1/22: Introduction

1/24: Working with Words

1/29: Lexicographic Exercise

1/31: Counting Exercise

2/5: How much?

2/7: History - I

2/12: Public Sphere & History II

2/14: No Class

2/19: Public Sphere II & Exercise

2/21: No Class

2/26: The State

2/28: Exercise

3/5: No Class

3/7: Organization of Knowledge I

3/12: Organization of Knowledge II; Exercise

3/14: Final proposals

3/19: Politics I; Final proposals

3/21: Politics II

4/2: Economics & Development

4/4: IP

4/9: Organization & Institutions

4/11:Objectivity & Truth

4/16: Information Theory I

4/18: Information TheoryII; Discussion

4/23: Cognitive Science

4/25: Cognitive Science II

4/30: Education

5/2: Wrap

Info 218: Concepts of Information Spring 2013

School of Information, UC Berkeley

Paul Duguid, Geoffrey Nunberg, instructors

Syllabus & Readings

Required Reading:
Gleick, James. 2011. The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood. New York: Viking.

Week 1

January 22:   Introduction: In search of information

Geoff's Slides

January 24:   Working with Words: Technology, Platform and other key words

Reading: Background:

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Week 2

January 29:   Exercise: lexicographic investigation

    Pick a word or phrase that does a certain amount of ideological or explanatory work in the rough area of "information"--e.g., big data, open source, crowdsourcing, user-centered, social media, 2.0 ... (but not purely marketing hype like "viral," "passionate," "ripple effect" or essentially technical notions like "malware," "distributed processing, etc.)

    Pull down a bunch of citations for the item from the Web or Google News, and see if you can sort them into distinct uses or senses à la information.

January 31:   Exercise: counting information
    In his introduction to the special section of IJOC [see "background reading," below], Martin Hilbert argues that it is not only statistically feasible, but also analytically insightful to quantify the amount of information handled by society (Hilbert, 2012). Quantify the amount of information you handle (i.e., create or store or consume etc.) in a given place or chosen period of time and assess the statistical feasibility and analytic insightfulness of the result.

Reading: Background:
  • Bell, Daniel. 1976. The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting. New York, NY: Basic Books.
  • Green, John C. 1964. "The Information Explosion: Real or Imaginary." Science 144(3619): 646-648.
  • Hilbert, Martin, et al. 2012. "Info Capacity" International Journal of Communication [Special Section] 6.
  • 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?"
  • Machlup, Fritz. 1962. The Production and Distribution of Knowledge in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor. 2009. Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Pool, I. de S. 1983. "Tracking the Flow of Information." Science 221(4611): 609-613.
  • Porat, Marc U.  1977. The Information Economy: Sources and Methods for Measuring the Primary Information Sector. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.

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Week 3

February 5:   How Much Information? How Much Data?

Reading: Background: February 7:   History of information — I: The Eighteenth Century

Reading: Background:

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Week 4

February 12:  

Today the class will meet from 1—4 and be divided into two parts:

Part 1: The Public, Public Sphere, Public Information, & Public Opinion

Reading: Background:

Part 2: History of information - II: The last 200 years.

  • Nunberg, Geoffrey, 1996.  "Farewell to the Information Age" pp 103-138 in G.Nunberg, ed., The Future of the Book. Berkeley: University of California Press. [Read pp. 1-23. of this version.]
  • The Oxford English Dictionary entry for 'information'. Go to the OED here and look up information. You can skip the first senses under I, but look closely at senses II.4.a; II.5a-e, 6. Look also at the compounds at the end of the entry. Try to read the citations as well, at least from the 18th c. on -- often these help to fill in exactly what the definition means. 
  • Gleick, James. 2011. "Prologue" in The Information. New York: Pantheon.
Paul's Slides

February 14: NO CLASS 

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Week 5

February 19:  

Today the class will meet from 1—4 and be divided into two parts:

