Theories of Computerization and Information Systems

The goal of this class is to engage with a range of theoretical positions around the notion of “the information society,” construed broadly. Week by week, we will focus on particular theoretical positions, generally anchored by the work of a specific writer on what has variously been described as the information society, the post-industrial society, the networked society, or similar terms.

This is a reading-intensive, discussion-oriented class. We will meet weekly, and you will prepare brief weekly memos that we will share at the start of each class session. The course will be graded 30% on participation, and 70% on a term paper on a topic of your choosing (with my approval) related to the material of the class.

Weekly Memos

For each class session (other than the first), you should bring a 2-page reading response. This should not summarize the readings; rather, it should explain which ideas you found most powerful and the issues about which you are uncertain, and list three questions you would like to propose for classroom discussion. Bring 5 copies of this to class, on paper, for circulation amongst participants in the first 15 minutes.

Term Paper

The 70% component of your evaluation is a term paper. Term papers are should be around 5000 words (which means no less than 4500, but if you hit 10000, stop!), on any topic related to the subject of the class. Abstracts/topics for term papers are due at the end of week 5; drafts or outlines of papers are due at the end of week 7 (these drafts are not graded, but are an opportunity to get early feedback.)

Paper drafts, and final copies, should be submitted to me by email (PDF preferred.)


The readings are stored on UCI's webfiles service. To gain access, you will first need an activated UCINet ID, and then to register for a Webfiles account.

There are two primary texts for this class. The first is Frank Webster’s book “Theories of the Information Society”. We’ll use the third edition, although if you have the second edition, that will work fine too; the first edition will not. The second text is Mark Poster’s “Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines.” Both of these should be available in the campus bookstore. In the reading list below, they are abbreviated TIS and IP, respectively. As you see below, I supplement these texts with articles that I'll provide for you electronically.

1/9 Introduction and course overview
1/16 Daniel Bell and the Post-Industrial Society
1/23 Manuel Castells and the Network Society

1/30 Herbert Schiller and Informational Capitalism
2/6 Jurgen Habermas and the Public Sphere
2/8 End of Week 5: Term paper topics due
2/13 No class
2/20 Anthony Giddens and Reflexive Modernization
  • Webster, F. 2006. "Information, reflexivity, and surveillance: Anthony Giddens" (TIS chapter 8).
  • Giddens, A. 1994. Living in a Post-Traditional Society. From Beck, Giddens, and Lash, Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order.
  • Verran and Christie (paper in email)
2/22 End of Week 7: Term paper outlines/drafts due
2/27 No class
3/6 Consumption and Identity
  • Poster, M. 2006. IP 10: Everyday Virtual Life
  • Poster, M. 2006. IP 11: Consumers, Users, and Digital Commodities
  • Baudrillard, J. 1990 [2001]. The Consumer Society. From Poster, Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings.
  • Goss, J. 1995. We Know Who You Are And We Know Where You Live: The Instrumental Rationality of Geodemographic Systems. Economic Geography, 71(2).
3/13 Postcoloniality and Digital Media
3/15 End of Week 10: Term papers due