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Home > Books & Journals > Book Review Last Updated: 14:22 03/09/2007
Book Review #22: March 26, 2002

Comments on Takahiro Miyao's Review

by William H. Dutton (Professor, University of Southern California)

Title: Society on the Line: Information Politics in the Digital Age
Author, Editor: William H. Dutton
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New York
Date/Time: 2001
Pages: English text 390 pages (Paperback)
ISBN: 0-19-877460-5 (pbk)

The Japanese translation of this book, entitled "Onrain Shakai No Joho Seijigaku," (edited by Fukashi Utsunomiya) has been published by Tokai Daigaku Shuppan Kai (2002).

Comments on Takahiro Miyao's Review:

I appreciate Professor Miyao's review of SOCIETY ON THE LINE, which is helpful in providing a succinct overview of its central theme and connecting its perspective to work in related areas. I would only add that the concept of shaping of tele-access and the notion of an ecology of games represent clear alternatives to prevailing perspectives on the study of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

With respect to the shaping of tele-access, I am arguing that the ways in which social and technical choices reconfigure access (physical and electronic) to information, people, services and technologies should be the focus of inquiry. This stands in contrast to arguments for focusing on such concepts as information, the information society, influence or technology as central to understanding the social implications of the revolution in ICTs.

With respect to the ecology of games, I believe this perspective helps move the field away from overly deterministic perspectives on the social implications of technology. At the same time, the ecology of games can incorporate my view that technologies do matter -- they exert a bias on social relations, particularly in shaping who is in and who is left out of any network (tele-access).

The concept of an ecology of games was first used by Norton Long in the 1950s in describing the governance of urban communities. I have built on his ideas, over nearly two decades, along with related perspectives, such as the "garbage can" model of organizations of James March, Michael Cohen and others, and applied them to the study of the social shaping and impacts of ICTs.

In the context of shaping tele-access, the ecology of games alerts us to the point that individuals, organizations or nations do not simply seek to reconfigure access to information, people, services and technologies. Instead, they pursue a wide variety of goals and objectives within a multiplicity of separate but independent games. However, their social and technical choices made in the play of these diverse games will reconfigure tele-access. Understanding the centrality of access as a social consequence of choices about ICTs, could therefore change the calculus of players within this ecology of games in ways that could improve the quality of their lives in an increasingly ICT-centric society.

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