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History of The Information Society Journal
by Editor-in-Chief Rob Kling, February 1996

The Founding of The Information Society

The Information Society (TIS) was founded in the late 1970's. David L. Holzman, Stephen J. Lukasik, both at the Rand Corporation at the time, and Richard O. Mason, then at U.C.L.A., formulated the need for a new journal that would deal with the broad social issues soon to be created by the information age. They presented the idea to Joseph Becker, President, Becker and Hayes, Inc. who agreed to serve as Editor-In-Chief. The four met several times at the Bel Air Hotel with Ben Russak who was extremely enthusiastic about the opportunity and need. An analogy emerged. TIS was to be to information policy what the journal FOREIGN AFFAIRS was to foreign policy. Becker took the lead in establishing an advisory board and an editorial board and all four founding editors began to solicit manuscripts. Volume 1, Number 1 was published by Crane, Russak & Company in 1981.

Joe Becker, was a leading information scientist in the United States. He served as President of the American Society of Information Science in 1969 and won its highest award -- the Award of Merit -- in 1984 (Anderson, 1995). Along with the other three founders, he assembled an editorial board of well known computer, information, and social scientists and arranged to have TIS published by the publishing house of Crane and Rusack. The first issue appeared in 1981 and TIS is now in its 12th volume. TIS was organized as a quarterly refereed journal and it published articles primarily by scholars and senior professionals. Volume 1 of TIS included articles by scholars such as:

  • Dr. Ann Branscomb, a legal scholar who specializes in studies of intellectual property;
  • Professor Donald Marchand, a founder of the field of Information Resources Management;
  • Professor Enid Mumford, a British pioneer of the socio-technical design of computer based-systems; and
  • Professor Edwin B. Parker, a communications scholar who was specially interested in telecommunications as a stimulant for economic and social development.

The first volume also included articles by high level professionals, such as:

  • William E. Colby, later Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency;
  • Wilson Dizard, an early enthusiast of the concept of an information society as a new social formation, and author of The Coming of the Information Age; and
  • Jacques Maisonrouge, a senior manager of IBM-Europe.

While the journal was international in worldview, TIS's first authors were primarily Anglo-American with occasional European contributions. Even so, there was an early focus on the role of telecommunications and information technologies in less developed countries (East, 1983; Gray, 1983; Narasimhan, 1983) and rural regions of advanced industrial countries (ie. Young and Bransford, 1983; Case and Rogers, 1987). By the late 1980s, TIS was also publishing articles written from Asian perspectives (ie. Komiya, 1989; Li, 1990; Narasimhan, 1983; Samarajiva, 1989). Since its inception, TIS has served as a vehicle for publishing research about information technology and social change, and information policy.

Expanding TIS's Intellectual Scope

Most of the articles published in TIS's first three volummes tend to be based on a general enthusiasm for hi-tech development, and to treat as problematic various policies and social forces that impeded the broad use of information technologies. But an important article published in 1985 by editorial board member Professor Richard Mason signaled a broader range of perspectives beginning to be published. In "Designing Information Communities: Ethical Issues in the Information Age" developed an ethical analysis of the ways that work and benefits are to be allocated among information givers, takers, and orchestrators, and how these decisions are made. By 1984, some TIS articles examined the possible social problems of computerization (ie. Kling, 1984; Downs, 1987). Ted Sterling's (1986a) paper, "Democracy in an Information Society," served as the focus of a major debate about the possibility that large organizations would use computerized information systems in ways that weakened democracy, in their workplaces and in public policymaking (Calhoun, 1986; Clement, 1986; Holzman, 1986; Kling, 1986; Laudon, 1986; Lowi and Lytel, 1986; Montes, 1986; Schiller, 1986; Sterling, 1986b).

