The Concept of ‘Information Society’

What concept or idea intrigued you most in this week’s readings? How does it relate to your thinking about the questions and issues raised in last week’s readings?

It is interesting to see some of the aspects of our society that people in the 1980s were predicting that would happen with the emergence of the notion of “Information Society.” In the third paragraph after the abstract in Crawford’s (1983) those futuristic expectations are listed: (1) elimination of diseases and therefore a creation of a utopian society, (2) widespread availability of birth control pills, (3) professionals and technicians’ emergence as an upper class, etc.

Some of the things that were mentioned really have come true: birth control pills have become widely available to a very big audience, many professionals and particularly technicians are being paid a lot more than many businessmen, who nowadays face harsh economic pressures with the worldwide economic downturn.

All these changes can be attributed to the fact that we might have entered the so called, “Knowledge/Information Society.” Machlup (1962) and Porat (1977) defined the meaning of ‘Information Society’ in different ways according to Crawford (1983). The stark difference that struck me was how they viewed the basic unit comprising an information society differently: the former thought it was an organization or individual as opposed to an information activity, which is what Porat believed. Knowing these two basic units that these scholars defined I would say the basic unit should be the information activity an organization or individual conducts.

This resonates with some of the issues we have raised last week about how there seems to be a blend of “soft” and “hard” determinism in terms of how we view the relationship between history and technological development. We have covered examples from both the “soft” and “hard” determinists’ sides to know that sometimes technology happened and societal changed occurred or a specific technology was needed and therefore developed and in turn changed the society accordingly.


About marialarahwang

Doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

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