15 May 2007
Like artificial intelligence, the concept of the information society is an old acquaintance. For decades, politicians, pundits and experts have been telling the citizens of the developed world that the arrival of this digital utopia is imminent. These premonitions have been confirmed by media coverage of the increasing sophistication and rapid proliferation of iconic technologies: personal computers, satellite television, cable systems, mobile phones, video games and, above all, the internet.
During the late 1990s dotcom boom, the Californian acolytes of the information society became intoxicated with millennial fervour. Kevin Kelly (in New Rules for the New Economy) claimed that the net had created a “new paradigm” which had abolished the boom-and-bust economic cycle. Manuel Castells published a multi-volume celebration of the transition from the miseries of industrial nationalism to the marvels of post-industrial globalism.
When the share bubble imploded in 2001, this tale of sunny optimism lost its core audience. Shattering the dreams of the Californian ideology, boom had been followed by bust. The business cycle still regulated the economy. With jihadi terrorism and imperial adventures dominating the headlines, new media seemed so last century. However, this fall from favour was only temporary. As more people went on-line and connection speeds increased, confidence slowly returned to the new-media sector. By the mid 2000s, dotcom shares were once again trading at premium prices on the stock exchange.