The Information Age & Sociology

The other day, technology took another turn in my life. I never thought I would receive a text message saying, “BTW, Steve passed away yesterday. Heart problems. Scotty”. I was not only shocked that a good friend of mine passed away but how impersonal the message was that I received via text message. The irony of the situation was I actually played into the role of technology and relayed the death of this friend to our other friends via text and posting it on Facebook. I continue to receive text messages about the funeral and memorial service. They have also posted this information on FaceBook. Just a few years ago, you would receive a phone call, a letter or maybe read it in the obituary section of the newspaper, but I never thought that I would see the day it would be posted online or via text. It’s amazing how technology can change social structure and communication in a just a few decades.

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We are living in one of the very few times in history when technological change may be so drastic and rapid that it will significantly affect social changes that will take place within the lifetime of many people. Currently, the interest in the popularity and power of cultural changes that is occurring from the rapid and new development of information technologies has brought up a whole new interest that is closely related to a broader rejection of the conventional sociological focus on society. Some social scientists have been studying the information age and its affect on society but also how mobility, networks and the flow of where everything is being reconfigured in a global interaction of information. This sampler will introduce us to some contemporary classics and cutting edge treatments of the changes that we are noticing within the information age.

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As we focus on the technology and culture of everyday life, we attempt to look at the habitual character of the interaction between humans and material objects. Cell phones, computers and other forms of technology create a new social structure of communication, individually and globally. P.T. Clough describes Teletechnology as all physical things of “knowledge objects such computers and other smart electronic devices". (Clough 2009, 661) Western modernity refers to teletechnology as the social structural. Within the age of teletechnology, social spaces are being more visible and extend out into global social structures. Clough does not mean that teletechnology is deteriorating social structure, family or even global networks but actually is reconfiguring the modern "sociological imagination". The agency of the subject not only complex but a circular relationship between the cause and effect of tradition, community and social structure. On the other hand, Donna Haraway argues that human agency becomes just one material semiotic actor that engages in complex with other agencies or players. Teletechnology, interpenetration of nature and technoculture are changing our social space within the human agencies or players and has been created within the modern western discourse.

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In cyberspace, "internet uses do not comprise a single culture, but enact innumerable cultural forms" (Markham 1998, 85). In other words, computer technology has had a overpowering and enormous impact on all aspects of contemporary life. With computer interaction taking place in cyberspace, the topics concerned with communication, cyberculture, technoculture, and virtual reality are numerous, complicated and often contradictory. There are many conceptual levels of users that engage in online communication. Some users describe online communication as a “conduit that transmits information from one place to another” (Markham 1998, 86) People can be simply using it to avoid face to face contact, keeping in touching with friends, or just simply using utilizing it as a research tool. Other users may use it as a place to meet others and talk. This can be done in virtual communities, such as Facebook. It could also be a "way of being" for some – Cyborgs, is what they call themselves. A Cyborg is a “hybrid of machine and organism” (Haraway 1985, 527). It is created as a cross between social reality and part fiction. It is the fractured identity in the cyberspace world. One of the most important things to remember is that people's perception of how the computer-mediated communication can shift and change depending on what one is doing at that particular moment online.

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Works Cited:

Clough, P. T. 2009. “Teletechnology and the Unbundling of Social Structure.” Pp. 660-662 in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, (2010) edited by C. Lemert. Philadelphia: Westview Press.

Collins, R. 1992. “Can Sociology Create An Artificial Intelligence” Pp. 155-199 in Sociological Insight: Introduction to the Non-Obvious Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Haraway, Donna. 1985. “The Cyborg Manifesto and Fractured Identities”. Pp. 527-531 in Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings, Fourth Edition. (2010) edited by C. Lemert. Philadelphia: Westview Press.

Markham, Annette N. 1998. "Life Online: Researching Real Experience In Virtual Space". Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.

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