Access to Information and Fragmentation of Knowledge and Society

7 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2013

See all articles by Karsten Weber

Karsten Weber

Institute for Social Research and Technology Assessment; BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg

Date Written: March 9, 2013

Abstract

Given that people living in western-style democracies actually have almost unrestricted and unlimited access to information it could be asked whether this access really can fulfill all the promises and hopes often stated with regard to the so-called information age: people will be much better informed, have much greater knowledge, will have much more opportunities to take part in political decision-making processes, and for the first time in history really can enjoy freedom of expression and freedom to inform themselves. And there are even more promises: the power of governments and state authorities as well as of private media companies will be pushed back, private media companies’ role as gatekeepers will be obsolete and therefore they would not be able to set the political agenda any longer. Besides those more or less political issues there are a lot of other hopes concerning the Internet and its impact to society, mostly economic expectations.

In the my paper evidence will be presented that most if not all of the above mentioned expectations – particularly those concerning better knowledge and political participation and deliberation – were in vain. It will be claimed that although people in western-style democracies have almost all information at their fingertips they are not really better informed, they do not take part in political decision-making processes in larger numbers, and they still rather consume information than producing it. Additionally, many people tend to take into account only information that confirms their previous knowledge and their already existing prejudice. Therefore, based on the analysis of empirical research, itI shall be claimed that one – and maybe the most eminent – effect of ubiquitous access to information is the fragmentation of knowledge and therefore of society. The hope that the global dissemination of information and communication technology itself could increase social cohesion actually was badly disappointed.

Suggested Citation

Weber, Karsten, Access to Information and Fragmentation of Knowledge and Society (March 9, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2234477 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2234477

Karsten Weber (Contact Author)

Institute for Social Research and Technology Assessment ( email )

Galgenbergstr
Regensburg

BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg ( email )

Cottbus, 03013
Germany

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