This chapter will focus on the introduction and early stages of the development of a key contemporary technology of culture—the emerging communication and information technologies based on the use of micro-electronics. It will consider the extent to which this technology is a cause and consequence of a convergence between the processes of cultural and social, including economic, reproduction. In short, it will use a study of communication technology as a point of entry to consider the question of whether or not there has been a qualitative transformation in the significance and functioning of the cultural sphere in contemporary society (Castells, 1983; Harvey, 1989; Jameson, 1984; Lash and Urry, 1987; Mulgan, 1991).
This question has been raised by a number of analyses which have considered the ways in which cultural reproduction has been progressively commodified. This process of commodification has been explored in relation to processes as various as genetic engineering (Stanworth, 1987; Spallone and Steinberg, 1987; Franklin, 1990); tourism (Urry, 1990); gentrification (Zukin, 1988); cultural policy and planning (Bianchini, 1987; Lewis, 1990); and advertising and promotional culture (Leiss et al, 1986; Baudrillard, 1983a, 1988, 1990; Haug, 1986; Wernick, 1991). The focus here, however, will be on communication technology and the processes through which information has acquired a new significance as a resource for capital accumulation.
The view that the collection, manipulation and regulation of information is increasingly central to the organisation of capital accumulation has been developed from a number of different perspectives. In general terms, it is argued that information processes have become a significant part of economic