One of my students pointed out this very interesting article from the Economist. It draws parallels between coffee houses as public places during the Enlightenment and the Internet today. I particularly like the discussion of 17th century European coffee house as a network for information exchange between writers, politicians, businessmen and scientists and as sources of democracy and innovation. The growth of coffee-houses in London (82 in 1663 and more than 500 by 1700) also seems to have many parallels to the explosive growth of the Internet in the 20th century. There is a short discussion of the role of academics in early coffee-houses, particularly of the Royal Society. For anyone who has not read Neal Stephenson’s newest book Quicksilver, I highly recommend it, also a nice (semi-historical) discussion of coffee shops and pubs, academia and I assume in the forthcoming 2nd and 3ed volumes in this series, a connection to the origins of digital technologies.

Interesting article from the BBC on a the use of data mining software that analyzes emails, Web activity and other documents to identify the location of individuals. spooks turn to hi-tech geography