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Research Proposal - Beyond Post-Industrialism: A Sociological Investigation of Lifestyles in the Information Society

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Beyond Post-Industrialism: A Sociological Investigation of Lifestyles in the Information Society



  1. Aims and Objectives
    1. Research aim

It is obvious that technology plays a critical role in the emerging social system described by Bell (1973) as the ‘Post-Industrial Society’. However, the explosion of information technology such as computers and the Internet that began in the late seventies and continued through the eighties and nineties was not yet realized. Fortunately, the explosive technological changes that hit during this time period seemed to fit quite well with the post-industrial society concept. New information technologies that quickly permeated offices, industrial processes, schools and the home seemed to be everywhere. With the arrival of such technologies also came many sudden changes and a desire to better understand these changes and their impact. Bell’s (1973) ‘The Coming of Post-Industrial Society’ provided a ready-made model, and it was quickly recognized as the standard for many commentators on this subject. In an unsettling period of change, Bell’s  ‘Post-Industrial Society’ brought intellectual order even though by his own admittance, the concept was only at the level of abstraction (Webster 1995). This study intends to provide an examination on the lifestyles in an information society using sociological schemes.


    1. Research objective

The study intends to provide a sociological investigation of the lifestyles in an information society using the Current Population Survey (CPS). Specifically, the study seeks to accomplish the following objectives:

a.                            To understand the role of lifestyle and its sociological importance in establishing a model of the information society;

b.                            To find out the differences in informationalized lifestyles based on the CPS of 1998 and 2000;

c.                            To find out the differences in the study population for those who are technology-enabled as opposed to those who are not; and

d.                            To find out the differences in the informationalized lifestyles across groups for those who are technology-enabled.

    1. Possible hypotheses

Hypothesis 1:  Based on the rate of diffusion of technology throughout all levels within the information society some groups are more likely to be technology enabled (to have access to the Internet) than other groups and this will result in structurally determined chances to realize the informatizationalized lifestyle of the information society.


Hypothesis 2:  For those that are afforded life chances as determined by access to technology and the Internet, certain groups within the information society have a higher probability that others to realize certain choices that result in an informatizationalized lifestyle.


Hypothesis 3:  Socio-economic status interacts with gender, ethnicity, age and marital status to form a stratification system of informatizationalized lifestyles within the information society where structurally determined life chances mitigate life choices that result in the informatizationalized lifestyle.

  1. Rationale and Contribution
    1. Description of Topic

The term most often used to describe this time period in American society is the term “Information Society”.  Such a conceptualization is readily apparent through the literature in the use of terms such as  “Information Workers” and  “Information Revolution”  (Makridakis 1995).  The changes currently witnessed in contemporary society certainly are obvious in terms of technological innovations, but they also have significance in terms of social change.  Anything involving massive social change such as has been witnessed in the last few decades is clearly a worthwhile area of sociological endeavor. In an attempt to define, study, and understand these social changes, two sociological traditions have emerged – post-industrialism and post-modernism.

    1. Rationale for choice of Topic

Recent developments in information technology must be considered in developing a sociological model of the information society.   As stated earlier, the convergence of telecommunication technology with computers is a not a recent trend.  However, the latest developments in this area as represented by the Internet are a recent phenomenon.  Technological advancements such as that presented by the Internet do not serve to bring about social changes.  However, it must be recognized that the technological capabilities afforded by information technology must be available before certain social changes can occur such as those that might be represented by an informatizationalized lifestyle in the information society.

No quantitative research on the informatizationalized lifestyles of the information society currently exists.  To understand the role of lifestyle and its sociological importance in establishing a model of the information society, one has to interpret it sociologically in terms of structure and culture. By blending works on the post-industrial society and post-modern society, a sociological model of the information society can be formulated, operationalized and studied.


