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Historical informatics
Reference:

From information to knowledge: historical context

Borodkin Leonid Iosifovich

Doctor of History

Professor, Department of Historical Information Science, Lomonosov Moscow State University

119992, Russia, Moscow, Lomonosovskii Prosp. 27-4 Shuvalovskii korp., 454

lborodkin@mail.ru

DOI:

10.7256/2585-7797.2022.1.38024

Received:

04-05-2022


Published:

11-05-2022


Abstract: The article reflects the author's speech in the discussion club of the journal "Historical Informatics" at a meeting dedicated to the discussion of the collective monograph "Information. A Historical Companion", published in 2021 at Princeton. The author examines not only the history of the functioning and evolution of information in various historical societies, but also the social history of science and technology related to the production of information and its transmission, dissemination and processing. It is this second aspect of this publication that is discussed in the article, it is he who is of the greatest interest in the context of modern applications of Data Science in the social sciences and humanities, as well as discussions about historical information and historical knowledge in the "digital age". Starting from the materials of the Companion, the article discusses the following questions: What role did discrete and analog approaches play in the formation of the concept of information in the late 1940s? What was the mutual influence of the outstanding scientists who created the theory of information? To what extent can these achievements be of interest to the historical (and, more broadly, the humanities) sciences? The position of the authors of the Companion is also discussed on the question of whether the concepts of "information" and "knowledge" should be associated with the position of the historian-researcher or with the perception of the subject of historical research? Peter Burke's point of view seems justified here, believing that throughout the centuries under consideration, people belonging to various historical societies were aware of information as a critical aspect of their lives.


Keywords:

information, information theory, communications, entropy, historical society, cybernetics, the digital age, knowledge, Shannon, Wiener

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

"Information exchange is the cement that holds society together."

Norbert Wiener. I am a Mathematician. New York. 1956.

Introduction

Questions about the role of information in the societies of the past, its creation, dissemination and interpretation are of obvious interest within the framework of the problems of historical informatics, as well as in the broader context of the methodology of historical science. In Russia, this interest was first realized 20 years ago, when the Center "Problems of Historical Cognition" of the IVI RAS and the Laboratory of Historical Informatics of the Faculty of History of Moscow State University held a scientific conference "The role of information in the formation and development of society in the historical past" in 2002. The conference was attended by scientists from the institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Institute of General History, Institute of Oriental Studies, Institute of Philosophy), as well as MSU scientists: historians, mathematicians, philosophers. Following the results of the conference, a collection of articles was published in 2004, which analyzes the features of information processes in historical societies in various chronological periods, the influence of these processes on the formation of mentality, decision-making, the formation and development of public relations, social traditions and practices [1].

In the introductory article of the collection, it was noted that the problems of information, which have acquired such a huge significance in our days, compared with the previous centuries (and even decades), and spread to the sciences of society and man, nevertheless, did not lead to the emergence of some general theoretical concept, which, for example, synergetics, could It could be attributed to both natural and social sciences and humanities [2]. This means that all social processes related to the storage, transmission and processing of social information in the past should be analyzed from the point of view of their informational content, materialization of meaning, symbolic expression, differences of interpretation. Questions arise in what forms information is stored, how it materializes during transmission, i.e. what are the meaningful forms of social communications. Of particular interest in this regard is the information approach in source studies, which was proposed in the works of I.D. Kovalchenko (who used the categories of reflection theory) [3] and V.I. Bovykin, who considered the nature of historical information recorded in historical sources [4].

The authors of the introductory article of the collection also drew attention to the problem of studying the mechanisms of processing social information as the least developed in the whole complex of scientific problems related to the humanitarian aspect of social information in different historical periods. Indeed, if social communications became to some extent the subject of historical research, then by the beginning of the XXI century this problem had not yet been studied in its interdisciplinary dimensions [2, p.6]. In this context, it is possible to mention, perhaps, the work of the Y.M. Lotman school in the field of applying the semiotic approach in historical and cultural studies and other developments based on the concepts of sign systems and including three levels: syntactics, semantics and pragmatics.

