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Manuel Castells and the Rise of the Network Society: An Overview

Brian Lake
100045086
brian.lake@acadiau.ca

Manuel Castells three volume “Rise of the Network Society” is on initial

examination an attempt by the author to address what he sees as the development of a

new paradigm equal if not greater in impact to the industrial revolutions that have shaped

the development of the modern age. This rather brief summation of such a large

undertaking does not do the work justice, but it does serve to effectively highlight the

recurring theme that permeates the three volume series. Castells has effectively avoided

the trap of using hyperbole in his description of the “wonders” of the information society,

but he questions the preconceived notions of what exactly is that we are dealing with.

The information society as Castells sees it must be reconciled with the development of

the people who utilize it, the technology as it has developed in a historical context and the

method by which the introduction and utilization of technology in specific ways has

defined the development of the information age.

This overview of the argument put forth by Castells in his first volume is intended

to provide a brief summation of the interpretive lens through which Castells views the

development of the information society. “The Rise of the Network Society” is

appropriately named as a first volume in the series. It is intended as an introduction the

concept of technology and society, providing a historical review of the pre-internet era

technologies and their contribution in preparing the existing social structure to accept the

changes that would be forthcoming. The introduction of the information age is often seen

as a sudden occurrence that propelled modern society into an advanced era of


technological development, but as is the case with previous technological driven social

movements, the impact was much more gradual than the popular press would have us

expect.

This review then, attempts to act as a summation of the concepts put forth by

Castells in his unique and novel interpretation of the information society, and explores in

some detail the utility derived from prior theoretical works from which Castells draws

inspiration. It also focuses primarily on the subject matter of greatest relevance to the

research undertaken, that being the definition of information technology and its

interaction with society. It is in this light that I have interpreted his work, and have thus

avoided placing unnecessary emphasis on the development of work and employment, as

explored by Castells. The primary benefits to the work of the thesis can be found in the

net and the self, the information technology revolution, the network enterprise, and the

culture of real virtuality. These pertinent sections will be approached in sequence.

The Net and the Self

In the prologue entitled The Net and the Self, Castells establishes the sociological

stage on which the development of society has taken place and is poised to further

develop. The change is quite recent, having coming to the fore in the years surrounding

the collapse of Soviet statism and the retooling of capitalism into a less insular, nationally

based concept into a more interdependent, globally focused market, taking government

and society along in their wake. 1 The nature of this profound alternation in the method of

operation of business throughout the world has been that of decentralization , and

networking of firms within their own organization and in relations to other firms, the

introduction and increasing of international trade blocs that are defined with the North
1
Castells, p. 1.
American, Asian and European contexts, and the proliferation of transnational institutions

that have expanded power and influence over the domestic and foreign affairs of the

previously isolated nation-state. 2 The use of computer networks as a communication

medium are credited with much of the acceleration of the pace of this change, as well as

the use of this technology by all aspects of society, be it for the pursuit of criminal

activity, the expansion of the popular media or the interests of business. While this

accelerated development is no doubt of great significance, Castells does not limit himself

to defining the impact of this change to industrial conglomerates and other large societal

groupings, whatever form they may happen to take. Instead, Castells takes note of the

technological and economic changes, and the concurrent changes in society, including the

transformation of women’s condition following a successful challenge of patriarchalism

in many countries, leading to subsequent debates over the definition of the relationships

between women, men and children, the nature of sexuality and the definition of the self.

The need to define oneself has contributed to the rise of ethnic cleavages and the

propagation of religious and ethnic groups focused on a strict interpretation of primary

identity, whether it be religious fundamentalism or national territoralism. It is with this

backdrop of constant change and the decline of various social moments such as Marxism,

that people gravitate towards these more primary symbols of identity. The irony as seen

by Castells is in the realization that as the world is becoming increasingly globalized and

interdependent, the search for meaning has led to a retrenchment of sorts in the creation

of insular pockets of social communication that are facing two possibilities. The first of

these possibilities is that they are part of the larger information society as a whole, or at

least in part. The presence of milita groups, religious fundamentalist movements and
2
Ibid. p. 2
terriorist organizations in the information society is an example of this. The second

possibility is that a lack of relevance to the information network that is defining our

culture may lead to the exclusion of a particular group region or even country.

