Before Twitter: Communication, Media and Politics from Gutenberg to the Information Society

History 100.001

Fall 2013
Day & Time: 
MWF 3-4

Our present is often referred to as the ‘age of information’, marked by the expansion of knowledge-producing occupations and by the transformation of information into commodity and social good. By bringing history into media studies, this course will show that adopting a long-term perspective - and examining the similar concerns over communication that societies of the past had - can help to better understand our present ‘information society’. After a brief introduction on Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the course will focus on the ‘age of print’ and will examine how the printing revolution shaped the emergence of modernity, influencing its social, intellectual and religious tensions as well as the interactions within and outside of Europe. Along with print culture the course will devote substantial attention to the interaction between different media, taking into account handwritten texts and images (including visual arts and maps) as different ways of communicating knowledge through illustrations. Considering material objects and the emergence of modern collecting practices

(museums, cabinets of curiosities), the course will also explore the anxiety created by the ‘information overload’ caused by the recovery of ancient civilizations and the discovery of new worlds. Alternating lectures and discussions, part of the course will take place at the Bancroft Library and at the Berkeley Museum of Art in order to examine manuscripts and early printed books as material objects and to introduce students to premodern visual culture