Information Age Essay

Information Age is a term that has been used to refer to the present economic era. The name alludes to the global economy’s shift in focus away from the production of physical goods (as exemplified by the industrial age) and toward the manipulation of information. Information technology The relatively recent field of information technology concerns the use of computer-based information systems to convert, store, protect, process, transmit and retrieve information. Technological advances in this field have changed lifestyles around the world and spawned new industries around controlling and providing information.

Digital Revolution The Digital Revolution is a recent term describing the effects of the rapid drop in cost and rapid expansion of power of digital devices such as computers and telecommunications (e. g mobile phones). It includes changes in technology and society, and is often specifically used to refer to the controversies that occur as these technologies are widely adopted. Technological breakthroughs have revolutionized communications and the spread of information. In 1875, for example, the invention of the telephone breached distance through sound.

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Between 1910 and 1920, the first AM radio stations began to broadcast sound. By the 1940s television was broadcasting both sound and visuals to a vast public. In 1943, the world’s first electronic computer was created. However, it was only with the invention of the microprocessor in the 1970s that computers became accessible to the public. In the 1990s, the Internet migrated from universities and research institutions to corporate headquarters and homes. All of these technologies deal with information storage and transmission.

However, the one characteristic of computer technology that sets it apart from earlier analog technologies is that it is digital. Analog signals work by having a signal (usually electric) where the voltage is proportional to some variable. Digital technology, however, converts everything into binary values that are either 0 or 1. This is the “universal language” of nearly every modern device. To use an analogy, a digital world is a world united by one language, a world where people from across continents share ideas with one another and work together to build projects and ideas.

More voluminous and accurate information is accumulated and generated, and distributed in a twinkling to an audience that understands exactly what is said. This in turn allows the recipients of the information to use it for their own purposes, to create ideas and to redistribute more ideas. The result is progress. Take this scenario to a technological level—all kinds of computers, equipment and appliances interconnected and functioning as one unit. Even today, we see telephones exchanging information with computers, and computers playing compressed audio data files or live audio data streams that play music over the Internet like radios.

Computers can play movies and tune in to television. Some modern homes allow a person to control central lighting and air-conditioning through computers. These are just some of the features of a digital world. Box 1. Wearable Computer Systems Characteristics of digital technology Media Integrity. Data stored in analog formats cannot be reproduced without degradation. The more copies made, the worse the copies get. Digital data, on the other hand, do not suffer such deterioration with reproduction. 5] For instance, movies, videos, music and audio files in digital format can be copied and distributed with a quality that is as good as the original. Media Integration. One of the major limitations of many conventional technologies is their inability to combine media types. Telephones, for example, can send and receive only sound. Similarly, you can’t watch television and expect a character to answer a question you pose. However, with digital data, it is easy to combine media. [6] Thus, phones with video, or interactive sound with pictures, become possible.

Hence the term multimedia. Flexible Interaction. The digital domain supports a great variety of interactions, including one-on-one conferences, one-to-many broadcasts, and everything in between. In addition, these interactions can be synchronous and in real time. [7] Transactions. The ability to combine the transactional capability of computers and computer networks with digital media is another interactive advantage of the digital domain. Placing an order and finalizing a transaction becomes as easy as filling in an electronic form and clicking a button.

Movies-on-demand (where you pay for movies that you choose to watch on your TV screen) is just around the corner. Tailoring. Software developed for digital communications and interaction is designed so that users may tailor their use of the tool and the media in a manner not possible with conventional analog technologies. [8] Editing. The conventional alternatives for manipulating text, sound, images, and video are almost always more cumbersome or limited than the new digital tools. Years ago, Francis Ford Coppola said that the day would come when his young daughter will take a home video camera and make films that would win film awards.

Coppola’s prediction is fast becoming a reality. Computers with the right software and minimal hardware can do today what thousands of dollars worth of film and video editing equipment did in the past decades. Internet The Internet is a network of networks. It is a global set of connections of computers that enables the exchange of data, news and opinion. Aside from being a communications medium, the Internet has become a platform for new ways of doing business, a better way for governments to deliver public services and an enabler of lifelong learning.

Unlike the telephone, radio or television, the Internet is a many-to-many communication medium. John Gage argues that— The Internet is not a thing, a place, a single technology, or a mode of governance: it is an agreement. In the language of those who build it, it is a protocol, a way of behaving. What is startling the world is the dramatic spread of this agreement, sweeping across all arenas—commerce, communications, governance—that rely on the exchange of symbols. [9] The Internet has become the fastest growing mass medium. In only four years the number of Internet users has reached 50 million.

In contrast, it took radio 38 years, television 13 years and the PC 16 years to reach the same milestone. As of December 2007, 18. 9% of the global population is online. (http://www. internetworldstats. com/stats. htm) The Internet, according to Lawrence Lessig, is an “innovation commons”, a shared resource that enables the creation of new and/or innovative goods and services. [10] The Internet can be likened to designer clay; its use is limited only by the imagination and skill of the designer. This unique characteristic is due to the fact that the Internet is designed using the end-to-end (e2e) principle.

