Manuel Castells

Chairholder of the Networked societies Chair

Manuel Castells is currently a professor at the Annenberg School of Communication (University of Southern California) and manages the Barcelona Internet Interdisciplinary Institute at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. After studying in France, Manuel Castells became Associate Director of Studies in Sociology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) then was appointed Professor of Sociology and of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been a visiting professor at seventeen international universities and has received honorary doctorates from universities in Europe, Latin America, North America and Asia. He is a member of various academies in America, Europe, Great Britain and Spain. His works have garnered several awards and have been translated into more than twenty languages.

 

Manuel Castells was one of the founding sociologists of the École française de sociologie urbaine (French school of urban sociology) in the 1970s. His first book, entitled La question urbaine (The urban question) (Maspero, 1972), has become a world-leading work in its field. With his trilogy dedicated to the The Information Age (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), Manuel Castells is internationally recognised as an expert on the information and network society. His approach is interdisciplinary and combines the analysis of space and movements and studies on the role of information technologies in the creation of contemporary societies. Here, information represents a paradigm shift for rethinking the social world. The disappearance of the industrial model of the 1970s has made way for a multi-centred organisation.  Increased information flows between different parts of the world are leading to an increase in decision-making centres around network nodes. There is no centrality, but instead many decision-making nodes. The information society is, as such, entering company's decision-making structures, which is driving it to rethink the horizontality of relationships in the social world. The flow of information does not come just with smooth social flows, but also generates conflict, friction, resistance: societies resist the information society by reviving primitive solidarities.

 

Recently, Manuel Castells published Communication Power (Oxford University Press, 2009). This is based on his analysis of networks and communication technologies to develop a new theory of the power of the information age. A new system of communication has emerged: mass self-communication through social network sites, blogs and chat sites. This new communication environment is profoundly transforming power relations. Using several case studies (such as the misinformation of the American public on the Iraq war, the environmental movements to prevent climate change, the Barack Obama campaign, etc.), Manuel Castells reveals the impact of this development on political processes and social movements.