Information and the state

Paul's slides

Reading: Background:
  • Agar, John. 2003.  The Government Machine: A Revolutionary History of the Computer. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
  • Campbell-Kelly, Martin, 2002.  "Information Technology and Organizational change in the British Census, 1801-1911," Information Systems Research 7(1): 35-57
  • Cullen, Michael J. 1975 The Statistical Movement in Early Victorian Britain: The Foundations of Empirical Social Research. Harvester Press: New York
  • Hacking, Ian. 1990. The Taming of Chance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Headrick, Daniel R.. 2000. When Information Came of Age: Technologies of Knowledge in the Age of Reason and Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press
  • Oettinger, Anthony. 1980. "Information Resources: Knowledge and Power and the 21st Century," Science[Centennial Issue, July 4] 209 (4452): 191-198
  • Rusnock, Andrea A. 2002. Vital Accounts: Quantifying Health and Population in England and France. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
3 Mar: No Class
Technology: Transforming the Regulatory Endeavor Conference

Week 8
8 Mar: Information to "Public Knowledge": Exercise/discussion

10 Mar: Information and the organization of knowledge

Geoff's slides

Reading: Background:
Week 9
15 Mar: Organization of knowledge: Exercise/Discussion

17 Mar: Theories of information I

Geoff's slides


  • Floridi (see week 2), Ch. 3, 4.  pp. 37-59. These are short and provide an introduction to Shannon's information theory and its semantic extensions.
  • Shannon,  C. E., 1948. "A Mathematical Theory of Communication," Bell Systems Technical Journal, July & October (Reprinted in ACM SIGMOBILE 5(1) 2001: 3-55. Read up to p. 9, skipping over anything you don't understand.
  • ADDED 3/17: Shannon, Claude. 1950. "The Redundancy of English." Cybernetics. Skip to discussion beginning on p. 6 among Shannon, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Warren McCullough, John von Neumann, etc.

Background: Zeitgeist:
Week 10
Midterm break
- No classes -

Week 11
29 Mar: Theories of information II

Preliminary discussion of final project/paper proposals

31 Mar: Information and cognitive science

Geoff's slides

Reading: Background:

Week 12
5 Apr: Information, economics, and development

Paul's slides

Reading: Background: Zeitgeist:
7 Apr: Final papers/projects discussion
[outlines due]

Week 13

12 Apr: Political Science
Geoff's slides

  • Dewey, John. "The Public and its Problems," in  Andreas Hess, ed., 2003, American Social and Political Thought, NYU Press. Selection from Dewey's The Public and its Problems, 1927 (Swallow Press, 1991).
  • Carey, James W. "The Press, Public Opinion, and Public Discourse," in Public Opinion and the Communication of Consent
    ed. Theodore Lewis Glasser, Charles T. Salmon. Guilford Press, 1995
  • Anthony Downs. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper and Row. See also "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," The Journal of Political Economy16(2): 135-150.
  • Kinder, Donald R., 2003. "Communication and Politics in the Age of Information," in David O. Sears and Leonie Huddy, eds., Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, Oxford.
  • Page, Benjamin I. and Robert Y. Shapiro, 1992. The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans' Policy Preferences,
    University of Chicago Press
14 Apr: Memes & Political Information
Geoff's slides

Reading: Background:
Zeitgeist: Week 14
19 Apr: Policical Science/Memes Exercise/discussion

21 Apr: Searching for information

Paul's slides


Background: Zeitgeist:

Week 15
26 Apr: Information as Social Capital

Geoff's notes

28 Apr: Looking backwards

Week 16
3 May: Final paper/project presentations

5 May: Final paper/project presentations