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Information society essay

He argued that western economies had de-industrialized, by which he meant that they had a declining percentage of the workforce working in the manufacturing sector and growing employment in the service and information sectors. The dominant mode of employment was crucial to explaining economic, social and political changes, and technologies were crucial to explaining changes in the dominant mode of employment.

"The Use of Knowledge in Society"

Society had evolved through two distinct phases, agricultural and industrial, and was evolving into a post-industrial phase. In the postindustrial phase came new forms of innovation and social organization and practices. By the s, Bell was using the terms post-industrial society and information society interchangeably. He surveys the characteristic differences reflected by the social- historical phases — simplified into three main periods — along nine distinctive aspects.

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The table below shows the distinctions. Post-industrial society means the rise of professional work, professionals are oriented towards their clients, and society becomes transformed into a more caring, communal society. He epitomizes the information society literature by according technology a central role in social change: technological innovation is seen as resulting in social change.

By contrast, sociologists of technology reject the notion that technology is somehow outside society and that technological change causes social change. Castells description of the new information age attempts to show the way out of the theoretical maze of the value driven, intricate information society.

Information society - Essay Example

He proposes a conceptual model of a network with which the most recent phenomena of modern societies can be explored. Castells attempts to surpass traditional reasoning by offering a compact and multilayered foundation linking economic-and political, as well as cultural theory. His concern is to provide a cross-cultural theory of economy and society in the information age, specifically in relation to an emerging new social structure. While Castells uses a different term, his work resonates with the tenor of information society debates.

Like Bell, Castells documents the demise of traditional, labor-intensive forms of industry and their replacement by flexible production. His account fuses the transformation of capitalism the growth of globalization with changing patterns and forms of identity. He argues that, with the rise of the informational mode of development, we are witnessing the emergence of a new socioeconomic paradigm, one with information processing at its core.

In other words, the issue is not simply that information is central to production, but that it permeates society. In the informational economy, networks are the new social morphology. Organizations are transforming from bureaucracies to network enterprises, responding to information flows, with economic activity organized by means of fluid project teams.


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Economic activity becomes spatially dispersed but globally integrated, reducing the strategic significance of place, but enhancing the strategic role of major cities. Manuel Castells explains the origins of ICT from the perspective of social developments. He argues that the network is the dominant structure of society in the information age: power, money, information and society itself is reproduced in networks.

ICT enabled the management of these network structures. In the last quarter of a century, three independent processes came together, ushering in a new social structure predominantly based on networks: 1 the need of the economy for management flexibility and for the globalisation of capital, production and trade; 2 the demands of society in which the values of individual freedom and open communication became paramount; and 3 the extraordinary advances in computing and telecommunications made possible by the micro-electronics revolution. Under these conditions, the Internet became the lever for the transition to a new form of society — the network society — and with it to a new economy.

Networks are proliferating in all domains of economy and society. The new economy is based on unprecedented potential for productivity growth as businesses use the Internet in all kinds of operations. Within a network society there are territories where valuable nodes of wealth and knowledge tend to form.

Innovation tends to be territorially concentrated, and major cities throughout history have been important in cultural creativity and technological innovation. In contrast with earlier time-space arrangements, there is in terms of flows no distance between nodes on the same network. In other words, geographical distance is irrelevant to connection and communication.

So there are fundamental changes to the nature of time and space, with time compressed and almost annihilated; and space shifting to the space of flows: places continue to be the focus of everyday life, rooting culture and transmitting history, but they are overlaid by flows. The network of flows is crucial to domination and change in society: interconnected, global, capitalist networks organize economic activity using IT and are the main sources of power in society.

The transformation of economies has been accompanied by the decline of traditional, class-based forms of association, particularly the labor movement.

At the same time, state power has been eroded and new forms of collective resistance have emerged, notably feminism and environmentalism. While Bell focuses his analysis very much on the economy, and Castells provides a remarkably wide-ranging account, the work of these two key analysts of the information society addresses what can be seen as the four core themes of the information society, or of information society debates.

