chapter  6
Visions II: cyberia; the information age
Pages 14

The mainstream paradigm argues that the WebNet vision of the world originated from attempts to ‘make sense of the profound transformation wrecking industrial societies since the mid-1950s’ (Nelson 1996:479). To describe this shift, various terms have therefore been used, such as ‘postindustrial society’, ‘service society’, ‘technological society’, ‘computer society’ and ‘knowledge society’. The term ‘postindustrial’ seems to be one of the oldest, as it first appeared in print in 1917, but the earliest widely read book to appear on this subject was Bell’s (1973) The Coming of Postindustrial Society (Nelson 1996:479). The term ‘information society’ appeared in 1968, the ‘service society’ was the preferred term in the 1970s, and the earliest reference to ‘knowledge society’ apparently dates from 1969 (ibid.). The OECD adopted the term ‘information society’ as early as 1975, and by the early 1980s it had started to come into common use (ibid.). Finally, in 1982, John Naisbitt gave the final verdict by saying that ‘it is now clear that the postindustrial society is the information society’ (ibid.). But the idea of the information age/society is now as obsolete as 20 year-old computers (Koelsch 1995). It is therefore claimed that we have now embarked on a new era. Schneider (1999: 77) argues that this era is so distinctively different that a whole history can be divided into periods BC (before computers) and AC (after computer). We are now getting the first taste of ‘Cyberia’, argues Sardar (1996), a taste of a new civilization emerging through our human-computer interface and mediation. Koelsch (1995) argues that the engine of the emerging new world economy will be infomedia industries-computing, communications and consumer electronics. Kellner (1998: par. 23) agrees, and attempts to describe this change by coining the slightly clumsy term ‘infotainment society’. Glenn (1996) uses the term ‘post-Information age’, as does Negroponte (1995). Castells (1996), however, moves from the term ‘information society’ that he has previously used, to describe The Rise of the Network Society. Whatever term is used, there is very little disagreement on what is emerging. For example, Glenn argues:

Today, advanced [italics added] nations are completing the transition from the industrial to the information age. The early signs of the post-information age are barely visible, but do point to the emergence of a new age and civilization that can be anticipated. Technological trends in microminiaturization, communications, voice recognition and synthesis, artificial intelligence, human

interactivity with software, biotechnology, genetic engineering, bionics, and manufactured object with build-in intelligence should continue and become increasingly and mutually reinforcing. The social trends in public participation, globalization, democracy, lifelong learning, and the rate of scientific inquiry and curiosity should also continue and become increasingly and mutually reinforcing. The interaction of these social and technological trends over the next century will create the postinformation age.