Do we live in an era of change or in a changing era? How can one characterize the deep transformations that come with the accelerated insertion of artificial intelligence and new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in our present society? Is it a question of a new stage in the industrial society or are we entering into a new era? “Global village”, “technotronic era”, “post-industrial society”, “information society” or “information age”, and “knowledge society” are just a few of the terms that have been coined in an attempt to identify and understand the extent of these changes. But while the debate proceeds in the theoretical sphere, reality races ahead and communication media select the terms that we are to use.
The bottom line is: whichever term we use, it will be a shortcut that allows us to reference a phenomenon – be that present or future -, without having to repeatedly describe it; however, the selected term in itself does not define content. Content emerges from usage within a specific social context, which in turn influences perceptions and expectations, since each term brings with it a past and a meaning (or meanings), with its respective ideological baggage.
It was therefore to be expected that any term used to designate the society in which we live, or to which we aspire, be the focal point of a dispute over meanings, backed by the varied opposing projects of society.
Within the benchmark of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) there are two terms that have occupied the scenario: information society and knowledge society, with their respective variants. But, although the benchmark imposed usage of the former, from the beginning it caused disagreement and no single term has achieved a consensus.
In this past decade, the expression “information society” has without a doubt been confirmed as the hegemonic term, not because it necessarily expresses a theoretical clarity, but rather due to its “baptism” by the official policies of the more developed countries and the “crowning” that meant having a World Summit dedicated in its honor.
The term’s antecedents, however, date back from previous decades. In 1973, United States sociologist Daniel Bell introduced the notion “information society” in his book The Coming of Post-Industrial Society , where he formulates that the main axis of this society will be theoretical knowledge and warns that knowledge-based services will be transformed into the central structure of the new economy and of an information-led society, where ideologies will end up being superfluous.