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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.]

Points

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

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