Physical plus digital, but more physical than you might think

Until quite recently, the world of recorded information was physical: print-on-paper, plus the paper card ‘machinery’ well described by Marcus Krajewski’s book Paper Machines. Mechanised documentation – punched cards, edge-notched cards, and the like – added some automation, but were still very much physical objects. Then the information world became a bit digital, with computer… Continue reading Physical plus digital, but more physical than you might think

Thomas Jefferson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and information history for the future

I gave a talk to a meeting of CILIP’s Library and Information History group, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary. It was a short and informal presentation, which – as it was US election day – had a presidential theme, and looked at some reasons why library and information history is worthwhile as a subject… Continue reading Thomas Jefferson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and information history for the future

Knowledge, documents and a London location

As documents, and the whole information and communication environment, become increasingly digital, it is natural to assume that physical location becomes of less importance. Two newly published books remind us that this idea should be examined with a critical eye. Rosemary Ashton’s Victorian Bloomsbury, a splendidly scholarly and well-produced intellectual and cultural history of that… Continue reading Knowledge, documents and a London location

Why Norbert Wiener was plaintive, and would have hated the REF exercise

I was recently re-reading parts of Norbert Wiener's autobiography, I am a mathematician, shortly after writing a brief account of theories of information for our upcoming book Introduction to Information Science. What caught my attention was how the lives and work of the proponents of what has been come to be known as information theory… Continue reading Why Norbert Wiener was plaintive, and would have hated the REF exercise

The city, the world, what cannot be measured, and the information environment

An interesting critique under the title 'The city, the world and what cannot be measured', written by Adam Frank in a blog post for the US National Public Radio Service in the last days of the old year (Frank 2011), discusses a speech given in 2010 by the Václav Havel, the former Czech president who… Continue reading The city, the world, what cannot be measured, and the information environment

Remembering Ludvik Finkelstein

Rather belated, this posting marks the death in August this year of Ludwik Finkelstein, formerly Dean of Engineering at City University London. Finkelstein was born in Lvov in Poland (now Lviv in the Ukraine) in 1929, and seemed destined for a career in his family's iron and steel business. Like so many from that part… Continue reading Remembering Ludvik Finkelstein

The document in the cave?

When I talk with my students about the history of recorded information, we usually agree that the rock and cave art of prehistoric times is a good starting point. The people who created such art clearly had a technology for conveying a form of communication across long periods of time, if not across space. As… Continue reading The document in the cave?

Maurice Line (1928-2010)

Rather belatedly, we should note the death in September 2010 of Maurice Line. One of the leaders of his generation of British librarians, Line was always a proponent of the value of research in library and information. I am not sure whether he would have liked the terms 'evidence-based practice' or 'reflective practitioner', but he… Continue reading Maurice Line (1928-2010)

Big (information) history

This is an amended version of an editorial written for Journal of Documentation. Information history is a new discipline, located at the boundary where history meets the sciences of information. This subject ranges from the narrow history of the information sciences and professions, to the broader historical development of libraries, information services and information management,… Continue reading Big (information) history

Bush, Goldberg, Memex and the revision of history

This is a version of an editorial to appear in the Journal of Documentation. Vannevar Bush gets a mixed press these days. Once he was hailed as a 'father of information science' - some called him our 'Godfather' – on the basis of his 1945 Atlantic Monthly vision of Memex. This was, and in some… Continue reading Bush, Goldberg, Memex and the revision of history