Special Event

I School Reception and Lecture, Featuring Geoff Nunberg

Thursday, April 15, 2010
5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Geoff Nunberg

Join us at a special reception and lecture for alumni and friends of the I School. This event is a great chance to reconnect with friends, faculty, and staff at a pre-talk reception. If you haven’t had the opportunity to hear Geoff Nunberg speak at the I School or as the resident linguist on NPR's Fresh Air, you won't want to miss his always interesting and entertaining insight.

Reception: 5:00 – 6:00 pm
Lecture: 6:00 pm

Please RSVP to Kristi Mitchell at kristi@ischool.berkeley.edu or (510) 643-4206.

Lecture: A (very) brief history of "information"; or, what are we all doing here, anyway?
Geoff Nunberg

It accumulates on our hard drives and lurks in our genes. Companies and consultants promise to refine it out of data or distill it into knowledge. It can topple churches and tyrants; the health of democratic societies depends on its free exchange (and free, we're told, is exactly what it wants to be). Its revolution has upended our lives: now we do its work, suffer its fatigue from its explosion, and worry about its widening gap, as we take up our roles in its society, its economy, and its age — not to mention (in a more transitory and purely local way) its school.

So what could it — or not to beg the question, what could they — possibly be? Does "information" name a single concept or a family of concepts? Or is it not really a concept at all, but just a bit of semantic sleight of hand? For starters, it helps to look at how we got here. It turns out that confusion of the meanings of "information" began at least two centuries ago (and as it happens, dictionaries all get the story wrong). "Information" has always been a jerry-built notion that conceals its own inconsistencies, so that it can slip surreptitiously between one sense and another. But ultimately, I'll suggest, that's exactly what has made the term so adaptable and so useful to us: the words we name our ages after are always ones that enable us to leave important things unsaid.

Geoffrey Nunberg (B.A., Columbia; M.A., Penn; Ph.D., CUNY) is an adjunct full professor at the School of Information. He is also a senior researcher at the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University and a Consulting Full Professor of linguistics at Stanford University. Until 2001, he was a principal scientist at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, working on the development of linguistic technologies. He has also taught at UCLA, the University of Rome, and the University of Naples.

Nunberg has written scholarly books and articles on a range of topics, including semantics and pragmatics, information access, written language structure, multilingualism and language policy, and the cultural implications of digital technologies.


Last updated:

August 23, 2016