    1. Outline of key literature

In the post-industrialism literature, one most often finds Daniel Bell (1973).  His work is deeply engrained with Marxists theories on labor and capital that treats social class as a power relationship based on property ownership and the means of production (Waters 1996).   The main difference between Bell and Marx is that for Bell power relations defined by social class is derived from intellectual property ownership as opposed physical property ownership.   These property relations are heavily driven by the relationship between the forces of production and the social relations of production within the techno-economic structure of post-industrial society (Waters 1996).  Much of his theorizing in this area presumes that technological change within the post-industrial society increases the cognitive complexity of work that in turn requires experts and thus eliminates routine jobs (Wright and Martin 1987).  Wright and Martin (1987) maintain that this line of thinking leads post-industrial theorists to expect a process of gradual deproletarianization characterized by an expansion in the semi-autonomous employee category and a decline in the working class.  This theorizing is derived by Bell’s (1973) own research where he marches through the sectors (Miles and Gershuny 1986) to identify a movement of the labor force from agricultural and manufacturing jobs to service occupations that he then determines to be social changes within the techno-economic structure of society (Waters 1996).

Bell’s theory of post-industrial society is a theory of social change.  Significant for this study are certain post-industrial society ideas that he defined into a new and challenging explanation of a changing social structure.  Specifically, the important contributions for this study can be summarized as a society whose infrastructure is heavily defined by information technology and characterized by the development of a large service sector that is heavily dependent upon professional and technical occupations denoted by the increasing intellectualized nature of work which can only be performed through ongoing educational endeavors where the knowledge theory of value gets translated into information and treated as commodity.

In the post-modern tradition, one finds a different focal point in terms of explaining the social changes within contemporary American society.  In this body of literature, theorizing and study is more focused on culture and it is deeply engrained in Weberian theory of lifestyles.  In fact, Cockerham et al. (1997) maintain that the increased attention given to lifestyles as a key sociological concept is one of the most important new developments in sociological theory.  Moreover, many contemporary theorists believe that lifestyles are more important influences on behavior than social class (Hradil 1987).

Among the classical theorists, Weber (1978) provides the deepest insight into the lifestyle concept and the foundation for subsequent lifestyle research.  He links lifestyle by pointing out a distinguishing characteristic of status to status honor or prestige, which is normally expressed by the fact that a specific style of life is expected from all those who belong to the circle.  Status, not class plays the larger role in Weber’s perspective.  Status groups originate through a sharing of similar lifestyles or as a means to preserve a particular style of life.  Weber observed that lifestyles were based not so much on what people produced, but on what they consumed.  As Weber puts it, one might thus say that classes are stratified according to their relations to the production   and acquisition of goods, whereas status groups are stratified according to the principles of their consumption of goods as represented by special styles of life.  In other words, lifestyle differences between status groups are based on their relationship to the means of consumption, not the means of production, although this does not mean that consumption is independent of production.  The economic mode of production sets the basic parameters within which consumption occurs but does not determine or even necessarily effect specific forms of it because the consumption of goods and services conveys a social meaning that displays, at the time, the status and social identity of the consumer.  Consumption can then be regarded as a set of social and cultural practices that establish differences between social groups, not merely as a means of expressing differences that are already in place because of economic factors.  The use of particular goods and services through distinct lifestyles ultimately distinguishes status groups from one another.

Weber (1978) made use of three terms to express his concept of lifestyles.  These are:  Stilisierung des Lebens (stylization of life) or, more simply, Lebensstil (lifestyle); Lebensführung (life conduct); and Lebenschancen (life chances), with the last two comprising the two basic components of lifestyles   Lebensführung refers to people’s choices in their selection of lifestyles, although literally it means life conduct and refers to choice or self-direction in behavior, not lifestyles.   Lebenschancen, on the other hand, is the probability of realizing those choices.

Weber believed that choice is the major factor in the operationalization of a lifestyle but that the actualization of choices is influenced by life chances.  As Ralf Dahrendorf (1979) notes, life chances are the crystallized probability of finding satisfaction for interests, wants and needs; thus, the probability of the occurrence of events that bring about satisfaction. The probability of acquiring satisfaction is anchored in structural conditions that are largely economic, but Dahrendorf (1979) suggests that the concept of life chances also involves rights, norms and social relationships, that is, the probability that others will respond in a certain manner.  Weber (1978) does not consider life chances to be a matter of pure chance.  Instead, they are the chances people have in life because of their social situation.  Chance is socially determined, and social structure is an arrangement of chances.  Lifestyles are, therefore, not random behaviors unrelated to structure but are typically deliberate choices influenced by life chances.

