Toward a Definition of the Information Society
It has become commonplace to allude to the United States, Japan, and several Western European nations as information societies. In much of the popular press, as well as scholarly journals, authors readily use the term information society with little or no operational definition. The expression is now so hackneyed that the Japanese have taken to designating Japan as an "advanced" information society. Despite this de facto classification by those writing about related topics, a review of the literature explicitly concerned with emerging forms of social organization reveals considerable debate over the precise nature of the information society. Although most concede that Western industrialized nations and Japan have experienced dramatic social, economic, and technological changes, there is little consensus on the nature and direction of the change. Yet, without an adequate conception of the nature of an information society, attempts to project social problems in information societies is difficult. In this chapter, we attempt to synthesize the varied work on information societies, and extract from the literature a set of core characteristics on which there appears to be some scholarly agreement. In so doing, problems with existing conceptualizations are raised, dissenting views are noted where possible, and the need for empirical research to more objectively define, measure, and test predictions about proposed societal transformations is noted.