From the Information Age to the Networking Age
So far we've established that a) Technology matters greatly, and b) The structure or architecture of that technology gives us hints as to how it might change business and society over time. What kind of architectural changes did air travel introduce? How did they change business and society? What about the shift from CDs to MP3's? What changes did that usher in?
While you think about that for awhile, let's proceed. Are you wondering about this Networking Age business I speak of? Is it just another way of saying the Information Age? or the Digital Age? Let's just see.
This glossary says:
The era, following the industrial age, in which computers are used by the masses and knowledge workers, whose work focuses on the use and manipulation of digital data, outnumber factory workers.
Ok. We've all heard of the industrial age. Most of us have heard of the stone age, the bronze age, or the iron age. This glossary entry is suggesting that the information age is the next step, or our current step, which overlaps the old industrial age, in our development as a society. This in itself is fascinating.....an information age describes a time when the dominance of asset-driven, manufacturing-oriented, physical processes is eclipsed by a new bias towards the intangible --knowledge, information, media, the virtual-- an age where ideas matter more than assets. Very important.
But did the Information Age exist before the advent of the Internet? Computers have existed for some 60+ years. Many claim that the concept of the Information age isn't particularly new. According to this source historians tend to look for these beginnings with either the rise of railroads, the establishment of telegraphy or mass-circulation newspapers, or with the invention of the printing press. But something clearly is new...and very profound. The grip of the Information Age has tightened a great deal over these last few decades. What's happening?
I use the term Networking Age to describe this new era we're still beginning. Computers are caught up in the idea of course. Advances in mobile technologies, microcomputing, and nanotechnology, are important, for example. But computers have been around for some 60+ years. It's a new technology, its (relatively) recent widespread adoption, and the novel approach to communication it presents, that lies at the heart of our current transformation. It's the rich linking of our computers, and the new modes of say, production, distribution, knowledge, expression and control, that's most profound.
The Internet changes EVERYTHING!
(p.s. advances in software, as we shall see, are hard at work here as well and should not be overlooked!)
Parable: From ENIAC to the bot-net
Consider the evolution of computing from the days of the old ENIAC to our current landscape where your network-enabled PC might someday be compromised and controlled by some insidious cracker as part of a broader bot-net.
Commissioned back in the early 1940's, ENIAC was the first large-scale, electronic, digital computer capable of executing algorithmic problems. Picture it - a hunderd feet long and over 1800 square feet in volume.....that's bigger than a lot of houses these days. As big as it was, and as profound as it was as a computing breakthrough, the thing had very little computing power by todays standards and it could perform only a few specific functions.
ENIAC was designed as a data processing system. Its parts were mostly custom built for the machine itself. In other words its parts were of no use in other computers, if there were any. It was one big rigid monolithic beast, a closed system. If one part broke down the whole system would crash. And by its very nature it was centralized. There was no need to think about interoperability of data between it and any other any other machine - there weren't any others. Only a few people knew how to program it, and again it could only perform a few specific tasks.
Over the second half of the twentieth century a new standard emerged that allow computer manufacturers to agree on how to represent data in a simple format, a kind of mathematical language spoken by all computers, called binary code....and this opens up new possibilities for making computers more efficient and more interoperable. Fast forward a few decades and the mainframe computer was born. Mainframe computing was all about centralizing computing power, even while users accessed machine through their own consoles. Then as technology progressed, mini-computers, as they were called emerged, which were smaller and more multi-purpose - but still not as small or multi-purpose as the computers we know of today.
Fast forward to the late 70's, early 80's and the PC emerges. Computing power, and the force of Moore's law is helping to make it cost effective to make cheaper yet more powerful computer components - cheap enough for the average household to afford. By this time computers are becoming truly multi-purpose in nature, they're used for managing documents and spreadsheets, playing games, managing sales orders and so on. And to some extent their components are becoming more standard and more interoperable. There are new ways for transporting data between computers, for instance. But behind the scenes even the early PC's are still largely concerned with the same thing the ENIAC was concenred with - crunching numbers. The big difference of course is that the new computers of the 80s and 90s, for example, could process millions of instructions per second and that kind of speed and sophistication meant that you could use a computer to build elegant user interfaces, motion graphics, and use these techniques to build all kinds of applications.
