The Control Revolution Online is a student project website dedicated to late author James R. Beniger’s book entitled The Control Revolution: Technological and. Beniger, J. R. (). The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society,. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press. Communication and the. Control Revolution. James R. Beniger. In , Henry Crowell invented breakfast. He did not, of course, pio neer the practice?which.
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Week 10 Reading for Foundations of Computing and Communication. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Control as Engine of the Information Society.
The great scientific revolution is still to come. It will ensue when men systematically use scientific procedures for the control of human relationships and the direction of the social effects of our vast technological machinery The story of the achievement of science in physical control is evidence of the possibility of control in social affairs. ONLY SINCE World War II have the industrial economies of the United States, Canada, Western Europe, and Japan appeared to give way to information societies, so named because the bulk of their labor force engages in informational activities and the wealth thus generated comes increasingly from informational goods and services.
Although all human societies have depended on hunting and gathering, agriculture, or the processing of matter and energy to sustain themselves, such material processing, gevolution would seem, has begun to be eclipsed in relative importance by the processing of information.
Despite scores of technical and popular books and articles documenting the advent of the Information Society no one seems to have even raised, much less answered, these crucial questions. Among the many things that human beings value, how did information, embracing both goods and services, come to dominate the world’s largest and most advanced economies? Material beniter has also been crucial throughout human history, and yet capital did not begin to displace land as an economic base until the Industrial Revolution.
The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society
The answer, as we have seen, is the Control Revolution, a complex. From its origins in the last decades of the nineteenth century the Control Revolution has continued unabated to this day and in fact has accelerated recently with the development of microprocessing technologies. In terms of the magnitude and pervasiveness of its impact upon society, intellectual and cultural no less than material, the Control Revolution appears to be as important to the history of this century as the Industrial Revolution was to the last.
Just as the Industrial Revolution marked an historical discontinuity in the ability to harness energy, the Control Revolution marks a similarly dramatic leap in our ability to exploit information.
Such questions of timing become easier to answer if we consider, as we did in Chapter 5, that national economies constitute concrete open processing systems engaged in the continuous extraction, reorganization, and distribution of environmental inputs to final consumption.
Until the last century these functions, even in the largest and most developed national economies, still were carried on at a human pace, with processing speeds enhanced only slightly by draft animals and wind and water power and with system control increased correspondingly by modest bureaucratic structures. So long as the energy used to process and move material throughputs did not much exceed that of human labor, individual workers in the system could provide the information processing required for its control.
Once energy consumption, processing and transportation speeds, and the information requirements for control are seen to be interrelated, the Industrial Revolution takes on new meaning. Freight must be processed through nine transshipments between Philadelphia and Chicago, impeding distributional networks.
Erie Railroad, first trunk line connecting East and West, begins operations in “utmost confusion,” misplaces cars for months. With the growing network of grain elevators and warehouses, and the mounting demand for mass storage and shipment, transporters have increasing difficulty keeping track of individual shipments of grain and cotton.
Mercantile firms are increasingly unable to control the growing commerce in wheat, corn, and cotton. Wholesalers scramble to integrate movement of goods and cash among hundreds of manufacturers and thousands of retailers. Rail mills adopting Bessemer process struggle to control increased speeds of steel production. Large wholesalers and retailers like department stores confront need to maintain high rates of stock turn. Railroad companies except the Pennsylvania delay building large systems because they lack means to control them.
Conttol wholesale houses, among the most differentiated organizational structures in the nineteenth century, find need to integrate a growing number of highly specialized operating units.
As we have seen, what began as a crisis of safety on the railroads in the early s hit distribution in the s, production in the late s, and marketing devolution the control of consumption in the early s.
The Control Revolution
As the crisis of control spread through the material economy, it inspired a continuing stream of innovations in control technology. These innovations, effected by transporters, producers, distributors, and marketers alike, reached something of a climax by the s.
American System of manufacture. Continuous processing of materials. Plant design to speed processing. Auto plant designed for processing. River Rouge processing architecture. Distant control of electrical transmission. Quality control course, text. Lab analysis for quality control.
Large chain of stores. Pay telephone, travelers’ checks. Transcontinental air mail, facsimile. Wood pulp, rag paper. Hierarchical process control system. Modern bureaucracies with multiple departments. Centralized, departmental corporate organization. Multiple register cumulating calculator.
Machines linked for computing. Remarkable, in light of the Clark-Bell sequence discussed in Chapter 5, is the sharp periodization of the listing. Among the three economic sectors, virtually all of the major innovation in control through the s can be found in distribution; much of that in the s and later comes in production or consumption.
Similarly, most of the important listings for distribution come beforenearly all of those for production and consumption come after this date major innovations in generalized control appear more sporadically throughout the period.
