Social Theories of the Information Society
Information Society Project, Yale Law School
Fall 2014
Details:
Time: Thursdays...
Readings:
● Touraine, Alaine (1971). The Post-Industrial Society. Tomorrow's Social History: Classes,
Conflicts and Cultur...
Readings:
● Webster, Frank (2010). “ Information and Democracy: Jürgen Habermas,” in Theories of
the Information Society, ...
Week 6: The Imagined Networked Self and Closing Discussion
SYNOPSIS
In the information society, citizens are able to enjoy...
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Social Theories of the Information Society - Proposed for fall 2014

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In recent years, with the rapid growth of the Internet, mobile networks, and related technologies, the United States has become home to a vibrant and multifaceted information society. The rise of the information society has implications for our understanding of free speech, privacy, intellectual property, and other elements of national and international law-making and practices. At the same time as we re-think legal concepts, we must also reflect on the changing nature of individual agency, access to information, and democratic
participation.

In seven weekly meetings (2 hours each), this reading group will examine key debates on the information society. Students will read thoughtful and provocative social theories and discuss these in an interactive and lively seminar. The reading group will provide participants with a solid foundation in social theories of the information society, as well as an understanding of how they can be applied to contemporary issues in law and society.

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Social Theories of the Information Society - Proposed for fall 2014

  1. 1. Social Theories of the Information Society Information Society Project, Yale Law School Fall 2014 Details: Time: Thursdays from 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM Location: Ashmun, A436 Seminar leaders: Colin Agur, Valerie Belair-Gagnon, Nathana O’Brien Reading materials: journal articles distributed in advance of class at no cost to students Description: In recent years, with the rapid growth of the Internet, mobile networks, and related technologies, the United States has become home to a vibrant and multifaceted information society. The rise of the information society has implications for our understanding of free speech, privacy, intellectual property, and other elements of national and international law-making and practices. At the same time as we re-think legal concepts, we must also reflect on the changing nature of individual agency, access to information, and democratic participation. In seven weekly meetings (2 hours each), this reading group will examine key debates on the information society. Students will read thoughtful and provocative social theories and discuss these in an interactive and lively seminar. The reading group will provide participants with a solid foundation in social theories of the information society, as well as an understanding of how they can be applied to contemporary issues in law and society. OUTLINE Week 1: What is the Information Society? SYNOPSIS In our efforts to understand today’s information society, we begin with Touraine’s prescient description of the ‘post-industrial’ society that he saw emerging in the early 1970s. And looking at more recent scholarship, we will also discuss Webster’s conception of the information society. Using these readings as the basis for our first discussion, we will answer several questions: What are the characteristics of an information society? In what ways does an information society differ from an industrial society? What social tensions exist in information societies? In what ways is the information society that we have come to know different from Touraine’s ‘post-industrial’ society?
  2. 2. Readings: ● Touraine, Alaine (1971). The Post-Industrial Society. Tomorrow's Social History: Classes, Conflicts and Culture in the Programmed Society. New York: Random House. (We will read selected chapters) ● Webster, Frank (2010). “The Information Society Revisited,” in McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory, 6th edition. URL: http://www.uk.sagepub.com/mcquail6/PDF/022_ch01.pdf Week 2: Creativity & Control SYNOPSIS Building on our understanding of the information society from week 1, we will discuss the new productive possibilities as well as the new struggles for power that have emerged. We will pay special attention to the ways that governments and corporations have sought to shape, regulate, and control the Internet. In our seminar, we will focus on the work of two prominent legal scholars. We will turn to Lessig for a discussion of free culture and the production of knowledge in the information society. And we will draw on the work of Zittrain on the uses and abuses of the Internet as a tool of production and distribution. Readings: ● Lessig, Lawrence (2004). Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. New York: Penguin Press, pp. 7-63. Available online: http://www.jus.uio.no/sisu/free_culture.lawrence_lessig/portrait.letter.pdf ● Zittrain, Jonathan (2008). The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 200-34. Available online at: http://futureoftheinternet.org/static/ZittrainTheFutureoftheInternet.pdf. Week 3: The Information Society & Democracy SYNOPSIS In this session, we will examine the changing face of democracy and civic participation in the information society. Citizens of the information society have new means of interacting with each other and participating in local, state, and national political discourse. At the same time as the Internet allows for new forms of participation and transparency, it also allows for the continuation of existing exclusions based on geography, economics, and social class. In this week’s session, we will explore the question of democratic participation with two readings. We will begin with Webster’s chapter on Habermas and the evolution of the public sphere. We will then discuss what Balkin calls ‘old school’ and ‘new school’ regulation of speech.
  3. 3. Readings: ● Webster, Frank (2010). “ Information and Democracy: Jürgen Habermas,” in Theories of the Information Society, pp. 161-202. ● Balkin, Jack (2014). “Old School/New School Speech Regulation,” Harvard Law Review. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2377526 Week 4: Information, Structure, & Agency SYNOPSIS The information society represents a structural shift in the production and consumption of information, and in the role of information in economics, politics, and daily life. In this week’s session, we will examine the ways that the production and consumption of information shape structure and agency in the information society. Our first reading will review the thinking of Giddens and Latour. Our second reading will explore actor-network theory and give an overview of Latour’s thinking on networks, structure, and agency. Readings: ● Webster, Frank (2010). “Information, Reflexivity, and Surveillance: Anthony Giddens,” in Theories of the Information Society, pp. 203-27. ● Latour, Bruno (2011). “Network, Societies, and Spheres: Reflections of an Actor-Network Theorist,” International Journal of Communication, Vol. 5, pp. 796–810. Available online: http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/1094/558. Week 5: Information and Networks SYNOPSIS Networks have played a significant role in the formation of the information society. In this penultimate session, we will discuss what we mean by networks, the roles that networks play in informational production and consumption, and the ways they facilitate new patterns of economic and social activity. We begin with Benkler’s seminal book on the possibilities of networks in the information society. We then turn to Castells and his view of networks as the sites of a global power struggle. Readings: ● Benkler, Yochai (2006). The Wealth of Networks. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Introduction. Available online: http://www.jus.uio.no/sisu/the_wealth_of_networks.yochai_benkler/portrait.a4.pdf. ● Castells, Manuel (2007). “Communication, Power and Counter-Power in the Network Society,” International Journal of Communication, Vol. 1, pp. 238-66.
  4. 4. Week 6: The Imagined Networked Self and Closing Discussion SYNOPSIS In the information society, citizens are able to enjoy new freedoms at the same time as they are subject to new types of surveillance and control. In this final session, we will discuss the ways that architectures of information shape the ‘self’ and individual identity. Drawing on Cohen’s Configuring the Networked Self, we will look both at and beyond the law. Our goal is to understand not only how legal and technical regimes govern how we access and use information, but also the social and cultural effects of those regimes. We will also use this session for a closing discussion that links together the theories and topics covered in the previous weeks. Reading: ● Cohen, Julie (2012). Configuring the Networked Self: Law, Code, and the Play of Everyday Practice. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 1-155. Week 7: Theory, Law and Beyond: Closing Discussion THANKS!  

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