So, now enter the Internet. The Internet creates a standard, low-level way of exchanging digital information for all kinds of purposes. Even before the Internet Computers were beginning to be used more for communication purposes.....but the Internet really set off a chain reaction that led to a complete revolution in the way we designed and developed computers. What does it lead to? It leads to a fairly rapid progression of decentralisation and decoupling of computing processes. Computers today are almost indistinguishable from Computer networks. Almost without exception they rely on software that is actually distributed on different computers around the world. A software application then isn't something you find on a diskette or CD, necessarily. It's really a group of smaller pieces of software being called upon, in sequence, to do a specific job wherever they are on the network and together complete some greater task.
I agree with the fact that the information age has existed now for some time now. We seem to be living in a time where everything changes very fast. Something that may have taken an "age in time" such as the industrial age, might now occur in a matter of decades/years. I completely agree that it seems like we are headed towards something like the Networking age. I would even say that maybe one could look at the big picture a little bit more, that maybe the networking age is the first step or part of something bigger. I am referring to globalization. This Networking age (or globalization) is making the world seem smaller and smaller and is revolutionizing trade, business, communication, how economies are affected etc... I don't know if I would claim that "the globalization age" is whats in store for us next, however I feel it is one of the bigger things in the forseeable future that humanity is faced with. And the quickly evolving world of networking and communication seems to be really pushing us towards globalization more than annything physical has in the past such as railways or aviation.
Posted by: Eric Horne | Sep 14, 2007 12:55:05 PM
I truely believe that what Eric said is true. When I think of the Jetson's, I laugh, although, someday that way of life could very well happen. We are starting (or already have) to become incredibly dependant on computers and the internet. The information age is apart of the present and the networking age could be straight up our alley. Anyway, I personally don't follow technology all that closely yet, it's definetely apart of my life nomatter how I live.
Posted by: Katelyn Murnaghan | Sep 15, 2007 1:33:42 PM
Good example of the Jetson's definatly. Those people from "back in the day" would probably never expect the kinds of advancements that our generation has created..even former generations living in the age when the telephone was first created, that was most likely a huge, huge deal for everyone that lived without it for many years. It's hard to imagine what our gradchildren or greatgrandchildren or whatever the case will grow up with because of the amazing technology that will continue to be invented. If our generation is so dependant on computers, the internet, or all other forms of technology currently..just imagine what the future generations will be like.
Posted by: Amy Corrigan | Sep 16, 2007 4:07:27 PM
I feel like the greatest advancement in this age of technology (whether you consider us in the information or networking age) is the ability for anyone with an internet connection to collaborate and communicate with anyone else in the world with an internet connection. Innovation and technological advancement will grow exponentially, as they are able to proceed without restriction. The internet has removed the barriers and cost of sharing ideas, and allows for fast, easy, and inexpensive reviewing of these ideas by the masses. One hundred and fifty years ago society valued physical strength, but the value is shifting to ideas. This should make for a very interesting next few decades.
Posted by: Ben Howard | Sep 17, 2007 9:08:05 AM
I believe that the advances we are making when it comes to technology are truly remarkable. That being said I believe that the information age began before the computer came into play. when you think about how far we have come in the hundred years or so. But I would say that the computer is one of the most important technological adavances in that span not to mention the fastest growing. There are computers in everything now a days toys, watches, etc. which is pretty hard to believe considering the first computer needed a room of its own.
