To What Extent Do We Live in an Information Age, Essay Example

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Essay

Introduction

New digital information, or new media, entails the emergence of digital, computerized, or communication technologies and networked information. Most technologies described as “new media” are digital, and they often have the characteristic of being easily manipulated as well compact, more conveniently comprehensible than traditional content and un-bias. New media is also shared efficiently and conveniently within a fast pace internet culture. Unlike traditional media, such as television, newspapers, radio, press release, and other standard forms of telecommunication which was share predominantly through word of mouth; new digital media is shared through the click of button. There are many who suggest that this peer to peer sharing trend of digital content, only further reinforce the idea that the modern era is currently going through an information age.  One can access a bulk of information by subscribing to real simple syndication feed (RSS), from multiple long trusted publications as well as the personal blogs, or social network accounts of authorities on certain topics. The information from these feeds can in turn be shared among friends.  The following will assess to what extent the world is currently developing within an information age.

Body

The core driving factor responsible for ushering the modern world into an information age is ‘media convergence.’ This is the interconnection of communication and information technologies. Three main aspects of telecommunications which it interconnects include computing, communication, and content. The convergence of these three technical factors can be directly attributed to the digitization of media content and the massive global use of the Internet. This is not just a drastic evolution for how information is acquired and shared but it dramatically impacts how businesses function as well. It’s noted that, “media convergence transforms established industries, services, and work practices and enables entirely new forms of content to emerge. It erodes long-established media industry and content “silos” and increasingly uncouples content from particular devices, which in turn presents major challenges for public policy and regulation” (“Media Convergence,” 1). The five main elements of media convergence are recognized as technological, industrial, social, textual, and political. According to Jenkins, “Convergence requires media companies to rethink old assumptions about what it means to consume media, assumptions that shape both programming and marketing decisions. If old consumers were assumed to be passive, the new consumers are active (Jenkins, 26).” Jenkin’s argument touches on the fact that media convergence increases the pace at which business must operate in regards to acquiring and exchanging data, interacting with other businesses, the public and internal and external stakeholders.

The information age is fueled by information and the tools through which information is exchanged, Solis, Herve, Olsen, Hart & Scott note that “global P2P traffic is declining and is being replaced by digital download sites, also known as “one-click hosts.” The improvement of fast download speeds, the lower cost of hosting, and new download web sites emerging everywhere on the Internet is helping this shift. These popular online file storage sites offer more than an online backup for personal files, they also tend to promote piracy” (Solis, Herve, Olsen, Hart & Scott, 201). This concept of new media sharing touches on the idea that all of this enhanced accessibility leads to more content consumption by consumers, but also new media, or digital media, offers the convenience of file tampering. The ability to conveniently revise or edit digital content creates an environment online where shared data takes on a life of its own and ultimately creates a collective web culture. This is the perspective of Manovich who argues “the hypertext of the World Wide Web leads the reader from one text to another, ad infinitum. Contrary to the popular image, in which computer media collapses all human culture into a single giant library (which implies the existence of some ordering system), or a single giant book (which implies a narrative progression), it may be more accurate to think of the new media culture as an infinite flat surface where individual texts are placed in no particular order, like the Web page designed by antirom for HotWired (Manovich, 34).” This idea can be seen with the sharing of meme across social networks, which are essentially digital images that have gone viral but are modified from user to user to communicate a certain ideology or message.

In their study “An Initiative to Narrow the Digital Divide,”  “a gap between those with access to new information technologies and those without. The term is also used to characterize the disparity between those who can effectively use information technology and those who cannot (Sipior, Ward & Marzec, 1287).”