That is, the intelligence in the network is at the ends, and the main task of the network is to transmit data efficiently and flexibly between these ends. Lessig identifies at least three important consequences of an e2e network on innovation. First, because applications run on computers at the edge of the network, innovators with new applications need only to connect their computers to the network to let their applications run. Second, because the design is not optimized for any particular existing application, the network is open to innovation not originally imagined.

Third, because the design has a neutral platform—in the sense that the network owner can’t discriminate against some packets and favor others—the network can’t discriminate against a new innovator’s design. The Internet as an “innovation commons” has made the transformation to the information age possible. As Christopher Coward notes, Because of end-to-end, the Internet acts as a force for individual empowerment. It fosters entrepreneurship. And, as long as end-to-end is not violated, it is democratizing in the sense that it redistributes power from central authorities (governments and companies) to individuals.

In the Internet Age, everyone can be a producer of content, create a new software application, or engage in global activities without the permission of a higher authority. [11] Consequences of the digital and ICT revolutions First, let us look at the effects of the digital revolution. James Beniger explains: The progressive digitization of mass media and telecommunications content begins to blur earlier distinctions between the communication of information and its processing…, as well as between people and machines. Digitization makes communications from persons to machines, between achines, and even from machines to persons as easy as it is between persons. Also blurred are the distinctions among information types: numbers, words, pictures, and sounds, and eventually tastes, odors, and possibly even sensations, all might one day be stored, processed, and communicated in the same digital format. [16] On a societal level, the digital and ICT revolutions make possible better and cheaper access to knowledge and information. This speeds up transactions and processes and reduces their cost, which in turn benefit citizens and consumers.

The ability of ICTs to traverse time and distance allows human beings to interact with each other in new ways. Distance is no longer a consideration. As Giddens observes, With the advent of the communications revolution, distance has a different relationship to self-immediacy and experience than it used to have. Distance isn’t simply wiped out, but when you have a world where the value of the money in your pocket is affected immediately by ongoing electronic transactions happening many miles away it’s simply a different situation from how the world was in the past. 17] Put another way, so what if two people are located in different time zones? They can still talk, negotiate, and make deals as though they were face to face. As the sociologist Manuel Castells has noted, “Technological revolutions are all characterized by their pervasiveness, that is by their penetration of all domains of human activity, not as an exogenous source of impact, but as the fabric in which such activity is woven. ”[18] Technological determinism The revolution will affect some countries earlier than it will others. For ICT to weave its magic, it must find a hospitable social and political environment.

New technologies threaten existing power and economic relationships, and those that benefit from these old relationships put up barriers to the spread of the new technologies. Note, for example, how the music industry has resisted digital audio tapes and Napster. Moreover, laws can deter (or encourage) the spread of new technologies. For example, the lack of legal recognition for digital contracts and digital signatures is holding back electronic commerce. Debora Spar states that “life along the technological frontier moves through four distinct phases: innovation, commercialization, creative anarchy, and rules. [19] While individualism and the absence of government are characteristics of the first three stages, government—with its rule making and enforcing capability—is a key player in the fourth stage. This is because The establishment of property rights is one of the most crucial events along the technological frontier. It allows the market to unfold in a predictable way, and gives pioneers a hefty dose of ownership and security. Most important, perhaps, the creation of property rights also marks the difference between pioneers and pirates, between those whose claim on the new technology is legitimate and those whose claim is not. 20] It is important to remember that technology is shaped by society as much as it shapes society. Thus, those interested in harnessing the power of new technologies should help create the right environment for it to flourish. The Information The Internet and the ICT revolution have created “sovereign individuals”— individuals who are empowered because they have access to new learning opportunities; are able to sell their own ideas, services or products directly to others; and can access medical information to make their own choices about health care.

These sovereign individuals also have reliable and up-to-date information about government policies and programs that allows them to become better citizens. Moreover, the convenience and the anonymity provided by the Internet have led some people to turn to the Internet for emotional and psychological needs. The Net has become a means and method not only for doing business, but also for reaching people on a social and personal level. The latter has elicited some concern in the field of psychiatry. The Addiction Research Foundation in Toronto now accepts Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) as a real problem.

Internet junkies, as those with IAD are called, interact more with their PCs than with real people. Psychiatrists consider this not just addiction but dependence, which is characterized by obsessiveness, a loss of control, and an inability to stop even if the person wants to and understands the dangers. [41] Given its negative effects on individuals, shouldn’t the Internet simply be banned? Technology is not sole the culprit. Robert Putnam has documented a decline in civic engagement and social participation in the US in the past 35 years, resulting in major consequences on both the societal and the individual level.