Twenty articles of the 2004 collection consider both methodological aspects of the problems of information dissemination in historical societies, and its specific historical aspects, in relation to the history of Byzantium, medieval India, the history of England and France of the XVI - XVII centuries, as well as the history of Russia of the XIX XX centuries.

* * *

Unlike the authors of the Russian collection of 2004, the authors of the collective monograph "Information. A Historical Society", published in 2021 at Princeton [5], examines not only the history of the functioning and evolution of information in various historical societies, but also the social history of science and technology related to the production of information and its transmission, dissemination and processing. It is to this, the second aspect of this publication that I would like to address in the notes offered here.

The Princeton Companion (we will continue to call this publication for brevity) includes two parts. In the first of them, the authors of 13 chapters mainly consider five centuries of the history of the emergence and development of new information practices that were used to solve information problems in different parts of the world, starting from Columbus' journey to the shores of America and up to the modern information society. The second part contains more than 100 short essays (following in alphabetical order), which give an idea of most of the general concepts and processes that characterize the role of information in its historical retrospective. In this brief review, we will turn mainly to some essays of the second part of the Companion, which are of the greatest interest in the context of current trends in the development of Data Science, discussions about historical information and historical knowledge in the "digital age".

Note that the concept of "information" is usually referred to as the primary, indefinable concept of our world - along with matter and energy. Informatio in Latin means "message", "explanation".

Information is an important component in the datainformationknowledge triad. In the 2000s, this triad was expanded by the introduction of the fourth component - wisdom, which gave rise to the abbreviation DIKW (Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom), symbolizing the information hierarchy, the pyramid. It is appropriate to recall here the classic lines from Thomas Eliot's play The Rock (1934):

Where is the wisdom that we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge that we have lost in information?

Today we could add a third line:

Where is the information we lost in the data?

Let us now turn to the essay of the "Companion" on knowledge.

Knowledge

The main attention in this essay [5, pp. 538-544] is paid by its author, the famous English historian Peter Burke, who published the book "A Social History of Knowledge" in 2000, to the evolution of the creation, transmission and improvement of knowledge. The focus of his narrative is on the processes of converting raw data or information into knowledge. These processes, which differ depending on the type of knowledge sought, are characterized as data collection, storage, verification and analysis. The characteristic of these stages proposed by P. Burke is of interest.

The first stage, the collection of data that will be transformed into knowledge, is already considered as a form of processing (rather, preprocessing LB), since it includes not only the accumulation, but also the selection of material. So, collecting is a form of collecting objects, whether natural or manmade, exhibited in the so-called private "cabinets of curiosities" in the XVII century or in public museums since the XIX century. Scientific expeditions, rare in the XVI century and multiplied since the end of the XVIII century, accumulated a lot of new materials. Scientists were increasingly worried about measuring what they were observing. A vivid example: During his expedition to Spanish America (1799-1804), Alexander von Humboldt took with him more than 40 types of measuring instruments, including an altimeter for measuring altitude, a hygrometer for measuring precipitation, a magnetometer for measuring the magnetic forces of the Earth and even a cyanometer for measuring the blueness of the sky.

The second stage of knowledge processing is the preservation, fixation of them in one or another extractable form: from memorizing or using mnemonic techniques, such as kipu (groups of colored and knotted knots) used in Peru before the Spanish conquest, to various forms of writing or images. Translating into words what is observed entails a certain loss of knowledge, but this loss was compensated, at least in part, by sketches, plans and maps, and then photographing. Writing has changed business practices. In public administration, written messages that could be transmitted over long distances contributed to the gradual centralization of decision-making - a process that became even faster in the era of telephony.

The third stage of knowledge production is an assessment of the identified information, including its verification and verification. Observations of an astronomer or experiments of a chemist are repeated by other scientists to ensure their reliability. Historians return to sources to verify each other's claims. We can say that verification is gradually becoming a universal criterion of scientific knowledge.