Posted by: Mike Adams | Sep 17, 2007 3:40:00 PM
I agree with Mike when he says that the information age began before computers were around. When you think of technological revolutions such as the printing press and the formation of formal learning institutions such as schools, colleges and universities, it points to the fact the "information" or the holding of information (knowledge) has been a commodity for many years, long before anyone even dreamed of computers.
However, computers and communication technology are tools that have greatly revolutionized the way information is handled. Long before computers were around, it was thought to be an honour to have knowledge or expertise passed on from an elder, but now you can practically gain knowledge on almost any topic in seconds. This decentralization of information from being held by a few people to now being essentially public domain presents an exciting change in our culture. If the information age and networking age represent progress via the decentralization and dispersal of information, what will be next? The decentralization of power to everyone having equal say in decisions that were once reserved for a few elected officials?
Posted by: Cory | Sep 17, 2007 9:45:33 PM
One thing that I find really remarkable about the information age and the invention of the computer is that Moore's law not only gives us an idea of how much a computer is worth but how fast that the computer can develop. It is interesting that it takes a computer to make and computer, and until the better computer is made, a better can't follow.
Posted by: Chad MacLean | Sep 18, 2007 7:19:42 PM
I am truly amazed of the speed to which our world is technologically growing and advancing. It seems that with every year that passes a new technology has risen and as quickly as it had come it is then being surpassed by bigger and better piece of technology that not only does the job better but also faster. In the past century we went from almost every house hold owning a horse and carriage to almost every household owning their own motor vehicles and technology has only been gaining momentum. I would be quite surprised if within the next century we were not able to travel into space for the same price we are able to travel by plane.
Throughout the past century their have undoubtly been some amazing advancements but in my opinion the most amazing of them all is the internet and the WWW. Using these two pieces of technology you have the ability to access almost any piece of information and the ability to communicate with people across the world in a matter of seconds. The internet has changed the way we communicate, do business, shop etc, quite simply it has changed the way everyone in the world lives. What do you think would happen if the internet went down world wide?
Posted by: Craig Lambe | Sep 18, 2007 10:18:43 PM
I share the same amazement as you do Craig on how fast technology has grown. It seems like everytime you turn around there is another new development of technology that has been introduced or existing technology has become even more advanced. A good example would be digital cameras. I remeber not that long ago, a 3.1 megapixel camera was the best avaiable. Now isn't an 8 megapixel camera the best you can get? Not only has the picture quality been increased but the memory space as well. Also, the size of the camera has been reduced! This is just one example of how fast technolgy is advancing! It is sometimes overwhelming as it is near impossible to stay on top of all of the advancements. Great question Craig "what do you think would happen if the Internet went down worldwide?" You can answer that from a lot of different angles. Well, this course would definitely be put on hold wouldn't it?!! I look at your question from the perspective on how people's daily activities would be affected. Just think how many people use the internet to perform personal tasks. Pay their bills, check their email, weather forecasts, news, shop, enetrtainment, etc. People would be so confused as how to perform these tasks without the Internet, people would be "out-of-sync".
Posted by: Jason Kelly | Sep 19, 2007 6:13:50 PM
I think that the Networking age is the new edition of the information age. Most of the things that came from the networking age are getting smaller and as good as what it was in the information age (maybe also better). The development from CD’s player to MP3 player, it’s getting smaller and better. Also the new MP3 player now are becoming smaller and able to store more than the big old ones. The Nano technology is the thing that evolved information age to networking age. And the same thing is happening with the computers.
Posted by: Thamer | Sep 19, 2007 10:41:17 PM
It is unbelievable to think about the changes that we have already seen in our lives pertaining to technology. I think the shift from cd to mp3 is totally changing businesses in our economy. I can't think of the last time I went and bought a cd of an artist that I like. Now I can just download it for a fraction (if not less) than that of buying it. Now we dont have to buy a cd with songs that weve never heard we can burn a cd, at home, with only songs that we enjoy. Artists are not getting the revenues that they used to for creating a new cd. Just think of the money you save from being able to download this content whenever you like? We have become so accustomed to this that our daily lives involve the download and communication offered by the internet. So for Craig's question "what would happen if the internet went down world wide?" the answer is that it could potentially cripple the way we have become accustomed to doing almost everything! maybe we are becomming too dependent of the internet?
