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The Theories of Information Society

Syllabus for pre-PhD Distance learning course on Sociology


Aram Vartikyan, Ph.D, Associate Professor
Yerevan State University, Distance Learning Laboratory

1. Course module description
“The theories of information society” course module is an introductory course module to the understanding of basics, origins, and history and ideas of information society theories. In this course module students are expected to examine and assess the variety of modern information theories. This course module provides critical commentaries on the major postwar theories: Daniel Bell's ideas on a post-industrial information society, Anthony Giddens' thoughts on the growth of surveillance and the expansion of the nation state, Herbert Schiller's thoughts on information which expresses and consolidates the interests of corporate capitalism: Jurgen Habermas' account of the diminishment of the public sphere; Jean Baudrillard's thoughts on postmodernism and information, and Manuel Castells' depiction of the 'informational city'. Each theory is subjected to close scrutiny and is tested against empirical evidence.

2. Objectives of course module

  • To introduce students with basics and origins of information society.
  • To introduce students with the core concepts of the theory of information society.
  • To introduce students with main stages of formation and development of the theory of Information society.
  • To introduce and analyse the basic scientific works of illustrious theoreticians of the field and their contribution to this area, such as Daniel Bell, Anthony Giddens, Herbert Schiller, Jurgen Habermas, Jean Baudrillard, Manuel Castells.
  • To introduce and analyse the perspectives and ways of development of information society.

3. Assessment
Since this is a distance-learning course, assessment will be based only on students’ written work.

  • Weekly written essays – 60%
  • Final essay-40%

4. Course module program

Class 1 Information and the Idea of Information Society
- Idea of information, formation of information society.
- Analysis of various definitions of information society.

Assignment 1. (Up to 5 pages)
- Analyse the problem of quantity and quality on “information society” ?
- Describe theoretical knowledge as qualitative measurement of information society ?

Class 2 Information society as Post- Industrialism: Daniel Bell
- Daniel Bell’s conception of post-industrial society.

Assignment 2. (Up to 5 pages)
- Desribe the idea of post-industrialism
- Analyse methodological problems of idea of post-industrialism.
- Explain why post-industrial society is considered as a service society. 

Class 3 Regulation School theory: Beyond Fordism?
- Fordist and post-Fordist societies.

Assignment 3: (Up to 5 pages)
- Describe main ideas of the Regulation School Theory.
- Describe main idea of Fordism.
- Explain perspectives of Post Fordism.

Class 4 Information, the Nation State and surveillance: Anthony Giddens
- Information and Advanced Capitalism: Herbert Schiller.
- Anthony Giddens’s thoughts on “reflexive modernization” which spotlight the part played by information gathered for surveillance and control purposes.  
- Herbert Shiller’s view on advanced capitalism’s need for regulation of information.

Assignment 4: (Up to 5 pages)
- Compare and analyse theories of A. Giddens's reflexive modernization or H. Schiller's advanced capitalism.

Class 5 Information and Urban Change: Manuel Castells
- Manuel Castells’s influential views on the “Informational Capitalism”.

Assignment 5: (Up to 5 pages)
- Describe and analyse the role of information in modern societies in accordance with ideas of M. Castels.

Class 6 Information Management and Manipulation: Jurgen Habermas and the Decline of the Public Sphere
- Jurgen Habermas’s ideas around "public sphere” and the integrity of information.

Assignment 6: (Up to 5 pages)
- Describe and analyse information and public sphere issues in accordance with ideas of Jurgen Habermas.

Class 7 Information and Postmodernism
- Jean Baudrillard and Zigmund Bauman concepts on postmodernism and post modernity.

Assignment 7: (Up to 5 pages)
- Compare Baudrillard's and Z. Bauman's theories.

Class 8 Closing exam
Based on your interest, choose any topic discussed within this course module and write an analytic essay (13-15 pages).

- Webster, F. “Theories of the Information society” 2nd edition, NY 2002. 
- Castells, M. (2001). The Internet Galaxy, Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press
- Castells, M. (1996). second edition, 2000). The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. I. Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell. 
- Castells, M. (1997), second edition, 2004). The Power of Identity, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. II. Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell. 
- Castells, M. (1998), second edition, 2000). End of Millennium, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. III. Cambridge, MA; Oxford,  UK: Blackwell.
- Castells, M. The Information Society and the Welfare State: The Finnish Model. Oxford UP, Oxford (2002). 
- Castells, M. The Network Society: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA, Edward Edgar (2004).
- Schiller, H. Information and the Crisis Economy, Oxford University Press (1984), Oxford University Press, Reprint 1986.
- Giddens, A. Modernity and Self-Identity. Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge (1991).
- Giddens, A. Beck, U. Lash, S. Reflexive Modernization. Politics, Tradition and aesthetics in the Modern Social Order. Cambridge (1994).
- Habermas, J. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962). 
- Habermas, J. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (1985).
- Baudrillard J. The System of Objects (1968). 
- Baudrillard J. For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign (1972).
- Baudrillard J. Symbolic Exchange and Death (1976). 
- Max Koch. Roads to Post-Fordism: Labour Markets and Social Structures in Europe (2006).

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