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Information Revolution Vs. Industrial Revolution - Locating Revolutions, Technology, Economics, Social Relations, Work, And Demographics, Continuing Debates

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As e-commerce became all the rage in the late 1990s and as the Internet, World Wide Web, and other information technologies rapidly transformed the economic and social environment, many analysts, journalists, and scholars took the time to reflect upon the current transformations and breakthroughs and situate them in a broad, historical context. The fruit of these labors was the conception of the current era as the Information Revolution, akin in its historical importance and impact to previous economic revolutions, particularly the Industrial Revolution.

The attempts to theorize a new economic and social era—particularly one whose effects have yet to be fully realized—inevitably generated widely disparate definitions and characteristics of the Information Revolution, not to mention predictions, prescriptions, and levels of enthusiasm. Several key questions arise: Does the Information Revolution in fact constitute a historical epoch on a par with previous revolutionary transitions? What are the comparative features and effects of the Information Revolution and the Industrial Revolution? How did the Industrial Revolution alter previously existing conceptions of economics, social organization, the nature of work, cultural patterns, and so on? What needs to be done to either take advantage of the benefits of the Information Revolution, or—if one is of a different theoretical persuasion—what steps must be taken to mitigate its worst effects?

Since even the most enthusiastic proponents of the Information Revolution agreed that, in the early 21st century, the new era was still in its infancy, it remained to be seen whether the Information Revolution would truly revolutionize society on a scale comparable with the Industrial Revolution, which produced greater change in just two centuries than occurred in the rest of human history combined.

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