The Dawn of Digital Era
BMoss April, 2012 (c)
Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in 1851: By means of electricity,
the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating
thousands of miles in breathless point of time.The round
globe is vast- brain, instinct with intelligence.
Since then, humanity has not stopped to realize Hawthorne's
vision of a world where the human intelligence is networked.
Into the 21st century, the global society lives in the frontiers
of digital age. Mass customization is taking over mass- production.
The consumer of today applies their specific knowledge, tastes,
expectations and demands on producers who have to able to
meet these in order to succeed. We are in the era of knowledge
The internet has existed since 1969. British scientist
Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989
and fully implemented by 1991, thus the beginning of a global
network. It is today's ultimate platform for disseminating information
globally, its growth is beyond exponential. Is the print media as we
know today be a thing of yesteryears, pushed to obsolescence?
The I-WAY has created an information society.This has a
significant impact on the economic, political, social, cultural,
scientific, medical, educational and technological arena.
Networked technology introduced the world to digitalization.
It opens up the creation, distribution, integration, diffusion,
use and manipulation of information in many creative and
productive ways. Knowledge economy creates wealth through
the exploitation of knowledge and understanding. Beniger
states that people who have the means to partake in this
form of society are referred to as digital citizens,
one of the many labels that ushers in a new phase
of society into the 21st century.
The growth of information in society
There is no definite or universally accepted meaning of
what exactly is information society. Theories bounce
around as to this transformation in society that started
back in 1970's. Internet is not the only information
technology that is widely used. There are specific
media and modes of production that influences the
changing ways of society. The growth of technologically
mediated information has been quantified in different
ways, including society's technological capacity to
store information, to communicate information,
and to compute information.
Touraine wrote in 1988 referring to the programmed
society- this phrase captures its capacity to create
models of management, production, organization,
distribution and consumption, such a society appears
at all functional levels, as the product of an action
exercised by society itself, not the outcome of natural
laws or cultural specificities.
In the dawn of networked technology, information of all
sorts becomes digital, reduced to bits stored in computers,
races at the speed of light across the global networks. It
is a new world of possibilities. The digital whirlwind is
sweeping society.This digital growth is quantified in different
ways. It handles how society stores information, communicate
and compute the data. The technical capacity to store information
grew from (optimally compressed) 2.6 exabytes in
1986 to 295 exabytes in 2007.This shows a
60% growth per year over the past two decades.
1,024 gigabytes is one terabyte, and 1,024 terabytes is
one petabyte. To put this in perspective, a petabyte is
about one million gigabytes (1,048,576).In the late 1980s,
a large hard disk was considered 80 megabytes.
Today, that amount of space doesn’t even hold a current
Windows operating system without butting up
against storage limits. Robust programs, music files,
digital versatile discs (DVDs), streaming video and
high-resolution graphics have all become memory-hungry
beasts devouring real estate bit by byte. It would have
been unthinkable in the 1980s that the home computer
would one day require tens and even hundreds of gigabytes
to store data. Though the petabyte still lies beyond the
territory of the terabyte, who can say where the home
computer will be in another two decades?
With the influx of computers, CD-ROMS, hard drives,
USB flash drives, and other discs, the byte can not hold
larger values. With the larger volumes of information,
more bytes are needed:
kilobyte -KB- is 1,024 bytes, but most relate it to 1000 bytes.
Megabyte-MB- is 1,024 kilobytes
Gigabyte -GB- is 1,024 megabytes
Terabyte -TB- is 1,024 gigabytes
Petabyte- PB- is 1,024 terabytes
Exabyte-EB- is 1,024 petabytes
Zettabyte-ZB- 1,024 exabytes
Yottabyte-YB- is 1,024 zettabytes
Note: many hardware and hard drive manufacturers
think of a kilobyte as 1,000 bytes. from Wisegeek.com
The automobile changed the world in many ways,
economically, physically and socially. Mechanized
agriculture is the only way to farm. The discovery
of the printing press was a real big deal- it facilitated
the printing of books, as against the laborious
The interactive multimedia once again, is very rapidly
changing the face of the world. At first, the internet's
most popular use was for e-mails and chat rooms. Then
comes social networks, add telecommuting ,vlogging,
and who knows what will come next.
Already, there is a dark side to the digital world. There
is fear that technology will bring unemployment, numbing
of minds and invasion of privacy.
In his book- Digital Economy, Don Tapscott writes
that the digital world, while it offers exciting promise, there is
also a dark side. Social stratification, massive social dislocation
and conflict are perils that man faces with this digitalization.
Violence and suffering can be seen worldwide instantly, not
just in poor countries. There are new social, ethical and
government issues that will surface as time goes on.
What lies ahead
Critical scholars say that major critiques of concepts like
information society, knowledge society, network society,
post modern society, post industrial society and other
labels tend to create the impression that we are entering
into a totally new type of society.
Frank Webster argues that this kind of approach
stress discontinuity, that contemporary society has nothing
in common with society as it was 100 nor 150 years ago.
He argues that these assumptions mean, nothing can be
done, ideologically, that there is nothing society can do and
just have to adapt to the existing reality. Webster insists on
the continuities that characterize change. He stresses the
different epoch of capitalism, that is, the laizzez-faire of the
19th century, corporate capitalism in the 20th century and
informational capitalism for the 21st century.
You, society, be the judge.
Digital Economy by Don Tapscott