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(1) Introduction

Aims and objectives

The term "The Information Society" is rapidly gaining currency as one that encapsulates what is essentially different about 21st century society. In particular, the term is identified with the growth of the telecommunications and computer industries and is often one that is used to signify a transformation of the role of information in society.

This section of the course will explore some of the key concepts used in CIS and examine the long-standing debate about the role of technology in society. Previous analyses of the cultural transformation that occurred in the shift from feudal to industrial society argue that technology was pivotal in the restructuring of social relations. Were these analyses correct, and if so, do they still hold true?


Students may find some of the notes from a course in Sociology by Richard H. Anderson at the University of Colorado at Denver useful, e.g. the notes on Topic III: Individuals and Groups relate to the first set of topics below while Topic IV: Social Inequality covers some of the 19th century perspectives in the second set of topics. Finally sections of a paper on Democracy and Network Interconnectivity by Chris Kedzie from the RAND Graduate School may be of interest as it provides a link to the second topic in the course: The Information Revolution.

The topics covered in this section of the course not directly examinable. The aim of this section is to give students an insight into the subject material and to begin to develop the concepts that will be built upon later. We begin by discussing the meaning of, and relationship between, some of the basic terms that are used in the rest of the course.

  1. Beliefs
  2. Values
  3. Norms
  4. Culture
  5. Society
  6. The State

This is followed by a brief review of some ideas of what the relationship between 'Society' and 'Technology' is from a historical perspective.

16th Century Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1679). Social Contract
17th Century John Locke (1632 - 1704). Social Contract
18th Century Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 78). Social Contract
Jeremy Bentham (1748 - 1832). Utilitarianism
19th Century John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873). Utilitarianism
Karl Marx (1818 - 1883). Industrial Society
Emile Durkheim (1858 - 1917). Industrial Society
Max Weber (1864 - 1920). Industrial Society
20th Century Daniel Bell Post-Industrial Society?

As can be seen from the table above this review covers views that range from 16th century (Hobbes) to the present (Bell) and will, of necessity, be brief and highly selective. The aim of the review is not to give you a detailed and through understanding of material but to make you think about three important points:

  1. What society is and how it comes about.
  2. The relationship between individuals and society.
  3. The role of technology and the economy in shaping society.



The topics covered here are not directly examinable. However it is in your interests to get a basic grasp of the concepts. I suggest that you begin by looking up some of the key terms/people in a good general reference book.


Some Additional Reading (in library)

For those who want to examine the topics in greater detail the following may be of some use:

  1. Chaps, 2, 4,5,6 in Social Contract Theory, Ed. Lessnoff. M.H., Oxford, Blackwell, 1990.
  2. Chaps, V, VI, XII, XIV in Main Currents of Marxism (Vol. 1), Kolakowski. L., Oxford, 1978.
  3. Chaps 2, 3, 4, 6 in Weberian Sociological Theory, Randall. C. Cambridge, 1986.

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