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Reviewed by:
  • How to Think about Information
  • Millie Jackson
How to Think about Information. By Dan Schiller . Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007. xvi, 288 pp. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-252-03132-8.

In How to Think about Information Dan Schiller, professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois atUrbana- Champaign, examines historical, political, economic, and philosophicalimplications of the transformation of information in a global society. Schiller, also the author of Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market, analyzes the implications of policies made in the corporate and political arenas and how these have limited rather than broadened access to information in many instances.

Information is a misnomer, of sorts. The term, according to the author, is shorthand that actually includes the emerging fields of culture, media, and telecommunication as well as established fields and technologies that we may rarely think about in the twenty-first century. Schiller weaves together his discussion about the complexities of these fields and systems, explaining how a technology like the telegraph, for example, affected subsequent technological advances. He analyzes the policy decisions made by both political and corporate entities to provide a clearer picture of why access to information is not democratic after all. The discussion of deregulation during the Reagan era provides insight into why and how telecommunications have developed the way they have over the past twenty to thirty years.

Schiller takes us from telegraph to wireless systems, explaining how the decisions made in the early twentieth century influence policies today. He points out the ways in which information-intensive activities have evolved since the nineteenth century. They are no longer performed by the self-employed but completed by large multinational corporations. He examines crisis points that changed services, combined companies into the large entities we have today, and affected information delivery. Throughout the text Schiller analyzes the ways in which information has become a valuable commodity in the global market. His tracking of trends, deregulation, and policies across industries provides a fascinating examination of media convergence.

Wireless communications provide a "giddy new freedom of communication" (162). Schiller's cogent remarks about how the revolution of wireless gadgets has forever changed us leave readers thinking about what else may come. He broaches not only the corporate need for new investment outlets, which spurred the mobile boom, but also, more importantly, the social issues. What does being constantly connected do to a culture? How does this further the social and economic divide and disparity not only within the United States but also around the world?

In the final chapter of the book, Schiller addresses China and the global market. Focusing on internal and external markets, he examines and questions what will happen as manufacturers relocate to China and the information industry continues to grow.

Dan Schiller's work will be of interest to many audiences. His analysis crosses several disciplines and delves beyond the questions routinely asked about how new communication systems impact libraries and museums. Schiller's interpretations of events during the last century and his vision for what is in store for society in this century reach well beyond our walls. Reading Schiller's book provides new perspectives for thinking about information and the way it is delivered.

Millie Jackson
University of Alabama


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