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In many societies today, evidence exists of an increase in information that has opened a floodgate of knowledge, thereby putting a dent into human ignorance and significantly changing various aspects of life including education, communication, business and societal living. It is this prevalence of information that has led to the birth of what theoreticians refer to as the ‘information society’. It is not known exactly when the information society came into being, but it is believed that originated in Japan in 1964 according to (Duff, 1996 p. 119).

Moreover, (Martin, 1995 p. 2) also notes that Masuda, one of its founders came to the realization that “the making of information values became the formative force for the development of society. ” This new society also conceptualized in the mind of the economist, Fritz Machlup, who studied the role of knowledge in American societies. He felt especially concerned about how certain practices restricted competition, particularly, the patent system. He observed the cost of the patent system in contrast to its benefits, and consequently, was forced to inquire into the educational system.

He investigated how the United States, as a nation, produced knowledge. His inquiry led him not only to investigate scientific and technical information, but all schooling, elementary though graduate education. He was able to distinguish five division of the knowledge sector and, as a consequence, calculated that in 1959 twenty-nine percent (29%) of the Gross National Product (GNP) in the United States of America had been produced in knowledge industries.

Other proponents of the concept include Peter Drucker who has argued that there is a transition from an economy based on material goods to one based on knowledge. Yet another line of argument is that of Daniel Bell who pointed out that the number of employees producing services and information is an indicator for the informational character of a society. He adds further that in such a society, what counts is not raw muscle power or energy, but information. In addition, Jean-Francois Lyotard contends that “Knowledge has become the principle force of production over the last few decades. To add to this list of proponents’ points of view is a claim made by the former Minister of Tourism in Antigua & Barbuda, Honorable Harold Lovell, who said that, “We have long drifted away from the days when the livelihood of society depended largely on the cultivation of food crops to one in which information and services take priority. ” What then is the information society? There is no universally accepted definition of the concept of information society; as it is conceptualized differently by various writers.

For example, in the article “Introduction: Information Society Studies” Frank Webster writes that the information society is seen by its advocates to be as different from Industrialism as the Industrial Society was from its predecessor, the Agricultural Society. He expatiates by saying that from that perspective, people in the industrial era made their living by the sweat of their brow, dexterity of their hands, by working in factories to manufacture products.

In contrast, in the information society, “Livelihoods are increasingly made by the appliance and manipulation of information, be it software design, branding, or financial services, and the output is not so much a tangible thing as a change in image, relationship or perception. ” However, despite this view, some uncertainty still exists as to its definition as it is yet to be determined if the concept is evolutionary or revolutionary. However, for the purpose of this paper, the following definition will be used: A society characterized by a high level of information intensity in the everyday life of most of its citizens, in most organizations and workplaces, by the use of common or compatible technology for a wide range of personal, social, educational and business activities, and by the ability to transmit and receive digital data rapidly between places irrespective of distances. ” (Aerythstwyth module The Net Result 1) According to research literature, the information society is replete with benefits, but emerging alongside this view is a contradictory school of thought which argues that this new society is not without significant pitfalls.

Therefore, this paper will examine the tenets of the information society in order to unearth its advantages and disadvantages. To determine the pros and the cons of the concept, it is necessary to consider various definitions and perspectives of its two key terms: ‘information’ and ‘society’ as put forward by authorities from different fields. Definitions of Key Terms The term ‘information’ is not confined to any one definition; it is used in a wide range of contexts and means different things to different people.

In the article, Information-as-Thing, Buckland (1991) considers it as having to do with becoming informed, with the reduction of ignorance and uncertainty. Despite this perception, he contends that the term is itself ‘ambiguous’, but he adopts an approach which identifies and classifies the many uses of the word into three principle uses: information-as-process, information-as-knowledge and information-as-thing. Moreover, he puts forward the view that information goes beyond mere communication to include data, text, documents, objects and events—things from which individuals are informed.

His third category, information-as-thing, meets with strong theoretical objections. One opposing line of argument is that presented by Wiener in (Machlup 1983, p. 642). He argues that “Information is information, not material nor energy. ” As a counter response, Buckland maintains that to restrict information to the context of communication is remissive of his third category of the uses of the word. He explains that the noun ‘information’ has two basic meanings: (1) the telling of something or (2) that which is told.

These, he asserts, are either analogies and metaphors or concoction from the condoned appropriation of a word that had not been meant by earlier users. Another objection to ‘information-as-thing’ is proffered by Fairthorne (1954). He notes that, “Information is an attribute of the receiver’s knowledge and interpretation of the signal, neither of the sender’s nor some omniscient observer’s nor of the signal itself. ” Nevertheless, he accedes that the language is as it is used, and as such one cannot dismiss “information-as-thing” so long as it is a commonly used meaning of the term “information”.

