Castells—An Introduction to the Information Age

An Introduction to the Information Age

by Manuel Castells

[Castells, Manuel. 2003. “An Introduction to the Information Age.” In The Information Society Reader, edited by with Raimo Blom, Erkki Karvonen, Harri Melin, Kaarle Nordenstreng, Ensio Puoskari, Frank Webster, and Professor Frank Webster, 1 edition, 138–49. London ; New York: Routledge.]


Nine facets of the Network society

  1. An informational economy—economic competition rests on knowledge and information, the technologies necessary for this knowledge and info, and the management of those technologies; not a service economy.
  2. A global economy—strategically works in real time on a planetary scale; excludes a majority of the population; Castells proposes a “Fourth World” designation (along with the First and Third) to represent not only large areas of the planet that are excluded from this economy, but also excluded communities within powerful nations.
  3. The network enterprise—companies link and form around projects, rather than stand alone in business ventures; the project itself either fails or succeeds, and the linkages dissolve or reform after the task is completed.
  4. The transformation of work and employment: the flexi-workers—due to the network enterprise, jobs are tenuous (downsizing, outsourcing, etc.) and workers must be flexible; now layoff are followed by temporary consulting jobs for the duration of the next project; no more “organization man.”
  5. Social polarization and social exclusion—trends toward increasing inequality within states; increasing accumulation of wealth at the top and poverty at the bottom
  6. The culture of real virtuality—we are and we are not living in virtual reality; we experience our lives outside of the confines of a computer system, but “when our symbolic environment is, by and large, structured in this inclusive, flexible, diversified hypertext, in which we navigate every day, the virtuality of this text is in fact our reality” (144).
  7. Politics—We get our political information through media; media needs to simplify messages; the simplest message is an image, and the simplest image is a person; politics degrade into personality wars and scandal becomes the most effective weapon
  8. Timeless time—through the hypertexting of past, present, and future information, we eschew linear progression, and in doing so, we eliminate the sequencing of time; we no longer need or have a concept of time in society
  9. The space of flows—the space of places can be understood as tradition physical space, wherein your surroundings and situation are dictated by local proximity; the space of flows, however, uses the networks to skip over unwanted geographic areas, reframing space into a logic of power and capital; for example, Manhattan and The White House can exist next to one another as two nodes in a space of flows, skipping over places like Patterson, Baltimore, and most of DC. Castells calls this “intra-metropolitan dualism” the most important form of social/territorial exclusion.

This networking logic effects society:

  • 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.

The network depends on cultural codes, so the only way to resist domination in a space of flows is to redefine them in a way that proves you exist and cannot be ‘skipped over’ or ‘switched off.’ Castells sees this possible through networked identity-based social movements

Annotation Summary for: Castells – An Introduction to the Information Age

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Manuel Castells AN INTRODUCTION TO THE INFORMATION AGE From City, 7 (1997), pp. 6-16.”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “I will focus on identifying the main features of’what I consider to be the emerging, dominant social structure, the network society, that I find characteristic of informational capitalism, as constituted throughout the world. I will organize my lecture in one dsclaimer, nine hypotheses, and one conclusion.”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Disclaimer”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “the network society, in my view, it resulted from the historical conver- gence of three independent processes, from whose interaction emerged the Network society: The Information Technology Revolution, constituted as a paradigm in the 1970s. The restructuring of capitalism and of statism in the 1980s, aimed at super- seding their contradictions, with sharply different outcomes. The cultural social movements of the 1960s, and their 1970s aftermath (particularly feminism and ecologism).”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “3. The network enterprise”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “1. An informational economy”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “an economy in which sources of productivity and competitiveness for firms, regions, countries depend, more than ever, on knowledge, information, and the technology of their processing, including the technology of management, and the management of technology.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “not the same as a service economy.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “network enterprise.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “the specific set of linkages between different firms or segments, organized ad hoc for a specific project, and dissolving/reforming after the task is completed, e.g. IBM, Siemens, Toshiba. This ephemeral unit, The Project, around which a network of partners is built, is the actual operating unit of our economy, the one that generates profits or losses, the one that received rewards or goes bust, and the one that hires and lays off, via its member organizations. ”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “2. A global economy”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The global economy is a new reality: it is an economy whose core, strategically dominant activities have the potential of working as a unit in real time on a planetary scale.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “4. The transformation of work and employment: the flexi-workers”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The global economy reaches out to the whole planet, but it is not planetary, it does not include the whole planet. In fact, it excludes probably a majority of the population.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” It is characterized by an extremely uneven geography. It scans the whole world, and links up valuable inputs, markets, and individuals, while switching off unskilled labour and poor markets. For a sigdcant part of people around the world, there is a shift, from the point of view of dominant systemic interests, from exploita-tion to structural irrelevance”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “This is different from the traditional First World/Third World opposition, I propose the notion of the emergence of a Fourth World of exclusion, made up not only of most of Africa, and rural Asia, and of Latin American shanties, but also of the South Bronx, La Courneuve, Kamagasaki, or Tower Hamlets of this world. ”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “most societies in the world, with the US and the UK at the top of the scale, present powerful trendstowards increasing inequality, social polarization, and social exclusion. There is increasing accumulation of wealth at the top, and of poverty at the bottom. ”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “there is a tremendous anxiety and discontent about work. The development of the network enterprise translates into downsizing, subcontracting, and networking of labour, inducing flexibility of both business and labou”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “So, instead of layoffs what we often have are layoffs followed by subcontracting of senices on an ad hoc, consulting basis, for the time and task to be performed, without job tenure and without social benefits provided by the firm.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “6. The culture of real virtuality”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “in a culture organ- ized around electronic media, including in this communication system the computer-mediated communication networks”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “the new media system is not characterized by the one-way, undifferentiated messages through a limited number of channels that constituted the world of mass media.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The most sigdcant change in work in the Information Age is the reversal- of the socialization/salarization of labour that characterized the industrial age. The ‘organization man’ is out, the ‘flexible woman’ is in. The individualization of work, and therefore of labour’s bargaining power, is the major feature characterizingemployment in the network society. ”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “slowly but surely, this new media system is moving towards interactivity, particularly if we include CMC [computer mediated commu- nication] networks, and their access to text, images, and sounds, that will eventually link up with the current media system. Instead of a global village we are moving towards mass production of customized cottages.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “5. Social polarization and social exclusion”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “These processes induce the formation of what I call the culture ofreal virtualiry.”

