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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #262: December 25, 2006

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society:
Volume 9, Number 5, December 2006

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


Putting the critique back into a Critique of Information: refusing to follow the order (pp553-571)
Paul A. Taylor (Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds, Houldsworth Building, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK)

This paper argues that Scott Lash's Critique of Information is one of the most important works of the new informational order: the Order. However, despite its comprehensive and insightful analysis, it illustrates a common trend amongst theorists whereby the inherent pessimism of their arguments' logic tends to be replaced by an unwarranted optimism regarding their conclusions. This criticism is applied to Lash's critique, which is further supplemented by a rejection of Lash's argument that the transcendent perspective necessary for critical theory has been supplanted in the information age by an immanent all-at-onceness. The much more negative perceptions of the social and cultural effects of the Order to be found within literature and cultural history are defended as valuable sources of critical perspectives that may still help to aid theory as it struggles to keep up with the Order's discombobulating flows.

Keywords: Critique, Lash, Musil, Order, pattern recognition

Dialectic of information? A response to Taylor (pp572-581)
Scott Lash (Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW, UK)

This paper is a response to Paul Taylor's review article of the book Critique of Information. The book's main thesis is that critique in the information age must be immanent critique. Taylor reproaches this for neglecting the necessity of a transcendental for critique. The response accepts this criticism. However, it rejects Taylor's aporetic notion of critique. Instead, a dialectical notion of critique is proposed. Like all dialectics this informational dialectic is one of materiality and idea. The major difference in the information age, however, is that there is a tendency for the material and the ideal to fuse in information itself. Thus the critique of information, it is argued, is a sort of immanent dialectic. This notion of critique is illustrated with reference to media art and metadata. Throughout there is an engagement with Taylor of the political implications of such critique.

Keywords: Critique, information, transcendental, dialectics, immanence, materiality, the ideal, media-art, metadata

Social capital online: Collective use of the Internet and reciprocity as lubricants of democracy (pp582-611)
Tetsuro Kobayashi (2-13-6, Sekimae, Musashino-city, Tokyo, 1800014, Japan ), Ken'ichi Ikeda (Department of Social Psychology, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-0033, Japan), Kakuko Miyata (2-10-14, Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0012, Japan)

This article puts the democratic potential of using the Internet into perspective through an analysis of how collective uses of the Internet promote social capital. Research results reveal that social capital online (i.e. trust and reciprocity) is enhanced by involvement in collective use of the Internet such as participation in online communities and use of the Internet among informal groups in everyday life. This process could counter negative aspects of Internet use. Further, accumulated online social capital can be a powerful predictor of online political participation, i.e. online reciprocity has a positive effect on intention to participate in online civic discussion. Finally, the authors' analyses indicate the possibility of a spillover of online social capital into offline arenas. It is concluded that collective use of the Internet can be a lubricant for democracy.

Keywords: Internet use, social capital, reciprocity, trust, social participation, political participation

Towards building an integrated perspective on e-democracy (pp612-632)
Zahid Parvez (University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton Business School, Telford Campus, Shifnal Road, Priorslee, Telford, TF2 9NT, Shropshire, UK) and Pervaiz Ahmed (University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton Business School, Telford Campus, Shifnal Road, Priorslee, Telford, TF2 9NT, Shropshire, UK)

This paper evaluates the dominant perspectives for understanding e-democracy in practice. It argues that although these, on their own, only provide static and partial accounts of the role and implications of e-democracy, nevertheless they should not be disregarded. The paper proposes an integration of their key positions to generate a more rounded and complete account of the role of e-democracy in practice. It suggests that Giddens's Structuration Theory provides a starting point in this direction. A structuration perspective is able to integrate many of the diverse perspectives whilst simultaneously avoiding technological and social determinism by focusing attention on the interplay of social structures and agency in e-democracy practices. This perspective assists in illuminating the underlying institutional arrangements and structures in which e-democracy practices are embedded, as well as the strategies employed by human actors. It focuses attention on structures of signification, domination and legitimation that surround e-democracy practices and also how individuals are both enabled and constrained in these practices. It is argued that more complete and balanced accounts which emerge from such an integrated perspective could assist in developing a more effective e-democracy policy.

Keywords: E-democracy, e-governance, structuration theory, informatization

The interplay of public and private spaces in internet access (pp633-656)
Ana Viseu (Department of Science & Technology Studies, Cornell University, 311 Rockefeller Hall, Ithaca, NY, 14853, USA), Andrew Clement (Information Policy Research Program, Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto, 140 St George St, Toronto, ON, M5S 3G6, Canada), Jane Aspinall (Information Policy Research Program, Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto, 140 St George St, Toronto, ON, M5S 3G6, Canada), Tracy L. M. Kennedy (Graduate Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, 725 Spadina Avenue, St Catherine's, Ontario, M5S 2J4, Canada)

The creation of public internet access facilities is one of the principal policy instruments adopted by governments in addressing 'digital divide' issues. The lack of plans for ongoing funding, in North America at least, suggests that this mode is regarded mainly as transitional, with private, home-based access being perceived as superior. The assumption apparently is that as domestic internet penetration rates rise, public access facilities will no longer be needed. Central to this issue are the varied characteristics of publicly provided and privately owned access sites and their implications for non-employment internet activities. What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of these two access modes? More fundamentally, how do people conceptualize public and private spaces and how does this perception influence their online activities? Finally, why do people choose one over the other, and how do they navigate between the two? This article attempts to answer these questions by drawing on data generated within the Everyday Internet Project, a 'neighborhood ethnography' of internet usage. It argues that the conventional view of private and public access facilities as immiscible, fixed alternatives is inadequate. Rather than 'pure' types, they are better understood as offering hybrid spaces whose identity and character are fluid, perceived differently by individuals in light of the activities being performed, life experiences, infrastructure and architecture. The picture emerging from our study is one where public and private access modes intertwine with each other in a variety of ways, their combination offering significant additional value for many users. From a public policy perspective, these findings suggest that if universal access is to be achieved, there is a continuing need for publicly supported broad-spectrum facilities with integrated technical support and learning opportunities, even if domestic penetration rates approach that of the telephone.

Keywords: Internet access and use, digital divides, spatial hybridity, internet policy, neighborhood ethnography

Constructing the digital patient: Patient organizations and the development of health websites (pp657-675)
Nelly Oudshoorn (Centre for Studies of Science, Technology and Society, University of Twente, Het Capitool, P.O. Box 217, 7500, AE Enschede, The Netherlands) and Andre Somers (Centre for Studies of Science, Technology and Society, University of Twente, Het Capitool, P.O. Box 217, 7500, AE Enschede, The Netherlands)

In order to understand the constraints and challenges of realizing the democratic potentials of the Internet, this paper focuses on the attempts of three Dutch patient organizations to develop health websites. The authors describe how these patient organizations had to overcome specific barriers to develop their digital services. All three organizations faced certain constraints that had negative consequences for the plans they wanted to realize. Lack of financial resources and manpower were the main reasons why these patient organizations could not develop interactive parts of their website or provide personal advice services. Other barriers the patient organizations had to overcome were getting access to digital expertise to build the websites. The paper shows that the development of a website is a very demanding task, even for patient organizations that have in-house expertise with computers and Internet. Moreover, the paper shows that patient organizations do not consider the involvement of patients as crucial for the design of health websites. This research thus confirms previous research findings that users, in this case patients, are largely absent from the design process of information and communication technologies Finally, the paper shows how patient organizations' websites contribute to a redefinition of the patient from being a passive actor towards one who is an active participant in his or her care.

Keywords: Patient organizations, health websites, user-centered design, active patient models, patient identities

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