Posted by: Devon Gillis | Sep 20, 2007 5:21:06 PM
The advances in technology are amazing. I believe we are well into the Information Age. As we lean more towards the Networking Age, we depend more and more on computers and other technologies. Everyone in 2007 needs to bring their cell phone wherever they go, or check their Facebook on a daily basis. We also spend a lot of time using the world wide web. Whoever reads or writes on this blog is using the world wide web. Our lifestyles are completely different when you compare it to how people lived even as recent as the 1980s.
Posted by: Colin Butler | Sep 23, 2007 2:40:44 PM
Skimming throught the comments before mine there seemed to be much amazement even from our generation about how much we have seen technology change. I remember black and white TV's! It seems like just yesterday we used tapes rather than cd's all the time, let alone MP3's. Technology has grown so fast, even in the last ten years. In different courses I have learnt about ENIAC and I find it interesting as it must have been so exciting for them back then to make such a discovery, the first computer that could execute alogorithmic problems. Yet today we take it for granted that our computer can achieve so many tasks without us really do much more than pushing a few buttons. We are in the information but I like to learn of how we are beginning a new era 'the networking age'. It's neat to learn of how technology developed from our past as well as to see how it is transforming into our future. With technology developing so quickly I look forward to seeing what happens in the next ten years.
Posted by: Krista Mackenzie | Sep 24, 2007 11:45:53 PM
Truly the rapid changes and continuing changes of technology over the past few decades are mind blogging. It is only six years ago when I was in grade twelve and clearly I can remember our teacher talking about how computers have shrunk the world "global villages". I can't imagine of the changes with introduction of internet or the networking age.It has shrunk almost every aspect of our lives. Learning for example.If it weren't for the internet it would have been very difficult to share our views as we are doing at the moment. Certainly the cost are much lower, time spent is greately reduced, more ideas and information is relayed.I wonder where we are heading! In regards to Craig's response incase of a breakdown of internet, my answer is, we will simply breakdown too. I hope it's not going to happen.
Posted by: wycliffe ogucha | Sep 25, 2007 6:14:50 PM
It is true that the information age has been around for quite some time now. The invention of the Canadian Railway was a huge step forward in the information age because it allowed for transportion of messages from one side of the country to the other. Allow, in the networking age, this process takes a significantly less amount of time to do (email) it set the ground work for other forms of communication. It think that we may actually have alot more in common with our grandparents and great grandparents if we stop to think about it. In todays society we are constantly seeing new technology emerging and old technology being improved upon... it's amazing. The people living in the peak of the industrial age were no doubt experiencing the same feelings that we are right now. Its crazy to think what would acutally happen if the internet were to shut down for a day. Ebusiness is so popular right now that businesses would virtually lose millions or billions of dollars if that were to happen. The world would come to a stand still and no one would know what to do.
Posted by: Ryan Keefe | Oct 12, 2007 9:07:23 PM
Did Information age exist before the advent of Internet?
Yes, the Information Age came into action with the invention of techniques which made it possible for people to share, convert and retrieve information through computer based technology. The information was centralized in the initial stages of Information Age because there wasn’t any particular bridge which could link two systems. With time, thanks to those nerds who discovered internet, Internet originated which turned Information age completely. With Internet - the information became decentralized; connection and collaboration of systems took place; public media originated; time saving communicating methods originated; business were totally reliable on system linking. When we consider the changes in Information age after the advent of internet, it does feel that we are stepping in a new era, a new age which has a diverse affect on the ways we operated things and decisions, the Networking Age. Though, I feel we are on the threshold of the Networking Age, I believe networking age will end up as a globalization era like everyone said above. Networking age makes this world look small because it has made it so easy for us to tune up to any system, person and information on the face of the earth. It is so addictive in every sector of all business that they all rely on networking. Before we all know, we will be in networking age that’s what I think.
