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Outline Some Of The Technological Developments Responsible For What Some Call The Information Society. Explain What Is Meant By The Phrase, And Discuss The Arguments About Whether Such A Society Can Be Said To Exist.

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I'm sure for many of you, it will not have gone unnoticed that there are a large number of individuals who believe we have surpassed post-industrialism and entered a new era directed by a new societal model. This new 'paradigm,' surprisingly claims that material goods will no longer be the basis for which society and its economic relations are organised. Rather that, information and knowledge is or soon will be the basis for which everything is structured. This is known as the 'information society,' and is the age many believe we are living in - an age in which the creation, manipulation and rapid distribution of information is economically and culturally significant. Now in my opinion I have already answered the second part of the titles question. However, since I need to write two thousand words I am going to go a little deeper. It's always interesting to look at the history behind a topic, so I am going to begin by briefly mentioning the roots of the Information society model. Following which, I will use the help of Christopher May, author of The Information Society - a Sceptical View, and his 'four claims' to deduce whether an information society can or does exist. Next, I will return to the beginning of the question and delve into important technologies behind the information. Finally, I will conclude by illuminating the possible future and lastly, giving my personal view on the validity of the information society as a model.

According to May, the idea of an information or 'new network' society started to appear in accounts of modern society in the early 1960's. However, due to the complexity of the models development it takes some work to dissect its parts, as David Lyon (1988) explains:

"The roots of the information society idea are intertwined in a complex manner. It is hard to disentangle the diverse strands of attempted social prediction, government policy, futuristic speculation and empirical social analysis."

Lyon uses the phrase 'hard to disentangle,' as he refers to the components of the information society model, but this complication does not apply to all components. Actually, other 'strands' as he names them are rather more voluntarily specific, than entangled. One such example is the idea of post-industrialism. This is the view that post-industrial society develops as a consequence of the economic tilt towards the provision of services, just as industrial society preceded agrarian or pre-industrial society due to the shift of economic significance from land to manufacturing. This particular theory sounds feasible, but to determine whether the information society model can exist we need to understand the claims put forward by the model. It was again May, who in 2002 expressed that the claims made about the information society can be broken down into four main categories. In the next few paragraphs I will discuss May's 'four claims' and the validity of each.

The first of the four claims is that 'we are experiencing a social revolution.' According to those who support that we have indeed entered a new age, driven by the power of information and the new ICTs, we have experienced a profound social transformation. According to May, these supporters have suggested that ubiquitous computing, networked through the internet, will have results similar to those of the printing revolution. Nicholas Negroponte (1995) formed the idea that the digital age, like a force of nature cannot be stopped. It was then Manuel Castells in 1996, who produced the comparison that the information or 'computer' revolution is at least as major an event as the Industrial revolution was in the eighteenth century. It is this frequent awareness of predictability intertwined with the recognition of essential changes driven by the new importance of information and communication that leads many to argue we are entering a new social order. But just how valid are these claims for an information revolution?

Before we delve into deciding whether the information society can be considered a 'revolution,' we must first understand the meaning of revolution. Originally, the word 'revolution' was a term used to identify profound and complete transformations of society produced by major economic change or political action. However, the importance of the word 'revolution' was weakened during the twentieth century due to societal shifts being portrayed as revolutions, such as the 'shopping revolution' and 'education revolution.' With this in mind, we must remember to appreciate that not all new technologies have the same scale of impact and that for technological innovations to be 'revolutionary' they must not simply improve living but provide an absolute conversion.

Now, one way to distinguish between improvement and transformation is to divide technological advance into two groups, which Peter Golding (2000) calls 'Technology One' and 'Technology Two.' Golding explains:

"Technology One allows existing social action and process to occur more speedily, more efficiently, or conveniently (though equally possibly, with negative consequences, such as pollution and risk). Technology Two enables wholly new forms of activity previously impracticable or even inconceivable."

Therefore, it is unsurprising that problems for prediction are likely to arise when Technology One is mistakenly identified as Technology Two. For example, ICTs should be referred to as Technology One because their use only improves current practices rather than stimulating a new social order. However, if we misguidedly say that ICTs are Technology Two then the absence of an obvious revolutionary effect means the recognition of an actually transformative information age to be continuously presented as an approaching revolution. For instance, according to Dillon (2001) access to doctors over the internet or 'telemedicine' is likely to become as revolutionary as antibiotics. In this case, we see telemedicine being confusingly accepted as Technology Two when in fact it should be Technology One as it is simply an improvement in speed and style of communication rather than a shift in medical innovation, which antibiotics clearly provided.

The second of May's four claims is that 'political practices and the communities involved are changing.' The possibility of new politically active communities became a key theme of the information society due to the spreading and increased accessibility of ICTs. Dyson (1997) explains that these new 'cyber-communities' would be independent of geography and individuals could belong to



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