Page 4, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “the culture ofreal virtualiry.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” Itis so, and not virtual reality, because when our symbolic environment is, by and large, structured in this inclusive, flexible, diversified hypertext,’in which we navigate every day, the virtuality of this text is in fact our reality, the symbols from which we live and communicate.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “8. Timeless time”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “7. Politics”

Page 4, Stamp (Star (Frame, Red))

Page 4, Underline (Red): Content: “Giddens,”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In all countries, the media have become the essential space of politics.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “I propose the hypothesis that the network society, as the dominant social struc- ture emerging in the Information Age, is organized around new forms of time and space: timeless time, the space of flows.”

Page 4, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “timeless time. ”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “is defined by the use of new information/communication technologies in a relentless effort to anni- hilate time, to compress years in seconds, seconds in split seconds. Furthermore, the most fundamental aim is to eliminate sequencing of time, including past, present, and future in the same hypertext, thus eliminating the ‘succession of things’ that, according to Leibniz, characterizes time, so that without things and their sequential ordering there is no longer time in society.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “To an overwhelming extent people receive their information, on the basis of which they form their political opinion, and structure their behaviour, through the media, particularly television and radio. Media politics needs to simphfy the message/proposals. The simplest message is an image. The simplest image is a person. Political competition revolves around personalization of politics.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The most effective political weapons are negative messages. The most effec- tive negative message is character assassination of opponents’ personalities. The politics of scandal, in the US, in Europe, in Japan, in Latin America etc. is the predominant form of political struggle.”

Page 4, Underline (Red): Content: “David Harvey”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Political marketing is the essential means to win political competition in democratic politics.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The use of scandal as a weapon leads to increased expense and activity in intelligence, damage control, and access to the media.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “‘Things’ still exist together, they share time, but the material arrangements that allow this coexistence are inter-territorial or transtemtorial:”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “the space of flows is the material organization of time- sharing social practices that work through flows.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The space of places continues to be the predominant space of experience,”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “9. The Space of Flows”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “the preva- lence of the logic of the space of flows over the space of places.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In the network society, a fundamental form of social domination is”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The space of flows structures and shapes the space of places,”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” I proposed the concept of Space of Flows to make sense of a body of empirical observation: dominant functions were increasingly operating on the basis of exchanges between electronic circuits linking up information systems in distant locations. ”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The domination of the space of flows over the space of places induces intra-metropolitan dualism as a most important form of social/tenitorial exclusion, that has become as sipficant as regional uneven development.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “(1) These electronic circuits do not operate in the territorial vacuum. They link up temtori- ally based complexes of production, management, and information, even though the meaning and functions of these complexes depend on their connection in these networks of flows. (2) These technological linkages are material, e.g. depend on specific telecommunication/transportation facilities, and on the existence and quality of information systems, in a highly uneven geography. (3) The meaning of space evolves – as the meaning of time. Thus, instead of indulging in futurologicalstatements such as the vanishing of space, and the end of cities, we should be able to reconceptualize new forms of spatial arrangements under the new technological paradigm.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Why keep the term of space under these conditions? Reasons:”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “segments of the space of flows are penetrated by forces of resistance to domination, and by expressions of personal experience. Examples: Social movements, Zapatistas and the Internet Expressions of experience in the space of flows. agents of citizen representation in our society, linking up through electronic networks,”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Thus, we do witness an increasing penetration, and subversion, of the space of flows, originally set up for the functions of power,”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “my definition: space is the material support of time-sharing social practices.”

Page 5, Underline (Red): Content: “Sherry Turkle”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Conclusion: the Network Society”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In this complexity, the communication between networks and social actors depends increasingly on shared CULTURAL CODES.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “So, what is the Network Society? It is a society that is structured in its dominant functions and processes around networks.”

Page 6, Highlight (Yellow): Content: ” Network Society? ”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In its current manifestation it is a capi- talist society. But this particular form of capitalism is very different from indus- trial capitalism,”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Thus, the challenges to social domination in the Network Society revolve around the redefinition of cultural codes,”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “This is why the affirmation of IDENTITY is so essen- tial, because it fixes meaning autonomously vis-&vis the abstract, instrumental logic of networks. I am, thus I exist. In my empirical investigation I have found identity- based social movements aimed at changing the cultural foundations of society to be the essential sources of social change in the Information Age”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “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.”


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