The fourth stage of knowledge creation is analysis. For example, anthropologists do not think that their task is finished when the society in which they conducted their field research is described; they also want to move on from the description (ethnography as an example) to the theory. Quantitative analysis is also becoming important. "Statistics" owes its name to the fact that, since the XVIII century, Western governments (why only Western? L.B.) increasingly relied on numbers to orient their policies. Apparently, P. Burke proceeds here from the fact that general population censuses in Western countries have been conducted since the beginning of the XIX century.

In my opinion, the author rightly connects the fourth stage of knowledge creation with the important role of classification as a general scientific methodological tool. A number of methodologists believe that classifications occupy the same prominent place in the humanities as models in modern natural sciences. As P. Burke notes, the classification considers individual elements of the system under study as parts of a larger whole. The author sees the main difference between the orders of knowledge, such as the traditional Chinese system and the Western one, in their approaches to classification. He recalls that some scientists, such as the Swiss humanist Konrad Gessner (1516-1565) classified books, which contributed to the emergence of a new discipline - bibliography, while others decided to classify nature itself, such as the Swede Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), best known for his contributions to botany. German scientist Franz Bopp (1791-1867) divided languages into families, and Russian scientist Dmitry Mendeleev (1834-1907) classified chemical elements.

P. Burke considers his specialization to be an important stage in the development of scientific knowledge. Before the XVII century . for some scientists, known as polymaths, it was commonplace to study various disciplines and even make original contributions to some of them. Thus, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), whose interests included history, theology, linguistics and Chinese studies, became best known in such fields as philosophy and mathematics. Nevertheless, scientists such as Czech Jan Amos Komensky (1592-1670) have already complained about the growing fragmentation of knowledge, and since then this trend has been gaining momentum. As P. Burke notes, the boundary between the humanities and natural sciences gradually turned into a gap, marked by the appearance in England in the 1830s of the term "scientist" (scientist in the field of natural sciences). The erudite era was followed by the era of "experts" (a term coined in the 1820s) and "specialists" (the term was introduced in a medical context in French in the 1840s and in English in the 1850s, but soon became more widespread). At the same time, the erudites did not completely disappear, P. Burke notes, confirming this with a number of examples, starting with Pavel Florensky (1882-1937), who studied mathematics, philosophy and theology before turning to the history of art, electrical engineering and chemistry. Englishman Gregory Bateson (1904-1980) was torn between anthropology, biology, psychology and cybernetics. The French Jesuit Michel de Certeau (1925-1986) studied philosophy, theology and history, but switched to psychoanalysis, anthropology and sociology. American scientist Jared Diamond (b. 1937) was a physiologist before curiosity led him to ornithology, anthropology and, finally, to comparative history. Such scientists may have become an endangered species, but they have not yet become extinct [5, p. 544].

However, the dominant trend in the twentieth century is clearly the further specialization of university education and science. P. Burke mentions in this context the concept of "two cultures", introduced by Ch. Snow (writer and physicist) in 1959 and the emerging "third culture", the culture of social sciences [5, p. 544]. It should be noted that C. Snow, speaking about two cultures, meant that "at one pole - the artistic intelligentsia, at the other - scientists, and as the most prominent representatives of this group physicists."

If we evaluate the processes of development of scientific knowledge in recent decades from this perspective, we can come to the conclusion about a combination of trends towards differentiation and integration of scientific knowledge, a noticeable increase in attention to information support for research and the formation of large thematic (digital) data collections. This fully applies to historical research.

Information, cybernetics and feedback

The scientific concept of information began to take shape in the late 1940s. Mainly in the breakthrough studies of American mathematicians and engineers Claude Shannon (1916-2001) and Norbert Wiener (1894-1964). Under their influence, information theory, cybernetics and a number of other scientific and technological directions appeared. What role did discrete and analog approaches play in the formation of the concept of information? To what extent can these achievements be of interest to the historical (and, more broadly, the humanities) sciences? Let's turn to the relevant sections of the Companion. This most important stage in the creation of the doctrine of information is disclosed by the authors of collective work in an insufficiently clearly balanced way, in my opinion.

