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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 11:44 07/23/2007
Journal Abstracts #287: July 23, 2007

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society:
Volume 10, Number 2, April 2007

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


TESTING THE LEAP-FROG HYPOTHESIS: The impact of existing infrastructure and telecommunications policy on the global digital divide (pp133-157)
Philip N. Howard (Department of Communication, University of Washington. Seattle, Washington. USA)
This paper tests the 'leap-frog' hypothesis by modeling the impact of existing telecommunications infrastructure, controlling for economic, political and demographic factors, on changes in information communication technology (ICT) access for over 200 countries between 1995 and 2005. This study has significantly greater coverage than previous research, in terms of both time frame and country cases. First, the analysis demonstrates that in the first decade of the information society successful leap-frog countries are few and far between. Second, the relative distribution of personal computers, internet hosts and secure servers among the nations of the world has barely improved over the last decade. Third, contrary to received wisdom, most of the countries that might qualify as successful leap-frog countries are actually among the wealthiest in the world. Finally, while policy reform in the telecommunications sector can sometimes speed the diffusion of digital communication tools, the record of market reforms is mixed, and the overall effect of economic wealth is still paramount. In sum, a few poor countries have leapt ahead in the development of a few aspects of ICT infrastructure and use, but these relatively rare successes are more likely to be due to economic productivity than to privatization, regulatory separation and depoliticization, or market liberalization in the telecommunications sector.

Keywords: Global digital divide; Gini coefficient; leap-frog; telecommunications policy; privatization

DIGITAL DIVIDES AND CAPITAL CONVERSION: The optimal use of information and communication technology for youth reading achievement (pp159-180)
Victor Thiessen (Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University. hali, NS. Canada & Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Stellenbosch University. Matieland, slenbosch. South Africa)
E. Dianne Looker (Department of Sociology, Mount Saint Vincent University. hali, NS. Canada)
Analysis of a nationally representative survey of 15-year-old Canadian youth indicates how capital can be converted from one form to another by examining the use of information and communication technology (ICT) and reading achievements. Overall there is a negligible linear relationship but a pronounced curvilinear one between these variables, suggesting an optimal level of ICT use. This optimal point varies by gender (males are able to use ICT more before negative effects set in), and by parental education (with girls from highly educated homes gaining more from the use of ICT). Implications for policy and practice are discussed.

Keywords: Reading achievement; information and communication technology; gender; socioeconomic status; computers

Roli Varma (School of Public Administration, University of New Mexico. Albuquerque, NM. USA)
This study uses primary empirical data to better understand women's reasons for leaving undergraduate computer science and computer engineering education programs. It draws on social control theory to integrate student perspectives with structural considerations, demonstrating how secondhand knowledge of comparatively infrequent negative experiences achieves substantial immediacy and veracity among women students en masse, thereby contributing to increased attrition.

Keywords: Attrition; computer science education; minority-serving institution; social control theory; retention

COMMUNITY INFORMATICS AND THE LOCAL STATE IN THE UK: Facilitating or assimilating an agenda for change? (pp194-218)
Ian Goodwin (School of English and Media Studies, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Massey University Wellington Campus. Wellington. New Zealand)
The emerging discipline of community informatics (CI) has begun to trace out a distinct agenda for change in the social uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Focusing upon the appropriation of ICTs by local communities who have been disenfranchised by technological development, this agenda foregrounds uses of the Internet in the pursuit of distinctly community-related objectives. However, the role that the local state ought to play within this agenda for change remains marked by a degree of controversy and ambiguity. Assertions of the need for community autonomy coexist uneasily with a recognition that the local state can help develop and sustain CI. Much current work therefore focuses upon exploring notions of 'partnership' between the local state and local groups in developing CI. Against this background, this paper draws on a case study of Birmingham City Council (BCC) in order to explore a series of significant organizational changes to local government, which have seen BCC adopt a fundamentally new 'community leadership' role. This shift to community leadership is being expedited by innovative uses of Internet technology. It is argued that, rather than straightforwardly re-creating BCC as a better partner to community groups in developing CI, such changes are deeply paradoxical. In the first instance shifts to community leadership have enabled BCC to develop valuable web resources that enhance their role as a partner facilitating citizen-led CI. Conversely, however, these changes are bound up in a broader attempt by BCC to reassert managerial control at a time when its legitimacy as a social institution is being questioned. Faced with a series of external challenges, BCC has replicated important CI activities in the pursuit of its own interests. Ultimately it is argued that this assimilation of CI could eventually undermine the broader CI agenda for change.

Keywords: Community informatics; Internet; local government; local governance; partnership; community leadership

LINKED OR DIVIDED BY THE WEB?: Internet use and sociability in four European countries (pp219-241)
Pekka Räsänen (Department of Sociology, University of Turku. Finland), Antti Kouvo (Department of Sociology, University of Turku. Finland)

It is often assumed that the increased use of the new information and communication technology (ICT) can displace traditional face-to-face sociability. At the same time, it has been argued that the new ICT can also strengthen traditional forms of sociability. This article evaluates these opposite views by examining how the frequency of Internet use is connected with two forms of sociability: civic engagement and interpersonal involvement. Empirical interest is narrowed down to four European countries. The data utilized are the Finnish, British, French and Italian sections of the European Social Survey 2002-2003 (N = 6,762). The methods of analysis include cross-tabulations and logistic regression models. The findings indicate that frequent Internet use is positively associated with both forms of sociability in all countries. However, there are also cross-country differences in the strength of these associations and in the effects of sociodemographic control variables. The findings thus suggest that the contemporary development of the information society has different implications for different types of societies.

Keywords: Internet; civic engagement; interpersonal involvement; social capital; comparative research

SEEKING UNMEDIATED POLITICAL INFORMATION IN A MEDIATED ENVIRONMENT: The uses and gratifications of political parties' e-newsletters (pp242-264)
Nigel A. Jackson (Plymouth Business School, University of Plymouth. Plymouth. UK), Darren G. Lilleker (Bournemouth Media School, Bournemouth University. Poole. UK)

Political parties are increasingly attempting to communicate to sections of the electorate directly, in order to relay targeted messages. E-newsletters are one key communication mode that facilitates this strategy, and previous research indicates that these, like many communications using information and communication technology, offer much potential for the sender. This research focuses on the receiver, explicitly taking a uses and gratifications approach to understanding the function of e-newsletters for the UK electorate. Our findings suggest that the majority of receivers are committed party members who desire to receive information directly from the party that will help them in their campaigning and activist roles. There is, however, a minority of less-active, politically interested, subscribers who also use e-newsletters to aid their voter choice. The data suggest that e-newsletters are able to encourage subscribers to develop and build relationships with a political party, possibly becoming more active in their support than simply offering a vote at election times.

Keywords: Uses and gratification theory; UK political party e-newsletters; UK political communication; online political activism

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