Schedule and Readings
Required for purchase: Most are easily accessible online new or used.
- Frederick Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management
- Sarah Igo, The Averaged American
- Nicholas Lemann, The Big Test
All other readings will be made available online.
In addition to the readings listed below, some short primary sources may be added to Blackboard as the course develops to accompany a week’s readings.
Week 1: Introductions
Week 2: Early Modern Information Overload
- Blair “Reading Strategies for Coping with Information Overload Ca.1550–1700.”
- (In class): Plato, Phaedrus, on the invention of writing.
- Müller-Wille and Charmantier “Natural History and Information Overload.”
Week 3: Ordering the World
- Borges “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins.”
- Foucault The Order of Things., Introduction and Chapter 3
- TBD on accounting.
- Find what you think is an interesting data visualization and link to it from the course blog.
- In class: History of data visualization and analysis: Playfair The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical Breviary.
Week 4: 19th Century Records
September 22: Accounting
Trip to the University Archives
September 24: Slave economies
Please review the assignment handed out at the archives before the session.
- Garvey and Gitelman, ““Facts and FACTS””
- Fogel and Engerman, Time on the Cross, 192–209, 233–258.
- Wilentz, Major Problems in the Early Republic, 1787-1848, “GW Hammond, Instructions to his Overseer”.
- In class: American Slavery as it is, runaway slave advertisements.
Week 5: Managed Information in the late nineteenth century
September 29: Industrial Revolutions
- Beniger, The Control Revolution, chap. 6, “Industrial Revolution and the Crisis of Control”.
- In Class: Dun and Bradstreet. J., “Mercantile Agencies.”, Gibson, “Mercantile Agencies.”
October 1: The Census
- Kinnahan, “Charting Progress.”
- Anderson, The American Census, chap. 3 to 5.
- In Class: Blank Census forms, 1790-1940; and completed forms for Greenleaf St., Boston, 1940 Census.
Week 6: Sciences of Management
October 6: Taylorism
Presentations, batch 1
- Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management.
- In class: punchcards and sorting.
October 8: Fordism
Presentations, batch 2
- Meyer, The Five Dollar Day, chap. 5 and 6.
- In class: Chaplin, Modern Times, First fifteen minutes.
Weeks 7 and 8: A Culture of Data
(No class October 13/Columbus Day)
October 15: Meritocracy
- Lemann, The Big Test, 1–173.
- In class: Plato, The Republic of Plato, Book III, 412b-415c.
** Data Exploration Papers due October 17 by 5pm.**
Week 8: A culture of data: Part II
October 20: Quantified publics
- Igo, The Averaged American, Introduction, Chapters 1 and 2.
October 22: Quantified selves
- Ibid., chap. 3 and 4, and Epilogue. (skim 5 and 6, if you like).
- In class: Foucault, The History of Sexuality, 157–159.?
Week 9: Early Computers
October 27: Imagining Computers
- Bush, “As We May Think.”
- Bush, “Memex Revisited.”
October 29: Gender and Computing
- Cosmpolitan, “The Computer Girls,” 1967
- Light, “When Computers Were Women.”
- Film selections in class: Lang, Desk Set.
Week 10: Computers in the Mainstream
November 3: The Mainframe Age
- Miller, The Assault on Privacy, 34–69, 254–274.
November 5: Computer Workers
- Engsmenger, The Computer Boys, Chapters 6-7.
Week 11: Personal Computing
November 10: Personal Computing, 1
- “Database Populism”
- Ted M. Lau, “Total Kitchen Information System”, Byte Magazine, 1977
November 12: Personal computing
- Geocities, selections.
- [Berners-Lee and Fischetti Weaving the Web., Introduction; Chapters 1, 2, and 3]
Week 12: The Age of Google
** Age of adminstration papers due November 17th by 5pm **
November 17: Information Overload revisited
- Gleick The Information., “After the Deluge”
- Vaidhyanathan The Googlization of Everything., Chapter 2
November 19: The emergence of “Big Data”
- Ibid., Chapter 2, if you missed it the first time around.
- The End of Theory, Wired Magazine, 2008: Read the main article, and at least 3 of the subject matter claims.
- The Norvig-Chomsky Debate, 2012: Norvig and Chomsky
Week 13: Surveillance and the state
- MacAskill and MacAskill, “NSA Files Decoded.”
- Gellman and Soltani, “NSA Infiltrates Links to Yahoo, Google Data Centers Worldwide, Snowden Documents Say.”
(No class November 26/Thanksgiving)
Week 14: Wrapup
December 1: States and big data
- Watch Edward Snowden’s interview with Glenn Greenwald
- In class: Foucault Discipline and Punish., “Panopticism,” pp. 200-204
December 3: Corporations and Big Data, c. 2014
All links are at the bottom of the page.
- Meyer “Everything We Know About Facebook’s Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment. The Atlantic.”
- On the labor side of Uber: Walia “Why Your Uber Driver Hates Uber. Quartz.”
- On the management side: Read and follow a couple links, until you feel you have a perspective to offer, Lee “The Latest Uber Scandal, Explained. Vox.”.
For instance, think about reading Bhuiyan “"God View".” or Rushe “Is Uber the Worst Company in Silicon Valley? the Guardian.”
