What is the Information Revolution? The answer to this question may seem to be self-evident. A united host of industrialists, politicians, and academics is engaged in making sure that we know that recent developments in information and communications technologies (ICTs) are laying the foundations for a new era of wealth and abundance. An array of reports and publications have made clear to us since the early 1980s that we have reached a watershed in human history as we experience a second Industrial Revolution. According to one observer, 'the first Industrial Revolution enormously enhanced the puny muscular power of men and animals in production; this new development will similarly extend human mental capacity to a degree which we can now only dimly envisage'. 1 It is claimed that the exploitation (and industrialisation) of information and knowledge that marks an epochal shift from industrial to post-industrial society. The promise is that through new technologies (advanced computers, robotics, communications satellites, etc.) the powers of human intelligence and reason may be enhanced beyond our wildest dreams. As such, the 'Information Revolution' reflects the symbiotic relationship between human evolution and scientific and technological progress.
In this cocktail of scientific aspiration and commercial hype, there are a number of implicit but significant assumptions. First, it is assumed that the decisive shift has been brought about by recent technological innovations: the association of information revolution and ICTs seems self-evident. Thus, discussion of the Information Revolution is located within the history of technological development and the discourse of technological 'progress'. Second, the assumption is made that this technological revolution, like the earlier Industrial Revolution, marks the opening of a new historical era. The terms 'industrial' and 'post-industrial' society-which, through a process of ideological elision, often translate into 'capitalist' and 'post-capitalist'-mark this transition from a period of constraint and limits, to one of freedom, democracy and abundance. A third assumption is that of the novelty of the Information Revolution. For the first time, as a consequence of the development and convergence of