"How to Think About Information," by Dan Schiller (UI Press/2006)
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It is common knowledge that the U.S. economy has continued to thrive despite the loss of industry because of the booming information sector, with high-paying jobs for everything from wireless networks to video games. We are told we live in the Information Age, in which communications networks and media and information services drive the larger economy.
While the Information Age may have looked sunny in the beginning, as it has developed it looks increasingly ominous: Its economy and benefits grow more and more centralized – and in the United States, it has become less and less subject to democratic oversight.
Corporations around the world have identified the value of information, and are now seeking to control its production, transmission and consumption. In “How to Think About Information” (UI Press/2006), Dan Schiller, a professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science and in the Institute of Communications Research at the UI, explores the ways information has been increasingly commodified as a result, and how it both resembles and differs from other commodities. Through a linked series of theoretical, historical and contemporary studies, Schiller reveals this commodification as both dynamic and expansionary, but also deeply conflicted and uncertain. He examines the transformative political and economic changes occurring throughout the informational realm, and analyzes key dimensions of the process, including the buildup of new technological platforms, the growth of a transnationalizing culture industry, and the role played by China as it reinserts itself into an informationalized capitalism.
“Read this book and you will never look at media convergence the same way again,” said Ellen Seiter, the Stephen K. Nenno Professor of Television Studies at the University of Southern California. “By tracking business trends across media and telecom industries, Schiller demonstrates how much has been lost while citizens have been lulled by the discourses of globalization, deregulation and the technology boom. Schiller’s dazzling research and cogent argument make this book unforgettable.”
Schiller also is the author of “Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System” and other books. – UI Press contributed to this article.