What concept or idea intrigued you most in this weeks’ readings? How/does it relate to your thinking about the questions and issues raised in last week’s readings?
The “information society” and the “information age” are terms and concepts that are so ubiquitous nowadays that we can take them for granted. I don’t remember ever not having those terms as part of my daily life and lexicon. Yet, the American economy and system of production has evolved and changed dramatically over the past two hundred years—even the past fifty years—and the landscape now is far different than it used to be.
From agriculture to the industrial revolution to the service-dominated industries of the mid / late twentieth century, our methods of production have shifted with the needs of the market and with innovations and science and technology. In the Crawford text, I found it interesting that the ‘information sector’ could be seen as merely a “re-branding” of the service-sector…that somehow the products and services are the same under a different name. I don’t know if I agree with that. Just as we spoke last week about determinism (hard or soft), I think that technology is expanding in such a way that it does cause everything along with it to shift. Though many jobs and sectors nowadays do still provide a “service” with their information, it is so much more than that. The ‘information highway’ and the advent of the 24-7 news and information cycle have seemingly created a whole new type of existence for us that, though comparable in some ways to the service-dominated era, still has its own features and “feel” if you will.
Dyson et al. speak of several “waves” in a way very similar to Crawford. They go further, however, and talk about how the first wave (agriculture) and second wave (industry, oil, auto-production, etc.) have both benefitted from the advent of the technology age’s innovations and efficiencies. Some areas, though, are irrevocably altered or harmed from the ‘progress’ we have made, and as that trend continues, it is imperative of us to redefine our notions of what it means to communicate, to work, and to retire. For example, with our sectors realigning to suit the needs of the ‘new market,’ things like pensions and unions are becoming a thing of the past; I recently saw a news piece that the upcoming generation will have at least four to six ‘careers’ in their life instead of just one. This obviously has implications for our economy, for our individual identities and for our communities as well. Dyson et al. also hint and looming trouble for bureaucracies (like the American government) because the information age “spells the death of the central institutional paradigm of modern life” with its focus on specialization and individual freedom (p. 297).