Literature and Information

“Information” and “information society” are key words of the contemporary moment. The latter term refers to the broad social, economic, political, and cultural transformations that attended the proliferation of new media technologies in the second half of the twentieth century. We have been motivated to propose this working group by a shared interest in understanding both how these new media are changing our field—the way we (literary scholars, our students, the general public) tell stories, the way we read, the way we write, the way we think—and what we may learn about these changes from literary works and literary criticism.

Our guiding questions: What does it mean to live and work in the Information Age? What does it mean to be a digital citizen? What is the relation between information and the literary? To begin answering these questions, this working group will bring literary history together with the history of information sciences. We will consider where these fields converge, how definitions of “the literary” and “the informative” might co-constitute each other, and where these categories are going in the twenty-first century. Our group will read across creative works, literary and cultural criticism, history of science, sociology, and communication theory. We will also attend to how changing practices of information gathering (e.g. collection and collation of big data sets) and dissemination (posting, sharing, streaming, open access in the digital sphere) inspire new literary forms and multimedia experiments. Our ultimate goal will be to understand information better as a concept shaped by certain presumptions and promises regarding technological capability, knowledge work, surveillance, political freedom, and civic responsibility.