Critical Information Studies: A Bibliographic Manifesto

36 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2005

See all articles by Siva Vaidhyanathan

Siva Vaidhyanathan

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: August 23, 2005


This paper takes measure of an emerging scholarly field that sits at the intersection of many important areas of study. Critical Information Studies (CIS) considers the ways that culture and information are regulated and their relationship to commerce, creativity, and other human affairs. CIS captures the variety of approaches and bodies of knowledge needed to make sense of interesting, important phenomena such as copyright policy, electronic voting, encryption, the state of libraries, the preservation of ancient cultural traditions, and markets for cultural production. It necessarily stretches to a wide array of scholarly subjects, employs multiple complementary methodologies, and influences conversations far beyond the gates of the university. This field can serve as a model for how engaged, relevant scholarship in other areas might be done. Economists, sociologists, linguists, anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, communication scholars, lawyers, computer scientists, philosophers, and librarians have all contributed to this field. CIS interrogates the structures, functions, habits, norms, and practices that guide global flows of information and cultural elements. Instead of being concerned merely with one's right to speak (or sing or publish), CIS asks questions about access, costs, and chilling effects on, within, and among audiences, citizens, emerging cultural creators, indigenous cultural groups, teachers, and students. Central to these issues is the idea of semiotic democracy, the ability of citizens to employ the signs and symbols ubiquitous in their environments in manners that they determine.

Keywords: Copyright, patents, intellectual property, Internet, software, open source, scholarship, cultural studies

Suggested Citation

Vaidhyanathan, Siva, Critical Information Studies: A Bibliographic Manifesto (August 23, 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Siva Vaidhyanathan (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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