Critical discussion and annotated Web Log of examining one of Castell’s five features of the information society: The tendency towards convergence produced by digitization
The contemporary society places vital importance to information and knowledge. The emphasis on the benefits of information and communication technology reflects this mentality. The modern world is in rush where people are encouraged to value convenience and proper management of information. Time is a critical matter wherein everything has to proceed in the shortest duration as possible. This is observable in the spread of interactive human relations through the Internet and the change to an information-centered social living.
Society today is primarily marked by globalization, digital living, information and communication technology, and consumerism. Lifestyles are dictated by aggressive marketing of global companies that are warmly accommodated through the open boundaries of every nation. Trends are passed on across countries and continents as technology provides vast opportunities for human interaction, communication and information exchange. In addition, people are preoccupied with finding ways to get hold of the latest digital gadgets so as to adapt to the changing mode of contemporary living. Today, people constitute a big global citizenry, human living is subject to updates, and interpersonal relationships occur in a virtual world.
AMAZON WEBSITE: AN EXAMPLE OF CASTELL’S IDEA ON THE TENDENCY TOWARDS CONVERGENCE PRODUCED BY DIGITIZATION
Castell, a sociologist, claims that the present times have given rise to a new society and economy that is global, networked and informational. Castell says that the new society puts immense value on information and networking making these two elements dictate production processes, human experiences, administration of power and the kind of culture that people live in. He formulated five features of the information society based on “mass diffusion of information and communication innovations.” One of these features states that the networked society paves the way for convergence of specific technological innovations into a single integrated system through digitization and electronic commerce (2002).
The website www.amazon.com is primarily an electronic bookstore that has changed the way books are sold and bought by readers. The website offers an extensive line of choices with about 25 million titles, has the capacity to identify and recognize consumer preferences as well as keep them informed of new books available for sale (1998). Amazon employs state-of-the-art technology in its warehouse and website. The company has developed a customized information and dedicated ordering system, which are linked with suppliers for automatic book ordering. The search engine employs XML and Oracle database technology, which bring up results in a matter of seconds. Once the book or an item is found, users sign in using the one-click system and the purchase is complete. The company’s software processes the orders through electronic interfaces or electronic data interchange with suppliers and all the stages in the supply chain are computerized (2004). The effective use of information and communication technology has made Amazon a concrete example of convergence based on the idea of Castell. The website is now both a bookstore and a department store where products, customers, suppliers, and vendors can interact and complete business transactions. The link is a place where all the products that Amazon sells can be found. The site opens with a search engine that lists product categories from books to DVDs, videos and music to beauty and fashion items and to gourmet food and housewares. The website also provides a link to browse the bestsellers of the company in different categories. Each bestseller is presented through a product description, reviews and recommendations from people who purchased the item. The link connects products with customers as people can simply click on the mouse to view items that suit their lifestyles and needs. The site also provides a venue for people to find a common ground and become diverged with one another regardless of differences in backgrounds, cultures and identities. The site accommodates music lovers, bookworms, fashion trendsetters, beauty experts, mothers, professionals and so forth. Each of these individuals logs into the site with their diverse personal interests and being in the site brings them face to face with other people with their own unique interests. The overlapping interests and identities in the website made possible by technology and digitization renders a concrete foundation for collective consumption and the consumer society. The network society, in the words of Castell, is a capitalist society wherein modes of production are managed privately; consumers and producers are governed by capitalist economic relations; and each society is subsumed in the global market economy (2002). In the capitalist society, consumers often share physical spaces of consumption such as tourist spots, shopping malls, sports activity venues, and restaurants without really having any actual social interaction. Consumer lifestyles and preferences can change based on access to trends and lifestyles from other parts of the world (Scranton 2005, p. 13). The Amazon link where products and consumers, and consumers and consumers converge is another physical space that reflects what Castell and Scranton say about the network society in the information era. The site gives access to consumers on the latest consumer product out in the market. Some customers log in with already established ideas and standards for a specific product. The need to log in to Amazon is to know the prevailing prices and if there are better offers. However, some log in just to browse. When these consumers come across testimonials and recommendations of anonymous customers, their perception regarding a product can be formed or can change. Thus, the tendency for the transfer of preferences and lifestyles become more possible. and (2003) claim that consumers in the modern world oftentimes permit a computer database of suggestions and recommendations from registered users (a sample is such website as amazon.com) to improve the data-processing aspects of their lives enough to let them make retail choices based on other people’s ideas – people whose identities are concealed in the anonymity of the World Wide Web ().
