Information, Technology and Society: Philosophical Dimensions of Library Studies: Summer 2004


Brian Richardson


University of Hawaii


Summer 2004


From the very beginning, human language has been sustained by various technologies of communication. The introduction of writing in an oral culture is frequently marked as a decisive cultural shift. The same is said of the introduction of the printed book and of the computer. But what is it that makes these changes in communication technology important? What is communication supposed to do for us, or to us?

The principle goal of this course is to introduce students to philosophical issues associated with technologies of information. We will examine several related themes. The first important theme concerns the relationship between information, technology and human beings. What do we do when we read? What impact does information have on us? Does information make us free, or does it control us? These questions have a significant social dimension. What impact does writing, the printed book, or the internet have on society? What is significant, if anything, about the shift from oral to written to electronic media? Do different technologies change society? Do
hey change us?

The second important theme concerns what we mean by “information” and how it relates to other concepts such as knowledge, wisdom, facts and experience. While information is a relatively new concept, some of the current debates are echoes of debates that are centuries old.

Finally, technologies of information raise various ethical and political concerns. Who should control information? Should anybody be able to own it? What sorts of information ought to be available? To whom? What is the good of information, anyway?

Required Textbook:

Herder, J., Rousseau, J. J. 1986. On the Origin of Language.
Bradbury, R. 1967. Fahrenheit 451.
Woolf, V. 1989. A Room of One’s Own.
Roszak, T. 1986. The Cult of Information.

Link to Syllabus:

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