Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society,
Volume 3, Number 2, 2000
Information Society as Theory or Ideology: A Critical Perspective on Technology, Education and Employment in the Information Age
By Nicholas Graham (University of Westminster, UK)
This paper argues that the concept of Information Society fails as theory because it is internally incoherent and unsupported by evidence. Its current popularity within policy discourse can only be understood ideologically. In particular it is argued that one of the drivers of current policy towards higher education is based upon the supposed growth of knowledge work linked to a theory of human capital formation as crucial to international competitiveness and to an explanation of unemployment in terms of a skills gap. The paper goes on to argue that current labour market indicators and research into the skills gap do not support this policy thrust and that a better explanation of the current push towards the creation of virtual Universities is the desire to cut educational labour costs rather than to upgrade the economic status of so-called knowledge workers.
The Use of the Internet Among Academic Gay Communities in Taiwan: An Exploratory Study
By Chung-Chuan Yang (National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Taiwan)
The rise of the Internet has tremendous impacts on homosexual communities in Taiwan. The Internet has created a medium where homosexual people can form virtual communities to seek for emotional support without fearing the disclosure of their sexual preferences and causing unwanted negative consequences. The Internet has become a medium where homosexual communities can share information with each other and voice their concerns to the public. Thus, the Internet may become what Ithiel de Sola Pool (1984) called 'the technology of freedom' for homosexual communities. The purposes of this paper are set to discuss whether academic homosexual individuals perceive the Internet to be more fair and impartial in terms of the news reporting than traditional mass media and to investigate why they use the Internet. This paper employs a questionnaire survey method to collection data for the questions. The quantitative analysis of survey data (N=701), from a self-completed questionnaire using modified snowball sampling of gays and lesbians from Taiwan. Principal component analysis with varimax rotation led to seven factors that account for 66.31% of the variance. These factors are social interaction and privacy and information, entertainment and relaxation, personal revelation, preference, privacy and escapism, pass time and, novelty seeking. Correlation analyses also suggested that respondents' demographics, Internet usage frequency and, time are association with their use motivation. As an exploratory study of an academic homosexual population and their Internet use behaviour in Taiwan, this study raised more questions than it intended to answer. The use of individual media by this group needs further study.
Democracy and Information: A Case Study of New Local Governance Structures in Bangalore
By Shirin Madon (LSE, UK)
By Sundeep Sahay (University of Oslo, Norway)
The phenomenon of rapid urbanization is posing challenges to planners in developing countries. As it becomes harder and harder for planners to disentangle the global from the local, it is increasingly recognized that without a solid local base, city governments will not have the strength that is needed to navigate global circuits. This social integration requires democratized political mechanisms based on administrative decentralization and the participation of citizens in municipal management. Our paper focuses on the role of information in the democratic process looking at a case study of new governance structures in Bangalore. The city has become a focal point for software development regionally and globally. Such regional and global interconnections are taking place simultaneously with a number of local level initiatives aimed at encouraging democratic decision making via legislation and by introducing new local government structures.
The Future of Public Media Cultures: Cosmopolitan Democracy and Ambivalence
By Nick Stevenson (University of Sheffield)
This paper seeks to tie in arguments that can be connected to the development of a global media culture and concerns around cosmopolitan forms of democracy. This is done by considering arguments for (i) a global human rights initiative in respect of global media conglomerates; (ii) technological change in respect of digital cultures; and (iii) the arrival of what Castells has described as the culture of 'real virtuality'. These views and perspectives are assessed in terms of the contributions they are likely to make towards what I call a 'cautious cosmopolitanism'. Finally I seek to make some definite policy recommendations that might help foster conditions in which cosmopolitan democracy could flourish.
From Media Politics to E-protest: The Use of Popular Culture and New Media in Parties and Social Movements
By Alan Scott (University of Innsbruck, Austria) and John Street (University of East Anglia, UK)
New forms of political expression are often taken as further evidence of the 'cultural turn' within contemporary societies. Taking two recent cases - the use of popular culture in the election campaigns of British political parties (and particularly the Labour party) and the so-called 'Carnival Against Capitalism' of June 18th 1999 – the article argues for caution in assuming that such cultural modi vivendi necessarily require culturalist forms of explanation and analysis. We argue that both established political parties and extra parliamentary social movements have found new opportunities for political mobilization through media and information technology (particularly the Internet). However, the resource and organizational problems they confront remain the same, as does the familiar instrumental rationality of their actions. Rather than leading us to abandon established analytical tools such as political intermediation, political opportunity structures or resource mobilization, shifting opportunities and conditions require the adaptation and extension of such concepts. In this spirit, we attempt to offer an analysis of the cultural mode adopted by parties and movements without losing sight of their broader goals and motivations.
The Information Society As Mega-Machine: The Continuing Relevance of Lewis Mumford
By Christopher May (University of West England, Bristol, UK)
Too often the history of information and communications technologies (ICTs) is wrenched out of the history of technology and presented as something altogether separate and therefore different, rendering previous analyses irrelevant. However, there are sufficient analytical tools to hand without the continual invention of new paradigms to understand the current stage of technological advance. To support this contention, in this article, the continuing relevance of Lewis Mumford is explored. Mumford's discussion of the megalopolis and the emergence of the invisible city as its most developed state make a direct link with the networked information society, establishing a link between the information society and Mumford's analysis of the previous history of technology. At the centre of Mumford's discussion of this history is the dialectic interaction of authoritarian and democratic technics. Mumford's notion of technics stresses that technologies cannot be divided from the social relations in which they appear. In the information society, this dialectical pair map onto the twin dynamics of enclosure and disclosure. The former dynamic represents the control of information through commodification and marketization, the latter the recognition of the empowering and emancipatory qualities of ICTs. Up until now, discussions of the information society have regarded only one or other dynamic as normal, whereas utilizing Mumford's insight, the contradictory character of the information society can be theorized without rendering the second dynamic abnormal. Thus, the article concludes that recourse to Mumford's ideas, to re-embed ICTs in the history of technology, allows a more nuanced and fruitful treatment of current developments in the information society.
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