This is a major concern. As Putnam writes, the quality of governance [is] determined by longstanding traditions of civic engagement (or its absence). Voter turnout, newspaper readership, membership in choral societies and football clubs… [are] the hallmarks of a successful region. In fact, historical analysis suggested that these networks of organized reciprocity and civic solidarity, far from being an epiphenomenon of socioeconomic modernization, were a precondition for it. [42] Technology, particularly the Internet, is definitely helping change social relations, but not in ways that its critics suggest.

Castells describes the impact of the Internet as people organize themselves into a social network. “Networked individualism,” as he describes it, “is a social pattern, not a collection of isolated individuals. ” Individuals will build networks, both on-line and off-line, based on their interests, values, affinities, and projects. Because of the capabilities of the Internet for communication, people will build virtual communities that are different from physical communities. These communities, however, are not necessarily less intense or less effective in binding and mobilizing people.

Furthermore, a communication hybrid is now developing in our societies, bringing together both the physical and the virtual space as the material support of networked individualism. [43] Family effects Technology allows families living in different locations to stay in touch with each other. Filipinos are now able to send text (SMS) messages to their relatives in the United States and Europe. Singaporeans who are working overseas are able to keep in touch with their families back home via the Internet. Children of expatriate Lao are able to learn more about their parents’ home country via the Internet.

But it also cannot be denied that in recent years people have been spending less time with their families because of information and work overload. Work takes more and more time, and even when a family member is physically present, work is intrusive, preoccupying and unpredictable. Reich believes that the new family now requires a complex set of logistical arrangements for the various members to respond to the economy’s new demands. [44] Changes in family structure and family attitudes are directly parallel to changes in the economic system that began in the 1970s.

In the old system of large-scale production, most men had steady jobs and solid wages, while women had fewer job opportunities. However, in the new system of continuous innovation, we see less predictable earnings and wider disparities in earnings. This induces harder work in terms of time and emotional energy. [45] Nevertheless, although the emerging economy is more stressful, it generates more opportunities to earn more money for talented men and women alike. Almost all women now have the option of having a job and need not be entirely dependent on a male breadwinner. 46] Gender and racial issues in employment may soon be a thing of the past. Talent is what matters most. Community effects ICT makes possible communities not bound by space. In these “communities of choice” proximity is not a factor for intimacy. Examples of communities of choice are Web forums, newsgroups and mailing lists, which are generally organized topically. Strangers who have similar interests are encouraged to read each other’s messages and communicate, giving each other advice, information and updates.

Forums for all fields of interest or concerns and issues exist online, and a person can find others similarly situated with whom to form possible friendships based on common interests, or support groups if suffering from afflictions rare or otherwise. For this reason, Castells tends to disagree that Internet use lowers social interaction and causes greater social isolation. He does agree that in certain circumstances, perhaps for individuals suffering from addiction or dependence, Internet use tends to become a substitute for other social activities. [47] Box 10:[email protected] Peruvian Amazon (excerpts) Societal impact of other technologies

A mode of communication that is more prevalent in the developing world than the computer-based Internet is the mobile phone. In most of Asia the mobile phone has become a familiar gadget. Interestingly, mobile phones are not used only for making voice calls but also for short messaging. It is believed that in the developing world more people will access the Internet via mobile phones than computers. Castells observes that “cell-telephony” also fits a social pattern organized around communities of choice and individualized interaction based on the selection of time, place, and partners of the interaction.

In addition, the development of wireless Internet increases the possibility of personalized networking to a broader range of social situations. This enhances the capacity of individuals to rebuild structures of sociability from the bottom up. [48]Kraut and Lundmark of the Human Interaction Institute of the Carnegie Mellon University issue a cautionary note. Based on their studies, they conclude that the Internet is not a substitute for real human interaction as a means for emotional and social fulfillment.

The use of the Internet can be both highly entertaining and useful, but if it causes too much disengagement from real life, it can also be harmful. Until the technology evolves to be more beneficial, people should moderate their use of the Internet and monitor the uses to which they put it. [49] While there are clear benefits to virtual communities formed around infocommunication networks, a balance should be maintained and social isolation minimized. Globalization Technological development, from better transportation and carrier services to the telephone and mass media, has created a smaller, more integrated world.

Now, the ICT revolution is making the world even smaller and more integrated. Communications, trade and employment, personal and political transactions are now occurring on a global scale, in real time, ignoring boundaries between states. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz defines globalization as …the closer integration of the countries and peoples of the world which has been brought about by the enormous reduction of costs of transportation and communication, and the breaking down of artificial barriers to the flows of goods, services, capital, knowledge, and (to a lesser extent) people across borders. 50] It is important to underscore that globalization is not just an economic phenomenon. It affects all aspects of life. At least four factors have contributed to globalization: (1) technological change, particularly the ICT revolution; (2) the spread of market-based systems; (3) domestic politics—pro-globalization forces are more politically significant; and (4) inter-state rivalries. [51]


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