Key Thinkers for the Information Society

Key Thinkers for the Information Society

Key Thinkers for the Information Society

Key Thinkers for the Information Society

Synopsis

This work provides an introduction to some important social theorists whose work has considerable relevance to today's brave new world of information and communication technologies.

Excerpt

Many people, in policy-making circles, in the press, in universities, claim we have entered a new age, governed by a 'new paradigm' where society and its economic relations are no longer primarily organised on the basis of material goods. These writers and commentators often suggest that the accelerated flows of information and the increased utilisation of knowledge have fundamentally transformed society. They point to the decline of manufacturing compared to the prospering information-rich service sector as exemplary of such a transformation. This is sometimes referred to as the arrival of a (global) information society, or discussed as a 'weightless world' or, following Manuel Castells, the arrival of a new network society. We are told, in the catch-all shorthand of the new millennium, that 'the Internet' is changing everything: new information and communication technologies (ICTs) have produced a revolution, a remaking of the world. Furthermore, all that we previously knew is useless for thinking about this new world; the new age requires new thinking. Old ideas must be dispensed with, we must welcome the new information society into our lives and embrace this new age. We must look to the future and forget the past.

Certainly, ICTs and their networking capacity (most readily manifest on the Internet) are having considerable social, political and economic effects. But, these changes are frequently overdrawn, leaving continuities with the past wilfully obscured at the same time that the new age is presented as unprecedented (May 2002). In direct contrast to the hyperbole which surrounds these claims of revolution, this book starts from the position that there is an urgent need to reintegrate the information society and its technological apparatus into an understanding of the continuing history of technology and society. The contributors to this volume share the view that there are sufficient analytical tools to hand, without the continual invention of new paradigms, to understand the current stage of . . .

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