Continuities and Transformations: Challenges to Capturing Information about the 'Information Society'

Fred Gault, Susan McDaniel

Abstract


Continuous change and radical transformations are intrinsic and often contradictory in the 'Information Society.' If the 'Information Society' marks a radical social shift, i.e. discontinuous change, then theorizing what the phenomenon is becomes crucial in capturing useful information about it. Yet, if continuities with other changes, both economic and social, characterize the 'Information Society,' then well-tested information systems might be adapted to collect needed information.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris is working to develop statistics which are both internationally comparable and illuminating of public policy debates on the 'Information Society.' This effort focuses infrastructure and content. For both, goods and services are produced, traded, and consumed by firms and individuals. There are social impacts and inputs. The process, whether of continuous change or radical transformation, of developing 'Information Society' is a social process.

Thus far, OECD has identified information and computing technologies (ICTs) as providing an infrastructure necessary to displaying, moving, processing and storing data, information and codified knowledge. The OECD's ongoing work on indicators for the information society opens possibilities for a discursive sociological examination of the processes involved in, and operative with, 'Information Society' to ask whether and to what extent continuous change exists, and if radical transformation is occurring, how best to capture it. We can, relying on the work of the OECD as a case study, ask crucial sociological questions. Is information society defined and driven by electronic products, or is it a social creation which then requires electronic products? Is the central issue the electronic products, their production and distribution, or is it the electronic networks that deliver them? Is society transforming? What role does knowledge play?

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v7i2.928



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