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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #248: September 19, 2006

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society:
Volume 9, Number 3, June 2006

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


Conquering the minds, conquering Iraq: The social production of misinformation in the United States - a case study (pp284-307)
Amelia Arsenault (USC Annenberg School, 3502 Watt Way, Suite 103, Los Angeles, CA, 90089-0281, USA) and Manuel Castells (USC Annenberg School, 3502 Watt Way, Los Angeles, CA, 90089-0281, USA)

In the lead-up to the Iraq War, the Bush administration rallied the American public for war via claims that they held unassailable evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and through the insinuation that links existed between Iraq and al Qaeda, and Iraq and the 11 September 2001 attacks. Despite the introduction of compelling evidence that these claims were false, more than 18 months after the official end of the war half of the American population continued to believe that either weapons of mass destruction had been found or that Iraq possessed a developed program for creating them. The prevalence of these misperceptions suggests important questions: How and why could such a significant percentage of the population remain so misinformed? What was the social process leading to the widespread adoption of misinformation? And what were the political effects of these misperceptions? This article proposes an analytical model that outlines both the production of these misperceptions and their political ramifications. It argues that the misperceptions about the Iraq war were socially produced via a complex interaction between a variety of factors including: the general climate of fear in America in the post-9/11 era, Bush administration agenda-setting strategies, and brokering between the political and communication establishments.

Keywords: weapons of mass destruction, misinformation, agenda-setting, framing, political communication strategy

The disability divide in internet access and use (pp313-334)
Kerry Dobransky and Eszter Hargittai (2240 Campus Dr., Evanston, IL, 60208, USA )

The increasing spread of the Internet holds much potential for enhancing opportunities for people with disabilities. However, scarce evidence exists to suggest that people with disabilities are, in fact, participating in these new developments. Will the spread of information technologies (IT) increase equality by offering opportunities for people with disabilities? Or will a growing reliance on IT lead to more inequality by leaving behind certain portions of the population including people with disabilities? In this paper, the authors draw on nationally representative data regarding Americans' Internet uses to (1) identify the extent to which people with disabilities are embracing use of the Internet; (2) how their use of the Internet compares with the Internet uses of the rest of the population; (3) how having a disability relates to and interacts with other social statuses (e.g. socioeconomic status, age, gender) with regard to Internet use; and (4) what explains these trends. They draw on representative data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census of the United States to answer these questions. It is found that people with disabilities are less likely to live in households with computers, are less likely to use computers and are less likely to be online. However, once socioeconomic background is controlled for, it is found that people with hearing disabilities and those who have limited walking ability are not less likely to be Internet users. This research enables a deeper understanding of both the use of the Internet by people with disabilities and the spread of new IT more generally.

Keywords: Internet use, disability, digital divide, digital inequality

The critical space between: Access, inclusion and standards in information technologies (pp335-354)
Deborah Stienstra (Disability Studies, University of Manitoba, 128 Education Building, 71 Curry Place, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2, Canada)

By examining the Canadian standards system, and especially the work of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) related to accessibility, this article explores the question: can legislation and/or standards ensure access and inclusion for people with disabilities in the area of information technologies? And if so, what type is required? It argues that the standards system in Canada privileges the voices of industry while creating a discourse of public accountability and corporate social responsibility. This paradox leads to an undervaluing of the need for addressing issues of accessibility and inclusion in information technologies. By proactively seeking out innovators in the disability community and bringing them to the table, the CSA could open up the standards development discussions and find creative solutions to accessibility barriers. The principles of balanced representation and consensus decision-making open the possibility for discussions around standards that can effectively address access and inclusion of people with disabilities in the development and use of information technologies, but only if the systemic barriers to both individual and organizational participation are recognized and addressed.

