Damien Keane is Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he also serves as chair of the Faculty Senate Committee on Libraries. He is the author of Ireland and the Problem of Information (2014), which was awarded the Rhodes Prize for Best Book on Literature by the American Conference for Irish Studies. He is working on a project about morale and media with the provisional title Institutions of Access.
A couple of years ago, I published a book that worried the quantitative conception of information, by suggesting that “information” constituted a problem not because it lacked ways of being defined, but because it could be defined at once in so many competing and oftentimes contradictory ways. In the book, I was concerned specifically with radio broadcasting and the wartime literary field; but also, at a methodological level I was not entirely aware of until late in the composition process, with how forms of mediation and needs for remediation had created conditions in which the political charge of description and classification was suddenly, if also temporarily, to the fore. I tried to get at how this seemingly primary issue of definition is, in fact, the product of acts of and disputes about classification through which the “data of culture,” in Lisa Gitelman’s phrase, are put into meaningful sequences and mobilized, used, and managed—a in short, how they are put in formation.