The very nature of the objection would seem to confirm the observation that the word, ‘information’ is not without ambiguity. In addition to the foregoing definitions of the word information, another insight is that which is entered into the sixth edition of Harrods Librarians’ Glossary, which states that information is “an assemblage of data in a comprehensive form, recorded on paper or some other medium and capable of communication. ” On the other hand, The Standard Dictionary of Computers and Information Processing renders it as “the meaning assigned to data by known conventions. Thus data are the marks, such as characters, signs or symbols themselves, whereas the knowledge assigned to this is information. ’

A controversy now exists between the concepts of ‘data’ and ‘information’ because the two terms are often used synonymously, but this need not confuse the issue, for data is not the same as information. Data is really the unevaluated facts or the raw material of information which can occur in different forms, namely, signals, symbols or characters. In essence, information is really data processed into a meaningful and communicable form and thus constitutes knowledge which is capable of effecting change. Society’, the second term of the concept, ‘information society’ also has a variety of definitions, but for the purpose of this paper is that recorded in the Longman Dictionary of the English Language, which declares that society is ‘a community, nation or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests. ’ Although the two terms have a numerous meanings in various fields, it is an undisputed fact that information does have an impact, positive or negative, on society.

One only has to look at every strata of society to see our high level of dependence on information. In addition, (Webster p. 19) points out, “We have achieved an information society when the preponderance of occupations is found in information work. ” Similarly, Peter Otto and Philipp Sonntag (1985) say that an information society is “a society where the majority of its employees work in information jobs; that is, they have to deal with information, signals, symbols and images [rather] than with energy and matter. ”

Information was always a social fact; there was never a time in human history that information, as per the foregoing definitions and perspectives, was not a part of societal life. The caveman’s attempt at drawing on the walls of his primitive home, his signs, symbols, and artifacts all testify to the presence of information in society. Its impact since those early years has shaped the structure of society and life in general, but its transforming influence was especially felt at the turn of the twentieth century—the Enlightening Era.

New technological inventions, new modes of travel, the dramatic increase of medical knowledge, not to mention the introduction of new machines in education, communication and business, testify to the metamorphic effect of the information society. In light of these points, it seems reasonable to hypothesize that the information society possess remarkable merits. Therefore, this paper will now examine the advantages and disadvantages of the information society. Advantages Social value As stated earlier, information was always an intrinsic component of society.

However, its preponderance is a key into the modern world and has also given rise to the development of technological innovations, particularly, the introduction of information technology, a core element of the information society. It is probably this more than anything else that has paved the way for information’s influence at all levels of societal life. One only has to look at the greatly improved accessibility to information to realize its effect. With the aid of information technology, we are able to access not only constant but up-to-date information.

Moreover, the velocity, efficiency and ease with which information is transmitted serve to bridge geographical distances creating linkages between people and businesses. It is also true that conventional modes of communication are being eroded by new methods, such as electronic networking. Why write a letter when it is easier to communicate with others around the globe by text messaging or e-mail with almost instantaneous response? Furthermore the language barrier becomes non- existent as software that translates information to required languages is also a part of this form of networking.

Of significance is the fact that these methods of communication are conducive to business, education and even entertainment. No longer does a business contract have to be negotiated face-to-face; instead, video conferencing through the internet has narrowed the divide between partners in commerce. Similarly, research information that was once obtained only from volumes of books is now available via the internet. Clearly, the information society seems destined to reform the status quo and its influence is readily accepted by all classes in society. Disadvantages

It is accepted that there is an increase of information in society today, but critics argue that its preponderance is not sufficient evidence to support the view of an information society. It is more feasible to conclude that its growth has led to the development of technological innovations such as information technology rather than the birth of a new society. They argue that the form and function of information is subordinate to long-established principles and practices, insisting that the central feature of the present is its continuity with the past. Another objection, put forward by Frank Webster.

He argues that if technology is the main criterion for defining a society; then, this new era should be seen as a high-tech society or an automated age. He questions the designation “information” in a society in which technology is key. Furthermore, he maintains, “If there is just more information then it is hard to understand why anyone should suggest that we have before us something radically new. ” This view is also held by Kevin Robins as he suggests that: “Today’s Information Society continues and deepens long-established patterns rather than announces a new age. ”

Despite the fact that technological innovations have electronically integrated people, they equally isolate them, lessening the impact of the human touch. A typical example is this very programme. Students from different parts of the world are required to visit the University once per year and, though this is a learning experience, it raises the query as to the effect of the virtual classroom on students’ performance. The cost of travel is also another critical consideration. The need for safety and privacy is another matter of concern in the information society, for although information technology has made ommunication quicker, easier and more convenient, it has no fool proof security against invasion of privacy and safety of information. As Martin (1995) puts it, “As more networks come online, transaction generated information about individual citizens can be mixed and matched … digital data is unregulated. ” As a consequence, many unsuspecting persons have been known to be the victims of hackers, whose sole intent is to distort information that has been channeled through different information sources.

