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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #235: May 22, 2006

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society: Volume 9, Number 2, April 2006

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


Bridging the dual digital divide: A Local Net and an IT-Café in Sweden (pp137-159)
Sara Ferlander (Stockholm Centre on Health of Societies in Transition (SCOHOST), Södertörn University College, 14189, Huddinge, Sweden) and Duncan Timms

The Internet is becoming an integral part of everyday life and digital inclusion is becoming a prerequisite for social inclusion. There is a risk that marginalized groups in deprived areas may be excluded from the Information Society, being affected by the 'dual digital divide'. This paper concerns two community initiatives designed to encourage digital and social inclusion in a disadvantaged area: a Local Net and an IT-Café. A combination of qualitative and quantitative data from a case study in a suburb of Stockholm is used to examine the two schemes in terms of their success in bridging the dual digital divide. Despite good intentions, the Local Net, with its provision of home access to local web pages, largely failed to achieve its goals. In contrast, the IT-Café, with its public access to ICTs, has increased digital and social inclusion of those residents who make use of it. Six reasons for the difference in success between the two computer projects are identified: (1) timing, (2) management, (3) cost, (4) support and training, (5) context of access and (6) project focus. The provision of subsidized public access, the informal face-to-face computer support and training provided by a local resident working in the IT-Café, and the ease with which both virtual and physical meetings can be supported are factors underlying the success of the IT-Café. The paper concludes that access, skills and motivation are prerequisites for a digitally inclusive society. To be on the right side of the (dual) digital divide it is vital to have physical access to technologies, but also to have the skills and motivation to use them.

Keywords: disadvantaged area, dual digital divide, IT-Café, local community, Local Net, Sweden

Cultural (Re)production of digital inequality in a US community technology initiative (pp160-181)
Lynette Kvasny (School of Information Sciences and Technology, Pennsylvania State University, 329C IST Building, University Park, PA, 16802-6823, USA, 1.814.865.6458)

In the US, community technology centers (CTC) are a policy response to facilitate the diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICT) to citizens who might otherwise lack access to these resources. The implicit assumption guiding CTC initiatives is that access to ICT will improve the life chances of the individuals who become involved in these centers. It is, however, prudent to empirically examine this assumption because the case for community technology interventions is somewhat weakened if the benefits of ICT use fail to accrue to those who are disadvantaged. Informed by Bourdieu's theory of reproduction, this study of a CTC initiative in an inner-city community explores the role of culture in reproducing digital inequality. Digital inequality reflects not only disparities in the structure of access to and use of ICT; it also reflects the ways in which longstanding social inequities shape beliefs and expectations regarding ICT and its impacts on life chances. While this initiative is considered successful in the sense that it provided access and basic computer literacy to residents lacking these resources, it represents a technology-centric fix to a problem that is deeply rooted in systemic patterns of spatial, political and economic disadvantage.

Keywords: Bourdieu, community technology center, reproduction, digital divide, digital inequality

Solar panels, shovels and the 'Net: Selective uses of technology in the homesteading movement (pp182-201)
Teresa Heinz Housel (Department of Communication, Martha Miller Center for Global Communication, Hope College, Holland, MI, 49423, USA)

Although the dystopian and utopian academic literature on technology present either a pessimistic or optimistic picture of its societal impact, people's everyday uses of technology often counter such views. This paper examines the selective uses of technology, and particularly communications technology, in the everyday practices of homesteaders, or members of the 'back to the land' movement in Bloomington, Indiana, USA. Using an ethnographic approach, this study analyzes how homesteaders' ideology of voluntary simplicity informs their complex, everyday engagement with technology.

Keywords: technology, utopian, dystopian, voluntary simplicity, Luddite

Protest in an Information Society: a review of literature on social movements and new ICTs (pp202-224)
R. Kelly Garrett (3200 Berkeley Place, Irvine, CA, 92697, USA)

New Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are changing the ways in which activists communicate, collaborate and demonstrate. Scholars from a wide range of disciplines, among them sociology, political science and communication, are working to understand these changes. The diversity of perspectives represented enriches the literature, providing an abundant repertoire of tools for examining these phenomena, but it is also an obstacle to understanding. Few works are commonly cited across the field, and most are known only within the confines of their discipline. The absence of a common set of organizing theoretical principles can make it difficult to find connections between these disparate works beyond their common subject matter. This paper responds by locating existing scholarship within a common framework for explaining the emergence, development and outcomes of social movement activity. This provides a logical structure that facilitates conversations across the field around common issues of concern, highlighting connections between scholars and research agendas that might otherwise be difficult to discern.

Keywords: social movements, activism, information and communication technology

Civil society, cosmopolitics and the net: The legacy of 15 February 2003 (pp225-243)
Joss Hands (Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Science, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, CB1 1PT, UK)

The global demonstrations on 15 February 2003 against the impending invasion of Iraq were on an unprecedented scale, and generated a great deal of commentary and debate. One response was that of Jürgen Habermas, supported by Jacques Derrida, who in an article entitled, 'February 15, or What Binds Europeans Together: A Plea for a Common European Foreign Policy, Beginning in the Core of Europe', suggests the events may be a 'sign of the birth of a European public sphere' and used the occasion to launch a call for a common European foreign and defence policy. In response to that piece this article questions whether the events of 15 February can really be seen as such a birth date, and argues that what the demonstrations indicate is rather the maturing of a global civil society. The role of technology, specifically the Internet, in the organization and form of the protests is ignored by Habermas in his analysis, and results in a blind spot concerning the events, which misses some of its most important elements. Rather than calling for a common European foreign and defence policy we should be looking towards a 'double democratization' on a global scale that reflects the significance of global civil society in the formal structures of a global parliament, and that must address technology as an important element in generating participation and deliberation amongst a global citizenry.

Keywords: global civil society, cosmopolitics, anti-globalization movement, European public sphere, Internet, 15 February 2003

When images matter: Internet child pornography, forms of observation and an ethics of the virtual (pp244-265)
David Oswell (Department of Sociology, Goldsmith's College, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW, UK)

The arrest of Pete Townshend, lead guitarist for The Who, for downloading and possessing Internet child pornography and the publicity surrounding the case provides an initial point of discussion concerning the emergence of an ethics of the image that is not predicated on the actual evidential status of that image but on more virtual forms of observation. The discussion in this article focuses on three substantive aspects of this event - legislation in the UK and the US, expert psychological discourse, and public discussion in the UK press - in order to present a particular and situated rendering of forms of virtual observation. The context to this discussion concerns the notion that digital imaging technology presages a need for new legislation, law enforcement and social analytical frameworks for understanding and tackling the production, distribution and consumption of images of child sexual abuse.

Keywords: Internet child pornography, actual and virtual, ethics, forms of observation, regulation, digital imaging technology, witnessing

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