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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:22 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #2: September 20, 2001

Information, Communication & Society

Information, Communication & Society General Editor: Brian D. Loader (University of Teesside, UK)
North American Editor: William H. Dutton (University of Southern California, USA)
Book Review Editors: Barry Hague (Teesside University, UK), Sharon Doctor and Drauann Pagliassotti (California Luthern University, USA)

This is an international journal devoted to the publication of high quality empirical research and theoretical works that include analysis of the emerging properties of the Information Age in a multi-disciplinary and transcultural perspective. It seeks to publish material that explores the up-to-date development of information and communication technologies which emphasise the social, political and economic factors shaping their development and diffusion, and their implications for social, economic, governmental and cultural change.

Journal Name:
Information, Communication & Society, Volume 4, Number 1, 2001



The new media and our political communication discontents: democratizing cyberspace
by Jay G. Blumler (University of Leed, UK) and Michael Gurevitch (University of Maryland, USA)
This article argues that the new interactive media have a 'vulnerable potential' to enhance public communications and enrich democracy, which can be realized only through appropriate policy support and imaginative institution building. After outlining the main shortcomings of the prevailing political communication system, certain elements of redemptive potential, inherent in distinctive features of the Internet, are identified. The policy implications of this analysis are then drawn for the public service obligation of mainstream media, to ensure open access to new media platforms, and to create a 'civic commons' in cyberspace.

The political economy of time in the Internet era: feminist perspectives and challenges
by Gillian Youngs (Centre for Mass Communication Research, University of Leicester, UK)
This paper examines the gender matrix of time, arguing for cross-disciplinary consideration of political economy, globalization and technology to achieve a detailed understanding of gendered hierarchies of time and the ways in which public/private identifications of social space and time have variously constructed and maintained them. It is argued that women are alienated from their own time, which is identified as most legitimately allocated to the service of others both in the home and at work. The inter-relationship of technologies and gendered identities is explored in relation to public/private divisions and the political-economic and scientific-technological knowledge processes that contribute to upholding them. ICTs reflect these historically established gendered patterns, but international projects such as 'Women on the Net' also demonstrate the capacities of these technologies for disrupting the gender matrix of time through their use by women for women.

Measuring the Internet: host counts versus business plans
by Tim Jordan (Open University, Milton Keynes, UK)
The excessive media attention in and economic hopes placed on the Internet mean that measures of its size and distribution have been undertaken more often with an eye to business plans than to methodological rigour. This paper examines one disinterested source of Internet statistics, the Internet Domain Survey, to provide accurate measures of Internet size and distribution. Methodological issues in utilizing this survey are discussed to ensure the significance of findings is understood and to identify key methodological problems in a new field of research. Two particular problems are identified; the need to define user per computer host ratios and to identify the national origin of computers with international domain names. Statistics are presented from the five Internet Domain Survey from January 1998 to January 2000 in the following categories: overall size, regional distribution, human development and economic distribution, linguistic distribution and user numbers. The conclusion is reached that even as the Internet is growing in all regions world-wide it remains concentrated in the highly developed nations. Some consideration of the implications of this for wider debates around the Internet is given.

When 'virtual' meets values: insights from the voluntary sector
by Eleanor Burt (University of St Andrews, UK) and John Taylor (Caledonian Business School, Glasgow, UK)
Electronic networking can support strategic re-positioning within organizations seeking to respond effectively to deep shifts in the social, economic and political regimes in which they operate today. Evidence, though, from our large-scale survey of core UK voluntary organizations suggests that voluntary organizations do not always seek to exploit this capability. Instead, our survey indicates that voluntary organizations are exploiting information and communication technologies (ICTs) in conventional ways to enhance administrative and operational efficiency and effectiveness. There is little evidence of more strategic applications supporting reconfiguration of the organization internally, redefinition of relationships across organizational networks or the extension of business scope. Further research based upon in-depth case studies demonstrated that social conditions are active in shaping the uptake and application of information and communication technologies within voluntary organizations. Within volunteer intensive settings in particular, founding philosophies and the deeply rooted values that accompany these can have a profound effect. Ultimately, the technologically supported transformations, which occur within the organizations that we examine here, emerge from the inter-play between historically institutionalized values, strategic objectives and technological capability.

