Chapter 10 - An Introduction to the Information Age by Manuel Castells

(This is a summary of the article by the same name)

This article focuses on the structure/dynamics of the network society. The network society resulted from the convergence of three independent processes:
  1. The Information Technology Revolution
  2. The restructuring of capitalism and statism (concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government) in the 1980s
  3. The cultural social movements of the 1960s and 70s aftermath (feminism, ecologism)

The Information Technology Revolution DID NOT create the network society but without it, the Network Society would not exist.
The main features and processes of the Network Society (presented in no particular order but they all interact in a network):

Topics


An information economy
  • Productivity and competitiveness is dependent on knowledge, information and the technology of their processing.
  • There is an extraordinary potential for solving problemsPotentially more exclusionary than the industrial economy as social controls do not check the forces of unfettered market logic

A global economy
  • Its core is strategically dominant activities and has the potential of working as a unit in real time on a planetary scale (mostly for financial markets, media communication, technological innovation)
  • Reaches out to the whole planet but excludes the majority of the population (links up valuable inputs, markets and individuals while switching off unskilled labour and poor markets)
  • A Fourth World of exclusion made up of not only Africa and rural Asia but of the South Bronx, inner-city ghettos and predominately population by women and children

The network enterprise
  • Made either from firms or segments of firms or from internal segmentation of firms
  • I.e. multinational corporations with internal decentralization and have links with a web of subsidiaries and suppliers throughout the world
  • The Project is built by partners in a network. It is the actual operating unit of our economy and generates profits/losses, receives rewards and hires/lays off employees

The transformation of work and employment: the flexi-workers
  • After 2 decades of diffusion into information technology, no major surge of unemployment except in countries where they are technologically behind
  • But there is sill tremendous anxiety and discontent about work and there is real case for concern
    • Transformation of power relationships between capital and labour in favour of capital. Essentially, new technology allows business to either automate or undertake offshore production or outsource supplies to smaller firms. (Think made in Mexico)
    • Development of network enterprise translates into downsizing, subcontracting and networking of labour. So now instead of layoffs, we have people laid off and subcontracted so that they are doing exactly what they did before but with not benefits.
  • The most significant change in work in the Information Age is the reversal of the socialization/salarization of labour. The ‘organization man’ is out and the ‘flexible woman’ is in. The individualization of work is labour’s bargaining power and is the major feature of employment in the network society.

Social polarization and social exclusion
  • Process of information age weakens labour unions and welfare state leaving the workers by themselves
  • Skills and education become critical for a person’s value
  • Because of these trends, inequality increases resulting in social polarization and social exclusion (rich get richer, poor get even poorer)
  • Social exclusion creates pockets of dereliction with many entry points but few exits
  • examples leading to social exclusion can include long-term unemployment, illegal status, family disruptions, illness and functional illiteracy.
  • Workers are left to their own devices with regards their relationship to management structures and the marketplace.
  • Castells says that is the Info Age does not have to be this way but it is for now

Culture of real virtuality
  • Similar patterns of networking, flexibility and symbolic communication happening in a culture organized around electronic media
  • New media system is moving toward interactivity (CMC [computer mediated communication])
  • Instead of global village, moving towards mass production of customized cottages. Market segmentation and increasing interaction of individual break up the uniformity of mass audiences
  • The culture of real virtuality is our symbolic environment is structured in this inclusive, flexible and diversified hypertext (internet). The virtuality of this text is in fact our reality.

Politics
  • The media has become the essential space of politics
  • Castells proposes that media politics needs to simplify the message/proposals. The simplest message is an image and simplest image is a person.
  • Political marketing is essential but is an excessively expensive business (beyond traditional promotions). This causes the parties to use power to generate resources and often causes scandals. Therefore politics becomes a soap opera motivated by greed, backstage maneuvers, betrayals, sex and violence.

Timeless time
  • Time and space are related in society as in nature
  • The network society reorganizes the form of time and space: timeless time, the space of flows
  • Timeless time is defined by the use of new information/communication technologies in a relentless effort to annihilate time, to compress years in seconds, seconds in split seconds
  • Fundamental aim is to eliminate sequencing of time
  • I.e. split second financial transactions of global financial markets, instant wars, reproductive technology (wide range of options in the age/conditions of parents, storing embryos, genetic engineering), new medical shit that makes us almost ‘eternal’

The space of flows
  • The material organization of timesharing social practices that work through flows
  • The space of places continues to be the predominant space of experience, of everyday life and of social and political control
  • The prevalence of the logic of the space of flows over the space of places (the shape of flows structures and shapes the space of places)
  • The domination of the space of flows over the space of places induces intra-metropolitan dualism as a most important form of social/territorial exclusion

Conclusion – the network society is a society that is structured in its dominant functions and processes around networks. It is dynamic, open-ended, flexible, potentially able to expand endlessly, without rupture, bypassing/disconnecting undesirable components following instructions of the networks’ dominant nodes. The networking logic is at the roots of major effects in our societies. Using it:
  • Capital flows can bypass controls
  • Workers are individualized, outsourced, subcontracted
  • Communication becomes at the same time global and customized
  • Valuable people and territories are switched on, devalued ones are switched off


Castells, Manuel. "An Introduction to the Information Age." The Information Society Reader. Ed. Frank Webster, Raimo Blom, Erkki Karvonen, Harri Melin, Kaarle Nordenstreng, and Ensio Puoskari. London and New York: Routledge, 2004. 138-149.