What is an ‘Information Society’

What is an ‘Information Society ‘ ? Do we populate in one?

Britain, the USA and other alleged developed states in the nineteenth and portion of the 20th century are frequently referred to as industrial societies but it is commonplace presents to hear it said that we live in an information society, even an information age. Of class, industry has non disappeared, it still exists in many and assorted signifiers, but whereas one time industry dominated life, pervading the economic system, political relations and society, in footings of working forms and societal dealingss it arguably no longer occupies the same place as a motor force within society ( Dearnley and Feather 2001, 4 ) . Some have observed a form of deindustrialisation with merely 4.35 million employed in the production industries in the UK in December 1998 but over 2.5 million in services such as wellness and societal work ( Haralambos and Holborn 2000, 744 ) . In the sentiment of many, a revolution of one kind another has taken topographic point and information has become the new motor force, represented and driven by the ubiquitous computing machine ( Feather 2000, 2 ) . This essay will first analyze some theories of the information society and its beginnings and so travel on to sketch the influential positions of Castells. It will so discourse its links with globalization, local countries and individuality before pulling some decisions.

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There are many theories of the information society and the earliest were concerned chiefly with economic sciences. Machlup, in the 1950s and after, radically argued that the production of cognition had a important economic impact in its ain right, comparable to the production of more traditional goods, although he did non separate carefully between cognition and information ( Dearnley and Feather 2001, 11 ) . He observed that the proportion of the US work force involved in knowledge-related employment had increased from 10.7 % in 1900 to 31.6 % in 1959 and suggested that the figure would go on to turn in the hereafter. Indeed, by the 1990s more than 40 % of US workers were involved in the information sector. Bell so used this information to speculate that that there had been a alteration from the production economic system to a post-industrial service economic system based on the production of cognition ( Dearnley and Feather 2001, 14 ) . Critics observe that Bell failed to show the links between these developments but however, his construct of the development of an information society has been influential. A Nipponese writer, Masuda, has continued the close designation of the post-industrial and the information society ( Dearnley and Feather 2001, 15 ) . The theory of Habermas that relates to the information society was non economic but instead based on the impression of the populace sphere – a shared infinite where public sentiment can be formed, including the mass media every bit good as more personal interactions ( Dearnley and Feather 2001, 16 ) . In his position, the growing of the mass media and the sum of immediately available information had degraded the populace sphere and disconnected society. Another media related position is that of Schiller who suggested that the information society was a egotistic and self-interested production of capitalist media barons ( Dearnley and Feather 2001, 16 ) . Bell, Habermas and Schiller all identified a new society, that might be termed postmodern, with new economic systems, media and engineerings and a crisp interruption with the yesteryear. Giddens, on the other manus, does non accept that there has been a crisp interruption with the past and justly emphasises that information has ever been a critical constituent of society but he besides worries that new information and communications engineering may bring forth an over powerful province ( Dearnley and Feather 2001, 17 ) . Likewise, he limits postmodernism to aesthetics and culls postmodernity as synonymous with post-industrial society and postmodernism ( Giddens 1990, 45 ) . He does non deny that important alterations have occurred but suggests that developed societies have non entered an epoch of postmodernity but remain in an epoch of modernness, albeit radicalised or high modernness ( Giddens 1990, 149-150 ) . Dearnley and Feather ( 2001, 11 ) suggest the indispensable feature is the centrality of information as both an economic and societal agent which means that many businesss are dependent on information and engineerings that shop, procedure and circulate that information. Possibly the most broad runing advocate of the information society is Castells.

Castells ( 2000a & A ; 2000b ) is convinced that 21st century society is the beginning of an optimistic new information age characterised by informational web societies. He distinguishes between an information society, which emphasises the function of information and the communicating of cognition in society, on the one manus, and an informational society, on the other ( Castells 2000a, 21 n.31 ) . Information is to the informational society what industry is to an industrial society. The construction of this new society remainders on five alterations ( Castells 2000b, 693-694 & A ; 2000a ) . First there has been a paradigm displacement in information engineering which has allowed new signifiers of societal administration and interaction every bit good as new signifiers of production, direction and communicating media. Second, globalization: the technological, institutional and organizational ability of the chief constituents of a system, such as the economic system, to work as a individual unit on a planetary graduated table in existent or chosen clip. Third is the centrality of electronic hypertext and the cyberspace as the sphere of dominant cultural manifestations and therefore the anchor of the new civilization of existent virtuality and a major portion of the symbolic environment. Fourth is the death of autonomous state provinces as power setups, being rearranged in the context of webs of supranational and other organic structures or bypassed. Lastly is scientific advancement which is redefining the industrial epoch relationship between civilization and nature and taking to a deep ecological consciousness that is impacting all facets of human life and change by reversaling the though forms that have prevailed since the enlightenment. This society appeared as a consequence of the happenstance of new engineering, the restructuring of the economic systems of statism and capitalist economy and the cultural motions of the sixtiess in western Europe and the US and its new construction is the web. As we have seen, while there are many differences, theories of the information society all tend to emphasize globalization as a cardinal portion.