The essay "Cybernetics and Feedback" (author R. Lemov, pp. 382-386) characterizes cybernetics as an interdisciplinary science, which was born by Norbert Wiener, mathematician and engineer, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who published the scientific bestseller "Cybernetics Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine" in 1948. ("Cybernetics, or control and communication in an animal and a machine") [6]. Having survived a relatively short phase of major success, which came at the romantic time of the "storm and onslaught", cybernetics by the 70s faded into the shadows, but in the 21st century it turned out to be in demand again - due to the awareness of the universal role of the feedback concept at a new round of development of science and modern technologies, in the conditions of the information society and the growth of the capabilities of artificial intelligence technologies, machine learning. This concept plays a special role in Norbert Wiener's cybernetics, the science of the general theory of control and communication along with the concepts of information and entropy.

Interestingly, in the same year 1948, Claude Shannon's groundbreaking work "A Mathematical Theory of Communication" appeared [8]. Since then, in the discussion of various aspects of information sciences, Shannon's theory of information has been in the focus of attention. It focuses primarily on the processes of information transmission and its accuracy [5, p.104]. Within the framework of the Companion, the question of the significance of K. Shannon's contribution to understanding the nature of information processes is touched upon in Paul Duguid's section "Communications, Computing and Information" [5, pp. 238-258], which, referring to the origins, appeals to telephony, developed as a form of "acoustic telegraphy". This story begins in 1876, when Alexander Bell attracted the attention of the public by demonstrating a telephone at an exhibition in honor of the centennial of the United States. P. Duguid notes that Claude Shannon's mathematical concept of communication in 1948 the basis of modern information theory was the result of research on the processing of electrical signals conducted at Bell Labs. In accordance with its "telegraphic origin", telephony was first conceived as a business technology, and only later it became more widely distributed as a form of network social life. Shannon essentially developed the ideas of Hartley, his colleague at AT&T, which led to the emergence of Shannon's extremely influential "mathematical theory of communication" (often mistakenly called "mathematical theory of information", as noted by P. Duguid [5, p. 245]). Shannon defined communication as "the reproduction at one point of a message sent from another point." In order to measure the accuracy of this reproduction without addressing the psychological factors that bothered Hartley, Shannon rejected "meaning" as a category unrelated to the task he was solving, which further distanced him from the semantic understanding of communication (as his colleague Warren Weaver noted, mathematical information theory did not care whether the signal indicated "text The King James version of the Bible", or the word "yes".) [5, p. 246]. With such assumptions, Shannon was able to calculate the most effective way of transmitting information over the communication line. P. Duguid emphasizes at the same time that Shannon's neutral interpretation of information turned out to be in demand in connection with the advent of computers.

However, if we omit the psychological aspects, meaning, semantics of the transmitted messages, then the concept of information according to Shannon is limited, connected precisely with its quantitative measurement. Nevertheless, Shannon's theory has spread from telephony to any field that wants to declare "information" as part of its origin, especially to those who are looking for mathematical confirmation. This extension (implicitly assuming that the more information, the more informative the message is) worried Shannon, who was always aware of the limitations of his definition and feared that in many applications they are ignored [5, p.246].

N. Wiener spoke even more definitely about the possibilities of applying this concept in the social sciences and humanities. In his book "Cybernetics", he noted that in the social sciences we are dealing with short statistical series, and whether our research in the social sciences is statistical or dynamic, they may have limited accuracy, "and in the end will never deliver us such a quantity of verifiable, meaningful information that would be comparable to that what we used to expect in the natural sciences. We cannot afford to neglect the social sciences, but we should not build exaggerated hopes for their capabilities. Whether we like it or not, we have to leave a lot to the "unscientific", narrative method of a professional historian" [6, pp.247-248].

It should be noted in this connection that the authors of the Companion, describing very briefly the humanitarian (and, in particular, semiotic) aspects of communication systems, do not mention the fundamental works of Yu.M. Lotman. Further, noting the role of J.-F. Champollion in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs, "Companion" does not mention the achievements of Yu.V. Knorozov in deciphering the Maya script (although this scientific problem is considered by a number of authors of "Companion").

