THE CONTROL REVOLUTION: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society by James R. Beniger

THE CONTROL REVOLUTION: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society

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KIRKUS REVIEW

USC Professor Beniger persuasively argues a strikingly original thesis, i.e., that the First World's ongoing transition to a global information society is really one of long standing. The industrial Revolution made it ""necessary to control [the] processes and movements [of a material economy] at speeds faster than those of wind, water, and animal power--rarely more than a few miles per hour,"" he observes. By no coincidence, he points out, almost all of the basic communications technologies now in use emerged during the 19th century: photography and telegraphy (1830's); rotary-power printing (1840's); telephone (1876); motion pictures (1894); wireless telegraphy (1895); and magnetic tape recording (1899). Radio, television, and computers appeared during the first half of the 20th century, consequences of a Control Revolution under way for a century. Rapid changes in telecommunications and mass media, which greatly expanded the information-processing capabilities of government and business, represented innovative, longer-term solutions to the loss of economic and political control resulting from the Industrial Revolution. The immediate response, he notes, was brisk growth in administrative bureaucracies. In a programmatic effort to maintain its authority ""at all levels from interpersonal to international relations,"" government supported the new technologies in various ways. In 1890, for example, the Commerce Department used punch cards perfected by Herman Hollerith (whose invention helped launch IBM) to tabulate US census data. This accessible text offers engrossing perspectives on the roots and implications of today's so-called knowledge industries.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press