Theories of the Information Society (International Library of Sociology)
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Information is regarded as a distinguishing feature of our world. Where once economies were built on industry and conquest, we are now part of a global information economy. Pervasive media, expanding information occupations and the development of the internet convince many that living in an Information Society is the destiny of us all. Coping in an era of information flows, of virtual relationships and breakneck change poses challenges to one and all.
In Theories of the Information Society Frank Webster sets out to make sense of the information explosion, taking a sceptical look at what thinkers mean when they refer to the Information Society, and critically examining the major post-war approaches to informational development. The fourth edition of this classic study brings it up to date with new research and with social and technological changes – from the ‘Twitter Revolutions’ of North Africa, to financial crises that introduced the worst recession in a life time, to the emergence of social media and blogging – and reassesses the work of key theorists in the light of these changes.
More outspoken than in previous editions, Webster urges abandonment of Information Society scenarios, preferring analysis of the informatization of long-established relationships. This interdisciplinary book is essential reading for those trying to make sense of social and technological change in the post-war era. It addresses issues of central concern to students of sociology, politics, geography, communications, information science, cultural studies, computing and librarianship.
been trained, may well have to work in hot, dirty and uncomfortable circumstances, and may need considerable strength to move machinery and replace damaged parts. Yet they will undoubtedly be classiﬁed as ‘information workers’ since their work with New 15 WHAT IS AN INFORMATION SOCIETY? Age machinery suits Porat’s interpretations. The point here is simple: we need to be sceptical of conclusive ﬁgures which are the outcome of researchers’ perceptions of where occupations are to be most
in key respects, a model that guides government information policies around the world. In such a milieu, where the ratings largely determine media content, public service broadcasting must be hard pressed to survive. Michael Tracey (1998) goes so far as to describe the 1980s as ‘the Passchendaele of public broadcasters’ (p. 192) as they were swept aside by neo-liberal policies. Results are evident enough (Bourdieu, 1998): television is dominated more than ever by soaps, action adventure, chat
modernisation (Anthony Giddens) the public sphere (Jürgen Habermas, Nicholas Garnham) None of the latter denies that information is of key importance to the modern world, but unlike the former they argue that its form and function are subordinate to long-established principles and practices. As they progress through this book, readers will have the chance to decide which approaches they ﬁnd most persuasive. 01 9 0 1 2 61 7 CHAPTER TWO What is an information society? If we are to
Britain were a period of continuous Conservative ascendancy despite the fact that manual workers contributed the overwhelming majority of voters. In sum, it is as well to hold in mind that the equation of manual work with the working class, and this with a homogeneity of outlook, is very much a construction of intellectuals. It may imply a conﬂuence that in reality is absent, just as it may suggest an unbridgeable gulf separating the working class from white-collar (and thereby middle-class?)
ﬁnancial and service networks which tie together and support dispersed activities. • Information is central to the management and control of transnational corporations, both within and without their organisations. • Information is crucial to the emerging phenomenon of global localism (otherwise known as glocalisation), whereby international and local issues and interests are connected and managed. • Information now plays a more integral part in work practices, at once because computerisation has