Giddens ( 1990, 63-64 ) sees globalization as a feature of modernness and modern societies are besides prone to rapid and broad alterations, he defines it as ‘the intensification of world-wide societal relationships which link distant vicinities in such a manner that local occurrences are shaped by events happening many stat mis off and frailty versa’ . Technologies such as the cyberspace and orbiter communicating play a cardinal function in easing this. Castells argues that it is the informational society that drives globalization ( Dearnley and Feather, 2001, 61 ) and argues that the new engineerings have led to the death of the nation-state, which merely remains in signifier and as an establishment while webs of shared sovereignty are created ( Castells 2000b, 694 ) . Political representation in this context needs redefining since democracies traditionally operate within states and the tenseness between local involvement and planetary political relations highlights the anomalous place of the nation-state. Castells may hold overemphasised this. Giddens differences that the nation-state is undistinguished or has lost its power but agrees that it has changed ( Haralambos and Holborn 2000, 631 ) . He suggests that national authoritiess retain much economic and cultural power and influence over citizens and are capable of utilizing nationalist sentiment and exerting influence outside their ain boundary lines ; they besides retain strong control over in-migration ( Mac an Ghail 1999, 82-100 ) . Nevertheless it is clear that globalization has both political and economic facets, with Giddens proposing that the economic system has been to the full globalised ( Haralambos and Holborn 2000, 631 ) . Merchandises of all sorts from agricultural green goods to manufactured goods move around the Earth and competition can be planetary. Servicess may besides be globalised, for illustration, a bank based in the UK may hold a call Centre in India. While it is true that goods have frequently moved great distances, even in prehistoric times, the planetary potency of modern-day agreements is basically different. It is besides possible to place planetary civilizations, possibly most familiarly represented by the alleged MTV coevals, the coevals that happens to hold grown up with the latest developments in engineering, linked by common frames of mention, a globalised media civilization and the cyberspace. They form an illustration of a web in Castells web civilization.

While the universe may in some sense be a planetary small town, globalization besides means that at a local degree, society is affected by what happens in other countries ( Giddens, 1990, 64 ) . An illustration of this might be the prosperity of an country, affected by planetary economic markets and the ability of people to do determinations based upon a much greater sum of information than at old times. In political footings, globalization may hold caused the rise of patriot and fundamentalist feelings. Castells ( 2004 ) notes that individuality will be affirmed around certain cardinal subjects such as faith, ethnicity, nationality and vicinity. Indeed, a cardinal characteristic of the information society is the manner in which identies and civilizations can be constructed within new technological webs. Within the existent practical infinite of the cyberspace and networked computing machine games it is possible to experiment with different individualities ( Anon. 1997, 143- 153 ) , something which may hold both positive and negative effects. Some argue that in modern-day societies, disconnected individualities abound. Hall argues that this is one consequence of globalization and observes that people from a similar background and life in a peculiar country may hold rather different personal individualities ( Haralambos and Hall 2000, 922 ) . However, it is of import to separate between subjective individualities of ego and nonsubjective individualities with which people perceive each other. It is true to state though that many people may experience less portion of a community with their physical neighbors than with an online community ( Jones 1995, 1-35 ) . As mobile communicating, amusement and web connexion becomes nomadic, persons may be retreating into of all time more physically disconnected webs ( Flichy 1995, 168 ) .

In decision, it seems that since metaphors and information engineerings move frontward in a mutual relationship, we can depict some societies as information societies because we think of them as information societies ( Boyle 1996, 6 ) . Since information has ever been an built-in portion of society, and agribusiness, industry and physical fabrication still are, it seems dubious that all of Castells far-reaching claims can be validated, for illustration it is as yet hard to place a planetary deep ecological consciousness. If an information society exists, it may good be different from the universe of 30 old ages ago, peculiarly in visual aspect, but it is still rooted in the yesteryear and the alterations for many, even in the alleged developed universe may look decorative. Many people do non transport nomadic phones or utilize the cyberspace although they are influenced by these things ‘at 2nd hand’ . They are besides affected by globalization in footings of economic system, political relations and civilization, at least every bit much as these constructions frame their lives, associating the planetary and the local. Arguably the information age is devaluating state provinces although this is non universally agreed and as a symbol and as a practical focal point of civilization and existent power to oblige, state provinces and their authoritiess seem to be making moderately good, some would state they have more control over their citizens than of all time. The information society in peculiar through engineering and the planetary small town has besides offered possible avenues for negociating individuality and civilization. Therefore, while there may be no cosmopolitan understanding on what precisely an information society is, Britain in the early 21st century can be seen as one and, in portion, as an informational one, and moreover, some people in Britain are portion of a non-national information society that spans the Earth.

Anon. 1997. Young person in the Information Society. Strassburg: Council of Europe Publishing.

Boyle, J. 1996.Shamans, Software and Spleens: Law and Construction of the Information Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Castells, M. 2000a. The Rise of the Network Society. 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.

Castells, M. 2000b. ‘Toward a Sociology of the Network Society.’ Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 29, No. 5 ( Sept. ) , 693-699.

Castells, M. 2004. The Power of Identity. 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.

Dearnley, J. and Feather, J. 2001. The Wired World: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of the Information Society. London: Library Association Publishing.

Flichy, P. 1995. Dynamicss of Modern Communication. London: Sage.

Giddens, A. 1990. The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Civil order.

Haralambos, M. and Holborn, M. 2000. Sociology: Subjects and Positions. London: Collins Educational.

Jones, S. ( ed. ) . 1995. CyberSociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community. London: Sage.

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