Informational intimacy and futuristic flu: love and confusion in the matrix
by Paul A. Taylor (University of Salford, UK)
Cyberpunk's influence upon our understanding of the information revolution is indicated by the fact that its seminal novel, Neuromancer (Gibson 1984), is accredited with the coining of the now widespread non-fictional concept of cyberspace. Beyond providing this resonant concept, however, some of the genre's more recent work known as biopunk is shown to provide fresh insights into the cultural experience of a society increasingly transformed, not only by the extent of technological change in a new informational age, but also its unprecedented pace. This paper reviews cyberpunk to demonstrate the vivid ways in which it uses its fictional licence to catalogue and articulate imaginatively a profoundly ambivalent aspect of contemporary culture in the age of information. We find ourselves interacting more and more closely and rapidly with information, yet at the same time, we feel increasingly run down by the effort demanded of such close and rapid interaction: hence the title-phrases, informational intimacy and futuristic flu. Numerous examples are provided of cyberpunk's zeitgeist-capturing qualities in the face of a profound and rapid information-induced paradigm shift. A mismatch is shown to exist between the conceptual categories we have at our disposal and the qualitatively new scenarios created by the latest information technologies. This paper argues, however, that assuming one maintains a healthy sense of its various deliberate ironies, cyberpunk's fictional exaggerations are seen as potentially instructive elements for a society striving to avoid a bout of techno-influenza.

Democracy in the information age: the role of the fourth estate in cyberspace
by Howard Tumber (City University, London, UK)
Journalism faces attack from two areas. From one direction it has to repel the pressures from its new owners, the media conglomerates, that have exacerbated the traditional problems of professional news. From another, new forms of political and government communication with the public are emerging. The Internet is displacing the journalistic role of providing information and interpretation for the citizen. This article assesses the future for journalism within the public sphere and asks whether journalism can perform its normative functions in the digital age.

Cyper-utopia and the myth of paradise: using Jacques Ellul's work on propaganda to analyse information society rhetoric
by Karim H. Karim (School of Journalism and Communication, Carlton University Canada)
Whereas Jacques Ellul's work on the role of myth in propaganda about the technological society has been largely overlooked, it presents an effective means to analyse the ways in which the information society is symbolically constructed. The French thinker's examination of mid-twentieth-century propaganda has much relevance in studying current rhetoric about the 'information revolution', 'global information infrastructure' and 'knowledge-based society'. Not only did he prove prophetic in his description of the increasing intensification of technique in various aspects of life, but also his work offers significant insight into the ways the integrally capitalist vision of 'global information society' is being publicized around the world. The promotion of new media on a transnational scale by government, industry and media can be usefully studied within a myth-based framework. Unlike other writers on myth and communication Ellul underlined the religious roots of myth, therefore drawing attention to the ancient origins of contemporary notions. He suggested that ideology in itself was not able to mobilize individuals, but was dependent on the psychological/spiritual force of myth to move people to action. Propagandists use networks of various myths, which operate interactively with each other to reinforce prevailing ideologies. This article uses a set of technological myths identified by Ellul (science, history, nation, work, happiness, youth and the hero) to show how they can be used in developing a framework to analyse and challenge current propaganda about information society. Such applications of the French sociologist's work on myth, propaganda and technological society will encourage the broadening of scholarly activity beyond the strictly positivist confines of dominant social science.

Book Reviews

W. Diffie and S. Landau, Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption (Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 1999), pp. 346, ISBN 0 262 54 100 9 (pbk)

R. Silverstone, Why Study The Media? (London: Sage, 1999), pp. 224, ISBN 00 761 96454 1 (pbk)

A. S. Duff, Information Society Studies (Routledge Research in Information Technology and Society: 3) (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 214, ISBN 0 415 221551 X (hbk)

D. Thomas and B. Loader (eds), Cybercrime: Law Enforcements, Security and Surveillance in the Information Age (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 314, ISBN 0 415 21325 8 (hbk), 0 415 21326 6 (pbk)

J. Naughton, A Brief History of the Future. The Origins of the Internet (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999), pp. 320 including index, ISBN 0 753 81093 X (pbk)

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