These circumstances lead to what Castells defines as the collectivist net and the

individualistic self, or the “Net and the Self” 3 He argues that the social fragmentation is

the result of this lack of communication between individualistic, ideologically opposed

groups and that as the level of communication between groups decreases, social groups

and individuals become more alienated from each other, and more likely to engange in

conflict as a result. This theory of the “Net and the Self” has great potential for the

progression of the thesis work, as the object is to address the use of Information

Communications Technology as a tool of social cohesion. This would imply that social

disparity exists to begin with, as one would assume from an examination of the many

differing ideologies surrounding them. The theory of the net and the self attributes the

existence of this very disparity to the lack of communication between groups, which in

turn leads to the alienation of these groups and the increased potential for conflict in

whatever form it may take. This theory validates the importance of the use of ICT as a

tool of social cohesion to begin with, as we are faced with the daunting task of

establishing communication (even conflictual communication in the form of opposition)

between social groups and individuals, as a means of reducing alienation. In the

European Integration context, this is a particular concern in the search for a European

identity whilst maintain a national sense of self. No proponent of a federal Europe would

ever consider the possibility of no longer considering themselves “British” or “Irish” or

“Greek”. These national identities are based on the “self” as Castells characterizes it – the
3
Castells p. 3
perceived identity of self. The goal is not to supplant that, but to supplement it with the

“Net”, adapted to this case in the form of a deepening of ties within the European Union.

The goal in opening lines of communication is not to deprive the Irish citizen of their

individualistic self identity, but to allow them to share an appreciation for the perspective

of their Greek counterpart by example, thus achieving a greater prosperity through the

collectivist net while maintaining ones own primary identity.

This search for identity in the midst of the information age begs the question of

the extent of the impact of technology on society. The idea that the introduction of

sufficiently advanced technology would address this disparity between the concepts of

the “Net and the Self” cannot be so simple – otherwise one could argue that the simple

solution to the lack of social cohesion was simply reliant on the introduction of

sufficiently advanced technology on some future date. Technology does not determine

society, nor does society determine technology.4 They interact with each other certainly,

but neither can be credited as being the driving force behind the other. Castells argues

that society cannot be understood without being interpreted in the context of its

technological tools. Indeed, it would be difficult to gain a clear understanding of human

society if one were to ignore a simple technological tool such as the telephone for

instance – this technology has been integrated into various societies to an extent that it

must be examined in any comprehensive overview of the society in question. Castells

argues that by the same token the development of the early internet communications

network must be used as a tool in order to understand the social development of this

small segment of American society that was making use of it. A telling example of the

unintended social conquences of technology is the development of the Internet. A


4
Castells p. 5
military decentralization initiative with no initial civilian purpose eventually came to

have a profound impact in the manner in which communication was conducted

worldwide, growing exponentially in scope and function, graduating from simple text

communication to the transference of visual and auditory stimuli with an increasingly

growing population.

It is this correlation between the development of societies and the development of

technology that Castells uses to emphasize the need to include technological development

in any reasonable assessment of societal change. The ability or inability of societies to

master technologies that can be strategically decisive at any particular point in history, is

in the view of Castells, an important component in any evaluation of the capacity for a

society to transform itself. He makes the point that technology, while not being

responsible for the change in society itself, embodies the capacity for change.5 That is

success or failure in the ability to develop technologically is a useful indicator of a

societies ability to transform itself. He summarizes it as such:

…the ability or inability of societies to master technology, and particularly


technologies that are strategically decisive in each historical period. Largely
shapes their destiny, to the point that we could say that technology per se does not
determine historical evolution and social change, technology (or the lack of it)
embodies the capacity of societies to transform themselves, as well as the uses to
which societies, always in a conflictive process, decide to put their technological
potential.” 6

The ability to use technology has historically presented two options as seen by

Castells – either society will embrace technological change, or else seek to inhibit its

5
Ibid. p. 7.
6
P. 7.
development through the mechanism of the state. The outpacing of Chinese civilization

by European society serves as an example of the utilization of technology and its capacity

to provoke drastic change in society. As early as 1400 CE, China had accrued

considerable experience in iron casting, agriculture, textiles and military tools, but had

abandoned a centuries long tradition of technological development, fearing the

potentially disruptive effects of technology on the social fabric. 7 The inability, or rather,

disinterest of the state in pursuing technological advancements led to a stagnation of

development, which would not be driven home until the 1842 Opium War, in which

China realized the extent of its decline. The point Castells wishes to make in providing

this example is that having had a state controlled process of technological innovation was

of great benefit to China, but at a price. As long as interest was maintained in

technological innovation, the state thrives, but when the state loses interest in this sort of

development, the statist model of innovation leads to a decline in development.8 This is

not to say that the state is a impediment to the successful application of technology in

society. Its does make the point however, that exclusively dedicating resources to the

state alone ignores the ability for autonomous development in a society, and poses the

risk of stagnation if the state loses interest. The overall tone of this argument is to further

emphasize that between technology and society the role of the state must be considered,

in either its ability to stall, simply allow, or actively promote technological innovation.

