Wow! The readings this week that invited us to examine the network society, the information society and the virtual university were all at times complex, compelling, and maddening in their respective styles and messages. Sometimes, while reading I felt it was an uphill slog, while at others, I felt a visceral connection to some of the arguments made.
Castells (2005) asks us to understand the current global social transformation as it relates to technology and makes the very bold (in my mind) assertion that “technology does not determine society: it is society” (p. 3). I noted in the margin that I wondered if this is a somewhat dehumanizing statement. Have we been reduced as a society to our attachment to technology and is that an overtly Eurocentric statement?
Thoughts around that?
He states that what most of us have called the information age, or the knowledge economy and in fact, globalization, is what he identifies as the network society and outlines a very clear argument to support this idea.
By contrast, Mansell, (2010) says that in fact, nothing is clear about the information society – in fact, she avers that as a concept, it is “notoriously fuzzy” (p. 165) and she presents a number of perspectives of leading theorists in her paper. So for her, there are no unequivocal statements as to the information or network society. Norms and values are changing in her view, not by technology, but as a response to the actions taken by people involved in the information Society.
Robins and Webster ask us to consider the concept and impact of technology as it relates to a virtual university. As an adult education major and a teacher, this is the article with which I could better identify, but all three, especially in light of current global political and economic situations felt current and important.
What is was able to glean as a common theme, was that the impact of technology as it relates to virtually every aspect of modern life needs to be critically examined and assessed. The information society or the network society is inextricably linked to our political and socio-economic outcomes; witness that the most tweeted image this week (or ever) was an image of newly re-elected President Obama and his wife in a post-election hug of jubilation. Would the outcomes of the US presidential election have been different without the use of ICT’s? A very compelling argument can be made when you look at the comparison of Twitter followers between Obama and Romney , Obama widely outpaced Romney – and consider their use of social media. http://blog.sfgate.com/nov05election/2012/11/07/the-tweetelection-obama-had-more-than-just-the-ground-game-in-his-favor/
Then compare the demographic breakdown of voters – far more voters in the age groups more likely to be impacted by ICT’s.
As for education, the advent of virtual universities has allowed me to complete 95% of my degree work in an online format. Without this option, I would not have been able to merge a full-time career and part-time studies, to obtain a fully accredited degree. Newman stated in the past that universities were a “place for teaching universal knowledge” (as cited in Robins and Webster, 2002). In contemporary culture, evidence as presented by Robins and Webster, argues that this model is no longer the standard – so thanks for the choices open to me and to any learner seeking alternate modes of education.