Part 1: From the Bourgeois Public Sphere to the Internet

Reading: Background:
Part 2: Exercise — public opinion

February 21: No Class 

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Week 6

February 26:   Information and the State

  • Agar, John. 2003.  The Government Machine: A Revolutionary History of the Computer. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Bayly, C.A. 1998. Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Campbell-Kelly, Martin. 1996.  "Information Technology and Organizational change in the British Census, 1801-1911" Information Systems Research 7(1): 22-36.
  • 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.
  • Rusnock, Andrea A. 2002. Vital Accounts: Quantifying Health and Population in England and France. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Zeitgeist: February 28:   Exercise - personal information

    Recent years have produced numerous policy debates about privacy focussing on "personal information" or "private information" and "personal data" or "private data." At a rough estimate, "personal" is more common than "private in these contexts, and "information" is more common than "data," but the context makes a difference.) Pick one or the other of these alternations (personal/private or information/data) and see if you can come up with some distinction, systematic or not, in the way it's used. If you can't find a difference -- if they seem to be used interchangeably-- that would be interesting too. For starters, you might consider Alan Westin's obituary and the report on the HTC settlement in the same issue of the New York Times. Or look at the way the terms are used in the context "use your _______" (see, eg., http://goo.gl/0N3G6; http://goo.gl/3z9qX; http://goo.gl/j5bzJ; http://goo.gl/bhX8j). Other contexts you might look at include "theft of ____," "disclose _____," etc.
Reading: Background:

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Week 7
March 5: No Class  

March 7:   Information and the Organization of Knowledge

  • Burke, Peter. "Classifying Knowledge" pp. 81-115 in P. Burke, A Social History of Knowledge. Cambridge:Polity. Gleick, Ch 3.
  • d'Alembert, Jean Le Rond. 1751. Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot, here.)Book of plates from Diderot's Encylopedie at archive.org. Slide hand icon at bottom to browse.
  • Foucault, Michel. 2002. "Classifying" chapter 5 in M. Foucault, The Order of Things. London: Routledge. (trans. of Les Mots et Les Choses,1966). 
Most of the chapter is viewable at Google Books, and a plaintext version is also available here.
  • Johnson, Samuel. 1755. "Preface" in S. Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language. London.
  • McArthur, Tom. 1986. Ch 12-15, pp. 91-133 in Worlds of Reference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Yeo, Richard. 1991. "Reading Encyclopedias: Science and the Organization of Knowledge in British Dictionaries of Arts and Sciences, 1730-1850." Isis 82: 24-49.

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Week 8
March 12:   Information and the Organization of Knowledge (continued)

Exercise - The internet and the organization of knowledge:
    What happens to this global conception of the structure of knowledge in the age of Wikipedia and similar efforts? Is it still preserved in some form? Do the Wikipedians think they're reproducing it (as the -pedia suggests)? Or if it's essentially pluralist and fragmentary, can we really still speak of knowledge as opposed simply to information? One way to come at this is to pick a general topic area in Wikipedia that doesn't have a canonical internal structure (i.e., it doesn't reproduce the contents of an academic curriculum, like a topic in mathematics or cell biology, and its structure isn't determined more-or-less straightforwardly by the properties of its subject -- e.g., an entry for a city, a commercial product, or the career trajectory of a rock band). What we're looking for is "monsters," entries that sit uneasily at the intersection of several distinct knowledge domains, reflecting differences in subject matter, community, etc., and consequently scattered in coverage, tone &/or point of view. (Sometimes this is evident from the "see also" or "external link" sections.)
    There's no algorithm for finding these things (is that a logical consequence of their definition?) but see if you can dig one or two out and speculate about what they say about the organization of knowledge.


    One can simply bang around in an area one is familiar with (but again, not one that has a standardized canonical structure) looking for entries that suggest the overapping of knowledge categories associated with different domains -- that is, that would present complications for the Encyclopédie picture of knowledge.

