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In order to discuss Feather’s chapter 5 “information rich and information poor” conclusion of his book “The information Society, a study of continuity and change”, we need to understand what actually is information rich and information poor in relation to information society. We need to analyze what the political dilemma is; is it only a political dimension related issue within the information society? Is it a choice? And if there is, which way should be chosen and consider as politically correct? And finally we need to find what other real opportunities or options are given to us. This certainly is a discussion full of perplexity on which I will argue that despite the geo-political discrepancies between developing countries and developed countries the “digital divide” is not sine qua non to socio-economic political decisions anymore but has evolved in the past years into an Auto-Democratisation and Liberalisation and should be bridged by a more efficient and targeted educational plan, internationally applied beyond any economical barriers.
2. Defining what information society is
The Internet is the only mass medium that is newly created in the second half of last century and as Mehra (2004) says, the internet has tremendous potential to achieve greater social equity and empowerment and improve everyday life for those on the margins of society.
The acceleration of development in information and communication technology over the last decade has a major impact on social, political, cultural or economical issues. What is the role being played by the Internet in the information society? The Internet is nowadays seen as the pivotal point of view of the “information society” and can be regarded as a reflection of our daily reality with its multiple opportunities and danger.
The “information society” produces a “class division”, a clash between people who haven’t access to the majority of knowledge and those who are “information rich”, contributing to the economic wealth. This gap between “haves” and “have-nots”, between “information rich” and “information poor” keeps increasing and has radical effects of changing or at least substantially affecting our society. A more critical definition of “information society” given at BusinessDictionary.com combines both:
Post-industrial society in which information technology (IT) is transforming every aspect of cultural, political, and social life and which is based on the production and distribution of information. It is characterized by the pervasive influence of IT on home, work, and recreational aspects of the individuals daily routine, stratification into new classes those who are information-rich and those who are information-poor…
It is generally referred to as the “digital divide” terminology: “the gap between those people who have Internet access and those who do not” Collins English Dictionary (2003). With a slightly differentiation Mehra (2004) uses adjectives and add the technical aspect of computers to this definition. Looking at the multiple and almost identical definitions of “information society” and its inextricable “digital divide” we can conclude that by “digital divide” it is meant the splitting of those who use or not use Internet resources. the “have-nots” cannot access computers and Internet resources and therefore are disadvantaged, falling into a an unequal position compared to the ”haves”, the one who gains access to information throughout new technologies and therefore participate actively to the social, political, cultural and economical life.
This concept comes from “information society” theorists, which predicts an exceptional social impact on the product society, Webster (2006). Herbert Schiller’s corporate capitalism (p. 128), Jürgen Habermas’s public sphere (p. 163), Anthony Giddens’s surveillance and reflexive modernisation (p.206), post-modernist Jean Baudrillard’s signs signification (p. 244) or Zygmunt Bauman’s liquid life (p. 260), not to forget Daniel Bell’s post-industrial society, techniques and technologies of production, change from Primary Industries such as agriculture and industrialism to post-industrialism, are the basis for evidence that technology is central for the productivity increase and resulting economic wealth, referred as Technological determinism. (p. 120). Manuel Castells on the other hand with his network society is focusing on social plurality; leaving the old working class concepts and stratification structures behind, bringing to it new Parameters like flexibility and adaptability and herewith become informational Labour, referred as informational Capitalism. (p. 100)
3. Are “Haves” and “Have-nots” always “information-rich” and “information poor”?
Looking at the given definitions it would almost imply that people having a computer and Internet access would automatically be seen as haves, but sometimes in developing countries and certainly in developed countries were consumers widely have access to these technologies we meet situations where they are not considered as information rich. We should look at a different approach and formalise the differentiation within our daily reality.
The “Information poor” are consumers who use traditional mass media information such as television, DVDs, radios and magazines. They possess a wide range of electronic devices, MP3 players, PDAs, game consoles and other computing machines. They are considered as passive consumers of information and nowadays as passive users of new technologies, downloading digital e-book’s, listening to their favourite music, playing computer games, reading the last international news. But they do not interact nor create any of this provided Information and are certainly not involved in decision taking.
On the opposite “information rich” stands for a new elite within the information society. They are involved into acquiring and processing information, using web 2.0 online applications, producing personalised journals on community platforms, elaborating group discussions in forums with a certain level of knowledgeable competence. They are acting at manager levels thanks to their acquired knowledge and overall literacy. They are the protagonists of this ever-growing information and technology society who possesses the knowhow of Selective processing, generating and distributing information. This selective process of evaluating provided information is determined by the consumers rather than the producers. Consumers pull out the information that fits their needs to increase the value of the already acquired information.
They allocates their own criteria of values to the chosen information, they can absorb in its totality, the Values could also reach a certain level of accumulation where the effective processing of it becomes then ineffective, considered as “information overload”, but the average “information rich” does know how to handle this,
as I will deepen later. Do it now
“The limit is the sky” would be a perfect slogan on planet Utopia where every active user would have become “information rich”, information access would have been made unlimited, where the knowledge boundaries would be bridged on an information rainbow… but on planet Earth our economical reality becomes a barrier where the consumers are blocked by the depth of that availability made in the acquisition of the needed information. Some are available for free supplied by institutions and governmental authorities, some are partially available for publicity purposes (book retailers, information providers) and others specifically recognised to be accessible only with subscriptions or tuition fees. This brings us to the undeniable fact that information consumers are forced to accept the concept of economical value attributed to information by its producer or provider and herewith underline the political dilemma the “information society” is confronted with. Information itself contributes to extend the already existing gap between developing countries and developed ones. We could not agree more on Feather’s statementthat the comparative success of the information-rich economies, and the relative weakness of those that are comparatively information poor, is in itself an argument for the importance of information.