Keywords: information technologies, accessibility, inclusion, standards, legislation, corporate social responsibility, disabilities

Public space as 'context' in assistive information and communication technologies for people with cognitive impairment (pp355-372)
Barbara Adkins (Australasian CRC for Interaction Design, PO Box 2008, Kelvin Grove, QLD 4059, Australia), Dianne Smith (School of Design, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia), Karen Barnett (Centre for Social Change Research, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia), Eryn Grant

This paper examines emergent issues of 'context' raised by the application of information and communication technologies for people with cognitive impairment. The issue of the development and application of cognitive prostheses for this group provides an opportunity to examine assumptions and issues emerging from this area pertaining to understandings of the term 'context' in these applications. In this sense the paper takes these assumptions and issues as a point of departure for the development of a 'problematic' that can contribute to the study of the experience of cognitive impairment. The paper specifically addresses recent concerns about the lack of knowledge of these experiences in public spaces such as shopping centres, given that this is a critical site for the civic participation of this group. We argue that this participation should be understood in terms of the 'meeting of two histories': the history of contemporary requirements governing participation in public space and the habitus of people with cognitive impairment with regard to this participation. The paper proposes that the salience of cognitive impairment in these spaces turns on what it means for individuals to inhabit them as complex 'Container Technologies' (Sofia) and underlines the importance of understanding their efforts to attain a sense of normality (Goffman) in these contexts. We propose that this approach can inform research contributing to the development of a 'pattern language', informing applications that make cognition a system property in networks that operate between humans, machines and their contexts.

Keywords: cognitive impairment, information and communication technology, public space, interaction order, habitus, field

Disability and the promises of technology: Technology, subjectivity and embodiment within an order of the normal (pp373-395)
Ingunn Moser (Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo, P.O.Box 1108, Blindern, N - 0317, OSLO, Norway)

The topic of this article is the promises of technology for disabled people. The starting point is that disabled is not something one is but something one becomes, and, further, that disability is enacted and ordered in situated and quite specific ways. The question, then, is how people become, and are made, disabled - and, in particular, what role technologies and other material arrangements play in enabling and or disabling interactions. Drawing on a study of the uses of new technologies in the lives of disabled people in Norway, and recent work in disability studies as well as social studies of science and technology, this article explores precisely what positions and capacities are enabled; how these are made possible in practice; the specific configuration of subjectivity, embodiment and disability that emerges; and the limits to this mode of ordering disability and its technologies. The argument is that in this context the mobilization of new technologies works to build an order of the normal and turn disabled people into competent normal subjects. However, this strategy based on compensation achieves its goals only at a very high price: by continuing to reproduce boundaries between abled and disabled, and normal and deviant, which constitute some people as disabled in the first place. There are thus limits to normalization. And so, notwithstanding their generative and transformative power, technologies working within an order of the normal are implicated in the (re)production of the asymmetries that they and it seek to undo.

Keywords: disability, technology, subjectivity, ordering, normalisation

Where do you want to sit today? Computer programmers' static bodies and disability (pp396-416)
Michele White (Department of Communication, Tulane University, 219 Newcomb Hall, New Orleans, LA, 70118, USA)

Studying how sitting and stasis are incorporated into everyday life indicates the variety of embodied positions that people occupy. It also challenges the ways non-disabled individuals are associated with straight standing and two-legged walking and then privileged. In this article, I analyze male computer programmers' descriptions of sitting, stasis and being large. Close textual, theoretical, and visual analysis is employed in considering programmers' posts to Ars Technica, Slashdot and other asynchronous Internet forums. In these settings, programmers describe a lifestyle of 'sitting at computers for 8, 10, 12, even 24 hours at a time', physically growing into chairs and being 'a fat lazy bastard'. By indicating their long periods of stasis and over-involvement with physicality and screen representations, these male computer programmers compromise their position as erect and walking individuals.
The position of computer programmers is quite different from normative masculinity, which is associated with heterosexuality, physical movement and power in advertisements, popular literature and Internet settings. Feminist theories of spectatorship suggest how the intimate and passive viewing positions of computer programmers are associated with women. Foregrounding the ways male computer programmers envision their bodies, and how their pain and large size are associated with disability and femininity, can help to contest ideas about impaired corporeality and empowered masculinity. Computer programmers' narratives regarding embodiment also perform unintentional political work by supporting disability theorists' and activists' efforts in rethinking the power discrepancies accompanying cultural perceptions of non-disabled and disabled.

Keywords: body, disability studies, gender, Internet studies, masculinity, sitting

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