In the literature, it is though the two traditions of post-industrialism and post-modernism shall never meet.  That’s unfortunate, because a sociological model of the information society must include both paradigms.  As previously stated, it is the contention of this study that the information society is a marriage of the techno-economic structure of post-industrialism to the culture of contemporary society that translates into specific patterns of behavior that can be identified as a lifestyle.  By focusing attention on lifestyles rather than the information society concept, one has a better means of assessing and understanding the social changes that are prevalent within the information society.

Lifestyle research has primarily been confined to health lifestyles (Cockerham et al. 1997; Cockerham 1998).  Lifestyle studies have not focused on lifestyles of the information society.  However, Cockerham (1998) defines health lifestyles as collective patterns of health-related behavior based on choices from options available to people according to life chances.  He further notes that a person’s life chances are determined by their socioeconomic status, age, gender, race, ethnicity, and other factors that impact lifestyle choice.  With some minor changes, this definition also provides a definition of lifestyles in the information society.

Dordick and Wang (1993) coined the term - informatization. They described informatization as the process of change that results in an information society.     They suggest that the concept of informatization contains the three dimensions of infrastructure, economic, and social.   Nelson and Cooperman (1998) make a point of interest concerning post-industrialization that is of sociological significance in formulating this model.  They suggest that post-industrialization is a process that has technical, social, and cultural components.   Therefore, it is contended that a sociological model of the information society must encompass a micro level view of social changes exhibited in the lifestyles of people within the information society that encompass the technical, informational, economic, social and cultural dimensions that are manifested in the way we live, work, and play in the information society.  Specifically, it is argued that the salient concept is the informatizationalized lifestyle of people in contemporary society that is recognizable as activities and behaviors of everyday life.  In short, informatizationalized lifestyles are a collective pattern of behavior based on choices from options available to people according to life chances.  A person’s life chances in the information society are determined by their socioeconomic status, age, gender, race, ethnicity, and other factors that impact informatizationalized lifestyle choices.

If information plays the critical role in the information society as a means of conferring power upon its owner as has been suggested by Bell (1980), then inequality among certain groups is at least a possibility.  Traditionally groups such as women, ethnic minorities, and the elderly have been found to be unequal to their counterparts.  Do these same inequalities still persist in the information society?  Perhaps the informatizationalized lifestyle of the information society has mediated changes in power relations among these groups.  Clearly, differences within social groups must be studied to better understand relationships and any changes that may be occurring in the information society in terms of informatizationalized lifestyles.


    1. Significance of the Study

This research is significant for three reasons.  First, it serves as a foundation for reframing certain aspects of Bell’s theories on ‘post-industrial society’ into a more appropriate sociological model of the information society that can be used to better understand the social changes that are reflected in the lifestyles currently found within American society.  To restate an earlier argument, Bell’s (1973, 1980) central focus in the post-industrial society is on technology (whether intellectual or information is used) as the salient concept that is the catalyst to bring about social change.  The argument here is that information is the salient concept that serves to bring about the social change within the information society.  Both technology and information are important concepts within the information society.  Technology and information have a role, they both have an economic value, and they are both important objects of investigation.  However, technology within the information society serves to make information possible.  From a sociological model position, it is an intervening variable.  But it is information that serves to bring about social changes that are observable through the informatizationalized lifestyle within the information society.

Second, this study has implications for future research on the information society.  Turning attention back to information as the catalyst of social change, is the information society a classless society as has been described by Waters (1994)?  In other words, does the informatizationalized lifestyle of the information society result in a classless society, or does it simple result in two classes – the information rich and the information poor (Burkett 2000).  On the one hand, Bell (1973) has proposed that information is the great equalizer.  On the other hand, he also states that information has an economic value.  If information is the significant commodity of the information society, can we assume that some will not be better off than others?   Given the history of capitalism in the U.S., this hardly seems like a reasonable hypothesis.  Moreover, when we exclude the economic barriers that keep certain groups from owning and accessing the prerequisite information technology, is it a safe assumption that groups such as blacks, women, and the elderly will have equal access to information?  These questions will be investigated here, but clearly future research on the information society will also need to consider these issues.

