SOCIAL SCIENCES

Information: A Historical Companion

Princeton Univ. Jan. 2021. 904p. ed. by Ann Blair & others. ISBN 9780691179544. $65. REF
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Information originates from a wide range of resources. Exploring ways in which information shapes and has been shaped by human society, Blair (Harvard Univ.), Paul Duguid (Sch. of Information at the Univ. of California, Berkeley), Anja-Silvia Goeing (history, Harvard Univ.), and Anthony Grafton (history, Princeton Univ.) illustrate that information dissemination has existed throughout the world for centuries. Taking a historical approach to information sources and methods, the editors and 107 international scholars trace the world’s information creation, management, technology, institutions, sharing, and practices through the centuries. The work offers a chronological view of various information processes from the 1400s through the present day, then provides 101 shorter stand-alone articles on topics ranging from accounting, algorithms, and intellectual property to censorship, libraries and catalogues, privacy, and social media. The thematic list identifies concepts, formats, genres, objects, people, practices, processes, systems, and technologies. A glossary offers succinct definitions, and the detailed index enables swift access to specific subjects. Other books on information practices focus on the practical side, such as computer algorithms for search engines or identifying disinformation and misinformation; this one, with its far more sprawling approach, stands out from the crowd. Black-and-white illustrations, graphs, and charts enhance the text.
VERDICT A fascinating multidisciplinary essay collection that will appeal to information history junkies as well as history, journalism, and library science students.

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