The information technology revolution is not immune to the force of history and society.

Castells characterizes the new society that is emerging from the information revolution as

capitalist and informational, but not uniform. The different historical influences in

7
IIbid. P 9.
8
Ibid. p. 11
various countries have helped define how a country reacts to the information technology

and how they utilize it.

The importance of the historical development of technological implementation

thus considered, Castells seeks to define how information technology has influenced our

present post-industrial society. He asserts that the rise of information technology should

be considered no differently than historical equivalents, in that the influence of the

dominant form of social organization - capitalism, should be considered. The introduction

of the terms informationalism, industrialism, capitalism and statism form the foundation

for what Castells sees as the “modes of development” versus the “modes of production”.

Before exploring these modes however, Castells seeks to clarify exactly how he interprets

the concept of informationalism, industrialism, capitalism and statism. Castells references

the work of Daniel Bell and Alain Touraine in explaining his separation of the concepts

of informationalism and industrialism from capitalism and statism. The latter are seen as

modes of production, while the former are modes of development.9 The point of making

these sociological distinctions for Castells are more than just to inform the reader of the

more arcane distinctions of sociological development. Rather his overlying goal is to

herald the rise of “a new mode of development, informationalism, historically shaped by

the restructuring of the capitalist mode of production towards the end of the 20th

century”10

The entire idea of the modes of production then, as described by Castells is that

society is organized in class relationships that are socially complex. It includes both

labour and the organizers of production, with the interaction amongst ourselves,

9
p. 14
10
p. 14
consumption of that which is produced, experience gained through production, and power

gained through the control of production coming together to create cultures and collective

identities.11

This leaves the concept of modes of development, which are an extension of the

modes of production. The productive capacity of a mode or production, or the ratio of the

value of each unit of output to each unit of input determines technological relationships

of production to development, or the mode of development. In short, the mode of

development increases the efficiency of the production and the nature and quantity of the

product available. In the agrarian example provided, increases in labour and land

provided the stimulus for growth. In the industrial context, improved energy sources and

more efficient utilization of them increased productivity. These examples attempt to

provide a historical line of reasoning to the definition of the mode of development in the

information age, which is distinct from the mode of production, which previously existed

in the industrial age, but still interacts with it. The informational age, according to

Castells, has embraced a new mode of development unlike any previously considered.

The new mode of development tied to the mode of production (capitalism) is in the

technology of knowledge generation, information processing and symbol

communication.12 This is unique not in the application of knowledge in the process of

production, but in the idea of knowledge becoming the commodity itself. The cycle is

self-perpuating, with the improvement of technology capable of communicating symbolic

information, analyzing information and generating new information leading to a increase

in the rate of communication. Castells calls this mode of development informational,

11
p. 15
12
p. 17
constituted by what he sees as a new standard in information technology. It would be

accurate to say that accepting this term, informational development could be described as

a perpetual motion machine of sorts. The more knowledge it generates, the more new

material it has with which to improve upon itself, thereby increasing its capacity to

generate new knowledge. Castells seems to tacitly acknowledge this, noting that it is the

pursuit of knowledge that characterizes informationalism. Castells further makes the

point that technological production is present in all forms of society, be they economic,

military, or social. This informationalism as defined as Castells is based on the

technology of knowledge and has the potential to impact across several level of society.

As a result the technology of knowledge that defines the information age and the mode of

development applied to the mode of production will have a deep societal impact. It is the

nature of this impact that forms the foundation of Castells work. As Castells states

himself, his overall purpose is “to propose some elements of an exploratory, cross-

cultural theory of economy and society in the information age as it specifically refers to

the emergence of a new societal structure”.13 If one seeks a simpler explanation of what

this series of books is about, a short answer is available – this book is about

informationalism. Informationalism is the new paradigm promoted by Castells, subject to

a complex definition of the underlying methods of production and development, with an

understanding of how established concepts such as capitalism and statism fit in, with a

sense of continuity established from the agrarian age to the industrial age to the present

post-industrial, or “information age”. The question that arises in the consideration of this

work is how it relates to the thesis topic to which this review is intended to contribute.