Finally, depending on the findings, this study may have certain policy implications. For example, education plays a significant role in the information society in that it provides an individual with the intellect, skills, and knowledge that will help him/her to survive.  This is especially pertinent when one considers the sophistication required just to understand and operate the information technology of the information society.  It is also important when one considers the increased intellectual nature of work within the information society.  So then, what amount of education is required to prepare a person for the informatizationalized lifestyle of the information society?

  1. Methodology
    1. Research methodology and techniques for data collection

This study uses data collected as a part of the Current Population Survey (CPS) as a joint project between the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of the Census.  The CPS is a monthly labor force survey conducted in approximately 50,000 interviewed households across the country. The Current Population Survey used the stratified sampling technique to select household for inclusion in the sample.  A stratified sample is when each member of study population is assigned to a group or stratum, and then a simple random sample is selected from each stratum (Henry 1990).  For the CPS, the Primary Sampling Units (PSU's), are established using a procedure where the Bureau of the Census statisticians classified all the counties in the United States by certain characteristics.


    1. Data analysis techniques

In analyzing the data from the CPS for the years 1998 and 2000 and to test for differences in informatizationalized lifestyles, a number of different statistical procedures will be utilized in this study.  Initially data analysis will involve frequency distributions, cross-tabulations, and university analysis that will be used to better understand and describe the sample populations from both years.

The second step in the data analysis will involve using the chi-square statistic to test for differences in the study population for those who are technology enabled versus those who are not for both 1998 and 2000.  Capon (1988) maintains that the use of chi-square lets one decide whether the differences between the empirically obtained sample distribution and the hypothesized population distribution are due to sampling error. 

The next phase of data analysis for this study is to examine differences in the informatizationalized lifestyles across groups for those that are technology-enabled.  This part of the analysis involves constructing scores for each study participant based on the number of activities and behaviors engaged in while using the Internet at home.  Using the individual scores for each participant, mean scores are then computed for each independent variable group – income, education, occupation, gender, ethnicity, age, geographic location size, and marital status- for both 1998 and 2000 samples.

Cockerham et al. (1997) contend that techniques such as linear and logistic regression must be used for their ability to test hypothesis about health lifestyles.  In this study of infromatizationalized lifestyles, analysis of the data will involve both linear and logistic regression analysis procedures.  This analysis will examine the differences in informatiziationalized lifestyles when making within group and across group comparisons based on socioeconomic status, age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, and geographic location. The logistic regression technique will be used to examine the probability or chance of achieving the lifestyle choices represented by the informatizationalize lifestyle scale by all the independent variables.  The linear regression technique will utilize the degree to which certain groups experience the informatizationalized lifestyle based upon the informatizationalized lifestyle scale created from the number of lifestyle choices reported by each individual in the study.


    1. Validity and Reliability

Measurement is generally viewed as the process of linking abstract theoretical concepts to empirical indicators (Carmines and Zellar 1979).    Given such a definition of measurement, the question often arises as to how social scientists can determine the extent to which an empirical indicator represents a theoretical concept.  At the most basic level, this has to happen by establishing the two most desirable qualities of measurement – reliability and validity.  Reliability concerns the extent to which an experiment, test, or any measuring procedure yields the same result on repeated trials.  Validity is concerned with the extent to which an indicator measures what it purports to measure (Carmines and Zellar 1979).  A major task of any social scientific endeavor is to establish the reliability and validity of the concept(s) that are to be studied such as the ones described in the previous section.  The two concepts that are of primary concern for this study are the informatizationalized lifestyle and the socioeconomic status concepts.