First is the new patterning of work and inequality. This includes debates informed by Bell regarding the decline of manufacturing in western economies, and the growth of information and service sectors; the deskilling debate and the restructuring of work; and the growth of e-commerce. Second is time-space reconfiguration, compression, or convergence — different authors use different terms.


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The shrinking of time and space, examined by Castells, is facilitated by instantaneous electronic communication. Globalization and digital information networks lie at the heart of information society debates. Multi-channel television and global television flows are key components of global cultural communication. The erosions of boundaries between home and work and public and private are other aspects of time-space reconfiguration.

Third is the huge growth of cultural activities, institutions, and practices. Culture has become increasingly significant in contemporary society, and with new ICTs the means to produce, circulate, and exchange culture has expanded enormously. The media and communications industries have a huge economic significance today, paralleling that of physical plant in the industrial era.

Far from simply a matter of business and flow, culture connects closely with the constitution of subjectivity, with identity. Fourth, there is a set of issues about the transformation of state power and democracy — with the growth of technologies of surveillance. Behavior in public space is routinely observed and recorded on video, while computer systems map personal movements, conversations, e-mail traffic, consumption patterns, networks, and social activities. At the same time, democracy is facilitated by the capacity for many-to-many communication as opposed to the broadcasting model of one-to-many and the increasing accessibility of growing amounts of information, with the development of the Internet.

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New patterns of communication across time and space enhance communication possibilities, and state control of the media is challenged by new technologies — satellite but especially the Internet — that easily cross national borders. Frank Webster has a long-standing interest in the effects of new technologies and changes in information and communication. His teaching interests span contemporary societies, social change, sociology, and information, communication and society.

Webster believes the concept of information society is flawed as a description of the emergence of a new type of society. His central objection is that these distinctions are an over-simplification of the processes of change. There are no clear grounds for designating what is an information society or when we will have reached it. If there is just more information, it is hard to suggest why the information society is something radically new.

All societies and nation states can be called information societies in so far as they all — even pre-Internet — have had routines and procedures and means for gathering, storing and controlling information about people. Therefore, more information cannot in itself be held as a break with previous social systems. As a result of his stated biases, he sometimes comes across as more critical of other scholars who he does not agree Bell, Castells, etc. However, Frank Webster developed a typology to understand information society theories: five main distinctions have been put forward to characterize an information society: technological, economic, occupational, spatial and cultural.

From the technological perspective, we live in an information society since information and telecommunication technologies play a constantly expanding role in all fields of social existence, which has shaken the foundations of social structures and processes and resulted in massive changes in politics, economy, culture, and everyday life.

Most of the attempts made to define information society approach the idea from a technological point of view hence the central question of such explorations sounds like: What kind of new information and communication technology was constructed in recent decades that determined the infrastructure of information society? The key idea is that the breakthrough in information processing, storage and transmission led to the application of information technologies IT in all societies, e.

Awed by the pace and magnitude of technological change, there is an assumption that the computer revolution will have an overwhelming impact on every human being on earth. Computer technology is to the information age what mechanization was to the industrial revolution. New technologies are one of the most visible indicators of a new age, and therefore are often taken as signals of an information society. The rapid growth of the Internet especially — the information superhighway, and the spread of national, international and global information networks — has been held as a key development.

Many government studies have tried to track the growth in volumes of communication and information across these networks. They contend that ICTs represent the establishment of a new epoch, which despite short-term difficulties will be economically beneficial over the longer term. The most important question, however, is the one that focuses on the relationship between technology and society.

Review Essay: Studying the Information Society: The Information Society: Vol 21, No 1

What is the optimum technological impact on social life that can achieve a qualitative change? Are we justified in relying on modernizing political initiatives and the theories of futurologists who claim that technology is the only means to change social procedures and the functioning of society, when their objective is to expand the use of technology in the public sphere? People may live in the information age instead of the information age. It also points out that trends in the information society can also be seen in the third world.

For example, in Asia, some tendencies indifferent to political development suggest that Asia is moving in this direction. These trends include increased demand for mobile devices and software, broadband, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi services, and even online education programs. Due to his imagination and curiosity, humans have been thinking about the mechanism of nature since immortal. The pursuit of this truth, and the way he works around him, has brought about many scientific discoveries and innovations.