In David Harvey’s 2007 text “A brief history of Neoliberalism,” he states that, “deregulation, privatization, and withdrawal of the state from many areas of social provision have been all too common. Almost all states, from those newly minted after the collapse of the Soviet Union to old-style social democracies and welfare states such as New Zealand and Sweden, have embraced, sometimes voluntarily and in other instances in response to coercive pressures, some version of neoliberal theory and adjusted at least some policies and practices accordingly” (Harvey 3). The author mentions coercive pressure referring to global influences that are reshaping how these regions of the world ideologically function based more on a global criteria of expectation as opposed to functioning based on their own national identities.

He goes on to point out that Post-apartheid South Africa as well as contemporary China both embraced neoliberalism early on,  and then he notes that, “furthermore, the advocates of the neoliberal way now occupy positions of considerable influence in education (the universities and many ‘think tanks’), in the media, in corporate boardrooms and financial institutions, in key state institutions (treasury department, the central banks), and also in those international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) that regulate global finance and trade. Neoliberalism has, in short, becomes hegemonic as a mode of discourse. It has pervasive effects on ways of thought” (Harvey, 3). Here Harvey touches on the idea that financial institutions play a significant role in how people perceive information. These institutions are major manipulators of industry and they capitalize on their ability to impact the masses. While it’s debatalble as to whether or not the information age has allowed for more transparency in regards to government and corporate actions, accessibility to consumer information and public data has also empowered financial and government institutions to more easily manipulate public knowledge. Shea Bennett argues that one of the core driving factors influencing the information age is social media as it allows people to interact and share information in a way never before seen. This is in her MediaBistro article where she notes that “you can reach 1,000 people for a fraction of the cost using social media than you can through television, billboards or even email (Bennett 1).” This gives companies and government institutions a cheap and effective means to engaging with the everyday citizen or consumer, for better or worse. Susan Strange argues though that this newly acquired capability of corporations and governments to take advantage of the internet for financial or ideological purposes is not without its set of complexities.

In her text “The retreat of the State,” Susan Strange talks about the diffusion of power in the World economy. She emphasizes the importance information plays in regulation and in governance noting that, “you can have information without government, but government without information is apt to be too hit-and-miss to be effective” (Strange, 165). Strange points out that government officials spend the majority of their time and energy on the preparation of meetings, publishing of reports, and gathering statistics. She notes that, “the reason for this concern with data is simple. Government cannot function without information…Without the information, the tax-collectors could not so easily collect revenue for the new rulers” (Strange, 164). Strange further points out that this key reason for gathering revenue information has been used since biblical times to gather data on imports and exports. Strange say,  “since social scientist are, not, by definition, natural scientists, they have a strong tendency to overlook the importance of technology which rests, ultimately, on advances in physics, in chemistry and related science like nuclear physics or industrial chemistry. In the last 100 years, there has been more rapid technological change than ever before in human history” (Strange, 7). This has resulted in governments recognizing the importance of implementing technology in their pursuit of needed information which is more readily available now due to digital media and the internet. The information age has completely changed how governments function, businesses operate, and individuals interact in their daily lives and Strange argues the trends are growing even more sophisticated exponentially. She says, “no one under the age of thirty or thirty-five today needs convincing that, just in their own lifetime, the pace of technological change has been getting faster and faster. The technically unsophisticated worlds of business, government and education of even the 1960’s would be unrecognizable to them” (Strange, 7).

In their book “Global transformations: Politics, economics, and Culture,” DaVid Held, Anthony McGrew and authors assess the impact globalization has had on society arguing that the expansion of digital media in collaboration with globalization is creating a new global economy which thrives on information through which wealth is transitioning and the landscape of economics is transforming. The authors note that “globalization may be linked with a growing polarization between winners and losers in the global economy…Among the elites and ‘knowledge workers’ of the new global economy tacit transnational ‘class’ allegiances have evolved, cemented by an ideological attachment to a neoliberal economic orthodoxy”  (Held & McGrew, 4). The author goes on to explain that this means for the displaced members of this new era, it means they acquire a new sense of identity culture and way of life and that the sense that there is a global spread of liberal democracy throughout the world creates the sense that there is a global civilization emerging in the world. This concept can be seen with instances like the Arab Spring movement.

