The information society
The information revolution
- economic growth
- changes in the nature of work
- social change
Naisbitt - Megatrends
- the booming global economy of the 1990s
- a renaissance in the arts
- the emergence of free-market socialism
- the privatisation of the welfare state
- the rise of the Pacific Rim
- the decade of women in leadership
- the age of biology
- the religious revival of the new millennium
- the triumph of the individual
- searching for the crises in capitalism
- patterns in economic investment
- periodicity of fifty years
- technological advances
- organisational innovations
- but what causes them?
First wave: 1787-1845
- power loom and iron puddling
- new industries (cotton and iron)
- small factories
- Britain "workshop of the world"
- canals and railways
Second wave: 1846-1896
- improved steel manufacture and steamships
- new industries (steel, shipbuilding and machine tools)
- large factories but still skilled labour
- international corporations
- global transport and communications
- Germany and the rise of the USA
Third wave: 1896-1947
- electricity and the motor car
- new industries (electrical engineering, cars and chemical industries)
- giant factories
- deskilling of labour
- growth of connurbations
- USA and Germany
Fourth wave: 1948-200?
- transistor and computer
- new industries
- mixture of large multinationals and small firms
- dominance of the USA, but Japanese challenge and the rise of the Pacific Rim NICs
A third industrial revolution?
Is the present development of Information Technology different from other types of technological changes in the past, or are we suffering from what has been termed temporal provincialism? Are we sitting down and thinking never before has humanity been subject to such intense pressures as today? Are we just ignoring historical facts or is it really very different?
Johan Martin-Löf (1982) page 61.
- new materials
- medical technologies
- new sources of energy
Thee USSR launched Sputnik 1 in 1957.
... had lost a battle more important and greater than Pearl Harbour.
Dr Edward Teller
... a hunk of iron almost anybody could launch.
Rear Admiral Rawson Bennett
- Yuri Gargarin - first man in space (1961)
- John Glenn (1962)
Moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969.
Earth rise from lunar orbit
- First atomic bomb test 16 July 1945 in New Mexico
- Horoshima & Nagasaki
- Russian atomic bomb (1949)
- Hydrogen bomb
- First Russian hydrogen bomb
- Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
- Three Mile Island
The terms pre-industrial, industrial, and post industrial societies are conceptual sequences along the axis of production and the kinds of knowledge that are used.
Daniel Bell (1973) page 11.
Changing composition of the Workforce in the USA.
- strengthens the role of science and engineering in society
- increases the importance of the technological intelligentsia
- there will be further changes in the structure of occupations and professional work
Changing composition of the Workforce in the UK.
To the technological utopians the new society would be totally different from the past in economic structure, life-styles, and personal value orientation. Our society will be free from pollution and traffic jams because a majority of the population will stay at home to work and receive education. As the computer frees human beings from all routine jobs, more time will be allowed for creative work and spiritual cultivation. Broad access to information will help bring about participatory democracy and a perfect market ....
Dordick and Wang (1993) p. 14.
The pessimists, on the other hand, see no major structural changes to justify a claim for a historical or social discontinuity. Competition for profit will persist, accompanied by continuing, even increasing alienation in the workplace, and surveillance by the bureaucracy will only revive painful memories of the industrial age. They see the coming of a dark age where information and information technology only serve to benefit the rich, such as multinational giants, for more profit exploitation ...
Dordick and Wang (1993) page 15.
- freeing of people from the burden of manual and clerical work, thereby releasing their creativity
- the growing importance of emotional and psychological needs over physical needs
- the rising cost of information in the production and content of goods
Neutral effect of jobs
In the first place, we could imagine a situation where the new technologies of the information society neither destroyed old jobs nor created new ones, but simply made the content of existing jobs more intellectual, creative and satisfying. Secondly, by contrast, we could imagine that information technologies had no impact on existing job specification, but that they made work more creative by destroying existing routine manual jobs and replacing them with entirely new intellectual, exciting jobs.
Morris-Suzuki (1988) page 106.
The reasoning behind this optimistic prediction is not precisely spelled out in the information society report, but it appears that the vision of future social harmony rests partly on the anticipated transformation of human values, and partly upon the effects of specific technological trends. The development of new communications networks, for example, is seen as having great potential for allowing the growth of decentralised regional information and entertainment networks which would strengthen the participation of individuals in and identification with their community.
Morris-Suzuki (1988) page 15.
European Union initiatives
Pre-competitive research and development
ESPRIT - European Strategic Programme for Research in Information Technology
RACE - Research in Advanced Communications in Europe
FAST - Forecasting and Assessment in Science and Technology
Application of IT for example in:
De-regulation of telecoms.
The Europeans are no longer a factor and show no signs of becoming one.
Ferguson and Morris (1993), p 222.
- South Korea
- Hong King
- Santa Clara County, California
- role models
- Hewlett and Packard
- Bill Schockley
- Steve Jobs (Apple Computer)
- Stanford University (incl. science park)
- finance from San Francisco banks
- desirable location
- fast growing economy
- Washington (notably Microsoft)
- vision of democratic computing
- Apple’s “Big Brother” advert
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
The perception of coherence may be attributable, in part, to the conspicuous absence of coherence in the industrial policies of other countries. Compared to the industrial policies of Italy and Great Britain, Japan’s seems almost like a model of clarity and technical rationality. The contrast is especially striking if the scope of industrial policy is confined to the manufacturing sectors under MITI’s jurisdiction. But clarity, consistency and effectiveness are relative terms, and if Italy, Great Britain, or even France is the point of reference, the liberal use of such terms may mean relatively little. They may reveal less about the conceptual tidiness of industrial policy in Japan than they do about its ineptly conceived and disorganised nature in
Okimoto (1989) pages 3-4.
Failings in other countries
Graph of telephone lines.
- massive and detailed interference by politicians
- defence procurement and R&D
- state ownership
- state involvement in new ventures
- sponsorship of national champions
- rival bureaucracies
- government-industry disputes
Countries locked-out by
- inept governments
- corrupt governments
- military dictatorships
- religious fundamentalism
An information industry
- growth of industries selling information
- increasing dependence on information in products and services
- finance for customers’ purchases
- expert system for Blue Circle Cement controlling the output of a cement furnace
- Levi-Link information system for Levi-Strauss jeans
- printing and publishing
- credit agencies
- advertising agencies
- education and training
- legal services
- data processing
- policy making
- general administration
- electric power
- computer control
- steel scrap rather than ore
- locate for market not supplies
- rapid pay-back
- more flexible than traditional integrated steel works
We cannot yet tell if it is a revolution!
Certainly dramatic effects on:
Main geographic area is around the Pacific Rim.
- work practices
- job opportunities
What has it not done?
- a real challenge for Europe
- a major threat for Third World
limited roles in:
- domestic life (other than entertainment)
- very little teleworking
"Information Technology and Society" Heap at al.
Theorising the IT/Society Relationship Hughie Mackay
Copyright © Ewan Sutherland, 1995.