Context for Information and Knowledge Management (3)

Early studies of the "post-industrial" economy saw it as a service economy. One of the first authors who used the term "knowledge-based industry" to describe the modern society was Fritz Machlup (1962).

Frank Webster (2000) has build a useful typology to understand theories of information society:

  • Technological
  • Economic
  • Occupational
  • Spatial
  • Cultural

Technological conceptions of information society emphasize technological innovations brought by information and communication technologies (ICTs) that have appeared since the late 1970s and have created new possibilities in information storage and transmission.

Economic conceptions of information society highlight the importance of knowledge to the economy.

Occupational conceptions of information society are most favoured by sociologists. A focus on occupational change is one which stresses the transformative power of information itself rather than the influence of information technologies, information being what is drawn upon and generated in occupations or embodied in people through education and experiences.

Spatial conceptions of the information society, while it does draw on economics and sociology, has at its core the geographer's distinctive stress on space. Here the major emphasis is on information networks which connect locations and in consequence can have profound effects on the organization of time and space. It has become an especially popular index of the information society throughout the 1990s as information networks have become increasingly prominent features of social organization.

Cultural conceptions of information society acknowledge that our contemporary culture is manifestly more heavily information laden than any of its predecessors. We exist in a media-saturated environment which means that life is quintessentially about symbolization, about exchanging and receiving - or trying to exchange and resisting reception of - messages about ourselves and others. It is in acknowledgement of this explosion of signification that many writers conceive of our having entered an information society, one where everything that we see and do is simulated (Poster, 1990; 1995, as cited in Webster).

The notion "knowledge society" ("sociedad del conocimiento") emerged toward the end of the 1990s and is often used as an alternative to the "information society". UNESCO has adopted the term "knowledge society", or "knowledge societies", within its institutional policies.

Sources for this text:Webster, F. (2002) Theories of The Information Society: 2nd Edition, London: Routeledge.

Webster, F. The Information Society Revisited. Retrieved from

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