Optional Reading for catchup discussion posts
- (Optional catchup posts after class) Listen to “Photo Op,” This American Life Episode 493.
Final Projects Due December 13
Anderson, Margo J. The American Census: a Social History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
Beniger, James R. The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986.
Berners-Lee, Tim, and Mark Fischetti. Weaving the Web: the Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999.
Bhuiyan, Johana. “"God View": Uber Investigates Its Top New York Executive for Privacy Violations. BuzzFeed,” November 18, 2014. http://www.buzzfeed.com/johanabhuiyan/uber-is-investigating-its-top-new-york-executive-for-privacy.
Blair, Ann. “Reading Strategies for Coping with Information Overload Ca.1550–1700.” Journal of the History of Ideas 64, no. 1 (2003): 11–28. doi:10.1353/jhi.2003.0014.
Borges, Jorge Luis. “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins.” Translated by Lilia Graciela Vázquez. Alamut, 1999.
Bush, Vannevar. “As We May Think.” The Atlantic, July 1945. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1945/07/as-we-may-think/303881/.
———. “Memex Revisited.” In From Memex to Hypertext, edited by James M. Nyce and Paul Kahn, 197–216. San Diego, CA, USA: Academic Press Professional, Inc., 1991. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=132180.132193.
Chaplin, Charles. Modern Times, 1936.
Fogel, Robert William, and Stanley L Engerman. Time on the Cross: the Economics of American Negro Slavery. New York: Norton, 1989.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon Books, 1977.
———. The History of Sexuality. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.
———. The Order of Things: an Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
Garvey, Ellen Gruber, and Lisa Gitelman. ““Facts and FACTS” : Abolitionists’ Database Innovations.” In "Raw Data" Is an Oxymoron, 89–102. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013.
Gellman, Barton, and Ashkan Soltani. “NSA Infiltrates Links to Yahoo, Google Data Centers Worldwide, Snowden Documents Say.” The Washington Post, October 30, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-infiltrates-links-to-yahoo-google-data-centers-worldwide-snowden-documents-say/2013/10/30/e51d661e-4166-11e3-8b74-d89d714ca4dd_story_2.html.
Gibson, Rex. “Mercantile Agencies.” New York Daily Times. New York, N.Y., United States, October 29, 1851. http://search.proquest.com/hnpnewyorktimesindex/docview/95772455/abstract/142445A46F336CD6D70/12?accountid=12826.
Gleick, James. The Information: a History, a Theory, a Flood. New York: Pantheon Books, 2011.
Igo, Sarah Elizabeth. The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2007.
J., D. O. “Mercantile Agencies.” New York Daily Times. New York, N.Y., United States, November 7, 1851. http://search.proquest.com/hnpnewyorktimesindex/docview/95765241/abstract/142445A46F336CD6D70/11?accountid=12826.
Kinnahan, Thomas P. “Charting Progress: Francis Amasa Walker’s Statistical Atlas of the United States and Narratives of Western Expansion.” American Quarterly 60, no. 2 (2008): 399–423. doi:10.1353/aq.0.0012.
Lang, Walter. Desk Set. 20th Century Fox, 1957.
Lee, Timothy. “The Latest Uber Scandal, Explained. Vox,” November 19, 2014. http://www.vox.com/2014/11/19/7248819/uber-scandal-explained.
Lemann, Nicholas. The Big Test: the Secret History of the American Meritocracy. New York: Farrar, Straus; Giroux, 1999.
Light, Jennifer. “When Computers Were Women.” Technology and Culture 40, no. 3 (1999): 455.
MacAskill, Ewen, and Ewen MacAskill. “NSA Files Decoded: Edward Snowden’s Surveillance Revelations Explained. the Guardian,” November 1, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/nov/01/snowden-nsa-files-surveillance-revelations-decoded.
Meyer, Robinson. “Everything We Know About Facebook’s Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment. The Atlantic,” June 28, 2014. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/everything-we-know-about-facebooks-secret-mood-manipulation-experiment/373648/3/.
Meyer, Stephen. The Five Dollar Day: Labor Management and Social Control in the Ford Motor Company, 1908–1921. Suny Series in American Social History. Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press, 1981.
Miller, Arthur Raphael. The Assault on Privacy: Computers, Data Banks, and Dossiers. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1971. http://archive.org/details/assaultonprivacy00mill.
Müller-Wille, Staffan, and Isabelle Charmantier. “Natural History and Information Overload: the Case of Linnaeus.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43, no. 1 (March 2012): 4–15. doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2011.10.021.
Plato. The Republic of Plato. Translated by 1930-1992. Bloom Allan David. New York: Basic Books, 1968.
Playfair, 1759-1823., William. The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical Breviary. Edited by Howard Wainer and 1944- Spence Ian. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Rushe, Dominic. “Is Uber the Worst Company in Silicon Valley? the Guardian,” November 18, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/nov/18/uber-worst-company-silicon-valley.
Taylor, Frederick Winslow. The Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Cosimo, 2006.
Vaidhyanathan, Siva. The Googlization of Everything: (and Why We Should Worry). Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.
Walia, Shelly. “Why Your Uber Driver Hates Uber. Quartz,” November 20, 2014. http://qz.com/299655/why-your-uber-driver-hates-uber/.
Wilentz, Sean. Major Problems in the Early Republic, 1787–1848: Documents and Essays. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1992.