What does it mean to live in the Information Society (IS)?
What does it mean to live in an information society? I will be examining what information society theorists refer to as living in an information society and how we have entered an information revolution. My main focus will be Frank Webster, a professor of sociology who looks closely at different approaches to informational developments, and provides critical commentaries on all the major post-war theories. My understanding of how information plays a role in our society and definitions that make up an information society. Webster's theory of the Information Society technological, economic, occupational, spatial and cultural factors. My understanding of digital divide and how we can bridge the gap. Daniel Bell, a sociologist who taught at Harvard university and published the compelling book The coming of post industrial society where I will be analysing his post industrial concept and referring this to the (IS). I will also be exploring other information society theories by Manuel Castells and Yoneji Masuda. "Information has become a talisman, a symbol of political potency and economic prosperity (J.Martin, 1998, p.1). In contemporary society, information is rapidly growing and essential in human progress and communication.
Economist Fritz Machlup was one of the very first to develop the concept of the information society. Machlup in 1962 introduced what is known as the knowledge industry. This concept distinguished five sectors of the knowledge sector: education, research, and development, mass media, information technologies and information services.
Frank Webster work in his 2002 edition brings up to date new theoretical work and social and technological changes. He looks at key theorists and "attempts to assess its strengths and weaknesses in light of alternative theoretical analyses and empirical evidence (Webster, 2002, p.3)
Webster (2002) distinguishes five definitions of the information society. These are technological, economic, occupational, spatial and cultural. "Technological conceptions centre on an array of innovations (Webster, 2002, p.9). Technologies have vastly improved since the 1970 and these are "indicators of new times (Webster, 2002, p.9). The inventions of certain technologies such as satellite television, computers and the internet have notably lead to "a reconstitution of the social world because its impact is so profound (Webster, 2002, p.9). These technological developments in society have revolutionised our way of life and suggest we are evolving into Alvin Toffler's information revolution wave as Webster states. Having said that "this spread of computer communication technologies (email data and text communication) inspires most speculation about a new society (Webster, 2002, p.10). It is clear that a technological definition of the information society "commonsensically seems a practically yet a valid argument as technologies nevertheless has impacted all aspects of society on the contrary other information society theorists face the problem that one will encounter with a technological definition is with measuring how one is considered to qualify for an information society status.
Webster's economic approach "charts the growth in economic worth of informational activities (Webster, 2002, p.12). He refers to Fritz Machlup 1983 who "devoted much of his professional life to the goal of assessing the size and growth of information industries (Webster,1995,p.11) Machlup identified "industries such as education, law, publishing, media, and computer manufacture, and Mark Porat 1977 who refined Machlup's "attempt to estimate their changing economic worth. (Webster, 2002, p.12) The economy brings changes to society and Webster defines this as part of the information society.
According to Daniel bell an information society means that we have moved from a producer of goods and information, labour and production are the most likely elements to progress faster in a post industrial economy. A society that is based on services but Bell's theory of post industrialism replace the industrial based model that had been dominated in the west in the nineteenth century. Pre industrial societies are dominated by an agricultural mode of production
The network society has arguably gained its status in the information society theory. Manuel castells
By an information society, Daniel Bell means that we moved from a producer of goods (manufacturing) to service economy and that theoretical knowledge, technology, and information become the major mode of commodity.
The information society can linked with theories of a knowledge or information economy, post-industrial society, network society, the information revolution, These many theories have debated what conforms the information society but the is what does it mean to live in the information society.
- Webster, F (2002) Theories of the information society.