Encyclopedia of Big Data

Living Edition
| Editors: Laurie A. Schintler, Connie L. McNeely

Information Society

  • Alison N. NovakEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-32001-4_115-1

The information age refers to the period of time following the industry growth set forth by the industrial revolution. Although scholars widely debate the start date of this time period, it is often noted that the information age co-occurred with the building and growth in popularity of the Internet. The information age refers to the increasing access, quantification, and collection of digital data, often referred to as big datasets.

Edward Tenner writes that the information age is often called a new age in society because it simultaneously addresses the increasing digital connections between citizens across large distances. Tenner concludes that the information age is largely technology about technology. This suggests that many of the advancements that are connected to the information age are technologies that assist our understanding and connections through other technologies. These include the expansion of the World Wide Web, mobile phones, and GPS devices. The expansion in these technologies has facilitated the ability to connect digitally, collect data, and analyze larger societal trends.

Similarly, the collection and analysis of big datasets was facilitated by many of these information age technologies. The Internet, social networking sites, and GPS systems allow researchers, industry professionals, and government agencies to seamlessly collect data from users to later be analyzed and interpreted. The information age, through the popularization and development of many of these technologies, ushered in a new age of big data research.

Big data in the information age took shape through large, often quantifiable groups of information about individual users, groups, and organizations. As users input data into the Information age technologies, these platforms collected and stored the data for later use. Because the information age elevated the importance and societal value of being digitally connected, users entered large amounts of personal data into these technologies in exchange for digital presence.

John Pavolotsky notes it is for this reason that privacy rose as a central issue in the information age. As users provided data to these technology platforms, legal and ethical issues over who owns the data, who has the right to sell or use the data, and what rights to privacy do users have became critical. It is for this reason that further technologies (such as secure networks) needed to be developed to encourage safety among big data platforms.

As Pavolotsky evidences, the information age is more than just a period in time, it also reshaped values, priorities, and the legal structure of global society. Being connected digitally encouraged more people to purchase personal technologies such as laptops and phones to participate. Further, this change in values similarly altered the demand for high-speed information. Because digital technologies during this period of time encouraged more connections between individuals in the network, information such as current events and trends spread faster than before. This is why the information age is alternatively called a networked society.

Morris and Shin add that the information age changed the public’s orientation toward publicly sharing information with a large, diverse, and unknown audience. While concerns of privacy grew during the information age, so did the ability to share and document previously private thoughts, behaviors, and texts. This was not just typical of users but also of media institutions and news organizations. What is and is not considered public information became challenged in an era when previously hidden actions were now freely documented and shared through new technologies such as social networking sites. The effect this user and institutional sharing has had on mass society is still heavily debated. However, this did mean that new behaviors previously not shared or documented in datasets were now freely available to those archiving big datasets and analyzing these technologies.

The information age is also centrally related to changes in global economy, jobs, and development industries. Croissant, Rhoades, and Slaughter suggest that the changes occurring during the information age encouraged learning instructions to focus students toward careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (popularly known as STEM). This focus was because of the rapid expansion in technology and the creation of many new companies and organizations dedicated to expanding the digital commercial front. These new organizations were termed Web 1.0 companies because of their focus on turning the new values of the information age into valuable commodities. Many of these companies used big datasets collected from user-generated information to target their campaigns and create personalized advertising.

In addition, the information age also affected the structure of banking, financial exchanges, and the global market. As companies expanded their reach using new digital technologies, outsourcing and allocating resources to distant regions became a new norm. Because instantaneous communication across large spaces was now possible and encouraged by the shift in public values, it is easy to maintain control of satellite operations abroad.

The shift to an information society is largely related to the technologies that facilitated big dataset collection and analysis. Although the exact dates of the information society are still debated, the proliferation of social media sites and other digital spaces supports that the information age is ongoing, thus continuing to support the emergence and advancements of big data research.


Further Reading

  1. Croissant, J. L., Rhoades, G., & Slaughter, S. (2001). Universities in the information age: Changing work, information, and values in academic science and engineering. Bulletin of Science Technology Society, 21(1), 108–118.Google Scholar
  2. Morris, S., & Shin, H. S. (2002). Social value of public information. American Economic Review, 92(5), 1521–1534.Google Scholar
  3. Pavolotsky, J. (2013). Privacy in the age of big data. The Business Lawyer, 69(1), 217–225.Google Scholar
  4. Tenner, E. (1992). Information age at the National Museum of American History. Technology and Culture, 33(4), 780–787.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public Relations and AdvertisingRowan UniversityGlassboroUSA