Theories of Computerization and Information Systems

The goal of this class is to examine the premises and consequences of the idea that the contemporary moment can be labeled as an “information society”. We will do this by examining in turn the work of a number of theorists whose writings have examined this idea (although often using slightly different terms), including Daniel Bell, Manuel Castells, Herbert Schiller, Anthony Giddens, and Jurgen Habermas. We will read a combination of primary sources, derived works, and critical assessments. Each of these thinkers has a different take on the ways in which an information society differs from those social forms that came before; each has a different set of concerns about the role that information might play in an information society, about the sorts of major structural transformations are associated with this shift, about its historical origins and extents, and about its potential dangers or costs. Questions of information and control, information and ownership, information and voice, information and technology, and information and democracy will recur throughout the quarter.

We will take up “information” here in two aspects, material and metaphor. By material, I mean the substantive transformations of media, economy, and industry associated with the broad adoption of information technology and digital media in industry, government, and daily life. By metaphor, I mean the ways that ideas of representation, sorting, algorithm, network, data, and database have migrated from the technical domain to become key terms by which everyday life is understood.

Since so many of the key topics are so deeply relevant (including transformations in the labor economy associated with the demise of industrial production, fragmentation and consolidation in media distribution, the impacts of globalization and neoliberalization, and the place of expertise and technical rationality in a world dominated by technology), we will look at a number of these questions through the lens of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.


We will meet on Wednesdays, 5pm-7:50pm, in DBH (Donald Bren Hall) rm 5011. Feel free to bring dinner; we'll take a break at around 6:30 to eat (and talk). There's a microwave and a refrigerator nearby.

Weekly Memos

For each class session (other than the first), you should write up a two-to-three-page reading response. This should be distributed by email to the class by 5pm on the Monday before each class meeting. Please also include three or four questions that you'd like to propose for collective discussion.

Schedule and Readings

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.

1/11 Introduction and course overview
1/18 Daniel Bell and the Post-Industrial Society
1/25 Manuel Castells and the Network Society Optional:

2/1 Herbert Schiller and Informational Capitalism
2/8 Jurgen Habermas and the Public Sphere
2/15 Anthony Giddens and Reflexive Modernization


2/22 Saskia Sassen and Cities, Globally and Locally
3/1 Consumption and Identity
3/8 Postcoloniality and Digital Media
3/15 Donald Trump