Over the past two decades or so, there has been the constant sense that we are going through a period of particularly rapid and intensive change. Indeed, it has been frequently argued that this last quarter of the twentieth century is without precedent in the scale, scope and speed of historical transformation. The only certainty for the future, we are told, is that it will be very different from today, and that it will become different more quickly than ever before. No-one will be able to absent themselves from these great transformations, no-one's daily life will be immune from the upheaval and turmoil of change. And, of course, we are told that the reason for these escalating transformations-the reason for their necessity and inevitability-is technological revolution. The idea of technological revolution has become normative-routine and commonplace-in our technocultural times.
The discourse of technological revolution has taken a rapid succession of forms. At the end of the 1970s, the principal concern was with the silicon chips that made the new technologies possible, and the talk was of the 'microelectronics revolution'. A little later, the concern shifted to the capacity of the new technologies to process and store information, and we heard about the 'IT revolution'. Then, through the 1980s, interest turned to the communications function of the new technologies, and the revolution was said to be one in both information and communications technologies (ICTs). There was growing interest, into the 1990s, in the Internet, with plans to inaugurate the 'information superhighway', and with projected scenarios for the global 'network society'. Now, at the end of the 1990s, the agenda is commonly defined in terms of 'cyber-revolution' and the advent of the 'virtual society'. We may regard these changing discourses on technological revolution as reflecting the changing technoscape of the last twenty years.
Over this period, the pubic discussion of the new technologies has taken a variety of forms, with different social and political issues becoming salient as the nature and significance of technological innovation has seemed to change. During the early 1980s, the prime concern was with the likely effects of 'IT' on work and employment. Many commentators regarded the