History of Information

Exploring the long history of  information helps us understand the effects of information technologies, systems, and practices on society and their implications for the future

Researchers Working in this Area

Related Research Projects

An informational history of the British Diplomatic Service

Investigator
Alistair Black

In October 2009 the BBC aired a short series of radio programmes entitled Parting Shots. The programmes featured a series of final communications, called valedictory despatches, from British Ambassadors leaving their posts to take up duties elsewhere or retire from the Diplomatic Service. As opposed to being merely vehicles for conveying reflective and summary knowledge about…

Bridging the "Two Cultures": The Architecture of the New British Library

Time frame
2016-2017
Investigator
Alistair Black

Opened in 1997, the new British Library at St. Pancras, London was designed as a building of two main volumes, one devoted to the arts and humanities, the other to science, technology and business. This dichotomy echoed the debate set in motion in 1959 by the publication of C.P. Snow's The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. The project asked in which ways this debate fed through into…

Children, Comics, and Print Culture

Time frame
2015-Present
Investigator
Carol Tilley
Total funding to date
$19,036.00
Funding agency
University of Illinois Research Board

This project expands Tilley’s investigation of comics from the perspective of readers, a much-neglected group in both contemporary and historical research. Comics readership among young people peaked in the mid-twentieth century with levels reaching near 100%, yet there has been little scholarly investigation of this phenomenon. Funding for this project will enable archival research trips and…

Donna Haraway is our "Friend": Reconfiguring Friendship Bracelets and Bibliography

Time frame
2016-Present
Investigator
Bonnie Mak

This project uses the friendship bracelet as a way to "re-weave" the academic canon. Friendship bracelets are handmade macramé bracelets of embroidery thread, intended to be worn as a sign of lasting friendship. In this collaboration with Julia Pollack (MS '12), bracelets have been woven with bibliographical references to important work of women in the field of knowledge-production.

From Voluntary to State Action: Laissez-faire Philosophy and the Early Public Library Movement in Britain

Time frame
2015-2017
Investigator
Alistair Black

The public library system in Britain today is reeling under the impact of neo-liberalist attitudes to the role of the state in society. This contrasts starkly with attitudes to public libraries when they were first proposed and established in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. At this time, economic liberals argued in favour of state involvement in the provision of libraries to…

From Voluntary to State Action project

How the Page Matters

Investigator
Bonnie Mak
Total funding to date
$9,000.00
Funding agency
University of Illinois Research Board

Mak's book, "How the Page Matters," historicizes recent debates about eBooks and similar technologies by casting the page as an interface that has been under development since the scrolls of Antiquity. "How the Page Matters" tracks the page through the manuscripts of the Middle Ages, the printed books of the early modern period, and onto digital displays. By locating the page in a…

Information and War: The Intelligence Branch and Library of Britain's War Office, 1873-1914

Time frame
2016-2017
Investigator
Alistair Black

Intelligence has always been an aspect of organized warfare. It was not until the 1870s, however, that the British Army effectively recognised this formally by establishing a dedicated division named the "Intelligence Branch," to be supported by libraries spread across a number of locations. The project explores the ways in which these services developed before the First World War and,…

Information's Allure

Time frame
2016-Present
Investigator
Bonnie Mak

One of the enduring attractions of books is their ability to stand witness to their own presence through time and space. A history of social interaction is marked on the pages of a book; a folded corner, a stain from a careless reader's cup of coffee, and a thoughtful comment in the margin accrue and transmit something of where the book has been, with whom, and under what circumstances.…

Metadata Poems

Time frame
2017-Present
Investigator
Bonnie Mak

Although standardized vocabularies and languages are often invoked as a way to ensure interoperability in the management of informational resources, these conventions prioritize particular ways of representing the world. This project situates metadata as an infrastructure of information, and examines how such descriptive practices have configured the production of knowledge for centuries—from…

Metadata Poems project

Staff magazines in organizations before the age of the computer

Investigator
Alistair Black

Staff magazines in British organizations – from hospitals to government departments, from libraries to the first multi-national companies – first emerged in the late-nineteenth century. They varied widely in circulation numbers, quality and editorial control. Staff magazines were a notable (though strangely overlooked by historians) product of the pre-computer information management revolution…

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