Each of the major sectors of the economy tended to exploit a particular area of information technology: Most bureaucratic innovation arose in response to the crisis of control in the railroads; by the late s the large wholesale houses had fully exploited this form of control. Innovation in telecommunications the telegraph, postal reforms, and the telephone followed the movement of the crisis of control to distribution. Along with these innovations came virtually all of the basic mass communications technologies still in use a century later: If the Control Revolution was essentially a response to the Industrial Revolution, however, why does it show no sign of abating more than a century later?
As we saw in Chapter 7, three forces seem to sustain its development. Second, additional energy has increased not only the speed of material processing and transportation but their volume and predictability as well. This, in turn, has further increased both the demand for control and the returns on new applications of information technology.
Beniger — The Control Revolution
Increases in the volume of production, for example, have brought additional advantages to increased consumption, which manufacturers have sought to control using the information technologies of market research and mass advertising. Similarly, the increased reliability of production and distribution flows has increased the economic returns on informational activities like planning, scheduling, and forecasting.
Third, information processing and flows need themselves to. Given that a revolution in control did begin in response to a crisis generated by the Industrial Revolution, why have the technologies of information processing, preprocessing, programming, and ths played tje a major part in the Control Revolution? In short, why the new centrality of information? No study of technological innovation or economic history alone can possibly hope to answer this question, I argued in Part 1, no more than the history of organic evolution can explain revolutikn importance of information to all living things.
Life itself implies purposive activity and hence control, as we found in Chapter 2, in national economies no less than in individual organisms.
The Control Revolution — James R. Beniger | Harvard University Press
Control, in turn, depends on information and activities involving information: Inseparable from control are the twin activities of information processing and reciprocal communication. Information processing is essential to all purposive activity, which is by definition goal directed and must therefore involve the continual comparison of current states to future goals.
Each new technological innovation extends the processes that sustain human social life, thereby increasing the need for control and for improved control technology.
Thus, technology appears autonomously to beget technology and, as argued in Part 11, innovations in matter and energy processing create the need for further innovation in information processing and communication. Because technological innovation is increasingly a collective, cumulative effort whose results must be taught and diffused, it also generates an increased need for technologies of information storage and retrieval.
The latter includes what computer scientists now call preprocessing, a complement to the control exercised by bureaucracy through information processing, increasingly using computers and microprocessors. Perhaps most pervasive of all revoution is the increasing tendency to regulate interpersonal relationships in revooution of a formal set of impersonal, quantifiable, and objective criteria, changes that greatly facilitate control by both government and business.
Another explanation for the increasing importance of information in modern economies is suggested by the purposive nature of living systems. All economic activity is by definition purposive, after all, and requires control to maintain its various processes to achieve its goals.
Because control depends on information and informational activities, these will enter the market, as both goods and services, in direct relationship to an economy’s revolutkon for control. Economic activity might indeed depend on control, and control on information, but why do these relationships seem relatively so much more important now contrll a century ago?
The Information Society has not resulted conrtol recent changes, as we have seen, but rather from increases in the speed of material processing and of revolytion through the material economy that began more than a century ago. Similarly, microprocessing revoljtion computing technology, contrary to currently fashionable opinion, do not represent a new force conttol recently unleashed on an unprepared society but merely the most recent installment in the continuing development of the Control Revolution.
This explains why so many of the components of computer control have been anticipated, both by visionaries like Charles Babbage and by practical innovators like Daniel McCallum, since the first signs of a control crisis in the early nineteenth century.
These include the rise of a new information class Djilas ; Gouldnera meritocracy of information workers Youngpostcapitalist society Dahrendorfa global village based on new mass media and telecommunications McLuhanthe new industrial state of increasing corporate control Galbraitha scientific-technological revolution Richta ; Daglish ; Prague Academya technetronic era Brzezinskipostindustrial society Touraine ; Bellan information economy Poratand the micro millennium Evans Dontrol various transformations these observers identify may now be seen to be subsumed by major implications of the Control Revolution: In short, particular attention to the tge aspects of information processing, communication, and control promises to make possible a synthesis of a large proportion of this literature on contemporary social change.
Despite the Control Revolution’s importance for understanding contemporary society, however, especially the continuing impact of computers and microprocessors, the most useful lesson relates to our understanding of social life more generally. The rise of the Information Society itself, more bsniger even the parallel development of formal information theory, revolhtion exposed the centrality of information processing, communication, and control to beniged aspects of human society and social behavior.
It is to these fundamental informational concepts, I believe, that we social scientists may hope to reduce our proliferating but still largely unsystematic knowledge of social structure and process. The answer, as we have seen, is the Control Revolution, a complex [p] of rapid changes in the technological and economic arrangements by which information is collected, stored, processed, and communicated and through which formal or programmed decisions can effect societal control.
Rail mills adopting Bessemer process struggle to beniyer increased speeds of steel production Large wholesalers and retailers like department stores confront need to maintain high rates of stock turn.