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HIS 109 — Information Technology from Movable Type to Machine Learning

Quarter: Summer
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jun 24—Aug 26
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jun 26
Units: 2
Tuition: $485
Instructor(s): Thomas S. Mullaney
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens May 17, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jun 24—Aug 26
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jun 26
2 Units
Thomas S. Mullaney
Registration opens May 17, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Humans rely on information and information technologies to make, preserve, and transmit knowledge and meaning. But what is “information,” and what counts as an “information technology”? While conventional wisdom might bring to mind 1s and 0s, bits and bytes, pixels and protocols, the word “information” itself suggests an alternate definition that is both more specific and more expansive: Information is any set of entities, physical and conceptual, that have been put in a formation for the purposes of forging, preserving, and sharing meaning; information technology is any process or practice employed along the way for maintaining these “formations” in a universe that is always tending toward entropy and deformation. Thus, while magnetic tape and Morse code are forms of information technology, so too are formaldehyde and footnotes, papyrus plants and page numbers, semiotics and storytelling.

This course will chart the history of technology information from 1400 to the present. We will look at both “classic” forms of information technology (movable type, telegraphy, typewriting, and personal computing) and those that tend to be omitted from conventional histories (music notation systems, phone books, weaving, to name a few). Students will leave the course with an enhanced perspective on information and how it shapes—and is shaped by—culture, nationality, gender, ethnicity, economy, and environment.

Professor of History, Stanford

Thomas S. Mullaney is the author of The Chinese Typewriter: A History. He has received the 2013 Abbott Payson Usher Prize, a three-year National Science Foundation Science, Technology, and Society award, a Hellman Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He received a PhD from Columbia.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Mullaney, Peters, Hicks, Philip, Your Computer is on Fire (ISBN 026253973X)
(Recommended) Nick Drnaso, Sabrina (ISBN 177046316X)