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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

What is a network society?

It has been widely thought since time immemorial that the ICTs are taking over every sector of life. Even after the unprecedented dotcom crash of 2001, the optimism of government, the business sector and the society at large was not dampened. The only thing that diminished was the talk about the heroes of the digital age. It would seem that every magazine and periodical was doing a story about the witty Billy Gates and idolizing him for buying a dos program from a programmer and later turning out to be the richest man from the proceeds the copyright generated.

            Around this Time, Billy Gates wrote two books which became instant best sellers. Everybody wanted to read his wisdom and fin out the secret behind the empire he had built. Other significant personalities wrote journals that were almost idolized by the entire population. But then, almost with the same gusto that the heroes of the digital age gained followers, people lost interest in them in the mid nineties.  The new thing was the speeding up of computers. Everybody understood that if you can do it faster, then you can do more and you can then be richer. This paved way to new ICTS as well as to new technologies in the computing world.
            There was such a heightened suffusion of new PCs that had better capacities and processors and the traditional way of admiring technological advancement of a long time was no more. No sooner had a new technology been released than another came out. In less than one decade, we had been bombarded with new ICTs like PDAs, palmtops, scanners, PCs, digital cameras, and the mother of all technological advancement, the internet. The irony of it is that we crave continually for the newest technologies yet quickly abandon it in favor of the other that comes up (Castell, 1989).
            The term network society was used by Castell Manuels to refer to the internet (Hassan 2003) in his book, the internet galaxy (2001) there are many books that have been written on the topic of network society some of which have been implicit e.g. Harvey David’s the condition of post modernity while others have been explicit like Manuals, the internet galaxy
The history of the network society
            What we call the internet today began somewhere around the early 1960s. It was a brain child of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency). The purpose for its inception was to form a system of computer information that was robust enough to survive the nuclear attack of Russia since it was the period when Russia and America were in a cold war. Prior to this, computer networks relied on the star topology which had many workstations but they relied on one server. If the server crashed, then the entire network would also go down.
            The concept of packet switching was developed to solve this problem and this was achieved through the realization of the TCP/IP protocol suite. This made it possible to break down digital data into small fragments called packets which could actually travel via different routes and get reassembled at the destination. The importance of this is that the data packets could be rerouted to by pass faulty connections on the network.
            The advent of the network society has reshaped the society that we live and operate in a big way. The economy has been impacted, the culture has been influenced and the society has been transformed. This new technology has affected media and politics thereby setting a new precedence in the social structures. Hassan (2004) states that the network society is loaded with discrepancies and is in a “state of deep flux”

Hassan, R 2004, Media Politics and the Network Society, BerkShire, MacGraw Hill.
Castell, Mn2001, The Internet Galaxy, New York, Oxford University Press.

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