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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #189: March 30, 2005

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society: Volume 7, Number 3, September 2004

Online ISSN: 1468-4462, Print ISSN: 1369-118X


Sorting Places Out?
Towards a social politics of neighbourhood informatization
(pp321 - 336)
By Roger Burrows and Nick Ellison (Centre for Housing Policy, University of York, Heslington, York)
This paper examines some of the possible consequences of the introduction of online Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for the social politics of neighbourhoods and the public sphere more generally. Summarizing a number of recent theorizations of neighbourhood informatization, the article provides examples of online GIS in the UK and considers some of the possible implications of the use of such technologies for contemporary debates about citizenship in the context of processes of 'splintering urbanism'. Arguing that social citizenship is best understood in terms of varying forms of 'proactive' or 'defensive' engagement, the paper explores the relationship between virtual decision making about neighbourhood choice and the impact of aggregated virtual decisions 'on the ground', before going on to consider how differentiated forms of engagement are producing new forms of social exclusion in changing urban spaces.

Keywords: online GIS, citizenship, engagement, neighbourhood informatization, geodemographics, splintering urbanism

The City Park as a Public Good Reference for Internet Policy Making (pp337 - 363)
By Concetta M. Stewart, Gisela Gil-Egui, Mary S. Pileggi (School of Communications and Theater, Annenberg Hall 011-00, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA)
Extensive literature has provided evidence of the organic nature of the Internet as a domain for different sorts of activities. Most policy making regarding the Internet, however, has focused on its economic dimensions (e.g. e-commerce, copyrights, privacy) while taking timid steps when it comes to its cultural and social dimensions. We propose a more comprehensive approach for global policy making on the Internet by looking retrospectively at processes that led to the creation of urban parks, and examining those processes in light of public goods theory. We conducted historical and theoretical analyses to show that, in the same way urban parks define spaces that mediate between different functions of the city, it is possible to define buffer spaces within the Internet that mediate between competing spheres of activity. As a complex phenomenon involving infrastructure, applications, and content, the Internet possesses features that can be located at different points between purely private and purely public goods. This fact parallels the growing attention that public goods theorists are paying to non-economic factors to explain the provisions of goods under circumstances that do not easily fit supply/demand laws. We argue that urban parks, as hybrid public goods, offer a reference for the design of policies that harmonize competing interests because they are spaces justified by manifold rationales (economic, political, social and cultural). As parks offer possibilities for spontaneous re-appropriations of the city as a cohesive entity (i.e. something beyond a disconnected collection of populations), defining similar multi-purpose spaces on the Internet would facilitate coexistence of competing and complementary behaviours by allowing users to re-appropriate this technology as a comprehensive entity beyond a mere aggregation of transactions and interests.

Keywords: Internet, public goods, private goods, policy, access, commons

'Reconnecting' the Unemployed
Information and communication technology and services for jobseekers in rural areas
(pp364 - 388)
By Ronald W. McQuaid, Colin Lindsay, Malcolm Greig (Employment Research Institute, Napier University, 66 Spylaw Road, Edinurgh EH10 5BR)
This paper discusses the potential uses of the Internet and other forms of information and communication technology (ICT) as a tool for delivering information services for unemployed people, comparing the experiences and attitudes of jobseekers in peri-urban and remote rural labour markets. The analysis is based upon research carried out in two areas: the first combining a remote rural town with a much larger, more sparsely populated, rural 'travel-to-work area'; the second, a centrally located peri-urban labour market. Survey research undertaken in the study areas gathered responses from 490 unemployed jobseekers. Emerging issues were then followed up during twelve focus groups. The study found that the use of ICT for job seeking remained a marginal activity for most unemployed people, but was much more important in remote rural communities. In these areas, jobseekers were more likely to use the Internet as a search tool and were particularly dependent on telephone helplines provided by the public employment service (PES). However, the study also found that a 'digital divide' was evident within the unemployed client group. Those with low educational attainment, the long-term unemployed, young people and those perceiving their ICT skills to be 'poor' were less likely to use the Internet. Although respondents in rural areas were more likely to use ICT to look for work, they also pointed to the overriding importance of informal, social networks as a means of sharing job information in remote communities. We conclude that ICT may have a future role in the delivery of services for jobseekers, especially in rural areas. However, policies are required to ensure that information provided through ICT-based services is locally relevant, and disadvantaged groups have access to the facilities and training they require.

Keywords: ICT, job search, unemployment, rural, digital divide, Internet

Avatar: From Deity to Corporate Property
A philosophical inquiry into digital property in online games
(pp389 - 402)
By Mathias Klang (Department of Informatics, University of Goteborg, Box 620, 405 30 Goteborg, Sweden)
The focal point in this paper is our virtual selves, the avatars with which we interact with others in online virtual environments. The dispute is growing as to whom these digital manifestations belong to. The dispute is in part due to the ability of the technology to transfer the avatars and also in part on the desire of the software manufacturers to enforce the end user licence agreements. These licences do not follow contract theory but have been enforced by the courts. Despite the actions of the court their validity as a whole is still questionable. This paper contains descriptions of the disputed objects and presents the arguments of both sides. There is also a presentation of the law regulating the area and its rationale, strengths and weaknesses. Then there follows a critique of the law as it is and a presentation of what the law could, and indeed in some cases, should be. In the conclusion this work both describes the importance of this issue and what is at stake if an equitable and reasonably balanced solution to the collective rights cannot be found.

Keywords: MMORPG, intellectual property rights, avatars, law, computer games, Eula & Shrinkwrap licence

The Sickness of an Information Society
R. H. Tawney and the post-industrial condition
(pp403 - 422)
By Alistair S. Duff (School of Communication Arts, Napier University, Craighouse Road, Edinburgh EH10 5LG)
R. H. Tawney is frequently cited as one of the most distinguished social theorists of the twentieth century, and his position in the British school of ethical, democratic socialism is assured. This paper revisits that contribution for the so-called post- industrial age. It emphasizes Tawney's roots in philosophical idealism and Christian socialism, demonstrating how these systems underpinned his famous critiques of inequality and the acquisitive society. His deontological morality anticipates key ideas of John Rawls, leading similarly to a robust social egalitarianism. The moral basis of Tawney's left-liberal politics explains its durability and thus its relevance for the Great Information Society Debate. Tawney would have rejected many of the propositions associated with the information society thesis, including the allegedly axial role of information itself. While recognizing the importance of information and knowledge in democracy, he would not have supported transformationist rhetoric on behalf of an electronic information polity. Tawney's essentialist socialism may be vulnerable to some of the better documented post-industrial trends, notably the move from goods to services. However, his work supplies useful resources for critical perspectives on the technocratic social structure and on the exaggerated economic role of teleworkers, inter alia. As regards the last in Daniel Bell's triad of polity, social structure and culture, some might lament the anchorage of Tawney's progressive politics in a particularist metaphysics, specifically Christianity. Yet the return of religious modes seems now as certain as the rise of new modes of information and communication. The Christian socialist values that inspired Tawney's ideal of social democracy, especially an expansive vision of brotherhood or 'fellowship', could therefore be appropriated for a modern normative theory of the information society.

Keywords: Social democracy, information society, Christianity, post-industrialism, communication policy

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