Special Issue on Information Ecosystems in Firms and Industries


This is a call for papers for a Special Issue of Information & Culture: A Journal of History (Volume 51, Issue 1, February-March 2016).

Guest Editor James W. Cortada, Senior Research Fellow, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota—Twin Cities.

Deadlines Abstracts can be submitted to an editor of the special issue for informal feedback until 1 March 2014: e-mail: Jcortada@umn.edu. Full papers should be submitted to the managing editor, George Royer, for review by 30 August 2014.

The Call Increasingly, scholars are recognizing that information has played an enormous role in the work of firms and industries since at least the dawn of the Second Industrial Revolution. Yet the role of information has been overlooked, indeed, overtaken by the study of the histories of computing, the Internet, and most recently, electronic media. Students of information are still debating the scope of the subject, how to study it, and how best to explain its role in modern institutions.

The editors invite original, scholarly treatments exploring the history of the role (use) of information in commercial enterprises and industries, and that critically examine common assumptions about its origins and developments over the decades. Case studies of use and evolution by profession within an industry, roles of information ecosystems within companies and industries, and about information infrastructures in either are particularly welcome. Submissions could take any number of approaches, including:

  • Historical case studies of particular developments, such as the use of information by a profession during a period of time (e.g., sales clerks in the retail industry, 1930s-1960s; home economists, 1950s-1970s);
  • Historical case studies of events in an industry (e.g., role of a trade magazine or a series of conferences in educating/informing members of a specific industry during a defined period of time);
  • Historical case studies of information ecosystems in a firm (e.g., what information was collected and how it was used by marketing, sales, product development, R&D);
  • Historical cases may come from any country, but we would ideally like them to be from 1800 onward;
  • Historical cases of how information moved about in an information ecosystem (e.g., diffusion of knowledge about a particular class of product to competitors, customers);
  • Critical analyses of scholarly or popular narratives about the role of information in a commercial setting.

These are only illustrative of possible approaches, as we would welcome creative approaches to the history of information in a commercial setting that go beyond these specific examples. A draft of the guest editor’s paper can be viewed at [url].

About the Editor James W. Cortada is a Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Babbage Institute (CBI), University of Minnesota. Before coming to CBI, Jim worked at IBM in a variety of sales, consulting, and managerial roles. His last position was as a senior manager at IBM’s Institute for Business Value, the company’s center for the study of contemporary management practices. He is the author or editor of several dozen books dealing with the history and management of information technologies, and information. He is the author of Information and the Modern Corporation (MIT 2011) and The Digital Flood (Oxford 2012). He is writing a history of the role of information in American society, 1870 to the Present..

About the Journal Information & Culture: A Journal of History publishes high-quality, peer reviewed articles on the history of information. The journal honors its (45+ year) heritage by continuing to publish in the areas of library, archival, museum, conservation, and information science history. However, the journal's scope has been broadened significantly beyond these areas to include the historical study of any topic that would fall under the purview of any of the modern interdisciplinary schools of information. In keeping with the spirit of the information schools, the work is human centered and looks at the interactions of people, organizations, and societies with information and technologies. Social and cultural context of information and information technology, viewed from an historical perspective, is at the heart of the journal's interests. See: http://www.infoculturejournal.org/about.

Submission and Review Process Full papers should be from 6,000 to 10,000 words, including all notes and bibliography. Shorter or longer papers might be considered in exceptional cases, based on the merit of the case. The editors expect to publish 4-6 papers in the special issue, with any additional papers that merit publication scheduled for journal issues that will appear after the special issue.

Authors are asked to please follow the submission guidelines available at http://www.infoculturejournal.org/submissions/submission_requirements. In particular, authors should prepare notes and bibliography in accordance with the journal style. Neither the editorial office nor the special editors should need to make formatting changes to notes or bibliography.