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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:24 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #270: February 26, 2007

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society:
Volume 9, Number 6, December 2006

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


Melinda Goldner (Associate Professor of Sociology at Union College in Schenectady, New York)

A few studies examine what types of health information people seek online, yet we know little about how this varies by health status. To examine this question we used data collected from a random sample of 2,038 adults for the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which asked respondents in the United States whether they searched for 16 different types of information. These 16 topics were grouped into three broad areas, including medical conditions and treatments, health issues (e.g. diet and smoking cessation), and providers and payment (e.g. a particular hospital). To build on prior literature, two measures of health status were used: a self-report and the presence of a medical condition. The data suggest that health status impacts the types of health or medical information people seek on the Internet. Self-reported health status was not significantly related to any of the topics; however, respondents diagnosed with a disability or chronic disease were more likely to seek medical information on 13 of the 16 topics addressed. These include specific diseases or medical conditions, medical treatments or procedures, experimental treatments or medicines, alternative treatments or medicines, pharmaceutical or over-the-counter drugs, diet, immunizations, smoking cessation, depression, sexual health, environmental health hazards, a particular physician or hospital, and Medicaid/Medicare (governmental health programs in the United States for the poor and elderly). These results suggest that individuals in the United States who have a medical condition are more likely than healthy individuals to research most health topics online. The Internet can provide consumers with a wealth of information on issues of health and illness, yet healthcare providers need to educate consumers to be cautious given the range in quality.

Keywords: Internet; World Wide Web; health status; illness; health; E-health

HAVE YOU BEEN IDENTIFIED? Hidden boundary work in emergency services classifications (pp714-736)
Carrie Sanders (PhD candidate at McMaster University)

Information technologies, such as the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system, have fundamentally changed workplace protocols. This paper examines the impacts that the standardized processes associated with the CAD system have on the labour of 9-1-1/police call-takers. Through an analysis of the labour of 9-1-1/police call-takers and their processes for classifying emergency call(er)s, we are able to uncover the negotiated labour between human and machine. It is argued throughout the paper that the standardized processes of the CAD system do not remove the social from call-taking but instead emphasize the use of the social as a resource for classifying call(er)s. The present analysis illustrates how emergency classification is not a standardized process but instead an actively constructed virtual image performed in real space and time by call-takers. It is the call-takers' tacit knowledge and ability to work across the virtual, abstract and material worlds that makes them essential players in emergency response.

Keywords: Emergency response; information technology; standardization; classification and boundary work

László Fekete (studied history, economic history and sociology at Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest, the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität zu Jena (Germany), and State University of New York at Binghamton (USA))

The rise of the network economy brought about the strong conviction that economic interactions in the network economy could be based on cooperative, informed and transparent communication, which would counteract the negative welfare effects of unequal bargaining power, the opacity of the intentions of the parties, opportunistic behaviors, monopolies and market failures. So the contracts of the network economy nowadays do not at all remind us of agreements based on the cooperation of free, equal individuals who follow their values and self-interest, during which they take into consideration the increase of each other's well-being as well as the mutual sharing of benefits and risks. The network economy reached the limits set by the segmentation of network architecture, the restrictive regimes of copyrights, the digital privatizations of the public domains, the right holder's control over digitalized contents, the regulatory furors of the different states and international organizations, the 'private legislation' of the corporations, and so forth. The commoditization of knowledge, information and communication and the monopolies have had negative welfare effects. Of course, this in itself does not overthrow the validity of the philosophical, moral-philosophical and economic arguments brought up to support the contractual coordination of economic interactions. On the contrary: On the basis of the current setback of the development of the network economy, we could, rather, conclude that the business model, which is trying to expropriate the positive externalities of the network effect with legal and technical means, leads to a general decrease of social profit. So, not only does this model of the new economy violate rights and is also contrary to moral principles but it cannot, either, be maintained in the long run from the point of view of the market.

Keywords: New economy; network; contract; economic interactions; property rights; rival and non-rival goods

Caroline Haythornthwaite (Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Working together has always been a challenge but recent trends in who works with whom, on what, and across what regions, cultures, disciplines and time zones have conspired to increase the complexity of team work, and in particular the complexity of knowledge work and communication across knowledge divides. Drawing from literature and examples of practice obtained during research on distributed, collaborative teams, this paper examines constraints to collaborative practice. It is argued that crossing knowledge divides requires articulating often invisible, taken-for-granted knowledge-based asset specificities that constrain what is recognized and accepted as practice in the different fields or occupations involved in the collaboration. Different types of specificities are discussed as examples to stimulate recognition and articulation of distributions in practice. The paper then discusses ways of recognizing domain constraints on the way to articulating divides and achieving collaboration across distributions in knowledge, practice and technology.

Keywords: Interdisciplinarity; distributed knowledge; asset specificities; collaboration

Adrian Mackenzie (researches in the areas of technology, culture and social theory)

This paper analyses Wi-Fi, a mundane wireless networking technology, in terms of a cultural flow of meanings concerning movement of people and data. The principal analytical problem addressed in the paper is how to make sense of the profusion of images, practices, events, objects and social groupings associated with Wi-Fi. Rather than treating the abundance as driven by the IT industry's desire to find the Next Big Thing, or as hype that obscures actual social realities, the paper suggests that different ideas, ambivalences, frustrations and problems with Wi-Fi form part of an ongoing contestation of the meaning and value of information infrastructures. Using a model of culture drawn from Ulf Hannerz, the paper describes how meanings flow in three axes: ideas or modes of thought, forms of externalization and social distributions. Wi-Fi offers a significant opportunity to analyse how different movements of people and data are collectively negotiated and figured. The reflexive and tactical uses of wireless networks to contest ideas of information and movement are key elements of this negotiation.

Keywords: Wireless networks; ideas; markets; commodities; mobility; Wi-Fi

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