Why is the informatizationalized lifestyle concept a valid measure that should be used to establish and test a sociological model of the “Information Society?”  Quantitative social scientists struggle with validity, because it is much more difficult to establish that a particular use of an empirical measure is valid for the specific theoretical concept under investigation.  Given the theoretical foundation of social science, construct validity is generally used to assess the validity of empirical measures of theoretical concepts.

Carmines and Zellar (1979) state that three important steps establish construct validation.  “First, the theoretical relationship between the concepts themselves must be specified.  Second, the empirical relationship between the measures of the concepts must be examined.  Finally, the empirical evidence must be interpreted in terms of how it clarifies the construct validity of the particular measure.”  The informatizationalized lifestyle concept has construct validity, and the validity is established by grounding the concept with the theoretical foundation established by Bell (1973) and other post-industrial writers and thinkers.  Many writers often describe Bell’s description of post-industrial society as utopic (Dordick and Wang 1993; Waters 1994; Nelson and Cooperman 1998).  A utopic society is one that is characterized by perfection of political, economic, and social systems.  How then can such claims be tested without examination of lifestyle, in relation to socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, and age?

The reliability and validity of the socioeconomic scale described above is well established in the literature (Miller 1991).   Nam and Powers (1968) report a reliability coefficient of .96 for scores of men from 1950 and 1960.  From 1960 to 1970 the reliability coefficient is .97 for men and .85 for women.  In terms of validity, when this scale is used against other prestige measures, very high correlations are reported (Miller 1991).


    1. Project time plan

The project shall last for more or less five months. The first two months shall comprise the gathering of secondary data. These shall be obtained through libraries and other online articles. The succeeding month shall be consumed for the collection of data. The information obtained from these tools shall be statistically treated to coherently answer the study’s hypothesis and problem statements. The remaining months shall be dedicated to the writing of the final draft of the study. 

  1. References

Bell, Daniel. 1973, 1999. The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting.  New York: Basic Books.


Bell, Daniel. 1980. “The Social Framework of the Information Society.”  The Mocroelectronics Revolution, edited by T. Forrester.  Oxford: Blackwell.


Capon, J. Anthony. 1988. Elementary Statistics for the Social Sciences. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.


Carmines, Edward G., and Richard A. Zellar. 1979. Reliability and Validity Assessment. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.


Cockerham, William C. 1998. Medical Sociology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


Cockerham, William C., Alfred Rütten, and Thomas Abel.  1997. “Conceptualizing Contemporary Health Lifestyles: Moving Beyond Weber.”  Sociological Quarterly  38(2): 321-342.


Dahrendorf, Ralf. 1979. Life Chances. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


Dordick, Herbert S., and Georgette Wang. 1993. The Information Society: A Retrospective View.  Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.


Hradil, Stefan. 1987. Sozialstrukturanalyse in einer fortgeschrittenen Gesellschaft [Social Structure Analysis in an Advanced Society]. Leverkusen: Leske+Budrich.


Makridakis, Spyros. 1995. “The Forthcoming Information Revolution.” Futures. 27(8): 799-821.


Miles, I., and J. Gershuny. 1986. “The Social Economics of Information Technology.” In Fergusn 1986. q.v.


Miller, Delbert C. 1991. Handbook of Research Design and Social Measurement. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.


Nam, Charles B. and Mary G. Powers. 1965. “Variations in Socioeconomic Structure by Race, Residence, and the Life Cycle.” American Sociological Review. (30): 97-103.


Nelson, Joel I., and David Cooperman. 1998. “Out of Utopia: The Paradox of Postindustrialization.” The Sociological Quarterly. 39(4): 583 – 596.


Waters, Malcolm. 1994. Modern Sociological Theory. London: Sage Publications.


Waters, Malcolm. 1996. Daniel Bell. London:Routledge.


Weber, Max. 1995. 1978. Economy and Society. 2 vols. Edited and translated by Guenther F. Roth and Claus Wittich. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Webster, Frank. 1995. Theories of the Information Society. London: Routledge.


Wright, Erik Olin, and Bill Martin. 1987. “The Transformation of American Class Structure, 1960 – 1980.” American Journal of Sociology.  93: 1-29.


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