Information Studies 200 -- Information in Society

Phil Agre
Office: 229 GSE&IS Building
Phone: (310) 825-7154

Fall 2003
Thursday 9:00am - 12:30pm, GSE&IS room 111

In this course students are introduced to the ways in which information and informing processes shape and are in turn shaped by society. The nature of information is explored in the context of associated information techniques, systems and institutions. Key social issues related to information creation, distribution and use are reviewed, including the evolution of information society (especially as embodied in information work and professions).

The first half of the course (weeks 1 through 5) provides a general framework for information society issues, including infrastructure, definitions of information, the progression from oral culture to writing to literacy, and printing and book culture. The second half of the course (weeks 6 through 10) address an array of information society issues, including electronic publishing, intellectual property, digital libraries, access and equity, privacy, and other social aspects of new information technologies. Students will gain an overview of a wide range of information society topics, and will be introduced to concepts that will be developed in more depth in other courses in the curriculum. This is a survey course rather than a comprehensive overview of this vast and rapidly evolving area.

The main requirement for the course is an extended paper, perhaps 25 pages. This paper should apply a large number of concepts from the course to analyze the social properties of a specific kind of information. Much of the course will be organized around the process of designing and writing this paper. For example, each class meeting will use the same format: a structured class discussion in which we apply concepts from the previous week's lecture and readings to individual students' cases, followed by a lecture on the topic corresponding to the next week's readings. A draft of the paper is due in week 8, and I will return all of the papers with written comments in class during week 9. Finished papers are due during finals week.

Students will post their draft and final papers on the Web using a standard format. Draft papers will be only available to members of the class, but final papers will be public. If your paper receives an A, I am likely to show it to other people and include it in next year's class reader. You can keep your paper out of subsequent years' class readers if you want by informing me in writing after the class is over.

The final paper will be 75% of the course grade. The other 25% will be based on six weekly one-paragraph writing exercises, due in weeks 2 through 7, that will provide a check on the student's understanding, as well as gathering material to use in the paper. These weekly writing exercises will be graded from 1 to 5, and the lowest of the six grades will be dropped. The course will have no exams or quizzes.

The required textbook is available from the LuValle Commons Bookstore (as well as through online booksellers):

Christine L. Borgman, From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure: Access to Information in the Networked World, MIT Press, 2000.

A reading packet in two volumes is available from Academic Publishing; it will also be for sale at LuValle Commons.

Because the course depends heavily on writing, you should also get a copy of this excellent book about copyediting:

Claire Kehrwald Cook, Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.

Additional readings are online; URL's are provided below and are linked from the class Web site.

Readings by week.

Week 1 -- October 2 -- The Information Society

Friedrich Hayek, Individualism and Economic Order, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963. Chapter 4: The use of knowledge in society, pages 77-91.

Frank Webster, Theories of the Information Society, second edition, London: Routledge, 2002. Introduction, pages 1-7, and Information and the idea of an information society, pages 8-29.

Leah A. Lievrouw, Information resources and democracy: Understanding the paradox, Journal of the American Society for Information Science 45(6), July 1994, pages 350-357.

Peter Kollock and Marc A. Smith, Communities in cyberspace, in Marc A. Smith and Peter Kollock, eds, Communities in Cyberspace, London: Routledge, 1999, pages 1-25.

Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000. Chapter 1: Thinking about social change in America, pages 15-28, and Chapter 9: Against the tide? Small groups, social movements, and the net, pages 148-180.

Week 2 -- October 9 -- Information and Infrastructure

Donald O. Case, Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior, San Diego: Academic Press, 2002. Chapter 3: The concept of information, pages 40-64, and Chapter 5: Related concepts, pages 80-113.

Dan Schiller, How to think about information, in Vincent Mosco and Janet Wasko, eds, The Political Economy of Information, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988, pages 27-43.

Borgman, Chapter 1: The premise and the promise of a global information infrastructure, pages 1-32.

Steve Sawyer and Kristin R. Eschenfelder, Social informatics: Perspectives, examples, and trends, in Blaise Cronin and Debora Shaw, eds, Annual Review of Information Science and Technology 36, 2002, pages 427-466.

Susan Leigh Star and Geoffrey C. Bowker, How to infrastructure, in Leah A. Lievrouw and Sonia M. Livingstone, eds, The Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Consequences of ICTs, London: Sage, 2002, pages 151-162.

Week 3 -- October 16 -- Information Institutions

Borgman, Chapter 7: Whither, or wither, libraries?, pages 169-208.

