Abstract - The Information Society 10(1)

What information society?

Frank Webster

Increasingly, information is regarded as a defining feature of the modern world, and it is commonplace to refer to countries such as the US and the UK as "information societies." Commentators are, however, strikingly vague about the criteria used to define either information or information societies. Five analytical criteria - technological, economic, occupational, spatial and cultural - are used to define either information or information societies. Most definitions are concerned with quantitative measures, which fail to consider important qualitative dimensions of the criteria, although there is the widespread presumption that quantitative changes in information herald a new type of society, one qualitatively different from predecessors. Further, proponents of an information society operate with nonsemantic conceptions of information. Against this, when information is approached in common sense terms, then the prospects for an approaching information society are unconvincing.

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