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Craig Robertson, “‘Information at Your Fingertips’: The Filing Cabinet and the Gendering of Information Work”

Thursday, November 18, 2021 @ 5:00 pm 6:30 pm EST

Attending in person: Attendance limited to MIT community members enrolled in Covid Pass. Please bring your MIT ID.

Streaming: This event will be available live on Zoom (mit.zoom.us/j/96579656038) and recorded.


In this talk, Craig Robertson provides a brief overview of the some of the themes of his recent book, The Filing Cabinet: A Vertical History of Information (Minnesota, 2021). He argues the emergence of the filing cabinet illustrates an important moment in the genealogy of the ascendance of modern information. He highlights a moment when information became a label for an instrumental form of knowledge, as information is connected to gendered ideas of efficiency and labor. Storing loose sheets of paper on their long edge in tabbed manila folders grouped behind tabbed guide cards made visible and tangible a conception of information as a discrete unit. Compared to pages in a bound book, loose paper in a tabbed folder presented information as something that was discrete, easy to extract, and easy to circulate: it was now possible to have information at your fingertips. 

Craig Robertson is an associate professor of media studies at Northeastern University. For the last decade he has been researching and writing on the history of information and paperwork beginning with The Passport in America: The History of a Document (Oxford, 2010) His most recent book is The Filing Cabinet: A Vertical History of Information (Minnesota, 2021).