The attributed values to information are considered by information society theorists to be one aspect of the evolution of social economic societies; social, political and cultural wealth have always been mirrors of strong economic powers where it could flourish and participate to its economical success. Following Feather’s analysis on developing countries, development and exploitation of information technology has become indispensable and value of information fundamental, as shown with Japan, Singapore and Korea, were scientific and economic information are largely accessible and beneficially contribute to primordial economic changes. But unlike these three economically successful Asian countries, major differentiation could also be seen within industrialized countries; between the northern highly agriculturized countries and the Southern ones, accessibility ofinformation resources on comparative basis, the consumer gains from information evaluation but also could suffer in detriment of its productivity. To what extent information becomes one of the tools and enhances already existing knowledge to improve long used agricultural and industrial processes. Information does not become the centre of its economical wealth while contributes to it. The awareness based on analysis of acquired information and its resulting decisions to an enhancement or changes in primer sector’s economy corroborates the views information helps “economic societies” but does not evolve to an “information society” as such.
4. The digital divide as political dimension
The question if Internet opens emancipatory possibilities or whether further enlarges the gap that already exists between the “haves” and “have-nots” remains controversial. You will not achieve equality by providing each Third World villagers, ethnic minorities or other “have-nots” with a computer and Internet access. Access to information communication technology cannot be seen as a standalone solution. The origins of this disparity are far deepening within their educational, socio-cultural and socio-economical problems as Berude (2005) explains. Early Finding by the Orbicom initiative, Sciadas (2003) in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency, the InfoDev Programme of the World Bank and UNESCO, shows definitively the enormity of digital divide, separating the “haves” and “have-nots” countries by many decades of development, mainly concentrated in Africa but some of them also in the Asian area. Despite the fact that the digital divide is generally speaking closing, this report shows that the progress made between the poorest and the “in-between” countries was not sufficient to close this disparity, while “upper-middle” countries made distinctive progress to the top and herewith widen the overall gap between the very rich and very poor, and this regardless of the acquisition of ICT and installing new fibreglass high debit telephone lines.
There is an undeniable necessity to acquire research skills, literacy skills or generally related computer skills before a user can be called an internaut, a protagonist: The use of Internet requires a much higher literacy skill than traditional media like television, radio or magazines in order to find analyse and process the requested information. There is no title page with table of contents (publications) and no fixed schedule (television, radio) on the Internet. The Internet is basically a “pull medium” where targeting specific information, articles, research strategies and selective thinking are necessary. Media literacy can therefore be considered as a barrier to Internet access, and this in any type of consumer groups, not only in developing countries but also in our Western countries. Unless there are strong political wills were ICT is recognized by governments as a development tool, were significant efforts are made in education, introduction to ICT in schools, were teaching programs are developed, these countries will not have any significant economical growth.
In developed countries the Internet was mainly of layers with higher incomes and educational levels. ENLARGE VIEW
while the population in many developing countries are totally excluded from access to the Internet. ENLARGE VIEW
5. Other opportunities and options
The danger of such a gap within the society cannot be minimized that easily and solutions offered by public institutions like “Internet access for all” in public libraries, set up of information communication technologies within public schools or private funded projects like Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ “one computer for each children”, were the first stones set to cross the gap between information rich and information poor. But it unfortunately is not taking all citizens and generation groups into account. ENUMERE
It is necessary to illuminate the different social perspectives which would integrate this socio-economical as well at it socio-cultural aspects in order to create an awareness of the complicity of this dilemma. Bourdieu already suggested and identified this perspective as overall capital. DESCRIBE
According to Bourdieu (1993), the overall capital of different fractions of the social classes is composed of differing proportions of the various kinds of capital. It is mainly in relation to the middle and upper classes that Bourdieu elaborates this variation in volume and composition of the four types of capital… …These differences are a consequence of complex relationships between individual and class trajectories. Moreover, the values attached to the different forms of capital are stakes in the struggle between different class fractions
Particular attention should be thrown on the field of media education.
The Internet, as an “above” medium influenced the perception of the users,
the Media literacy is seen against the background of Info-Poor-/Info-Rich-effects.
Thus, an “Internet literacy can lead” because of lack of cultural assimilation, for example when many senior citizens to information-poor effects.
But even in children and adolescents in turn, the media education challenged when it comes to issues such as the ability, credibility with the media, particularly via the Internet to assess common information.
By redefining socio-economic gaps between “haves” and “have-nots” and whether it is part of the political dilemma, the information society is on its way to become a powerful tool that could eradicate world’s poverty. Yet it the remaining problems are not only to be seen as a sociological struggle, but rather are perceived as a pedagogical challenge.
Beasley-Murray, J. (2000, June 15). Value and Capital in Bourdieu and Marx. InI – ‘one-stop shopping’ for the real news. Retrieved December 30, 2009, from http://www.williambowles.info/sa/cultural_capital.html
Berude, L. (2006). The Digital Divide, or Who Gets to Be Part of the Information Society? Multimedia Information and Technology Digital, 32(3), 26-33.
Families, cultural resources and the digital divide: ICTs and educational advantage. (2003, April 1). Australian Journal of Education, 47, 18-39. Retrieved December 30, 2009, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6475/is_1_47/ai_n29004669
Feather, J. (2008). The Information Society: A Study of Continuity and Change (5 ed.). London: Facet Publishing.
Sciadas, G. (2003). Monitoring the Digital Divide…and Beyond. Montreal, Canada: Orbicom.
Webster, F. (2006). Theories of the Information Society: Third Edition (International Library of Sociology). New York: Routledge.
information society definition. (n.d.). BusinessDictionary.com – Online Business Dictionary. Retrieved January 2, 2010, from http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/information-society.html
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