The Arab Spring Movement has been proclaimed as a social media revolution by many journalist and political theorist. The impact it played on the political structure of the middle east, specifically in overthrowing some regimes that have lasted over 30 years, is hands down the most telling example of that modern society is currently undergoing an information age. A recent news article noted that “on Friday afternoon, Wael Ghonim, the Google GOOG -0.12% executive who has become the face of Egypt’s so-called Revolution 2.0, tweeted it was time at last for President Hosni Mubarak to resign. A few hours later, the largest country in the Arab world—after just 18 days of protests—learned Mr. Mubarak, in power for three decades, had done just that (Rhodes, 1).”  Data shows that countries that have internet tend to be more technologically advanced and more informed. This implies that with the expansion of globalization, many third world countries are suffering from what’s known as the digital divide. Potashink notes that, “at the dawn of the twenty-first century, there was a major gap between industrialized and developing countries in terms of their access to information and communications technology (Potashnik 1).” He goes on to further state that, “this gap has come to be known as the digital divide and is illustrative of the vast differences in development among nations resulting from the process of globalization (Potashnik 1).” Here it is clear that globalization plays a major role in the information age and its adapters.

In addition to their being a digital divide between regions of the world that have access to the internet and those that do not, there are also many psychological trends that can occur within communities known for overusing or abusing internet use. The effect the overuse of the internet can have on youth is clear as social media use has resulted in significantly more socially isolated individuals who maintain virtual relationships in substitute of real world interactions. A key issue that is becoming a problem caused by the information age can be seen in the increase of social isolation due to people being less active and less socially connected in the real world. The risk involved with social isolation have been well documented as a problem within elderly communities as well as Jones and Sell note that, “psychological and emotional losses change older Americans’ lives. How they navigate a cascade of challenges — particularly social isolation, death of a spouse and depression — can determine the course of their final decades” (Jones & Sell). On the topic of how media has been influenced by social media and the internet culture to reinforce the prevalence and dominant impact of an information age, Christine Rosen argues that the popularity of sharing digitally altered images is destroying the natural human trait of recognizing reality. She argues that “there is no real prevention to this phenomenon turning into an epidemic as both Western and Eastern media culture are willing to fuel this marketable addiction. Rosen starts her article by mentioning the horrific way in which images of Hurricane Katrina victims were exploited by the media. She talks about how one can Google a term to find thousands of grotesque or eye catching images. She notes one search in particular where the person who posted a photograph which in past years may have been seen as horrific, with the comment “remember when this was a shocking image” (Rosen, 25)?” Her argument is that the information era, specifically the trend of sharing digital content through social media or peer to peer sharing is diluting the perception of reality. This can be very detrimental to the self awareness of individuals as they perceive their real selves verses their virtual selves. Rosen further notes that, “the question is not merely rhetorical. It points to something important about images in society: They have, by their sheer number and ease of replication, become less magical and less shocking—a situation unknown until fairly recently in human history” (Rosen 25).

