Information and Communication Technologies: Bugs in the Generational Ointment

By McDaniel, Susan A. | Canadian Journal of Sociology, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Information and Communication Technologies: Bugs in the Generational Ointment


McDaniel, Susan A., Canadian Journal of Sociology


Abstract: The uses and impacts of information and communications technologies (ICTs), are not smooth, linear or fairy-tale like in dusting society with benefits. In development, adoption, uses and impacts, technologies shape, and are shaped by, social relations and social structures. Generational relations are part of the processes by which ICTs become products, symbols, social glue, and social schism. A generational system of relations shapes how technologies shape us, our identities and social structures. The intricate relation of technologies to generation has yet to be explored sociologically.

In this paper, ICTs and generations are unpacked. Bugs are found in the generational ointment of ICTs that are explored in layers:

-- ICTs may reconcile the impossible contradictions of generation, and of life course;

-- ICTs may promote social cohesion among generations;

-- ICTs may ease the transition from a labour/capital to a knowledge-based society;

-- punctuated succession of technologies may lead to uneven relations of generations to technologies, to discontinuous impacts on generations.

Data from different sources are woven together to reveal the intricate patterns of relations of technologies to generations.

Resume: L'utilisation des technologies d'information et des communications (TCI) et les effets de celles-ci ne sont pas simples, ni lineaires ou feeriques dans le sens qu'elles envoutent la societe au moyen d'avantages. Au cours de leur developpement, de leur adoption, de leur utilisation et sous leurs effets, les technologies influent sur les relations et les structures sociales - tout en en subissant l'influence. Les relations generationnelles font partie des processus grace auxquels les TIC deviennent produits, symboles, fibre sociale et schisme social. Un systeme de relations generationnelles faconne la maniere que les technologies nous faconnent, ainsi que nos identites et nos structures sociales. Les delicates relations entre technologies et generation n'ont pas encore explorees d'un point de vue sociologique.

Dans cet article, TIC et generations sont devoilees. On trouve des bogues dans l'onguent de la generation des TIC qui sont explores en couches:

-- les TIC peuvent reconcilier l'impossible, les contradictions de generation et le cours de la vie;

-- les TIC peuvent faire la promotion d'une cohesion sociale entre les generations ;

-- les TIC peuvent aider la transition d'une societe basee sur la main-d'oeuvre et le capital a une societe basee sur les connaissances ;

-- une suite intermittente de technologies peut donner lieu a des relations inegales de generations envers les technologies et a l'interruption des effets sur les generations.

Les donnees provenant de differentes sources sont tissees ensemble pour reveler des motifs complexes que forment les relations des technologies et des generations.

"He [Prime Minister Tony Blair] asserted that that future of the nation was dependent upon technological success, arguing that computers and the Internet were powering economic growth, and that ensuring Britain was not divided into computer haves and have-nots was fundamental to the building of a fair as well as prosperous society" (Henwood et al., 2000:1)

Technologies, particularly information and computing technologies (ICTs), may be enabling to the realization of social and economic goals. They also, without question, pose complex challenges to societies. By politics and policy, ICTs are often seen as magic bullets to social as well as economic problems, as the above example illustrates (1). Yet the social impacts of ICTs remain largely unknown and unmeasured (see Castells, 1999; Franklin, 1992; McDaniel, 2000; Wyatt et al., 2000), and increasingly emerge not as smooth, linear or fairy-tale like in dusting society with benefits. …

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