Internet and Society – Social Theory in the Information Age
Internet and society is an emerging research field. A number of strands are converging to feed this field. Among them are sociology of technology, new media studies, and social informatics. It does not come as a surprise that this field, as such, is in a premature state of affairs and has to search for its transdisciplinary foundation. Thus, social theory is challenged in the information age. The present book is an attempt to fill the gap. What makes it distinct from other attempts are the following features:
First, it gropes for a unified approach by making use of a combination of two different theoretical backgrounds. On the one hand, there is a paradigm shift throughout science, including social science and humanities, initiated by the findings in thermodynamics regarding open, dynamical, nonlinear, complex, self-organizing systems. The concept of selforganization is considered being able to bridge the gap between system theory and action theory approaches in social theory. On the other hand, it is a fact that many theorists in information society research, in particular, the critics of the information society concept, are of Marxian origin. Christian Fuchs contends that some arguments of the Marxist tradition are still valid while some are not. He shows that by a proper merger of both lines of thought a grand social theory framework may emerge that is able to grasp capitalism in the age of the Internet.
Second, this theoretical framework is substantiated by a tremendous amount of empirical details found in the literature comprising every essential aspect of society fromeconomy to politics to culture to technology to environment. The data regarding the impact the Internet has on each of these subsystems evidence the aggravation of system-specific manifestations of an underlying antagonism between cooperation and competition. The Internet may be interpreted as a technological catalyst of social struggles.
Third, in so doing, the data suggest the only reasonable and practicable conclusion for guiding action: a proactive attitude towards shaping the Internet for a global, sustainable information society that provides opportunities for all to participate and for survival, in the long run.