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Meet the Authors Series: History and Information

Assumptions that information is everywhere, and that everything has a history can be hard to deny.  Yet, ubiquitous though both seem, bringing information and history together can be curiously challenging.  This talk will explore what the challenges may reveal about information by drawing on the experience of putting together both an undergraduate course and an edited volume around the topic of "history of information."  The "companion," Princeton University Press's Information: A Historical Companion, attempts a novel perspective by addressing the concept of information through the lens of history and history through the lens of information, hoping to offer new insight into both.  The talk will reflect in particular on the different ways in which scholarship addresses the concept of "information," both over time and across disciplines, the latter often leading to rather overconfident views of interdisciplinarity, which will be brought into question in this talk.


Paul Duguid is an adjunct full professor at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. There over 15 years he has taught courses on the "Concept of Information," and the "History of Information."   The latter in particular led to him being invited by a group of historians to help co-edit the recently published Information: A Historical Companion, soliciting contributions from more than 100 scholars, mostly, but not all, historians.   Intermittently, Duguid has held positions of various sorts in the School of Education at Berkeley as well as at Queen Mary, University of London, École Polytechnique in Paris, Copenhagen Business School, and the University of Lille.  Prior to working in academia, Duguid was a consultant to the Office of Central Management at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).  Moving among these different roles has offered insight into ways in which "information" spans different disciplines and institutions.  His talk will reflect on those insights.