In a similar fashion, crimes such as electronic fraud, identity theft child pornography and prostitution have become common via technological information sources. Clearly, the information society is not all it is purported to be. Advantages Employment and the economy The emergence of the information society heralds new and more cost-effective strategies for addressing the economic sector of society. As Stonier (1991 p. 257 ) succinctly puts it, “The most important input into modern productive systems is no longer land, labour, or capital—it is information. Embedded in this statement is the suggestion that information is the panacea for problems arising in the economy. Undoubtedly, the use of information and communication technologies greatly reduces the need for standardized and manual production, but encourages a more diversified, knowledge based production of goods and services. Additionally, they provide opportunities for improved productivity thus strengthening the growth of the economy while generating new jobs. The question however is how to create and maintain awareness of the potential of new approaches to organization of work. The solution lies in education.

Information technology plays a dominant role in educational curricula and its inclusion in institutions of learning have only served to prepare individuals for the information-based working arena that typify the information society. The result of this initiative has culminated in the emergence and growth of new information-centered professions including computer and information managers, librarians and computer scientists. Moreover, most single and corporate employment firms demand employees be computer literate in order to stay abreast with the current knowledge trend that the world of commerce has now become.

The relevance of this stipulation is borne out even by our Aberystwyth Open Learning program. In view of the fact that it significantly incorporates distance learning. Of what benefit would it be to the student who is not conversant with computer programming? Another commendable point to consider in favour of the information society is the fact that in such a society, production is not entirely dependent on the presence of the employee in the actual work place. By means of technological networking an employee is able to perform his duty from miles away. The same is also true for banking, trading and the like.

In fact, trade convenience internet provides the source through which businesses can post an advertisement for selling any product. Similarly, a consumer can successfully purchase a product via the Internet. Undoubtedly, the information society has made wrought significant changes in personal and societal life. Disadvantages While it is true that the information society with its technological innovations has significantly and positively impacted the world economy, it is also equally true that its emergence has brought with it a number of factors that do negatively affect society.

Implied in Stonier’s observation above is a heavy reliance on technology. People depending on, for example, computerized systems are at a loss, unable to manage should these machines become unavailable. Such reliance on technological sources of information would seem to devalue natural human ingenuity. In addition to this is the possibility of job losses as computers are now used to perform tasks in the work place that were once done manually. Another negative line of argument is that which deals with information overload.

It is an undisputed fact that the information society connotes a vast body of information. However, as an Antiguan colloquial term says, “Too much of one thing is good for nothing. ” and the internet as well as other information and communication technology are replete with information, but this information is sometimes of no value to the user especially if it is not current data. Thus information overload is a veritable problem in the information society.

Dutton (2005) must have been of the same opinion as he writes, “The reality of today’s networks includes a large-scale nature and omplexity, increasing congestion and alternative behaviors of users of the networks, as well as interactions between the networks themselves. ” Advantages Global implications The global community also stands to gain from technological innovations of the information society. Networking is an integral component of information technology. Consequently, information can be shared across the world’s community. Of special value is the ease with which diverse, but pertinent information is transmitted particularly during a crisis.

A case in point is that which deals with the transmission and communication of metrological data. As is the custom, prior to the hurricane season in the Caribbean metrological personnel usually inform citizens of the eminence of a storm often correlating their statistical data using technological impressions. Of note too is the ability of technological implements to cut through the cultural divide. Despite cultural differences, people are able to work together, sharing ideas that benefit them both educationally and socially.

For example, like the University of Aberystwyth, the University of the West Indies Jamaica and Barbados also offer students opportunities for study through distance education by means of teleconferencing, an offspring of technology. This is especially effective since it is cost-effective and in addition, it fosters relationships between people of different cultures and walks of life. Disadvantages A major disadvantage to the notion of global unity is the sad fact that sources of technology is not always equitable and affordable especially that individuals have constantly to update their systems.

Additionally, in countries where technological innovation is still a novel experience, the demand for use far exceeds government’s ability to supply. For this reason a large number of citizens in some parts of the world are technologically illiterate. Conclusion Given the advantages and disadvantages of the information society, it is hard to ignore its presence if one operates from the premise that the preponderance of information and the subsequent development of technological sources through which information is transmitted, constitutes an information society.

On the other hand, if one holds to the view that an increase of information does not necessarily justify the prefix ‘information’ to society, but view it as a continuity of data that is channeled and transmitted through technological inventions, then one could easily conclude that an information society does not exist. However, it would be ludicrous to deny the positive effects, despite the negative ones of technological innovations in present society.