Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society,
Volume 3, Number 1, 2000
Virtual Community Care? Social Policy and the Emergence of Computer Mediated Social Support
By Roger Burrows, Sarah Nettleton and Nicholas Pleace (University of York), Brian Loader (University of Teesside) and Steven Muncer (University of Durham)
This paper argues that the emergence and growth of Internet use in Britain has important implications for the analysis of social policy. It attempts to outline a research agenda for social policy in relation to one particular aspect of Internet use, that of on-line self-help and social support- what we term here virtual community care. The paper begins by presenting data on patterns of home based Internet use in Britain. It then outlines some contemporary debates in social policy about the importance of self-help and social support. Next it considers how the Internet is being used for self-help and social support with a particular emphasis on the emerging situation in Britain. Three illustrations of on-line self-help and social support are presented: two from newsgroups, which are part of the uk.people.* hierarchy - one concerned with disability and one with parenting issues; and one web based forum concerned with issues surrounding mortgage repossession. Drawing upon this illustrative material the paper concludes with a discussion of some emergent issues for contemporary social policy discourse: the rise of self-help groups; the privileging of lay knowledge and experience over the "expert" knowledge of health and welfare professionals; the nature of professional-client relationships; the quality and legitimacy of advice, information and support; dis-empowerment; and social exclusion.
On the Nature of Future Worlds? - Considerations of Virtuality and Utopias
By Graham McBeath (University College, Northampton, UK) and Stephen A. Webb (University of Bradford, UK)
It has been a widespread belief that computers can create viable utopias, design the future, and plan and co-ordinate things such that the world can be born anew. The exponential increase in computing power has allowed for interaction in imaginary places "utopian spaces" and the endless re-configuration of those places. There are then good reasons to make links between the realm of the virtual and the creation of utopian and future worlds. We explore some of these links in this article.
Symbolic Politics in the Information Age: The 1996 Republican Presidential Campaigns in Cyberspace
By Eric Klinenberg (Northwestern University, UK) and Andrew Perrin (University of California, USA)
This paper traces the use of the World Wide Web as a medium of political communication during the 1996 American presidential campaigns. Beginning with the Republican campaigns' use of the medium during the primary election season, a typology of uses of the Web is outlined. This typology is then applied to the general election campaigns' use of the Web. While campaigns all felt it necessary to participate in the World Wide Web, different candidates used the medium differently. Furthermore, no campaign made full use of the much-publicized interactive capacity of the Web; they used it more as a new means of transmitting traditional mass-media literature (video, graphics, etc.) and as a way of providing access to large volumes of campaign information (voting records, speeches, position papers, etc.).
New Communication Technologies: A Conduit for Social Inclusion
By Linda Phipps (St. Williams Foundation, York, UK)
There has an outpouring of energy and creativity into ways of using Information & Communications Technologies (ICT) and the Information Society (IS) to create inclusion, as an opportunity to tackle, reduce and even prevent social exclusion. This paper was based on examining over 40 projects which constitute positive examples of applications of new technologies, by public authorities, private agencies and community groups, to reduce the disadvantage experienced by the more excluded groups in our society.
Information, Capitalism and Uncertainty
By Frank Webster (University of Birmingham, UK)
This paper argues that the changes characterized by many commentators as announcing the 'information age' are better seen, not as heralding a new type of society, but as the continuation, consolidation and extension of capitalism - something which is accompanied by constant upheaval and innovation. The contemporary situation is interpreted as a development from the Enclosure Movements that took place in England during the 18th and 19th centuries and which helped bring the land and people into market relationships. As capitalism today develops so does it extend New Enclosures across the globe and deeper into the private realms of everyday life. Thereby it institutes its defining principles: ability to pay criteria, the commodification of relationships, production for profit, and private ownership of property. The shift from conceiving the 'information society' as a result of technological breakthroughs to one which lays emphasis on the primacy of 'information' itself is observed. The importance especially of informational labour's 'flexibility' is regarded, not as indicative of a new age, but of the requirements of globalised capitalism which engenders change the better to consolidate its practices. The instability of life today is ascribed, not to the upheavals resulting from the 'information revolution', but rather to the insatiable dynamic that has long been a distinguishing feature of capitalist enterprise. These processes are examined in terms of the shift from public to private provision of information and in the heightened uncertainty of existence today.
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