In the mid-1980's TIS articles expanded in scope to include empirical studies of occupational change and information work. Raul Katz's (1986) "Measurement and Cross-National Comparisons of the Information Work Force" examined the development paths of the relative size of the information workforce in industrialized countries (US, UK, Australia, and Germany) and in developing countries, (including Venezuela, Argentina, and Tunisia). Katz's careful study found different trajectories of growth in the information workforce in different countries. Katz's article was followed in TIS by Kling's (1990) study of the mix of good and bad jobs in the restructuring of U.S. labor markets for information work between 1900 and 1980 which found that few information sector jobs were fully professional, and clerical jobs formed the largest single occupational stratum. Kling also identified a skilled white-collar occupational stratum between clerks and semiprofessionals and found that it had steadily declined in relative size. Overall, he found that the information labor markets were divided into relatively impermeable segments. Kling's study was one of the few published in TIS's first decade that empirically examined possible social problems associated with an information society.

TIS went through several changes in the early 1990's. The journal was purchased by Taylor & Francis, a distinguished scientific publishing house based in Great Britain which also has offices in the United States. Joseph Becker, the founding Editor-in-Chief transferred his role to Dr. Robert Anderson, a senior computer scientist at the nonprofit RAND Corporation. Bob Anderson continued to expand and develop TIS's intellectual scope. Bob added a book review editor (Dr. Tora Bikson) to the editorial board. Under Joe Becker's editorship, TIS focused on studies of information policy and large scale social change. With Tora Bikson's assistance, Bob expanded the range of articles to include empirical workplace studies of information technology and social practices (ie., Bikson and Law, 1993; Markus, Bikson, El-Shinnawy and Soe, 1992; Orlikowski, 1993; Soe and Markus, 1993). TIS now published articles that ranged in scope from microsocial to macrosocial.

An Information Society? From Social Formation to Problematic Under Bob Anderson's editorship, TIS also published some articles that fundamentally criticized enthusiastic formulations of the concept of an "information society". David Ronfeldt's (1992) "Cyberocracy is Coming" argued that the outcomes of the extensive computerization of government activities "may include new forms of democratic, totalitarian, and hybrid governments. Optimism about the information revolution should be tempered by a constant, anticipatory awareness of its potential dark side." Tom Forester's (1992) "Megatrends or Megamistakes? What Ever Happened to the Information Society?" examined key social forecasts and concluded that most of them "have gone awry because forecasters have ignored the human factor. There have been a number of unanticipated problems thrown up by the IT revolution, most of which involve the human factor. Perhaps it is time for a major reassessment of the human relationship to technology, especially the new information and communication technologies. The technological advances in computing seem to have outpaced the human ability to make use of them." In "What information society?" Frank Webster (1994) argued for a fundamental conceptual reformulation of the concept of an information society. He examined five analytical criteria - technological, economic, occupational, spatial and cultural - that are often used to define either information or information societies. He noted that "most definitions are concerned with quantitative measures, which fail to consider important qualitative dimensions of the criteria, although there is the widespread presumption that quantitative changes in information herald a new type of society, one qualitatively different from predecessors. Further, proponents of an information society operate with nonsemantic conceptions of information. Against this, when information is approached in common sense terms, then the prospects for an approaching information society are unconvincing."

By 1995, TIS had blossomed into a journal that published diverse high quality studies of the information society as a lens through which to examine issues of information technology and social change. The journal published debates (Calhoun, 1986; Clement, 1986; Holzman, 1986; Kling, 1986; Laudon, 1986; Lowi and Lytel, 1986; Montes, 1986; Schiller, 1986; Sterling 1986a, 1986b; Mowshowitz, 1994a, 1994b; Walsham, 1994) and analytical book reviews (Allen, 1993; Kling and Covi, 1993; Mankin, 1993). The journal had become a key forum for thoughtful analysis of the impacts, policies, system concepts, methodologies and cultural change stimulated by ways of organizing information and access to it. TIS had also become multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal whose audiences include scholars with an interest in the relationship between information technologies, social/organizational life, cultural change, and social change; policy- and decision-makers in government, industry and education; and managers concerned with the effects of information technologies on individuals, organizations and society.

