Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society: Volume 8, Number 3, September 2005
Online ISSN: 1468-4462, Print ISSN: 1369-118X
Active participation or just more information?
Young people's take-up of opportunities to act and interact on the Internet (pp287-314)
By Sonia Livingstone, Magdalena Bober, Ellen J. Helsper (Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
Given increasing calls for children and young people to participate via the Internet in civic and political activities), this article examines how far, and with what success, such participation is occurring among UK teenagers. Findings from a national survey conducted by the UK Children Go Online project show that young people are using the Internet for a wide range of activities that could be considered 'participation', including communicating, peer-to-peer connection, seeking information, interactivity, webpage/content creation and visiting civic/political websites. The findings are closely examined using path analysis techniques to identify the direct and indirect relations among different factors that may explain how and why some young people participate more than others. The results suggest that interactive and creative uses of the Internet are encouraged by the very experience of using the Internet (gaining in interest, skills, confidence, etc.) but that visiting civic websites depends primarily on demographic factors (with older, middle-class girls being most likely to visit these sites). Finally, cluster analysis is used to identify three groups of young people – interactors, the civic-minded and the disengaged – each of which is distinctive in its social context and approach to the Internet.
Keywords: participation, young people, Internet, interactivity, political, civic
Computerizing the welfare state
An international comparison of computerization in social security (pp315-342)
By Michael Adler (School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh, UK) and Paul Henman (School of Social Work and Applied Human Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia)
Although computer technology is central to the operation of the modern welfare state, there has been little analysis of its role or of the factors shaping the way in which it is used. Using data generated by expert informants from 13 OECD countries, this paper provides an indicative comparison of the aims of computerization in national social security systems over a 15-year period from 1985 to 2000. The paper seeks to identify and explain patterns in the data and outlines and examines four hypotheses. Building on social constructivist accounts of technology, the first three hypotheses attribute variations in the aims of computerization to different welfare state regimes, forms of capitalism, and structures of public administration. The fourth hypothesis, which plays down the importance of social factors, assumes that computerization is adopted as a means of improving operational efficiency and generating expenditure savings. The findings suggest that, in all 13 countries, computerization was adopted in the expectation that it would lead to increased productivity and higher standards of performance, thus providing most support for the fourth hypothesis. However, variations between countries suggest that the sociopolitical values associated with different welfare state regimes have also had some effect in shaping the ways in which computer technology has been used in national social security systems.
Keywords: computerization, social security, welfare regimes, forms of capitalism, public administration regimes, social shaping of technology
The value of mixed-method longitudinal panel studies in ict research
Transitions in and out of 'ICT poverty' as a case in point (pp343-367)
By Ben Anderson (Chimera, University of Essex, UK)
This paper uses a unique British three-wave longitudinal dataset to examine the rates of transitions into and out of 'ICT poverty' defined as having Internet access in the household and/or having a mobile phone. This serves three purposes: it shows that many are still 'passing by' ICT ownership, that 'gaining ICT' access is not a one-way street – many just pass through; and that the rates of dropping out differ for different ICTs and for different groups of people. This has implications for both commercial and public policy strategy. It also shows the value of longitudinal approaches to data collection without which this kind of analysis would be impossible.
Keywords: poverty, digital divide, longitudinal panel, transitions, churn, Internet, mobile phone
The people's network
Self-education and empowerment in the public library (pp368-393)
By Martin Hand (Department of Sociology, Queens University, Canada)
This article explores perceptions of Internet access in UK public libraries within government policy, by librarians, and by library users, in the broader context of government/citizen intermediation. Predominantly theoretical, it focuses upon how discourses of self-education and empowerment have come to position Internet access within this domain in different ways. Public libraries are significant here because: (1) within policy circles, public libraries are positioned as key informational intermediaries between government and citizen; (2) they offer an opportunity to explore the role and experience of 'traditional' institutions incorporating Internet access (as opposed to 'new' institutions such as the cyber-café and e-gateway); and (3) perceptions of Internet access within public libraries have been under-explored within theoretically driven sociology. An illustrative case involving documentary analysis and interviews with librarians and library users is drawn on to question the technicist image of future domestic governance and citizenship in policy on access and intermediation. The article highlights emerging conjunctions and disjunctions between (1) government policy; (2) library-institutional discourses, interests and strategies; and (3) the everyday practices of citizens, in the context of such access. Utilizing theoretical insights from STS and cultural theory, the article stresses that 'tensions' between the different interested constituencies involved (government; libraries; library users) problematize any simple notions of a 'unitary Internet' and raise some theoretical and empirical questions regarding the current conceptualization of intermediation within policy on public Internet access.
Keywords: public libraries, intermediaries, self-education, empowerment, Internet, citizenship
Less tangible ways of reading
A ludic surfing of online Western news sites (pp394-416)
By Tony Wilson and Huey Pyng Tan (University of Melbourne, Australia)
Using the Internet, people realize the identity of their offline selves alongside establishing the nature of online simulacra, screen content. Drawing on European philosophy, responding to Asian audiences, the authors argue here for a theory of these processes as seriously ludic (or 'ludenic'). Asserting the 'primacy of play' in human–computer interaction (HCI), 'epistemological Calvinism' (Stone 1995, p. 9) is critiqued. Internet users' plural personalities switch between enabling roles in mundane material and mediated virtual worlds: they alternate aspects of the self, with the hermeneutic goal of constructing from hypertext menus online narratives of the read and hence (explicitly or implicitly) of the reader. The authors' hypothetical account of multicultural media appropriation as fundamentally (if not entirely) ludic is tested against the recorded evidence of Chinese and Malays talking in Malaysian focus groups about their experience of reading three online versions of newspapers. The virtual journalism accessed here was located on websites for the Australian (Melbourne) Age, UK (London) Times, and US (New York) Times. The Internet genre of e-journalism provides its readers with ludic gratification. Engaging with online news narratives can be an enjoyable escape from the daily round. Dutiful Internet use with a worldly purpose is more constrained in its capacity to liberate. As instrumental (with an extrinsic goal), it is therefore less than entirely playful but more materially functional. Nevertheless, the authors seek to show that such obligatory activity on the Web remains liminally ludic.
Keywords: electronic journalism, Internet users, ludic reception, Malaysian identity, play
(This journal is available online: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/1369118x.html)
Posted with permission from the publisher.