The use of ICT as a tool promotion of social cohesion in the European Union, as
13
p. 27
established in the initial methodology of the thesis development, cannot be undertaken as

a purely statist endeavour. Castells work supports this assertion, and reinforces the need

for a community based approach supplemented by measured governmental intervention.

Defining the technology of communication through informationalism likewise establishes

information communication technology as more than an external tool that must be

approached hesitantly by European governments. Informationalism makes the case that

the technology of knowledge communication is integrated into and defining society

actively, thus putting the emphasis on how the technology is utilized, lest they be left

behind. The argument put forth by Castells is succinctly put – ignore the information age

at your peril. The argument put forth by the thesis is similar, namely that the use of

electronic governance is vital to the continued democratic accountability of the European

Union as a supranational structure of governance, both in increasing transparency in

governmental institutions and creating a common European identity that allows citizens

to interrelate within the expanding boundaries of the Union.

The information technology revolution.

Having established the methodological definitions of the subject matter that he intends

to use, Castells proceeds on to the information technology revolution, with the underlying

goal of accounting for the development of information technology and describing how

the development of the new technological paradigm organized around information

technology came to be. The current role of technology expends exponentially in the view

of Castells in that technology provides an interface between the various fields of

technology in which language is generated, stored, retrieved, and processed and


transmitted.14 The underlying goal is to convince the reader that the information

technology revolution is not simply subject to hyperbole and distortion of its effects, but

as pervasive and with as great an impact as the previous industrial revolutions. An

important point made in this argument by Castells is that the effects of technological

revolutions such as the industrial revolution is that they are characterized by their

pervasiveness. They are not simply an external force effecting the balance of society,

rather, they form part of the fabric of society and are inexorably woven into it. Castells

makes the argument that like all other technological revolutions, this one is process-

oriented, as we have witnessed in his description in the mode of development.15 There

does exist a distinction which distinguished this revolution form the one that have

occurred prior to this one however. Information technology is not simply an invention but

an energy source, on par with the tools used to generate energy in previous revolutions.

The global proliferation of this technology is also worthy of note, given the staggered

worldwide export of the technologies of the industrial revolution, often taking on the

form of colonialism. By contrast, the near worldwide spread of information technologies

between the 1970s and the end of the 1990, is in the view of Castells, characteristic of the

information revolution –the technologies it develops are immediately applicable to its

own development

The specific field of communications is of greater interest to the development of

the thesis than just the broader approach to the development age as a whole. While

Castells’ approach to the overall character of the information age is particularly useful in

establishing a context in which to evaluate the impact of technology on social structures,

14
p. 30
15
p. 31
the practical application of technology as it has been applied must be considered as well.

The self-perpetrating nature of the development of the information age is illustrated

through the use of a practical example in the development of communications

technology. The use of telecommunications devices have gone through a process of

automation of tasks, experimentation of used and reconfiguration of applications.16 An

example of this may be presented in the invention of the telephone, which was

continually improved upon by those who used it, adding the users of the technology to

the list of those able to improve it and the eventual reconfiguration of communications

technologies to accept new forms of communication such as fax, telex and the now

common computer processing signals. Castells acknowledges this progression, providing

a historical overview of the development of modern computer meditated communications

technology, citing the development of computer communication protocols as an

extension of existing telephone switching networks.17

The information technology paradigm, as approached by Castells, has specific

characteristics that can effectively summarize the material foundation of the information

society. That information is the raw material is the first of these, as previously mentioned.

It is the fuel with which new information is generated, making it a unique occurrence in

contrast to previous revolutions. As Castells summarizes it, “these are technologies to act

on information, not just information to act on technology”18 The second feature is the

pervasiveness of the effects of these new technologies. Although technology does not

determine the shape of society, it does define how we approach it, thus influencing our

development. Thirdly, the networking logic of any system or set of relationships using

16
p. 32
17
p. 46
18
p. 61
technologies is a defining characteristic of the information technology revolution. This

idea of networking logic lends insight to the title of the work: The Network Society” and

takes inspiration from the properties of networking logic in an analysis of the information

society. The creative power of technological interaction and communication . The

creative power and complex interactions amongst such large groups is now possible

through the use of communications technology, providing a networking structure that was

previously too cumbersome to implement. The idea of networking logic is central to the

development of the thesis topic, as it is the proposal of my thesis that increasing social

cohesion is dependent on these technological dependent networks that provide structure

while at the same time remaining sufficiently flexibly for innovation to be considered

possible. It is this flexibility that is the fourth characteristic of the new information

technology paradigm advanced by Castells. The information age has a great deal of

