The Making of the Information Society: Taxonomy of Concepts, Determinants, and Implications

The Making of the Information Society: Taxonomy of Concepts, Determinants, and Implications

P.E. Thomas (Bharathiar University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8598-7.ch001
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Abstract

Unlike the decisive occupations which facilitated the unambiguous naming of the agricultural and industrial societies, the present one which is tagged with an array of groupings—Post-Industrial, Service, Knowledge, Post-modern, Wired/Networked, Artificial, so on and so forth—can hardly ever be viewed from the perspective of a single occupation. With technology in the forefront working as the driver of information and knowledge, it supports and causes the rampant changes in the provinces of economy, occupation, spatial relations, and culture. And, together they signify the arrival of the ‘Information Society'. The obvious shift of a considerable population from the landed labour to industrial labour to knowledge workers marks the transitional phase of the society from agriculture to manufacturing to knowledge society. Hence, this chapter proposes that the dominant phase of a society is not to be visualised as an independent system that is divorced from the other two, but to be understood as an extension of its past.
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The Information Society (Is)

The last century saw a dramatic shift in the fundamentals of the world of information, which in turn, yielded mass concepts of literacy, education, and communication and all of them were spurred by technologies. Technological inventions not only affected dramatic changes in lifestyle, but also intensified interdependence with the exchange of information and, as Low (2000) perceives, technological inventions run parallel to the evolution of the knowledge and information based economy.

The 'IS' paradigm is presented as the realisation of society that brings about a general flourishing state of human intellectual creativity (Mowlana, 1996) instead of affluent material consumption. The superior intellect of the human being stems from the production, process, and distribution of information. In his attempt at characterising the changed work culture, Rogers (1986) identified the US and several West European countries, which became information societies quite early, and whose citizens reflected visible dramatic changes such as fast life, expanded horizons, increased efficiency, and empowerment of a majority of the communities.

The individual in the new era who is also addressed as the 'information man', is perceived to be educated, affluent, and well-travelled (Wresch, 1996). The nouveau riche enjoyed expanded leisure, shifts from achievement to enjoyment and from rational work goals to pleasurable play goals. The well-heeled citizen of the ‘IS’ tends to experience unimaginable number of opportunities made available to him in diverse forms. The one who alone negotiates for himself a comfortable life in the Information Society is the skilled user of the Information Technologies (IT).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cultural: The drastic changes in lifestyles can be experienced with the overwhelming flow of information. The concept of ‘cultural shock’ may be obliterated from even the conservative societies.

Occupational: It signifies the transformation from the landed workforce to a sophisticated ‘white collar society’, the pivot of the Information Society.

Information Society: Unlike the predominance of occupations of the agricultural and industrial societies which defined them unambiguously, the Information Society has numerous definitions. However, since information and knowledge is considered to underscore the new age, the term ‘Information Society’ has a universal applicability.

Spatial: The advances in communications technologies have resulted in the redefinition of distance and may end up with the creation of 'virtual citizens’.

Economic: Every nature of human activity has a price tag today and hence every piece of information has an economic value.

Technological: The ever-increasing spread of interdependence on technology coupled with mediated form of communication, which replaces interpersonal face-to-face interactions, marks the importance of technology in today’s world.

Centralised-decentralisation: With the decentralising of power came decentralising of work and decision-making. Conversely, the advent of the networking technologies in the workplace tends to diminish the culture of decentralised working since the ‘boss’ can oversee the employee’s work instantly causing sudden interventions.

Determinants: If agriculture and manufacturing determined the making of the earlier two societies, a composition of different spheres of activities—technological, economic, occupational, spatial, and cultural—determined the creation of the Information Society.

Convergence: Primarily the term coincides with the combination of different technologies—telephone, computer, broadcasting, and Internet—on a single platform. However, it is pertinent to understand the term from the point of view of multiple activities being performed within a moment using the advances of the new communications technologies.

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