Developing TIS into a "Must Read" Journal

In 1995 Rob Kling, Professor of Information and Computer Science at the University of California at Irvine and a member of TIS's editorial board since its founding, was appointed as the third Editor-in-Chief of TIS. He was specially concerned that TIS was known primarily to a relatively small fraction of the scholars and policy-makers who could benefit from reading it routinely. When Joe Becker founded the journal in the late 1970s, the concept of an information society was primarily of interest to a few scholarly specialists, a handful of policy-makers, and some hi-tech managers. But the promotion of National Information Infrastructure, popularly referred to as "information superhighways," by U.S. President Clinton and Vice President between 1992 and 1994 radically altered public consciousness in the industrialized countries. Other countries, such as Singapore, had developed national information technology plans long before Clinton and Gore's election in 1992 (see, for example, Komiya, 1989; Gurbaxani, Kraemer, King, Jarman, Raman, and Yap, 1990). While there was a great deal of public discussion and debate about these developments in North America, there was no forum, other than TIS, for reporting the results of systematic empirical studies and theoretical investigations.

Rob Kling felt that TIS needed a substantial restructuring to raise it to a new level of visibility. He appointed many new editorial board members to take an active role in the journal by acting as active ambassadors by encouraging their colleagues to submit significant papers for possible publication. The new editorial board members are also playing active roles by organizing special issues or special sections of larger issues. He also decentralized authority by enabling editorial board members to manage complete reviews for potential TIS articles. For example, Dr. Tora Bikson helped organize a special section of TIS 11(3) that included three important articles about the complexities of supporting group work with computer systems. And Prof. Rolf Wigand is organizing a special issue on electronic commerce. (Special issues are also being organized by people who do not serve on the editorial board).

In addition to publishing scholarly articles, Rob Kling also encouraged the publication of debates in TIS. He organized issue 11(4) to focus on the roles of electronic journals as reliable media for scholarly communication. The issue features a major debate between Steven Harnad (Editor-in-Chief of an electronic journal, Psycoloquy) and Steve Fuller (Editor-in-Chief of Social Epistemology) (Fuller, 1995a,1995b; Harnad, 1995a 1995b) as well as other articles that examine electronic publishing and scholarly communications from diverse perspectives (Brent, 1995; Kling and Covi, 1995; Rowland, 1995; Stodolsky, 1995).

Rob Kling also created a new format for TIS, "The Forum," which publish shorter "position statements" and debates." Francois Harvey and Ben Gross organized a Forum for TIS 12(1) on the recent "Durango Declarations" that articulate pro-social criteria for developing National Information Infrastructures. Prof. Jim Thomas organized a Forum for TIS 12(2) about the nature of ethical practices in collecting social science data in electronic forums, such as Usenet newsgroups, LISTSERVs, and MUDDs. Editorial Board member Prof. Mark Poster organized a Forum debate for TIS 12(3) about the recent "Magna Carta for Cyberspace" that was written by Alvin Toffler, George Keyworth, George Gilder, and Esther Dyson.

Rob Kling is also increasing the number of books that are reviewed in TIS. He appointed two book review editors, Lisa Covi and Wayne Lutters, to help identify key books, identify reviewers and manage the reviews. For example, TIS 11(4) includes reviews of three books: Linda Harasim's "Global Networks," Richard Lanham's "The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts" and Sven Birkerts' "The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age". TIS 12(1) includes reviews of five books: "The Trouble with Computers: Usefulness, Usability, and Productivity," by T.K. Landauer;

"Fatal Defect: Chasing Killer Computer Bugs," by Ivan Peterson; "Computer-Related Risks," by Peter Neumann; "Safeware: Systems Safety and Computers," by Nancy Leveson; "Computer Technology and Social Issues," by G. David Garson; and "Does Technology Drive History?: The Dilemma of Technological Determinism," edited by Merrit Smith and Leo Marx.

