restricted access Information Revolutions, the Information Society, and the Future of the History of Information Science

This paper aims to discuss the future of information history by interrogating its past. It presents in outline an account of the conditions and the trajectory of events that have culminated in today’s “information revolution” and “information society.” It suggests that we have already passed through at least two information orders or revolutions as we transition, first, from the long era of print that began over five hundred years ago with Gutenberg and the printing press. We have then moved through a predigital era after World War II, finally to a new era characterized by the advent of the ubiquitous technologies that are considered to herald a new “digital revolution” and the creation of new kind of “information society.” It argues that it is possible to see that the past is now opening itself to new kinds of scrutiny as a result of the apparently transformative changes that are currently taking place. It suggests that the future of the history of information science is best thought of as part of a still unrealized convergence of diverse historical approaches to understanding how societies are constituted, sustained, reproduced, and changed in part by information and the infrastructures that emerge to manage information access and use. In conclusion it suggests that different bodies of historical knowledge and historical research methodologies have emerged as we move into the digital world that might be usefully brought together in the future to broaden and deepen explorations of important historical information phenomena from Gutenberg to Google.