A Critical Analysis of Information Society

Topics: Information society, Society, Sociology Pages: 6 (1694 words) Published: June 11, 2011

Living in a technologically sophisticated world, we are not citizens only of a defined territory, and mere citizenship is no longer enough to identify where we belong. The recently-coined word ‘netizen’ more effectively captures the present phenomenon, and while anecdotal, cannot be ignored. The considerable advances in technology in the last few decades have brought huge changes at a high speed to our day-to-day life and to society at large, a radical change accelerated by its rapid adoption of communication technology (Carolyn & David, 2007).

With the changes in technology and society, it has become very difficult to define today’s world in a single line or even in a couple of sentences. However, it is very common to define any period of time by its most influential and distinctive phenomenon (e.g. feudalism, capitalism, etc.). The question is then, what is the most influential, or which is a more distinctive factor in our present world? There are arguments and discussions which may vary in propositions but potentially agree with the central idea of ‘the flow of information’.

Unlike traditional societies, there are many different forms of emerging societies that are based on information-technology, more specifically, computers and the internet. These societies altogether create a picture of our present societies, which are called information societies (IS) which was conceptualized since long before. According to Yoneji Masuda, there are four stages of technological development and when the highest level will be achieved, the information society will appear (Masuda, Y. 1981). Undoubtedly, we passed that level in the nineties. Before going through the details, it is necessary to develop an overall idea of an IS. We find many characteristics of IS which can best define these types of societies.

Defining Information Society (IS)

As mentioned earlier, we divide and define our time by what it constitutes of with its influential and distinctive characteristics. It was not so difficult before when the societies were simple, close, and smaller in scale. However, it has become rather more difficult due to the rise of complexities and invisibility in the society.

Max Weber, a famous sociologist, had coined a term explaining the major differences between traditional societies and modern societies which is still relevant to this discussion. Later it was further clarified by other German sociologists, such as Tonnies, Simmel, etc. According to them, unlike the modern societies, the traditional societies were more personal, direct and stable. Weber stated these as Gemeinschaft in German. On the contrary, with some exceptions, the modern societies are more impersonal where relations within social groups are mostly temporary; in Weber’s language, Gesellschaft. (Memmi, D. 2006)

According to Scott Lash, ‘the information society is a knowledge society’ which deals with discursive knowledge (Lash, S. 2002). Here, information or knowledge itself creates money and they are produced and practiced on a large scale (and sometimes only to enlarge their size). In IS, the concept of labour also has turned into informational. Information itself has become the means of production whereas the product is no other than that.

Webster identified extraordinary intellectual influence in post-industrial societies which geared up the information society to come into account later in the middle of the 1990’s. (Webster, F. 2005)

The social groups and human individuals act quite loosely and enjoy a high level of freedom in information societies. Moreover, the large number of members lessens the pressure of cohesion and ensures the highest mobility within the society. Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells coined the term informational capitalism instead of Bell’s post-industrial society arguing with him. He recalled the idea in his conceptualizing network society to analyze the complexity of the new economy, society, and...

References: 1. Baudrillard, J. (1993) Symbolic Exchange and Death, London, Sage
2. Castells, M. (2001) The Rise of Network Society, London, Blackwell
3. Lash, S. (2002), Critique of Information, London, Sage
4. Memmi, D. (2006) The nature of virtual communities, AI & Soc, Vol. 20, No. 3 pp. 288-300
5. Roberts, B. & Chris Wills (2008) Lecture delivered on knowledge management, London, Kingston University
6. Schaefer, Richard T. (2003) Sociology, USA, McGraw-Hill
7. Webster, F. (2005) Making sense of the information age: Sociology and Cultural Studies, Information, Communication and Society, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 471-476
8. Yoneji Masuda, The Information Society as Post-industrial Society, 1981, USA, World Future Society
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