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What is Information Era

Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Second Edition
An era where information is the main strategic resource upon which individuals, organizations, and societies rely for their growth and development. Also called information millennium .
Published in Chapter:
Information Society Discourse
Lech W. Zacher (Leon Kozminski Academy of Entrepreneurship and Management, Poland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch312
Information society (IS) has a short history as a form of human organization and social context. However, information (signals, communications, various data, etc.) and use thereof have always been fundamental to people’s existence, survival, and development. Some important milestones included the Gutenberg printing press, telephone, radio, TV, computer, and all electronic devices and systems related to ICTs. In fact, the progress of technology, especially of electronics and telecommunications, marked out the directions and potentialities of social change. Coined as a term in the 1960s, information society is just emerging nowadays mostly in developed countries. As a result of the effect of present technological, economic, and political globalization processes, the whole world is being impacted and transformed by ICTs. IS can be per se perceived as the intellectual (scientific) model or ideal type having a set of specific characteristics and assigned interpretations. Needless to say, in the real world there are only concrete individual different information societies. Their difference concerns mostly: geographic, historical, educational, technological, cultural, political, and economic aspects and advancements already achieved in IS development (i.e., its stage, directions, pace, and so on) and their multifaceted impacts on societies, organizations, and individuals. In the social sciences?especially in sociology and political science?there are some indicators enabling measurement of these advancements and their consequences. The aforementioned societal advancements, initially always pre-informational or not yet informational, are constantly emerging from some “embryos”?often scientific and technological?and are progressing via multidimensional processes of organizational, social, economic, political, cultural innovations, and by their diffusion. In fact, all segments and features of society are heavily affected by them. These impacts are rather difficult to measure and evaluate. Quite often, they are treated generally as ICTs’ impact on a society. Certain analytical methods and procedures connected with technology assessment or?more comprehensive?impact assessment can be applied to this end. Since IS is still emerging, or in other words in the statu nascendi stage, it is reasonable and necessary to apply a prospective approach to its investigations and evaluations. Therefore, the future of ISs should be of interest not only to researchers, but also governments, business, and the public?referred to as civil society in democratic countries. Increasing use of the word “future” in its plural form, “futures,” has been accepted for a long time. In English this form has already functioned for decades, while in other languages “future” is used only in singular. The other reason is that people (and scientists) often perceived the future as non-optional (a rather fatalistic approach). By using the plural form, we emphasize the conviction and hopes that the future will be multi-optional, thus very differentiated for regions, states, societies, communities, and individuals. Therefore, differentiated ISs will not have the same futures. As such, the future of the whole world will be extremely complex. It does not seem probable that there will be one future for all.
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