Systems of information: The long view

Alistair Black, Dan Schiller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In response to the perceived (by some) onset of an information society, historians have begun to study its roots and antecedents. The past is replete with the rise, fall, and transformation of systems of information, which are not to be confused with the narrower computer- mediated world of information systems. The history of systems of information-which for digestibility can be labeled information history-lacks neither scale nor scope. Systems of information have played a critical role in the transition to, and subsequent development of, capitalism; the growth of the state, especially the modern, nation-state; the rise of modernity, science, and the public sphere; imperialism; and geopolitics. In the context of these epochal shifts and episodes in human thinking and social organization, this essay presents a critical bibliographic survey of histories-outside the well-trodden paths of library and information-science history-that have foregrounded, or made reference to, a wide variety of systems of information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)628-662
Number of pages35
JournalLibrary Trends
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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