New Directions in Information History



Recent decades have seen an upsurge in scholarly activity in the history of information science. It has emerged as a field of study distinct from library history and from the history of computing. This panel explores the relevance of other historical approaches and the potential for information history to reach other audiences. Haigh sets the context for the session with a look at the evolution of information history and an examination of the challenges and rewards of reframing work in the area to address different questions. Bowker pushes back the scope of information history beyond its conventional focus on the events of the past century or so, and explores the social and organizational dimensions of this work. His central thesis is that information seeking has most often been a collaborative activity occurring in specific social and cultural settings. Downey examines past, present, and future connections between the history of communication and the history of information, in terms of both research literature and classroom practices. Finally, Aspray concludes the presentations with a look at the use of history in the study of information-seeking behavior and of information in everyday life. Presentations will be kept short to leave plenty of time for interaction between the panelists and with other attendees.

  • (Chair) Robert Williams, University of South Carolina

  • Thomas Haigh, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, “Challenges and Opportunities in Information History”

  • Greg Downey, University of Wisconsin, Madison, “Information history meets communication history.”

  • Geoffrey Bowker, Santa Clara University, “‘Did that really happen?’ The search for the useful fact from the Enlightenment to the present”

  • William Aspray, University of Texas, Austin, “The Use of History in Studying Information-Seeking Behavior in Everyday American Life “