Norbert Wiener and Claude Shannon

It should be noted that in the sections of the Companion considered by us, two outstanding scientists who played a crucial role in the formation and development of the concept of information Claude Shannon and Norbert Wiener practically "do not overlap". A possible explanation may be due to the fact that their paths to the publications of 1948, which immediately became famous, were paved through various "scientific landscapes". What was the difference between these paths? How did the scientist of the older generation (Wiener) perceive the achievements of the younger (Shannon)? This topic is poorly represented in The Companion, but N. Wiener reveals it to a certain extent in his texts.

In the book "I am a mathematician" Wiener writes: "I wanted to talk about the new theory of information created by Shannon and me" [7, p.311]. He emphasizes that his path to information theory was connected with the study of electrical systems conducting continuous current. At the same time, Claude Shannon, who worked in the laboratory of the Bell Telephone company, was simultaneously developing a similar and largely equivalent theory from the standpoint of the study of electrical switching circuits. This work was a direct development of his previous work on the application of logic algebra to problems in the theory of relay (discrete) circuits and was in line with the scientific interests of Shannon, who, as Wiener repeatedly pointed out, "loves the discrete and shuns the continuous" [7, p.251]. Describing the differences between the two approaches, Wiener writes: "Shannon considers discrete messages as a sequence of affirmative and negative responses in time, and considers each choice between "yes" or "no" to be an element of information (in his 1948 work, Shannon called this unit of information a bit - an abbreviation of the words "binary digit" - L.At the same time, while studying the theory of continuous filtering of signals and proceeding from points of view that at first seemed completely different from Shannon's point of view, I came to a very close definition of the unit of information quantity" [7, p.251]. The final assessment of this scientific achievement, given by Wiener, is formulated as follows: "By introducing the definition of the concept of the amount of information according to ShannonWiener (because it equally belongs to both of us), we have made a radical revolution in this area" [7, p.251]. Note, however, that in modern scientific literature, information theory is more often associated with the names of K. Shannon and R. Hartley.

Here is the resulting formula for the amount of information: I = - ?p i log 2(p i), where p i is the probability of the i-th event.

The role of N. Wiener is more noticeable in the interpretation of the concept of entropy, while he notes that some of his research in this direction was associated with the earlier work of A.N. Kolmogorov. The concept of the amount of information is quite naturally connected by Wiener with the classical concept of statistical mechanics the concept of entropy: "As the amount of information in a system is a measure of the organization of the system, so the entropy of the system is a measure of the disorganization of the system, chaos; one is equal to the other, taken with the opposite sign" [6, pp.55-56].

What was N. Wiener's perception of his younger colleague, K. Shannon, as a scientist and as a person? It seems to me that the pages from Wiener's book "I am a Mathematician" vividly speak about this. So, he writes that in the 1933-1934 academic year, a group of talented students appeared at the MIT mathematics department, which was headed by Wiener. According to Wiener, the most interesting of them was, of course, Claude E. Shannon. Wiener notes that one of the first who drew attention to Claude and appreciated his rare abilities was the famous Vannevar Bush [7, p.173-174].

Let's give the floor to the author here. "Even then, Shannon expressed an idea that from the very beginning revealed the deep originality of his thinking and later turned out to be extremely important for research in the field of relay-contact circuits, computers and the information theory that arose from this. Shannon's talent turned out to be as appropriate as possible to the tasks being solved in the laboratory of the Bell telephone company. As an employee of this laboratory, Shannon achieved one victory after another. His interests simultaneously covered the question of finding a numerical measure of the amount of information, methods of playing chess on electric computers, problems of encoding and decoding messages, and in general all the problems that make up the content of modern information theory. For all that, he remained faithful to his first love in science all the time the love of problems about discrete devices of the "yes" or "no" type, which he clearly preferred to questions about continuously changing quantities such as the current flowing through the wire. It is this penchant for the discrete that has made Shannon one of the greatest scientists of our century, the age of computers and automata factories.