Michael Buckland, Scope, in Library Services in Theory and Context, second edition, Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1988, pages 13-26.

Brian L. Hawkins, The unsustainability of the traditional library and the threat to higher education, in Brian L. Hawkins and Patricia Battin, eds, The Mirage of Continuity: Reconfiguring Academic Information Resources for the 21st Century, Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources and the Association of American Universities, 1998, pages 129-153.

James M. O'Toole, The history of archives and the archives profession, in Understanding Archives and Manuscripts, Chicago, IL: Society of American Archivists, 1990, pages 27-47.

Richard E. Rubin, Foundations of Library and Information Science, Neal-Schuman, 2000. Chapter 9: The library as institution: An organizational view, pages 297-350.

Week 4 -- October 23 -- Oral Culture, Writing, Literacy

Jack Goody, The Logic of Writing and the Organization of Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. The state, the bureau and the file, pages 87-126.

Walter Ong, The orality of language, in Orality and Literacy, New York: Methuen, 1982, pages 5-15.

Week 5 -- October 30 -- Printing and Book Culture

Philip E. Agre, Institutional circuitry: Thinking about the forms and uses of information, Information Technology and Libraries 14, 1995, pages 225-230.

Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, Some features of print culture, in The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983, pages 41-90.

Carl F. Kaestle, Literacy in the United States: Readers and Reading Since 1880, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. Chapter 1: Studying the history of literacy, pages 3-32, and Chapter 2: The history of readers, pages 33-72.

A. J. Meadows, Communicating Research, San Diego: Academic Press, 1998. Chapter 1: Change and growth, pages 1-37, and Chapter 2: Research traditions, pages 39-78.

Walter Ong, Print, space and closure, in Orality and Literacy, New York: Methuen, 1982, pages 117-138.

Week 6 -- November 6 -- Electronic Publishing and Intellectual Property

Borgman, Chapter 4: Books, bytes and behavior, pages 81-116.

John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, The social life of documents, First Monday, 1995. Available on the Web at <>.

The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual Property in the Information Age, National Academy Press, 2000. Available on the Web at <>. Preface, pages ix-xiii; Executive summary, pages 1-22; Chapter 1: The emergence of the digital dilemma, pages 23-75; Chapter 3: Public access to the intellectual, cultural, and social record, pages 96-122; and Chapter 6: Conclusions and recommendations, pages 199-239.

US Copyright Office, Circular 1: Copyright Basics, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, December 2000. Available on the Web at <>.

Week 7 -- November 13 -- Digital Libraries

Borgman, Chapter 2: Is it digital or is it a library? Digital libraries and information infrastructure, pages 33-52; Chapter 5: Why are digital libraries hard to use?, pages 117-142; Chapter 6: Making digital libraries easier to use, pages 143-168; and Chapter 9: Toward a global digital library: Progress and prospects, pages 225-270.

Dale Flecker, Harvard's Library Digital Initiative: Building a first generation digital library infrastructure, D-Lib Magazine, 6(11), 2000. Available on the Web at <>.

Anne J. Gilliland-Swetland, Enduring Paradigm, New Opportunities: The Value of the Archival Perspective in the Digital Environment, Council on Library and Information Resources, 2000. Available on the Web at <>.

Week 8 -- November 20 -- Access and Equity

Borgman, Chapter 3: Access to information, pages 53-80, and Chapter 8: Acting locally, thinking globally, pages 209-224.

Mark Warschauer, Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. Chapter 6: Social resources: Communities and institutions, pages 153-197.

Manuel Castells, The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society, London: Oxford University Press, 2002. The geography of the Internet: Networked places, pages 207-246.

Debora Spar, The public face of cyberspace, in Inge Kaul, Isabelle Grunberg, Marc Stern, eds, Global Public Goods: International Cooperation in the 21st Century, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, pages 344-363.

Week 9 -- November 27 -- Thanksgiving Holiday

Week 10 -- December 4 -- Social Aspects of New Information and Communication Technologies

Richard R. John, Recasting the information infrastructure for the industrial age, in Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. and James W. Cortada, eds, Nation Transformed by Information: How Information Has Shaped the United States from Colonial Times to the Present, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, pages 55-105.

Leah A. Lievrouw and Sonia Livingstone, Introduction, in Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Consequences of ICTs, London: Sage, 2002, pages 1-15.

Week 11 -- December 11 -- Privacy

Oscar Gandy, The Panoptic Sort: A Political Economy of Personal Information, Boulder: Westview Press, 1993. Chapter 2: Information and power, pages 15-25 only, and Chapter 3: Operating the panoptic sort, pages 53-94.