flexibility available to it in that organization and institutions can be modified, as in the

opinion of Castells, the material basis of the organization can be reprogrammed and

retooled, although he does not specify how such an event would take place. 19 The fifth

characteristic of the information technology paradigm is the convergence of specific

technologies into an integrated system. Telecommunications has experienced a shift from

being the only form of information processing to becoming one of many. Indeed,

telecommunications has integrated other forms of information such as microprocessor

and optoelectronic data transmission, in order to increase efficiency. This technological

convergence is not particularly surprising in this instance, as the network through which

technological developments occur would dictate that the experience gained in one field

would almost inevitably overflow into a closely related field. Castells sums up nicely the
19
p. 62
information technology paradigm as a multi-edged network, which is comprehensive, and

complex.20

The Culture of Real Virtuality: The Integration of Electronic Communication, the

End of the Mass Audience, and the Rise of Interactive Networks.

In his interpretation of what he called the culture of real virtuality, Castells again seeks

to illustrate through historical interpretation the development of information culture. The

character of communication, rather than the means through which it is transmitted,

becomes the subject of this particular chapter.

The initial creation of written language seemed, in the opinion of Castells, a

truncation of the process of communication, which up until that point had incorporated

visual as well as auditory stimuli. As he asserts, the price paid for the establishment of the

foundation of human communication through the written discourse was to relegate the

world of sounds and images to a position behind the written word as a means of

communication. The introduction of communication into a interactive network however,

represents a change in this two thousand year old pattern. For the first time the written,

oral and visual modes of communication have been integrated into a single

communications structure. As Castells puts it, the potential integration of text, images

and sounds in the same system interacting from multiple points along a global network in

conditions of open or affordable access, does fundamentally change the nature of

communication.21 Castells invokes the works of Neil Postman as an illustration noting

that the nature of communication does have an impact on culture, as we do not see reality

20
p. 65
21
p. 328
as it is, but rather through the lens of language. Altering the means of how that language

is communicated, changes our conceptions of society.22

The issue of the method of communication that has dominated the transfer of

information in society up until this point, is one which Castells seeks to address,

particularly in the change that has been forced upon it by the introduction of new

technologies. The rise of the mass media is approached as an initial example of the move

away from the written word towards a more visually based process of communication.

The advent of television is presented as the foremost example of this. It represented the

end of the system of communication dominated by the typographical mind.23 This system

of communication is predominantly unidirectional however. The key issue for Castells is

that while mass-media is a one-way communication system, the actual process of

communication is not, but depends on the interaction between the sender and receiver in

the interpretation of the message.

Of importance to the main topic however, is what Castells refers to as “the new

media and the diversification of mass audience24. This process began in the 1980s with a

personalization of technology attempting to compensate for the unidirectional nature of

traditional mass media communication to that point. Newspapers began publishing local

or regional editions in an effort to appear more relevant to their audience. Personalized

audio devices, walkmans, created a challenge for radio broadcasters to diversify their

content to appeal to a dwindling listening base, using such measures as the creation of

speciality stations and talk-radio. The popular adoption of VCRs after a lengthy hiatus

also changed the viewing habits of the population, in that they gained the ability to

22
p. 328
23
p. 331
24
p. 337
selectively reinforce their watching habits, rather that simply appeal to the lowest

common dominator of “what was on”. 25 Castells sees the improvement of visual

recording technology as important in encouraging diversification in the diversification of

the audience, allowing them greater participation through the ability to participate in

broadcasting at the local level, but sees as more important the introduction of advanced

communications networks which allowed for the creation of diversified cable networks.

The rise of independent cable television networks challenged the dominance of

established governmental broadcasters. As Castells notes, in the European Union itself

the number of cable television stations rose from 40 in 1980 to 150 by the mid-1990s,

signifying a significant diversification in the content being offered by sheer size and

competition for the pre-existing audience if nothing else. The UNESCO mid-1990s

estimate of 1 billion televisions worldwide, with a predicted annual five percent annual

growth rate, drives home the point for Castells that the mass audience, although still as

much a mass as ever before, is no longer a homogenous body.26 The message it receives

is no longer uniform within the confines of a particular state or region. Instead specific

content is available dependent on viewing preference and personal taste. The

segmentation of the audience into specific fields of interest shapes the development of the

communications medium as well. The design of broadcasting intented to appeal to an

audience seeking global news is likely to be undertaken in a method different from that

required for the presentation of music videos. The preferences of the audience now have

some say in determining the nature of the content. There exists a greater desire on the

part of the broadcaster to appeal to the ideologies, tastes and values of the viewing

