Special Double Issue: Volume 53, Number 3 & 4 (October/November 2018)

Bourgeois Specialists and Red Professionals in 1920s Soviet Archival Development

by Kelly A. Kolar

p. 243 - 270

Immediately after the 1917 October Revolution the Bolsheviks began developing the most centralized archival system in the world, along with a new profession of “red archivists.” However, the development of archives and the archival profession in 1920s Soviet Union was not simply the top-down implementation of Bolshevik political ambitions portrayed in offi cial Soviet accounts and Cold War–era Western literature but an unexpectedly open negotiation of ideas and customs among actors with diverse professional and ideological backgrounds, including non-Marxist archival professionals, workers from other cultural professions, and young communists.

Kelly A. Kolar is an assistant professor in the History Department at Middle Tennessee State University, where she teaches history and archival management in the public history program. She received an MLIS with a specialization in archives in 2004 and a PhD in Russian history in 2012, both from UCLA.

The Weather Privateers: Meteorology and Commercial Satellite Data

by Gemma Cirac-Claveras

p. 271 - 302 

This article examines the changing framework for producing satellite weather data in the United States since the 2000s, from a government function to one increasingly carried out by the private sector. It explores the controversial attempts to commercialize the production of a particular data source (atmospheric profiles obtained with radio occultation)from the perspective of executives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), members of Congress, atmospheric and climate scientists, and the private sector. It addresses their opposing arguments by focusing, in particular, on the stresses and pressures within NOAA and its resistance to acquiring such data from commercial providers. In so doing, the article discusses the connections between commercial activities and meteorology and, more generally, the relations between science and commerce.

Gemma Cirac-Claveras is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Laboratoire Techniques Territoires et Sociétés, France. Her publications include “Factories of Satellite Data: Remote Sensing and Physical Earth Sciences in France” (ICON, 2015); and “Satellites for What? Creating User Communities for Space-Based Data in France: The Case from LERTS to CESBIO” (Technology and Culture, 2018). 

Parallel Expansions: The Role of Information during the Formative Years of the English East India Company (1600–1623)

Gabor Szommer

p. 303-336

This article examines the role of information in the early years of the English East India Company (EIC). It examines diff erent aspects of the organizational behavior of the EIC between the years 1600 and 1623 and shows the interplay between physical expansion and the transformation of information-handling practices from several perspectives. Although the focus is on a single organization, this case study provides insights into the informational challenges faced by early modern tradingcompanies and similar organizations coordinating operations on a global scale.-public.

Gabor Szommer received his PhD in early modern history. He works as a freelance editor and translator. His primary research interest is the early history of the Dutch and English East India Companies, and he focuses mostly on information-related details.


Codebooks for the Mind: Dictionary Index Reforms in Republican China, 1912–1937

Ulug Kuzuoglu

p. 337-366

Faster access to information was an overwhelming concern for Chinese reformists during the Republican era (1912–1949). They claimed that the nonalphabetical nature of Chinese characters presented obstacles to indexing, a fundamental technology for effi cient information access and retrieval. In a matter of three decades, nearly one hundred new indices were invented for Chinese characters. Competition over which indices would prevail was fierce, especially among dictionary publishers, which stood to benefi t greatly in the nascent Chinese dictionary market. This article follows the two main publishing houses in China, Commercial Press and Zhonghua Press, that invented indices in order to dominate the market from the founding of the repub -lic in 1912 to the start of the war against Japan in 1937. As dozens of inventors of indices made clear, however, indexing technologies were situated within a larger social context, and the invention and destruction of indices were sites of political and fi nancial contestation.

Ulug Kuzuoglu is a lecturer in discipline in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University.


A Note from the Senior Book Review Editor

by Amelia Acker

p. 367-368


In this issue of Information & Culture, you will find five new book reviews featuring a range of topics relevant to the history and study of information in society. These book reviews feature a broad range of topics—from the Atari video game system and early gaming communities, to the transformation of computing work and learning cultures, to a new biography of Claude Shannon. Longtime readers of our journal may recognize that this section reappears after a hiatus of several years. Since 2011, our book reviews have been published online at the journal’s website.

Amelia Acker is an Assistant Professor at the School of Information at The University of Texas at Austin. She studies the emergence and standardization of new information objects and data traces communication networks. Currently, she is researching data cultures, information infrastructures and digital preservation contexts that support long-term cultural memory. Amelia’s current research program addresses emerging digital traces and mobile computing cultures that are shaped by new data collection practices amongst different kinds of users, designers, technologists, and institutions. Her research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and has been published in journals such as the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST), Archival Science, and the Annals of the History of Computing.

Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing by Marie Hicks (review)

p. 369 - 372

Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017. 352 pages. $40 hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-262-03554-5

Marie Hicks


This well-researched new volume by historian Marie Hicks connects sexist labor practices with the failure of the British computing industry. It will be essential to readers interested in the history of computing, information work, and gender and computing. Hicks examines the technical work of women from the 1930s to the 1970s and shows how the Anglo-American stereotype that men have an aptitude for computing has been naturalized through a deliberate structuring and devaluing of work done by women.

Atari Age: The Emergence of Video Games in America by Michael Z. Newman (review)

p. 372-374

Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017. 264 pages. $29.95 hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-262-03571-2

Roderic Crooks


Michael Z. Newman’s Atari Age: The Emergence of Video Games in America captures the moment video games came to prominence in the United States and provides a useful framework for understanding how media derive their powerful cultural associations. Atari Age tells the story of early video games with an attention to space and movement—their arrival in disreputable arcades and pool halls, their transition to the newly built shopping malls of the 1980s, and, finally, their domestication in the media rooms of middle-class Reagan-era suburbia.

The Economization of Life by Michelle Murphy (review)

p. 374-376

Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017. 232 pages. $24.95 paperback
ISBN: 978-0-8223-6345-3

Marika Cifor


In The Economization of Life, Michelle Murphy traces the processes and imaginaries that have come to assign differential value to human lives based on their ability to contribute to the future thriving of the macro-economy. Murphy, a leading voice in feminist technoscience studies, is a professor of history and women and gender studies at the University of Toronto.

A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age by Jimmy Soni, Rob Goodman (review)

p. 377-378

New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017. xv + 366 pages. $27.00 hardcover
ISBN: 9781476766683

Edward A. Goedeken


Historians of information spend a lot of time thinking about how humans have created, compiled, and used information in its many guises. Claude Shannon, however, went a step further and used remarkable genius to investigate just exactly what happens with the fundamental unit of information—the message that is sent and the message that is received.


This issue can be found on Project MUSE