Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society: Volume 8, Number 2, June 2005
Online ISSN: 1468-4462, Print ISSN: 1369-118X
Social networks and Internet connectivity effects (pp125 - 147)
By Caroline Haythornthwaite (Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois)
This paper explores the impact of communication media and the Internet on connectivity between people. Results from a series of social network studies of media use are used as background for exploration of these impacts. These studies explored the use of all available media among members of an academic research group and among distance learners. Asking about media use as well as about the strength of the tie between communicating pairs revealed that those more strongly tied used more media to communicate than weak ties, and that media use within groups conformed to a unidimensional scale, showing a configuration of different tiers of media use supporting social networks of different ties strengths. These results lead to a number of implications regarding media and Internet connectivity, including: how media use can be added to characteristics of social network ties; how introducing a medium can create latent tie connectivity among group members that provides the technical means for activating weak ties, and also how a change in a medium can disrupt existing weak tie networks; how the tiers of media use also suggest that certain media support different kinds of information flow; and the importance of organization-level decisions about what media to provide and promote. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications for Internet effects.
Keywords: social networks, computer-mediated communication, latent ties, strong ties, weak ties, communication theory, Internet
Living in virtual communities: an ethnography of human relationships in cyberspace (pp148 - 167)
By Denise Carter (Sociology and Anthropology, CASS, University of Hull, UK
This paper outlines some of the issues involved in the development of human relationships in cyberspace. Set within the wider context of the Internet and society it investigates how geographically distant individuals are coming together on the Internet to inhabit new kinds of social spaces or virtual communities. People 'live in' and 'construct' these new spaces in such a way as to suggest that the Internet is not a placeless cyberspace that is distinct and separate from the real world. Building on the work of other cyberethnographers, the author combines original ethnographic research in Cybercity, a Virtual Community, with face-to-face meetings to illustrate how, for many people, cyberspace is just another place to meet. Second, she suggests that people in Cybercity are investing as much effort in maintaining relationships in cyberspace as in other social spaces. Her preliminary analysis suggests that by extending traditional human relationships into Cybercity, they are widening their webs of relationships, not weakening them. Human relationships in cyberspace are formed and maintained in similar ways to those in wider society. Rather than being exotic and removed from real life, they are actually being assimilated into everyday life. Furthermore, they are often moved into other social settings, just as they are in offline life.
Keywords: Internet, ethnography, friendship, trust, cyberspace
The digital divide in Sydney : A sociospatial analysis (pp168 - 193)
By Darren Holloway (Urban Frontiers Program, College of Arts, Education and Social Science, University of Western Sydney, Campbelltown Campus)
In Australia, there has been limited research into the issue of the digital divide. Even less attention has been given to the social and spatial characteristics of this phenomenon, particularly within metropolitan areas. This paper attempts to fill this gap by examining the social and spatial characteristics of computer and Internet use in Sydney. The findings suggest that those individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged have lower rates of computer and Internet use, and that these individuals also risk exacerbating their disadvantage status if these demand-side barriers are not addressed. If we are to address disparities in computer and Internet use in Australia we need to consider more fully the social and spatial nature of such disparities that prevent individuals from accessing such technologies in an increasingly 'wired' world.
Keywords: digital divide, spatial aspects of the digital divide, Sydney, social aspects of the digital divide, computer and Internet usage
The military in the noosphere : ICT adoption and website development in the Slovenian Ministry of Defense (pp194 - 216)
By Darren Purcell (Department of Geography, University of Oklahoma)
Websites are often used by governments to articulate particular views on international affairs, and even to lobby for a particular position. Using work by Arquilla and Ronfeldt (1999), Castells (2001) and Chadwick (2001) as a theoretical framework for understanding the importance that cyberspace holds for governments and states, the author analyzes the efforts of the Slovenian Ministry of Defense (MoD) to adopt the Internet to communicate with publics it defined as important. Through this website, the MoD literally served as a combatant in the noosphere, while displaying tendencies that Chadwick argues serves particular purposes in maintaining domestic political legitimacy. The analysis is based on a socio-semiotic approach (Hodge & Kress 1988) dependent on a well-developed understanding of the context within which signs and symbols exist. The paper outlines the role of the military in Slovenia, incorporates interview data with public relations staff in and then links these to a descriptive analysis of website content. The paper concludes that it is important for non-hegemonic states to actively contest cyberspace images in the noosphere, if only to serve the domestic public the state needs for legitimacy. Further directions in comparative work are proposed.
Keywords: noosphere, geopolitics, semiotics, ICTs, Slovenia, representations of space
ICT and institutional change at the British Library (pp217 - 233)
By Martin Harris (Department of Accounting, Finance and Management, University of Essex)
The new information and communications technologies (ICTs) have stimulated a wide-ranging debate on the future of learning institutions in the age of the 'network society'. Recent academic commentary has tended to equate globalized information networks with commodification, the delocalization of learning, and threats to the public service traditions of higher education. This paper investigates the extensive programme of digitisation now under way at the British Library (BL), one of the world's largest knowledge providers and a key player in the UK research libraries network. The findings presented in the paper do not reflect the belief that the spread of global information networks will undermine the public service remit of large knowledge providers such as the BL – but the evidence does show that these providers are becoming more connected to other players in the digital environment, with inherently complex, and potentially far-reaching implications for the production of knowledge in the emergent 'network society'.
Keywords: ICTs, learning institutions, knowledge infrastructures, electronic legal deposit digital preservation
Data protection legislation in the United Kingdom : From development to statute 1969–84 (pp238 - 263)
By Adam Warren and James Dearnley
This paper is primarily concerned with development of data protection legislation in the United Kingdom from the late 1960s through to the enactment of the 1984 Data Protection Act. Following a series of private members' bills calling for varying degrees of privacy legislation, the UK government commissioned two significant reports in the 1970s. The first, the Younger Report on Privacy (1972), established 10 principles for the handling of personal data that were to influence data protection statutes in Europe. The Lindop Report on Data Protection (1978) examined public- and private-sector computer systems, recommending a flexible legislative environment – with a set of broad principles guiding a data protection authority in its development of codes of practice aimed at various sectors of the economy. The far-reaching nature of those recommendations can now be appreciated in the work of the modern Information Commissioner's Office, 25 years after the publication of the Lindop Report. However, the momentum created by the two studies faded during the period 1979–82. Labour and Conservative governments respectively consulted further and objected to additional bureaucracy involved in creating a data protection authority. During this period of entropy, unpublished memoranda and correspondence demonstrated how former members of the Lindop Committee maintained the pressure on government, ensuring that their work was not forgotten. Eventually, overseas legislation and the need for the UK to maintain its position at the 'crossroads of the information highway' ensured that the UK, albeit grudgingly, enacted a Data Protection Act in 1984. By that time, the UK had lost the lead in defining data protection law and policy established by the Reports of Younger and Lindop. In highlighting findings from the Committees and efforts by dedicated individuals in lobbying successive governments in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the authors demonstrate the importance of preserving historical memory.
Keywords: data protection, privacy, regulation, legal environment
(This journal is available online: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/1369118x.html)
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