It was a black Toshiba with a CD/DVD drive and USB ports, in which I could plug my portable floppy disk
I didn’t have high-speed Internet; instead I mostly utilized the dreadfully slow dial up in my on campus apartment.
Fast forward to today, I’m on my third laptop, which happens to also be a Toshiba, downloading PDF’s of this week’s readings and writing my thought blog.
All the while, I’m mindful of saving everything on my USB flash drive.
I was thrust on this walk down memory lane while reflecting on today’s readings about the history and politics of information.
Long before 2003, society, me included, was concerned with information quantification, collection, storage and management.
As Alex Wright discusses in “Glut,” it’s in our human nature to be concerned with such things.
As of 2007, human beings produced more than five exabytes of information a year, according to Wright (Wright, 2007).
By now, I am sure this number has exponentially increased as society has devised newer forms of information collection and storage.
More importantly, however, society remains dedicated to possessing information.
After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica went out of print, bowing down to the pressures of online.
The last print version is the 32-volume 2010 edition, weighing 129 pounds and including new entries on global warming and the Human Genome Project (Bosman, 2012).
Since then, the long-trusted information source focuses primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools.
This exemplifies the theses of both Wright and Gleick and the ever-changing “evolutionary drama” (Wright,
I agree our hierarchies and individual networks partly precipitate these changes.
Personal memory purchases for our computers show our constant desire for more information.
Nowadays, consumers purchase hard drives with storage for at least one terabyte, which calculates to 8.79609e12 bits, and can cost about $80.
Meanwhile, organizations such as the National Security or Central Intelligence Agencies may use multiple petabytes.
One petabyte equals 1024 terabytes, which can cost about 39,933,
according to my calculations.
Information can be quantified and it costs.
Evolutions in information, particularly in the realm of digital media, bring ongoing “social, cultural and political transformations” (Wright,
I found Winner’s article particularly informative and interesting.
However, I wished he would have given more examples to help with explaining his points.
From my understanding, I agree artifacts do contain political properties, some straightforward others inherent.
We often overlook these political characteristics out of a lack of concern or ignorance of their presence.
Realizing and acknowledging these political characteristics can be a bit like taking the red pill in “The Matrix,” disintegrating our previous reality.
Voting machines hold obvious political properties.
However, photo identification cards hold more inherent political properties.
Both of these artifacts contain deal with information.
Voting machines were created to tally votes for political candidates during elections.
They are clearly political in nature.
Normally, photo identification card such as a driver’s license or state ID would be apolitical.
A driver’s license grants one the ability to drive while other forms of photo
identification provide a cosigned face with a name.
These days, though, not having a valid ID can disenfranchise voting rights.
Some states have proposed laws stopping those who do not possess what the government officials deem a proper photo ID can be stopped from voting.
These days, social media, television, and even access to information through programs
such as Newspapers in Education (NIE) all hold political characteristics.
As we continue in this ongoing information and technological revolution, I foresee more artifacts gaining political characteristics or being specifically created with political attributes in mind.
Friedman and Nisenbaum’s article illustrate three important categories of bias in computer systems: preexisting, technical, and emergent.
This article complements Winner’s thoughts -- things are not always as they seem.
Biases infiltrate computer systems to their very core, even going as far as programming language.
While all computers understand assembly, the computer language, no computer is built to
understand all programming languages such as ASP.Net or C++.
The programming language understood by a particular computer can be affected,
This is further exemplified by Macs and PCs operating under different programming
All the readings point to the fact that the only constant in information and technology is change, which will surely happen as society, culture and politics continue to influence their evolution.
(2012, March 3). After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the
Presses. Retrieved from
(2011, March 18). Excerpt - The Information - By James Gleick -
NYTimes.com. Retrieved from
Alex Wright,(2007),Glut,Ch. 1
Langdon Winner,(1980), "Do Artifacts have Politics?" Daedalus, 109 (1),121-136
Batya Friedman and Helen Nissenbaum (1996),"Bias in Computer Systems," ACM Transactions on Information Systems, 14(3),330-347