A Revolution in Information?
MetadataShow full item record
CitationBlair, Ann, and Devin Fitzgerald. 2014. "A Revolution in Information?" In The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern European History, 1350-1750, edited by Hamish Scott, 244-65. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
AbstractThe notion of a revolution in information in early modern Europe is a recent historiographical construct, inspired by the current use of the term to designate the transformations of the late 20th century. The notion, first propounded in the 1960s, that we live in an "information age" crucially defined by digital technologies for creating, storing, commoditizing, and disseminating information has motivated historians, especially since the late 1990s, to reflect on parallels with the past. Given the many definitions for "information" and related concepts, we will use the term in a nontechnical way, as distinct from data (which requires further processing before it can be meaningful) and from knowledge (which implies an individual knower). Information typically presents itself as discrete reports of supposedly truthful or useful facts or messages that can travel across time and place by being repeated and appropriated. Then as now information was conveyed and apprehended in countless combinations of intended and actual audiences, meanings, and effects, and in myriad forms, including gestures, rituals, objects, images, and words--spoken, sung, manuscript, and printed. Some of these elements cannot be recaptured, but many topics crucial to a history of information in the early modern period have been well studied under various auspices: printing and its impact, the growth of literacy and numeracy, the rise of record-keeping (e.g. among merchants, rulers, and scholars), the dissemination and impact of news, the development of a postal network, the circulation of letters, rumors, and secrets.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:34334604
- FAS Scholarly Articles