March 14:  

Discussion of final projects - I

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Week 9
March 19:   Information & Politics - I
Discussion of final projects - II

Reading: Background:
  • Carey, James W. 1991. "The Press, Public Opinion, and Public Discourse" in T.L. Glasser & C. T.Salmon, eds., Public Opinion and the Communication of Consent. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Dewey, John. 2003. "The Public and its Problems" in Andreas Hess, ed., American Social and Political Thought. New York: NYU Press.
  • Downs, Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.
  • Downs, Anthony. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy." The Journal of Political Economy 65(2): 135-150.
  • Kinder, Donald R., 2003. "Communication and Politics in the Age of Information" in D. O. Sears and L. Huddy, eds., Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Page, Benjamin I. and Robert Y. Shapiro, 1992. The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans' Policy Preferences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

March 21:   Information & Politics - II

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Week 10
  —  Spring Break

Week 11

April 2:   Information, Economics & Development

Reading: Background: Zeitgeist:
April 4:   Information & Intellectual Property

  • Landes, William, & Richard Posner. 1987. "Trademark Law: An Economic Perspective." Journal of Law & Economics30(2): 265-309.
  • Boyle, James. 2009. "Preface," pp. i-xvi in Shamans, Software, and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Casson, Mark C. 1996. "Economics and Anthropology: Reluctant Partners. Human Relations 49 (9)(1966): 1151-1180.
  • Fiske, Katherine. 2009. Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800-1930. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

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Week 12

April 9:   Information, Organizations, & Institutions

Reading: Background: Zeitgeist:
  • Morozov, Evgeny. 2013. Open and Closed. New York Times March 16.
  • Shirky, Clay. 2009. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. New York: Penguin Press.

April 11: Information, Objectivity, & Truth

Reading: Background: Zeitgeist: Geoff's Slides

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Week 13

April 16:   Information Theory I

  • Gleick, James. 2011. "Information Theory" Chapter 7; Ch 8 "The Informational Turn"; Ch 9 "Entropy and its Demons" in J. Gleick, The Information..
  • 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 until you come to a paragraph you don't understand. Read it a second time, then continue until you reach another paragraph you don't understand; read it a second time etc. When you come to the third paragraph you don't understand, stop.
  • Shannon,  C.E. 1956. "The Bandwagon." IRE Transactions on Information Theory 2: 3.

April 18:   Information Theory II; Discussion: Final Paper Outlines

Reading: Background:
  • Israel, David & John Perry, "What is Information?" pp. 1-19 in P. Hanson, ed., Information, Language and Cognition. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
  • Dretske, F. I. 1981. Knowledge and the Flow of Information. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Dretske, Fred. 1986. "Misrepresentation" in R. Bogdan, ed., Belief: Form, Content, and Function. Oxford University Press. [Google Books, w/ some pages missing.]
  • Foley, Richard, 1987. "Dretske's Information-Theoretic Account of Knowledge." Synthese (70) 2: 159-184.

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Week 14
April 23:   Information & Cognitive Science I

Reading: Background:

April 25:   Information & Cognitive Science II

Reading: Background:
  • Dreyfus, Hubert L. 1979. What Computers Can't Do: The Limits of Artificial Intelligence. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Duguid, Paul. 2012. "On Rereading. Suchman and Situated Action." Le Libellio d'AEGIS 8(2): 3-9.
  • Lave, Jean. 1988. Cognition in Practice: Mind, Mathematics, and Culture in Everyday Life. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lave, Jean & Etienne Wenger. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Suchman, Lucy. 2007. Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Koschmann, Timothy, et al. 2003. "Plans and Situated Actions: A Retro-Review." Journal of the Learning Sciences 12(2) 257-306, special section on Suchman's work.

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Week 15
April 30:   Information & Education


May 2:   Wrap

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Week 16
— Reading Week

May 7:   Final paper presentations