Study on the Social Impact of ICT

posted 28 Apr 2011 02:19 by Brian Pickering
A common assumption since the advent and rollout of the Internet back in the 90s is that the technology would revolutionise much of our lives and society as a whole. But just as with other technologies – the telephone, radio and television – society has not so much been changed as trends already in progress been enabled: technology has acted as an “amplifier” that aids social evolution rather than revolution.

This study, as the result of cross-European academic collaboration, highlights ten major trends in contemporary society, from the significant reduction of timespans through social infrastructure, class and political engagement to an increase in choice. Amplified, so the argument goes, by ICT, their adoption and progress is aided by the technology, but they were already happening anyway. Although this leads to the conclusion that society is changing independently of technological advance though aided by it, the report goes on to study in greater depth a number of specific domains such as eGovernment participation, health, work and the community, and tries to establish any underlying long-term transformations in four key areas: rationalisation (effectiveness and so forth), networking and social capital, empowerment and participation, and the availability of information and lifelong learning.

The report is a significant recent contribution to the debate about where technology has taken us. Relating much relevant academic research along the way, it offers a refreshing view of an underlying collaborative evolution of social forces taking advantage of technical advances that were not anticipated by the simplistic utopian promises made for the Internet towards the end of the 20th century.

The full report is available here