Posted by: Shakti Arora | Oct 15, 2007 1:30:35 PM
Everyone seems to be saying that we are about to start the networking age. For me its already here. Networking and interconnections are a part of everything we do now-a-days. From facebook and the connections to however many networks we all seem to be connected to there. To this here website with links and connections to different links, students, etc. The world is such a small place with the presence of networking. For instance, I am not sure how many of you watch the show the Hills, but its one of my favorites. One of the main stars of the hills is a guy by the name Brody Jenner. I was on facebook earlier today and saw that one of my friends that goes to UNB (unb network) now has Brody Jenner as a friend, he is part of the Los Angeles California network, and I am part of the UPEI network. Its amazing how close a person can be while still being miles away. Some of you may think thats a lame example for any of the hills stars its pretty cool. And regardless of whether you watch the hills or tv at all there is no denying how this new networking age has managed to narrow and shrink this world we all live in.
Posted by: Christina | Oct 17, 2007 8:12:10 PM
I don't know what we would do if we were stuck Industrial Age. We wouldn't have the vechiles that we drive today, the network of friends that we have came to know today or the products that are available to us today. Being in the Information/Networking age allows us to connect with people and products from around the world.
Posted by: Katelyn Tweedy | Oct 17, 2007 8:51:18 PM
The Information Age did come before the invention or advert of the Internet. I think it did have a very positive impact on the world but at the same time there were still problems with it, being so centralized and fragile. I do agree with Mark when he explained in the Blog that we aren't necessarily in the Information Age, rather the Networking Age. I can agree with him when he claims “something is clearly new.” There is a lot of technology that has come out in the past few years that I don't even have a clue on how to use/operate to my advantage, and kids in junior-high or even younger have no problem with these new technologies. I also found it rather interesting that computer manufacturers can double the amount transistors on a computer circuit in a matter of 2 years. It is evident that the PC is getting smaller and smaller in size, but it has to come to a halt sometime does it not?
Posted by: Jordyn Woodside | Oct 17, 2007 9:07:44 PM
I think it is remarkable how far we have come in the last 50 years from having computers that take up entire rooms(ENIAC) to having little hand held digital devices. I agree that computers these days are get smaller and smaller in size but they are also get faster. I believe that the speed of this technology(transistors) will slow down in the near future. But by that time they will of come out with some new technology that will bring computers and its speeds to a whole nother level.
Posted by: kyle macdonald | Oct 17, 2007 9:50:11 PM
It is amazing to think that, for the most part, the ENIAC's biggest achievements were computing numbers, something the half a dozen calculators we own each could do and more! I even remember my first computer, back when not every family had one and when we got the internet it was a huge deal! And then before you know it, there's high speed internet, cell phones with web access and blackberrys.
Posted by: Lauren Tweel | Oct 17, 2007 11:34:13 PM
It is pretty amazing too look back and see how far technology has come. I have to agree with kyle in that the rate at which technology is evolving will eventually slow down.
Posted by: Nick Drake | Nov 26, 2007 1:40:17 PM
I too find that computers have came along way in the past 60 years. I just got a new laptop and its crazy how small they are thinking back on your first computer. No one would have ever thought that they could make one of those huge computers portable or even make a blackberry. I think they will eventually also have to slow down because they don't have that much more room to get much faster, but I'm sure in the next few years they will get ten times quicker.
Posted by: Carrie MacKay | Dec 1, 2007 6:37:00 PM
I think we are definately in the networking age. It's amazing how laptops have become so popular just in the past couple of years amongst university students. It won't belong until laptops are being dragged around at highschools. Insted of teachers requesting binders and scriblers, it will become a necessity to have hp or dell notebooks.
Posted by: tim macphee | Dec 4, 2007 9:05:32 PM