Coffee houses and Print Culture

The connections between coffee houses and print culture are interesting to me as they can obvious or more subtle. In The Social life of Coffee: The Emergence of the British Coffee House the connection between the two is described in several different ways. The primary thing that appears to be happening in the coffee houses is bringing men from different social status and backgrounds together and discussing all kinds of news and topics (The Social life of Coffee, 99). More conversational than reading, however, it is typically things that men have read that is leading into discussion and learning about various topics. At times, books may be sold at the Coffee houses as well, which is another connection to print culture (Social life of Coffee, 101). A lot of education is happening at coffee houses as well which is another indication that there are books involved or at least one may be able to acquire books by signing up for classes or learning which ones to read and where to purchase them (Social life of Coffee, 99).

Works cited:

Cowan, Brian. The Social Life of Coffee : The Emergence of the British Coffeehouse. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

Reflections on Downey Reading

As a whole, reading Downey really highlighted to me the progression of technology for each category and how it affected the people. As new technology rises, people’s habits and behaviors change. This includes the example of living rooms changing and more households had access to television (38). People went from the fireplace being the gathering point to the television being the center of focus in the living room.

The next significance was how the technology changes affect people in the work place. The example of how much man-power it took to effectively run networked-communication of “. . . Outdoor linemen, . . . Indoor operators, . . . Uniformed child messengers . . .” for the successful implementation of early communication networks highlights how significant a role people have doing very hands on jobs to make these forms of communication functional (Downey, 30-32). Another example of this is with Amazon as as an online store where the consumer only has to use the internet to make purchases. There is, however, a lot of hands-on labor behind the scene to make this platform successful. “In all of these ways, the new virtual economy cannot escape a very old physical fact: it takes human labor to make the web work.” (Downey, 57).

Lastly, the displacement of workers as technology shifts is something highlighted in the reading. An example of this is discussed in relation to the Bell industry when 32,000 operators were hired to keep up with call demands. These positions, however, end up becoming obsolete as the technology advances to where the customer can dial their own telephone (Downey, 31).

Technology is always shifting and changing and causing people’s lives to change with it. This idea truly highlights how focused our lives are around communication and information technology when there is access to it.

Works cited:

Downey, Gregory John. Technology and Communication in American History. Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 2011.

Class Assignments

Two assignments suggested by the class that I am strongly interested in are Podcasts and using StoryMap. Both of these platforms I do not have experience in but I think that they would be really fascinating to learn and that they could make the assignments really interesting and interactive. StoryMap would be a great individual assignment while Podcasts I feel would work best as a group assignment. I love the idea of an assignment with video creations as I feel that would help to gain some familiarity with different programs and equipment. I think it would work great as a group assignment as well. Using a video creation to either tell the story of a particular topic would be great, or using it to do something with oral histories for interviewing and showing images.

Timeline JS link:

History of the Age of Information Introductions

In James Gleick’s The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood introduction he is describing the process of the spread and utilization of information and how this essentially the basis for understanding life. “It is information, words, instructions . . . If you want to understand life, don’t think about vibrant, throbing gels and oozes, think about Information technology.” (Gleick, 8) This reading has me thinking about how much differently we think about life and knowledge the more access we have to information. Gleick is talking about Information technology and how this can be used to spread information and increase understanding of everything. Gleick’s approach to the Age of Information is that it is a process in which is constantly developing and the better communication the more understanding of the world is available. The author uses examples of both thinking outside the box and doing things differently, putting things together that may be unconventional, and collaboration as keys to the progress that has been made in information technology and communication. (Gleick 6,7).

In Ronald R. Kline’s The Cybernetics Moment what struck me was the vast number of things that one piece of technology can do. For example, when he is explaining how Information-feedback machines could do extensive practical things that seemingly were unrelated. (Kline 1, 2). Like Gleick’s introduction, there seems to be a theme of putting together expertise that normally do not go together to make progress. Here however, it goes a bit further as the writer describes experts actively trying to bring different fields of expertise together to further understanding (Kline, 3). Kline’s approach to the Age of Information is to focus on what brought us to where we are today and what makes this an information age. He is looking to understand the process that it took to get here and by doing this I think the information can be utilized better and more efficiently as well as expanded upon. 

Project ideas that come to mind are collaborative projects that focus on increasing understanding of information technology platforms. Perhaps linking things together that may not normally be used together could create a new perspective on communication and technology.

Works cited:

Kline, Ronald R. The Cybernetics Moment : Or Why We Call Our Age the Information Age. 1st ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015.

Gleick, James. The Information : a History, a Theory, a Flood. 1st ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 2011.



My name is Ruth Curran, I am in my third year at UMW, and I am majoring in History. Some of my favorite things include hiking, riding, yoga, meditation, health/wellness, reading, and spending time with my sons. I am interested in how the History of the age of information has progressed over time and what kind of influence various advances in the spread of information had over communities of people in their time period.

One piece of advice I plan on using from previous students of this course is: “Be realistic about the assignments you create. You will have to actually do them. The more specific you can be about the details, the better your project is likely to turn out.” 

I really like this assignment:

  1. Or conveying a message through other form of early communication: cuneiform, hieroglyphics, old Norse runes, smoke signals, Chinese calligraphy, etc.

I would definitely be interested in doing this as an assignment. I think it would be really fascinating to see how Norse runes work.