In a New York Times Article titled “In Defense of Distraction,” Sam Anderson interviews a web business mogul by the name of Meyer. He asks Meyer if the information age and popularity of social media has brought about an era where society is living through a crisis of attention.  Meyer responds by saying, “Yes” and “and I think it’s going to get a lot worse than people expect” (Anderson, 2). Meyers further points out all of the aspects of modern internet culture that contribute to influencing contemporary social interaction and cluttering minds; he says, “a full-blown epidemic—a cognitive plague that has the potential to wipe out an entire generation of focused and productive thought” (Anderson, 2). Meyer provides Anderson’s argument with credibility. Anderson essentially takes the position that distraction is a threat to consciousness. He compares internet use as it is done in modern times through the use of social, networking tools and applications, to smoking cigarettes. The main hump Anderson has to overcome is the notion that social networking is still an activity that provides joy to most users. Meyer likens the effect of living on the internet, “with its unrecognizable but gradual negative effects on the brain, to smoking cigarettes and its unrecognizable but gradual negative effects on the lungs” (Anderson, 2). Two facts Anderson presents can be seen when he shows that, the American teenagers study revealing that they spend an average of 6.5 hours a day using digital devices. The author states that this strikes him as being a much lower number than he expected. He points out a fact about South Korea, noting that in their country “the most wired nation on earth, young adults have actually died from exhaustion after multiday online-gaming marathons (Anderson, p1).” Anderson’s core challenges is to make the reader question the benefits of the single most utilized convenient resource in contemporary culture today. He does this by presenting a relatable real life example and then presenting supporting arguments that dissect that example for the threat it implies for global internet culture. Despite Anderson’s powerful argument against the distractions of the internet, near the end of his article in his section titled “Embracing the Poverty of Attention,” he actually defended distraction and poses some possibility some redemption pointing out that as our generation is winding down intellectually, younger generations are evolving that are better equipped to multitask on these high frequency cognitive levels.

Small and medium enterprises (SME), according to the organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), are understood as businesses that employ no more than 250 employees. This makes up about 95-98% of all global companies, including companies like Facebook prior to going public. SMEs can also be credited for being responsible for a large amount of the GDP of the majority of national economies. In the 1990’s, as information and Communication Technology (ICT), and web applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) as well as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) launched as standard business resources, SME’s were empowered to compete in more global capacity. This can all be attributed to innovations in information technology. In their book Management Information Systems, when referring to the impact IT has on business operations, the authors note that, “from the point of view of economics, IT changes both the relative costs of capital and the costs of information. Information systems technology can be viewed as a factor of production that can be substituted for traditional capital and labor (Laudon & Laudon, 2012, p90).” This has enhanced the ability of SMEs in business in ways like never before to function more effectively and competitively. The authors go on to point out that the decrease in the cost allows information technology to be substituted in place of labor. This is a very powerful and common trend due to the fact that labor is a cost that rises as time progresses, “hence, information technology should result in a decline in the number of middle managers and clerical workers as information technology substitutes for their labor (Laudon & Laudon, 2012, p90).” Essentially this demonstrates how the information age has transformed the global business landscape since it makes the need for middle management obsolete.  Data shows that SMEs makeup for their loss in middle management by using convenient IT communication tools like video chat conferencing and other telecommute social devices and applications. In a Cambridge study assessing the theories and practices involved in the interaction between information technology and small and medium sized enterprises, Diane Poulin and Sebastien Tran note that, “internet technologies are assumed to play a major role in the simultaneous processes of company disintegration and reinforcement of the interorganizational relationships between companies (Poulin & Tran, 2010, p3).” This is a shift that happens on a global scale as businesses become more connected through technology and their capabilities are enhanced through the resources IT systems provide.

In their study, “Data mining techniques for customer relationship management” The author’s note that, “advancements in technology have made relationship marketing a reality in recent years. ‘Technologies such as data warehousing, data mining, and campaign management software have made customer relationship management a new area where firms can gain a competitive advantage (Rygielski, Wang, & Yen, 2002, p483).’” This has an impact on the bottom line of SMEs especially small business merchants as a result of e-commerce. This advantage in costs created by the use of the internet makes it easier for small businesses to get started. Essentially a small business can be launched entirely from a virtual landscape with infrastructure completely based online. Self employed entrepreneur, through the use of online e-commerce tools can perform financial transactions at the push of a button.