25
p. 338
26
p. 339
audience. Castells makes an interesting play on the concept of the global village with this

in mind. He asserts that, “…we are not living in a global village, but in customized

cottages globally produced and locally distributed.”27 The communications network

might well be global with the ability to reach the whole of the population, but this does

not determine the content. Even if the medium is capable of delivering a certain message,

that is by no means a guarantee that it will actually be delivered. This emphasis on the

importance of media development might bed the question of its relevance to the

development of the information society and the practical application of this information,

but Castells uses this initial example of the effects of personal preference on the content

of the medium. He uses this to establish a link with the advent of computer mediated

communication.

The rise of computer mediated communication is examined in some detail by

Castells, with an overview of the French and American networks established and the idea

of a closed network versus an open network and the technology behind it. Of greater

relevance however are his conclusions on the nature of this communication. He makes an

excellent point on the universality of the digital language and the networking logic of the

communication leading to a global, horizontal communications system.28 Although

Castells does not explain why the technology of this network is difficult to censor or

control, but he is quite correct in asserting that the only method for controlling this

network is not to be in it. The underlying reason for this difficulty is in the nature or diital

communication. The basis of all communication languages is that of machine language,

which takes the form of binary code – a collection of 0’s (signifying an electronic gate as

27
p. 341
28
p. 352
being open) and 1’s (signifying an electronic gate as being closed). No microprocessor

based technology (which now encompasses almost all aspects of modern

communications) can escape this fact, which means that no matter what measure is

undertaken, it is not possible to ensure absolute control over such a network. Any

measure can be circumvented if the proper knowledge is available.

The development of this network technology was spurred by the contribution of

private citizens modifying the existing networking protocols to spread this

communication technologies. Castells notes that the initial digital communication

network (ARPANET), spared the creation of independent networks designed to tailor

themselves to the needs of the community using them, as was the case when two students

not included in the US defence project created the Xmodem protocol, that allowed the

use of standard phone lines for communication while bypassing the expensive

communications systems developed by the US government and restricted to a privileges

few universities. 29 This illustrates a argument that Castells attempts to make throughout

his discussion of the rise of interactive networks – namely that once the technological

means became available, those with the technological know how would use their

knowledge to create a horizontal network expanding on the original project. As a

convincing validation of this argument, thousands of independent networks exist around

the world, some on a local scale, many confined to university campus, and others on a

national or international scale. University campuses have provided much of the effort in

the creation of what has become known as the Internet, and Castells credits them with

providing the open characterization of the network. It is this open nature of this network

which leads him to conclude that a commercial Internet would arise alongside the current
29
p. 353
internet, allowing the secure transmission of commercial communication.30 While an

interesting theory, Castells seems to ignore his previous statement that the only way to

control the communications network is to remain outside of it. Any technology seeking to

form a separate communications network would be subject to the same basic principles

that the current network is. This has been tacitly acknowledged in the rise of e-commerce

on the internet and the more reasonable goal of remaining ahead of the wave of those

who would infiltrate the communication network through the use of encryption and the

law as a means of deterring such action.

The overall social and cultural pattern of this communications network is subject

to four characteristics, in the view of Castells. There exists widespread social and cultural

differentiation across this network, which contributes to the second characteristic o of

social stratification. Thirdly, these diverse messages are all within the same

communications medium. And finally, the most important feature of this network for

Castells is that it included all cultural expressions in all their diversity, both audibly and

visually, in a way that no previous media could.31

This overview of the work of Manual Castells has the primary benefit of

providing an insight into the nature of communication and the networks upon which it is

established. Castells effectively establishes a historical context to the symbolic

communication of concepts through communications mediums and ties that in to the

modern context in an effective manner. His invention of many of the terms used in the

discussion of the nature of the communications network, seems somewhat awkard, but is

built on a solid methodological base with emphasis on the works of Daniel Bell and Mark

30
p. 357h
31
p. 372
Postman, which suggests that a further examination of Castells influences is necessary to

effectively understand his work. The novel interpretation of the development of the

information age as a force segmenting society does not contribute in a positive way

towards my goal of establishing the use of Information communications technology as a

tool of social cohesion in the European context, but the universality of the network itself

redeems the basis of my argument, as Castells notes that the segmentation is based on a

series of personal preferences, rather than an external force. My thesis work will have to

account for this, examining local and national efforts to create a common series of

preferences that are reinforced through the use of this communications and social

network.