Accordingly, the link is a venue for publishers, authors, music labels and recording studios to advertise, market and sell their products through Amazon. The site provides vendors and suppliers the chance to promote their products and items, collect orders, and deliver completed orders to customers within 24 hours. The site also explains to vendors how their products are marketed to customers as well as provides a chance to constantly update their product information. A connecting link for publishers selling professional, medical and technical books provides a chance to meet other members of Amazon. The site displays testimonials from officials of other member-companies on the advantages of Amazon in their marketing efforts and organizational performance. This site is helpful for potential members to know what they can avail of when they decide to commit to an Amazon membership. The two vendor sites are very promising venues for interactive networking between global firms and corporations. The sites are models of what Castell termed as the global/informational city wherein economic production and transactions are coordinated, innovated and managed by the interconnected activities of networks of various firms. Advanced technologies such as the Internet provides firms from all points of the globe the ability to target customers and fulfill corporate objectives through electronic commerce, knowledge generation and consistent flows of information (1996). The two links in the Amazon website cited above are instrumental in enabling global firms to promote and sell their product and gain competitive advantage through online information, and electronic order and delivery systems that are products of digitization. These run parallel to what Castell said about the new economy being informational, global and networked (2002). The Amazon links for vendors arrange information so that customers can access it in the most coherent way possible and help them make choices. The links are global and networked because firms from within and outside the United States can register for membership, promote products in the language of the country where the vendor comes from, contribute to the development of a more diverse online consumer market, gain access to market intelligence through the information on other companies provided in the site, gather market strategies, and attain corporate profits for themselves in the process ().
Furthermore, a related Amazon link for vendors tackles every possible question that a vendor can have relative to membership in the company. The site boasts that Amazon accommodates transactions “24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year” so as to ensure that products can reach the customers who are most likely to appreciate and benefit from them as well as maintain its international reputation of excellent, reliable and secure service. These statements reflect the concepts of “flexibility” and “timeless time” by . state that the fourth characteristic of the information technology paradigm requires social processes, organizational structures and institutional forms to possess flexibility so as to ensure that activities and mechanisms within these various entities can metamorphose when unforeseen changes and unpredictability call for it (2002). Also, the modern information society values liquidity, fluidity, mobility, synchronicity and speed in numerous social, economic and political processes. Timeless time becomes the norm for existence as contemporary living puts emphasis on convenience, ease, and rapid human exchanges (2006). Amazon provides answers to the contemporary requirement of flexibility and timeless time. The website has the ability to capture what the customer wants through product reviews and recommendations being posted in the websites. According to (2003) the key to competing in the information age is gathering, filtering, and organizing information. Understanding the requirements of customers, employing proactive strategies for gathering and organizing of information, and a significant investment in intelligence gathering capabilities are central to sustainable competitive advantage. There are many ways to gather information effectively. One of them is through a customer feedback system. Feedback is critical to understanding customer needs and to fine-tuning products and services. Amazon.com always gathers feedback from customers when making changes to its website (). The abovementioned ideas are supported by Castells’ notion that the contemporary mode of economy and society rely heavily on information processing, knowledge generation and management, symbolic communication, flexibility, networking and convergence. In this new society, productivity and competitive advantage of firms and corporations are dictated by their capacity to accumulate, manage and use information to meet the demands of modern citizens and contemporary social living (2002). The website also enables vendors to update details of their consumer products and items so that the consumers can access the latest information there is and therefore help them to decide the best option for them. Moreover, the website can be conveniently accessed anytime and anywhere as long as there is an Internet connection. The customer can place the order in the website and shipment of the product can take place within 24 hours. The company has an online customer service page available at all times . The link also reflects flexibility as portions for sellers and customers are separated and any complainant can navigate the self-help buttons or send the company an email about inquiries not answered through the self-help component. Bill Gates, owner of the software giant Microsoft, states “I buy all my books at Amazon.com because I’m busy and it’s convenient. They have a big selection, and they’ve been reliable ( 2004).
The Amazon website basically adopts information management, convergence, flexibility, and timeless time in its entirety. The website offers a wide array of consumer products that can answer the need of every possible consumer there is. The website does not only provide consumer products for general and basic needs but special occasions and purposes as well. Links like which displays the latest gift items for special occasions (Valentine’s Day at present) and which helps future brides and grooms in wedding registry and planning are two examples of specialized product category offered by Amazon. The gift central/special occasion link offers information on the best gift items for every specific special occasion based on price, relationship with, age and personality of the person who will receive the gift, and type of gift. The wedding page, on the other hand, contains do-it-yourself wedding ideas, information on family affairs, wedding planning guides, and a wedding registry option. The two websites bind consumers and vendors during occasions that call for a more special type of product and gift item that would make the occasion more meaningful for consumers. Castell puts forward that the network in today’s society is actually the enterprise. The network enterprise is a lean agency of economic activity wherein business mechanisms and practices are facilitated in an “ad hoc” manner depending upon specific and short-lived demands ( 2005). The two special Amazon sites serve consumers on an ad hoc basis as only products for special events are featured in the sites. The Amazon website also hosts both consumer preferences and vendor information so that customers and sellers can both have unrestricted access to various goods and services that the modern person needs. Every consumer or vendor can easily access the website and can contribute ideas and information that may help in the continuous transaction of the company. Generally, Amazon.com is a highly influential online community where lifestyles, personal identities, preferences, and social resources meet to ensure that the society can have a ready response to every specific need or want.