There are many E-Commerce service providers that can be utilized for E-commerce solutions in cases where simply using Paypal won’t work. Google Analytics, while it’s known mostly for its traffic tracking tools, the application also has e-commerce analytics that track the point of conversion for small businesses as well as isolate the exact source of the purchase made. This is an extremely powerful tool when it’s incorporated with CRM functions. CRM software that provide information like analytic tracking of purchases made by consumers give small businesses an affordable resource that prior to the innovation of certain web tools and the popularity of the internet were solely accessible to multinational corporations. In regards to how small and medium enterprises are using CRM technology strategically in business, authors state that, “current CRM solutions focus primarily on analyzing consumer information for economic benefits, and very little touches on ensuring privacy. As privacy issues become major concerns for consumers, surely an integrated solution that streamlines and enhances the entire process of managing customer relationships will become even more necessary (Rygielski, Wang, & Yen,2002, p501).” The ability for small businesses to gather valued information on their consumers at low cost through enhanced information technology tools puts these enterprises on a seemingly level playing field with much larger competitors within their markets.

Conclusion

In sum, the information age presents a wide range of new opportunities and resources for governments, businesses and individuals. Information has always been a valued commodity throughout history, but in recent years with the popularity of the internet and advancements in digital media, information is being shared at an alarming rate. The desire to acquire information, whether for financial purposes or for social and governmental concerns is such a prevailing trend that it creates value of content giving content providers what’s recognized as social capital.  Innovations in information technology, brought on by the information age, also reduce the costs of global business. The information age has made entry into many of the business markets previously held solely by multinational corporations accessible to small and medium enterprises. The low cost of IT also frees up capital for numerous other businesses. The information age has made capital more accessible to small businesses through methods known as crowd funding, where it once was not available. Examples of this can be seen with the popularity of sites like Kickstarter.com or other crowd funding websites that allow small startups to make their ideas public and garner much exposure. Despite all of these beneficial trends there are still some negative aspects of the information age, such as overindulgence and the potential for social isolation that can come from internet addiction or abuse of social media sites. Privacy security is also a major issue with hackers dangerously destabilizing forms of financial transactions and identity verification procedures. Considering the above research, it is undeniable that the modern world is currently in an information age and it’s drastically impacting the world as a whole.

Work Cited

Anderson, Sam. “In Defense of Distraction.” New York. 25 May 2009: n. page. Web. 18 Sep. 2012. <Anderson, Sam. “In Defense of Distraction.” New York Times. 2009: n. page. Web. 18 Sep. 2012. .>

Bennett, W. L. “New Media Power: The Internet and Global Activism.” Contesting Media Power: Alternative Media Power in a Networked World, edited by N. Couldry & J. Curran. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. 2003: 17-37

Global transformations:Politics, economics,and Culture-DaVid Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt, Jonathan Perraton, April 1,1999

Held, David, ed. Global transformations: Politics, economics and culture. Stanford University Press, 1999.

Jones, Abigail, Scott Sell. “Most senior citizens learn to adapt to the loss of a partner.” The Washington Post. 2010

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. NYU press, 2006.

Laudon, K. & Laudon, J. “Management Information Systems”: Prentice Hall. 2012.< Retrieved from> http://www.prenhall.com/behindthebook/0132304619/pdf/Laudon%20Feature%203.pdf

Manovich, Lev. The language of new media. The MIT Press, 2002. 400. Print.

“Media Convergence.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.

Potashnik, M. “The International Gap in Technology – The Digital Divide in Education, Education and Technology in the Balance.” Net Industries and its Licensors. 2013

Rhodes, Christopher. “Technology Poses Big Test for Regimes.” The Wall Street Journal. N.p., 12 Feb. 2011. Web. 19 Dec. 2012 .<http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704329104576138643482318336.html?mod=WSJ_World_MIDDLENews>.

Rosen, Christine. “Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism” The New Atlantis. p27-46 Fall 2005.<http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/virtual-friendship-and-the-new-narcissism

Rygielski, C., Wang, J.C., & Yen D. “Data mining techniques for customer relationship management” Technology In Society 2002. vol.24,p.483-502.

Strange, Susan. “The retreat ofthe state.” The Diffusion of Power in the (1996).

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