Last, Rob Kling created a World Wide Web home page for TIS (currently http://www.indiana.edu/~tisj/) that can serve as a source where authors and readers can obtain up-to-date information about the journal, including announcements of forthcoming issues, article abstracts, and paper calls for special issues. The nature of the materials that can appear on this web page, such as the whole texts of selected articles and abstracts of all articles, is under discussion with TIS's publisher, Taylor & Francis.

Rob Kling anticipates that this collection of innovations will help make TIS into a journal that many more scholars and professionals feel they must read routinely to keep up with the best studies and fresh commentaries about shifting information environments and social change.

Thanks to Bob Anderson and Richard O. Mason for help in reconstructing TIS' founding.


Allen, Jonathan P. Review of "Microcomputers in African development: critical perspectives" The Information Society, 9(3)(1993):

Anderson, Robert. 1995. "In Memoriam: for Joseph Becker, founding Editor-in-Chief of TIS." TIS 11(4):

Bikson, Tora K. and S.A. Law. 1993. Electronic mail use at the World Bank: Messages from users. The Information Society 9(2) (Apr-Jun):89-124.

Brent, Doug. 1995. "Stevan Harnad's "Subversive Proposal": Kick-Starting Electronic Scholarship, A Summary and Analysis." The Information Society. 11(4):

Calhoun, Craig. 1986. "Comments on 'Democracy in an information society'" The Information Society, 4(1/2):115-122.

Case, Donald and Everett Rogers. 1987. The Adoption and Social Impacts of Information Technology in U.S. Agriculture. The Information Society 5(2):57-66.

Clement, Andrew. 1986. "Comments on 'Democracy in an information society'" The Information Society, 4(1/2):109-113.

Downs, E. 1987. A Contextual View of Development Information Technology. The Information Society 5(2):119-132.

East, Harry. 1983. Information Technology and the Problems of Less Developed Countries. The Information Society 2(1):53-64.

Forester, Tom. 1992. Megatrends or Megamistakes? What Ever Happened to the Information Society? The Information Society 8(3) (Jul-Sep):133-146.

Fuller, Steve. 1995a. "CyberPlatonism: An Inadequate Constitution for the Republic of Science." The Information Society. 11(4):

Fuller, Steve. 1995b. "Cybermaterialism, Or Why There Is Not A Free Lunch in Cyberspace." The Information Society. 11(4):

Gray, John C. 1983. Information-Policy Problems in Developing Countries. The Information Society 2(1):81-89.

Gurbaxani, Vijay, Kenneth L. Kraemer, John Leslie King, Sheryl Jarman, K.S. Raman, and C.S. Yap. 1990. Government as the Driving Force Toward the Information Society: National Computer Policy in Singapore. The Information Society 7(2):155-185.

Harnad, Stevan. 1995a. "The Postgutenberg Galaxy: How To Get There From Here." The Information Society. 11(4):

Harnad, Stevan. 1995b. "Sorting the Esoterica From the Exoterica: There's Plenty of Room in Cyberspace." The Information Society. 11(4):

Holzman, David L. 1986. "Comments on 'Democracy in an information society': computers and common sense" The Information Society, 4(1/2):101-107.

Katz, Raul L. 1986. Measurement and Cross-National Comparisons of the Information Work Force. The Information Society 4(4):231-277.

Kling, Rob. 1984. Value Conflicts in Public-Oriented Computing Developments. The Information Society 3(1):1-38.

Kling, Rob. 1986. "The Struggle for Democracy in an Information Society" The Information Society 4(1/2)(1986):1-7.

Kling, Rob. 1990. More Information, Better Jobs?: Occupational Stratification and Labor-Market Segmentation in the United States' Information Labor Force. The Information Society 7(2)(1990):77-107.

