3/1/13 – Adrian Johns

The History and Politics of the Information Defense Industry

Date: March 1, 2013

Time: 2-3:00pm

Room: Wells 030

Adrian Johns, University of Chicago

Abstract: The early twenty-first century has seen the emergence of a large, sophisticated,
and influential industry devoted to upholding information in all its forms. Its prime
concern tends to be intellectual property – its major targets are media pirates,
pharmaceutical counterfeiters, and the like – but its tools, personnel, and institutions
extend into cognate areas including cryptography and network security. Our everyday
lives as participants in the information economy are shaped, I believe, by the practices of
this industry. Yet in stark contrast to the public attention directed to legislative initiatives
such as SOPA and PIPA, this industry and its implications remain almost unknown to the
general public. I mean here to sketch an account of the policing of information that
explains both the importance and the invisibility of this enterprise in terms of a long-term
history of policing practices extending back to the early modern period. My contention is
that we need to understand this history if we are to reconcile the good society and the
information age.

Biography: Adrian Johns is Allan Grant Maclear Professor of History and Chair of the
Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of
Chicago. Educated at Cambridge in the United Kingdom, he taught at the University of
California, San Diego, and Caltech before arriving at Chicago in 2001. He has published
three books to date: The Nature of the Book (1998), Piracy (2009), and Death of a Pirate
(2010). A current Guggenheim Fellow, he is researching the rise and implications of the
industry dedicated to protecting information against pirates and counterfeiters in digital
media, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing.