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Internet and the flow of knowledge: Which ethical and political challenges will we face?

By Niels Gottschalk-Mazouz


The term “knowledge” is used more and more frequently for the diagnosis of societal change (as in “knowledge society”). According to Bell (1973), since the 1970s we have been experiencing the ?rst phase of such a change towards a knowledge society, consisting of a rapid expansion of the academic system and a growth of investments in research and development in many countries. In this phase, as Castells (1996) points out, information technology has been rapidly changing the workplace as well as the composition of social organisations. In this first phase, the focus has been on scienti?c knowledge, its production and application in expert cultures. Since the Mid-1990s, however, this focus has been widening, such that one can speak of a second phase of the knowledge society (Drucker 1994a, 1994b; Stehr 1994; see also Knorr-Cetina 1998; Krohn 2001). Now it is no longer only scientific knowledge that is seen as driving the change, but also ordinary knowledge and practical knowledge, as know-how. The change is, as I would put it, autocatalytic, for typical of knowledge societies is “not the centrality of knowledge and information, but the application of such knowledge and information to knowledge generation and information processing/communication devices, in a cumulative feedback loop between innovation and the uses of innovation“ (Castells 1996: 32). Science has also been changing to be part of this loop, as shown in the rise of applied sciences and in the acknowledgement of uncertainty and ignorance issues (cf. Heidenreich 2002: 4 ff.; see also Hubig 2000 and Böschen & Schulz-Schaeffer 2003). The most significant change in this second phase however is the popularization of the Internet, that is seen as a key factor that governs societal change today. So what exactly is this “knowledge” that is driving present knowledge societies? Can we rely on the philosophical analysis of the term to get some insight here

Topics: Angewandte Ethik, Medienphilosophie, Theorie der Virtualität, Cyberphilosophie
Publisher: Ontos Verlag
Year: 2008
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