Kling, Rob and Lisa Covi. 1993. Review of Lee Sproull and Sara Kiesler "Connections: new ways of working in the networked organization" The Information Society, 9(2):

Kling, Rob and Lisa Covi. 1995."Electronic Journals, Legitimate Media and Scholarly Communication." The Information Society. 11(4):

Komiya, Megumi. 1989. The Japanese Computer Industry: An Industrial Policy Analysis. The Information Society 6(1/2) (1989):1-20.

Laudon, Kenneth C. 1986. "Comments on 'Democracy in an information society': the dossier society" The Information Society, 4(1/2):87-89.

Li, Tiger. 1990. Computer-Mediated Communications and the Chinese Students in the U.S. The Information Society 7(2):125-137.

Lowi, Theodore J. and David Lytel. 1986. "Comments on 'Democracy in an information society': making it a real revolution" The Information Society, 4(1/2):91-99.

Mankin, Donald. 1993. Review of Peter G.W. Keen, "Shaping the future: business design through information technology" The Information Society, 9(1)(1993):61-69.

Markus, M Lynne, Tora K. Bikson, Maha El-Shinnawy and Louise L. Soe. 1992. Fragments of your communication: Email, Vmail and fax. The Information Society v8, n4 (Oct-Dec):207-226.

Mason, Richard O. 1985. Designing Information Communities: Ethical Issues in the Information Age. The Information Society 3(3):229-239.

Montes, Felix. 1986. "Comments on 'Democracy in an information society': prospects for the era of computing -- a critical analysis" The Information Society, 4(1/2):65-85.

Mowshowitz, Abbe. 1994a. Virtual organization: A vision of management in the information age. The Information Society 10(4) (Oct-Dec):267-288.

Mowshowitz, Abbe. 1994b. Reply to Walsham's critique. The Information Society 10(4)(Oct-Dec):293-294.

Narasimhan, R. 1983. The Socioeconomic Significance of Information Technology to Developing Countries. The Information Society 2(1):65-79.

Okamura, Kazuo, Masayo Fujimoto, Wanda J. Orlikowski, and JoAnne Yates. 1995. "Helping CSCW Applications Succeed: The Role of Mediators in the Context of Use." The Information Society 11(3):

Orlikowski, Wanda J. 1993. Learning from notes: Organizational issues in groupware implementation. The Information Society v9, n3 (Jul-Sep):237-250.

Ronfeldt, David. 1992. Cyberocracy is coming. The Information Society 8(4)(Oct-Dec):243-296.

Rowland, Fytton. 1995. "Electronic Journals: Neither Free Nor Easy." The Information Society. 11(4):

Samarajiva, Rohan. 1989. Appropriate High Tech: Scientific Communication Options for Small Third World Countries. The Information Society 6(1/2):29-46.

Schiller, Herbert I. 1986. "Comments on 'Democracy in an information society'" The Information Society, 4(1/2):123-126.

Soe, Louise L and M. Lynne Markus. 1993. Technological or social utility? Unraveling explanations of email, vmail and fax use. The Information Society v9, n3 (Jul-Sep):213-236.

Sterling, Ted. 1986a. "Democracy in an Information Society," The Information Society. 4(1/2):9-048.

Sterling, Ted D. 1986b. "Democracy in an information society: a rejoinder" The Information Society, 4(1/2):127-143.

Stodolsky, David. 1995. "Consensus Journals: Invitational Journals Based Upon Peer Review." The Information Society. 11(4):

Turner, John A. 1986. "Comments on 'Democracy in an information society': the difficulty of projecting impacts from trajectories of emerging technologies" The Information Society, 4(1/2):53-63.

Walsham, Geoff. 1994. Virtual organization: An alternative view. The Information Society 10(4)(Oct-Dec):289-292.

Webster, Frank. 1994. What information society?The Information Society v10, n1 (Jan-Mar):1-23.

Young, Elizabeth L. and Louis A. Bransford. 1983. Telecommunications in Rural America: An Appraisal and a Prediction. The Information Society 2(2):107-119.

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