Although Shannon studied at MIT and all the time he was a student, I hardly met him. But in the following years, the paths that we followed in science, if not completely coincided, then, in any case, ran very close and our scientific ties significantly expanded and deepened" [7, pp.173-174].

Concluding the topic of comparing different ways to create an information theory, let us turn to the assessment of the author of the Companion section devoted to cybernetics. R. Lemov rightly notes that for cybernetics it was not important that the definition of information according to Shannon turned out to be essentially digital; rather, "Wiener imagined a great interdisciplinary science covering human and machine elements in the "penetrating" communication network" [5, p.383]. In this regard, it seems appropriate to recall the wellknown statement of Norbert Wiener: "To a person human, and to a computer - machine."

From the glossary

The glossary of the Companion is also of interest (pp.833-840), which provides, in particular, definitions of a number of concepts discussed in the discussions of humanities in recent years. Let's turn to two of them.

Digital/analog

These terms are used to describe the principles of operation of modern technical devices (p.835).

Digital describes devices that offer certain preset states, such as a light switch that can be turned on or off, or a keyboard that can be set to all uppercase or all lowercase letters. The term "analog", on the contrary, refers to devices with continuous settings (for example, a light control or a thermostat), the levels of which can be raised or lowered over the entire spectrum. Most modern (digital) computing devices are based on a binary digital system based on two values: 0 and 1, which, nevertheless, allows them to implement seemingly continuous settings.

These terms are also used in an extended sense - to divide the history of technology into two eras. The phrase "digital age" is used to describe the era of widespread digital computing and devices, which is often considered to coincide with the growth of the public Internet. Everything that was before is perceived as if it shared the characteristic features of the opposite "analog" era (p. 835).

Bigdata

"This is an array of data that, due to its huge volume, imposes special requirements on the computing power of a computer and its analytical capabilities for processing and understanding such data. The main purpose of collecting big data and analyzing it is to identify hidden patterns or trends that are inaccessible ("invisible") when using other research approaches" (p.833).

Note that this is a simplified definition, which differs significantly from the "canonical" one fixed in international and Russian standards. The above definition is more consistent with the increasingly used term Big data set ("large data array" or large dataset since 2022, the dataset has been "legalized" in the Russian Federation).

Conclusion

Concluding the "problem-oriented" review of the Companion, I will turn to the section "Information, disinformation, misinformation", the author of which, Jeffrey Nunberg, writes about the already familiar streams of distorted information generated not only by the media, but also by other sources. Currently, notes J. Nunberg, it is difficult to understand whether it is possible to restore the information order formed in the middle of the XIX century with the help of technological, institutional or economic means. He believes that the challenge of the "post-truth" era has actually strengthened the legitimate press and other institutions of the traditional information order, but their authority is increasingly limited. Perhaps, as the authors of the book "Network Propaganda" suggest [9], "as a public we have lost the ability to agree on common ways to confirm what is happening and what is just fiction." [9, p. 502].

The accumulated experience of historians in the criticism of sources, proven methods of source studies, as it seems to me, give the key to solving the problems of assessing the reliability of information in the era of "post-truth" (at least in relation to information about the past).

Characterizing the collective work "Information. A Historical Companion" in general, let us turn once again to the introductory article, the authors of which note that under the influence of M. McLuhan's arguments about the "information age", put forward by him in 1964 (and then supported by IBM), many believe that information is the most important characteristic for the twentieth century [5, p. vii]. Along with this, other scientists followed the position of the computer linguist E. Ettinger, who in 1980 argued that "every society is an information society" [5, p. x]. The authors of the Companion, recognizing the changes traced over time, clearly adheres to the second point of view; but the question arises: should the concepts of "information" and "knowledge" be associated with the position of the historian-researcher or with the perception of the subject of historical research? An example of the latter point of view is the work of Peter Burke, who seeks to reveal exactly what people of the early Modern period and not the current author or his readers considered knowledge. This is an important difference; the "Companion" we are discussing shows that throughout the centuries under consideration, people belonging to various historical societies were aware of information (information from the "information field" available to them) as a critical aspect of your life.

