Social World The Effects of Information Technology Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

social world?

The effects of information technology on the society

The social capital framework

In this paper, we evaluate the validity of the statement that IT is radically changing the social world. We perform a critical analysis of the concept of social world and social capital and how it is influenced by information technology. This is carried against the backdrop of the concept of information technology as the conceptual framework. The paper concludes that indeed the statement that IT is radically changing the social world is true.

The contemporary society has witnessed a series of transformations which can directly be attributed to the concept of technological dynamism. Technological dynamism is a concept which was defined by Albu (2009) as the rate of exchange in the level of predictability of new technologies. The technological advancements that we witness today are largely as a result of the lack of knowledge that exists in our industries and the general society. In this paper, we assess the validity of the statement that IT is radically changing the social world.

What is the social world?

In order to fully capture the extent to which information technology is radically changing the social world, it is paramount that we define what constitutes the social world. The social world can generally be defined as a world that is governed by the interaction of humans. The social world is governed by sociological concepts of culture, system, nature, action, structure, mind, space-time as well as development .However, in the context of information technology, social world refers to a virtual world which is marked with an interaction of individuals but with the mediating role of technology. The social world is marked with the proliferation of social media. Social media includes social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and other types of social networking tools (McCafferty,2011).

The effects of information technology on the society

In order to gauge the effects of information technology on the social world, we can try to analyze the effects of popular networking sites on the contemporary social sphere. We can do this in light of theories of social constructivism and social reality with a specific focus on how technology has helped in bogging down or even creating boundaries in the contemporary social world.

Social world which according to Cetina (2001,p.39) is the domain of human institutions, human interactions, human rationality and human life has been drastically transformed by the advent of information technology.

The work of Guvenen (1998) indicated that information technology has seen the rise of a new (social) media which has acted as a formidable force in the changing of the global structure of the economies, governance as well as the society in general. Over the last couple of decades, the entire world has witnessed a phenomenon of technological dynamism which has lead to a proliferation of information technology at an exponential rate. This has led this period to be referred to as the "Information Age."

Advanced economies have over the years become progressively specialized in regard to the production, the distribution as well as the use of the available information. This form of specialization is the source of a substantial amount of welfare gains. The first thing to remember is the fact that a reliable information system is necessary for a competitive environment to exist. Information technology has therefore created economies that are partially or entirely dependent on it. In these economies, the concepts of individual choice as well as the invisible coordination are noted to be crucial for survival. Information affects social life in the contemporary society since it affects certain key social and economic variables like price, quantity of products and services as well as the delivery of these product and services to the people at the intended time.

The influence of information in the social world can be seen in areas such as communication, governance, education as well as commerce. In the next section, we analyze these variables into detail. In order to understand the associations between the variables and IT, we must explain them using social capital as the theoretical framework.

The social capital framework

According to the social capital framework, the relationship between the concept of social capital and various other variables is a relational one comprising of several elements. These elements include social networks, values, trust, social norms as well as shared physical resources (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992; Schuller, Baron, & Field, 2000; Woolcock & Narayan, 2000).The functions of the concept of social networks is to enable some of the societal goods within an the boundaries of specific societal levels as noted by Coleman (1990).Normally, social capital is regarded as an aggregate feature useful for aiding in the process of characterizing a social system. Bourdieu (1983) however noted that social capital refers to the actual as well as potential resources that exists within a given social infrastructure and is necessary for collective support of the members of a given society. Social capital is linked with the existence of a strong network of relationships of recognition well as mutual acquaintances. At the community level, the concept of social capital refers to the sharing of elements relating to the cultural elements of a community.The concept of social capital also relates to the concepts of labor markets and education (Department of Economics,1999) both of which have been heavily transformed by information technology. Other elements of social capital that have been radically transformed by information technology are local economic development, microfinance, sustainable development in the community, economic performance, health, identity, work, communicative competence as well as human resources (Bolin, Lindgren, Lindstrom, & Nystedt, 2003;Midgley & Livermore, 1998; Campbell, Gooden, 1998;Rankin,2002; Dale, 2005; Casey & Christ,2005; Rose, 2000; Veenstra, 2000; Fevre, 2000; Szreter, 2000).

The influence of information technology on social capital has dominated literature from a review of recent literature. The work of Huysman & Wulf (2004) contained a set of articles that critically examined the relationship between information technology (computer science) with sociology, economics, communication as well as management. One of the papers written by Quan-Haase & Wellman (2004) noted that information technology in the form of internet can effectively be conceptualized into three main approaches. The first view maintained that the internet has a strong influence on the transformation of the social capital. This implies that information technology (IT) lead to great transformations in regard to social contact as well as civil involvement in a fashion that leads to the creation of social networks (Wellman, Quan-Haase, Witte, & Hampton, 2001).The second view is that internet leads to the diminishing of social capital. This is via its information and entertainment capabilities which effectively draws individual away from their friends and families as noted by Nie, Hillygus, & Erbring, (2002). The third view by Wellman, Quan-Haase, Witte, & Hampton (2001) argued that the internet helps by supplementing the social capital. This is because it offers a communication platform (Steve,1999) which facilitates very strong social relationships while also helping to build strong patterns of socialization and civil engagements (Chen, Boase, & Wellman, 2002).Some of the pioneering studies on the influence of IT on social capital concluded that information technology appears to widen the concept as well as experience of community and society at large (Norris, 2003). Social networks are therefore heavily influenced and coordinated by information technology. This can be seen to leak into the real of corporate and national governance. An example being the role that was played by the internet and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on the popular uprisings in the Arab world, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the "Arab Spring" (Ghannam,2011).

Information technology and specifically the internet has been indicated to have redefined the concept of activism into what has been referred to as digital activism (Stiftung,2011).The society also finds it easier and convenient to book appointments, shop, communicate and even entertain itself as a result of the radical changes that IT has brought to the social world.

Effects of IT on democracy and governance

Information technology has been indicated to lead to several changes in the democratic and governance systems. IT can lead to e-voting, a convenient voting system that is base don the internet. Voting technology has been indicated to have an effect on the voting outcomes (Allers,2009).

Effects of technology on education

Information technology has been indicated to have positive influences on the educational sector (OECD,2010).Information technology has made education more affordable and accessible to the masses. E-learning has revolutionized how people learn by offering convenience and borderless learning, meaning one can lean without any geographical limitation. The I-Pad has been adopted as an e-learning/e-book platform by several schools across the U.S.,India, China, Japan and many other places

Negative effects of technology to the society

Information technology has been indicated to lead to several negative influences on the society. Chief among these influences are cyber-terrorism, electronic fraud, unemployment, pornography, infringement on intellectual property rights as well as laziness.


In conclusion, the statement that IT is radically changing the social…

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