Following the trends in the development of modern science, the authors of the Companion have designated one of their goals to attract the attention of a wide range of readers, so the book does not contain the usual scientific notes and long bibliographic lists, offering instead short lists for further reading. The style of the main sections of the Companion corresponds to this goal.

References
1. The role of information in the formation and development of society in the historical past (2004). Ed. L.I. Borodkin, K.V. Khvostov. Moscow.-327 p.
2. Khvostova K.V., Borodkin L.I. (2004). The role of information in the historical past. In: The role of information in the formation and development of society in the historical past. Ed. L.I. Borodkin, K.V. Khvostova. Moscow. 5-8.
3. Kovalchenko I.D. (1982). Historical source in the light of the of information concept (to the formulation of the problem), History of the USSR, 3, 129-148.
4. Bovykin V.I. (1999). To the question of the patterns of fixing historical information in written sources. In: Circle of Ideas: Historical Information Science on the Threshold of the 21st Century. Ed. L.I. Borodkin, Yu.P. Smirnov, I.F. Yushin. Moscow. 329-336.
5. Information. A Historical Companion (2021). Ed. Ann Blair, Paul Duguid, Anja-Silvia Goeing, and Anthony Grafton. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 904 p.
6. Wiener, N. (1948). Cybernetics Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Mass. MIT Press, Cambridge. 212 p.
7. Wiener, N. (1956). I am a Mathematician. New York.-356 p.
8. Shannon C.E. A Mathematical Theory of Communication. Bell System Technical Journal. 1948. . 27. . 379423, 623656.
9. Benkler, Yo., Faris, R. and Roberts, H. (2018). Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics, Oxford University Pres, Oxford. 462 p.

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The article "From information to knowledge: historical context" is essentially a review of the collective monograph "Information. A Historical Companion", published in 2021 by Princeton University Press. This book (the author calls it "Companion" for convenience) is devoted to the role of information in various societies of the past over the past five centuries, but also contains materials on the social history of science and technology related to the production of information and its transmission, dissemination and processing. It is this aspect of the book that the reviewed article is devoted to. Its author rightly notes that the history of the development of the concepts of scientific knowledge and information is of interest in the context of modern trends in the development of Data Science in socio-humanitarian applications, discussions about historical information and historical knowledge in the context of the "digital turn". In the review of the evolution of the concepts of scientific knowledge, the author emphasizes the role of classification as a tool for creating new knowledge by searching for patterns in the collected empirical material and its generalization. The plot of Comanion, touched upon in the article, about the flows of distorted information generated today not only by the media, but also by other sources, is also of interest - a challenge to the era of "post-truth". The author of the article optimistically believes that the accumulated experience of historians in criticizing sources will be in demand in this situation (at least in relation to information about the past). The article also pays attention to the glossary of the "Companion"; thus, discussing the definition of Big Data given in this section, the author of the article notes that this definition is simplified, it differs significantly from the one fixed in international and Russian standards and more to the concept of "big dataset". The novelty of the article is determined, firstly, by the comparison of approaches to the problems of historical information presented in the Russian collection of 2004 and in the collective monograph published at Princeton in 2021; secondly, by the author's analysis of the role of K. Shannon and N. Wiener in the development of information theory (here the author actively uses the texts of N.Wiener), as well as an assessment of the limited possibilities of its application in social and humanitarian research. Perhaps it would be interesting to present K. Shannon's point of view on the nature of the mutual influence of these outstanding scientists if such materials exist, of course). The author's critical comments on a number of materials from the Companion are also of interest. Thus, one cannot disagree with the author's criticism of a certain "Eurocentricity" of the Companion: for example, the characteristic of the humanitarian aspects of communication systems does not contain references to the works of Y.M. Lotman, and the problems of deciphering the Maya script does not include the achievements of Y.V. Knorozov. The article is written in good language, it will be of interest to a wide range of readers. I recommend the article for publication in the journal "Historical Informatics".
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