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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 11:17 01/06/2009
Journal Abstracts #302: April 14, 2008

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society:
Volume 11, Issue 1, February 2008

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


Ben Anderson (Chimera, University of Essex, Essex, UK)
Broadband changes everything. Or so we are told. But does it? There is only one way to find out - follow people who move from narrowband to broadband internet access and see what changes. This paper reports exactly this kind of analysis using data from a two wave European panel study (e-Living) and the lagged endogenous regression approach to see if switching to broadband increases the time spent online, the use of online communication services, the breadth of internet activities and the amount of online spend, and whether it decreases the time spent watching TV and the level of social leisure activities. The results suggest, in the main, that switching to broadband made little difference for this group of early broadband adopters who were already heavy internet users. There was no evidence of an online spend or social leisure substitution effect although there was evidence of a reduction in time spent watching television, and an increase in email in use, time spent online and breadth of internet use. In all cases however it was the previous levels of behaviour that were the most significant and switching to broadband was, in general, one of the least strong effects.

Keywords: Broadband; social impact; social capital; e-commerce; longitudinal household panel

SOFTWARE DEFAULTS AS DE FACTO REGULATION The case of the wireless internet (p25-46)
Rajiv C. Shah (Department of Communications, University of Illinois-Chicago, Bloomington, IL, USA); Christian Sandvig (University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA)
Today's internet presumes that individuals are capable of configuring software to address issues such as spam, security, indecent content, and privacy. This assumption is worrying - common sense and empirical evidence state that not everyone is so interested or so skilled. When regulatory decisions are left to individuals, for the unskilled the default settings are the law. This article relies on evidence from the deployment of wireless routers and finds that defaults act as de facto regulation for the poor and poorly educated. This paper presents a large sample behavioral study of how people modify their 802.11 ('Wi-Fi') wireless access points from two distinct sources. The first is a secondary analysis of, one of the largest online databases of wireless router information. The second is an original wireless survey of portions of three census tracts in Chicago, selected as a diversity sample for contrast in education and income. By constructing lists of known default settings for specific brands and models, we were then able to identify how people changed their default settings. Our results show that the default settings for wireless access points are powerful. Media reports and instruction manuals have increasingly urged users to change defaults - especially passwords, network names, and encryption settings. Despite this, only half of all users change any defaults at all on the most popular brand of router. Moreover, we find that when a manufacturer sets a default 96-99 percent of users follow the suggested behavior, while only 28-57 percent of users acted to change these same default settings when exhorted to do so by expert sources. Finally, there is also a suggestion that those living in areas with lower incomes and levels of education are less likely to change defaults, although these data are not conclusive. These results show how the authority of software trumps that of advice. Consequently, policy-makers must acknowledge and address the power of software to act as de facto regulation.

Keywords: Regulation; software; wireless; defaults; usability; law; policy

Katherine Bessière; Sara Kiesler; Robert Kraut; Bonka S. Boneva (Human Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
We examine how people's different uses of the Internet predict their later scores on a standard measure of depression, and how their existing social resources moderate these effects. In a longitudinal US survey conducted in 2001 and 2002, almost all respondents reported using the Internet for information, and entertainment and escape; these uses of the Internet had no impact on changes in respondents' level of depression. Almost all respondents also used the Internet for communicating with friends and family, and they showed lower depression scores six months later. Only about 20 percent of this sample reported using the Internet to meet new people and talk in online groups. Doing so changed their depression scores depending on their initial levels of social support. Those having high or medium levels of social support showed higher depression scores; those with low levels of social support did not experience these increases in depression. Our results suggest that individual differences in social resources and people's choices of how they use the Internet may account for the different outcomes reported in the literature.

Keywords: Depression; longitudinal study; Internet uses; social support; extraversion; interpersonal interaction; social resources

THE ICONIC INTERFACE AND THE VENEER OF SIMPLICITY:MP3 players and the reconfiguration of music collecting and reproduction practices in the digital age (p71-88)
David Beer (Faculty of Business and Communication, York St John University, Lord Mayor's Walk, York, UK)
Apple's iPod and MP3 players in general have risen to cultural prominence in recent years. Figures now indicate that in Britain as many as 48 per cent of 16-34 year olds own some form of MP3 player, Apple have sold nearly 60 million iPods worldwide since their launch in November 2001, and the billionth worldwide legal music download was recorded in February 2006. In this context of relative mass and escalating appropriation we are faced with a series of pressing sociological questions concerning the transformative capacities of these technologies. This paper attempts to set out some of these questions for further investigation. Here it is claimed that the MP3 player has reconfigured and recontextualized music in distinct yet interrelated ways: (1) the reconfiguration of music as a virtual (MP3) rather than a physical cultural artefact (vinyl record, tape, or CD), which has implications for music collecting/archiving; and (2) extending the work of the personal stereo, the MP3 player is recontextualizing music by moving it out across the spaces of everyday life, a process that transcends boundaries between public and private zones. The paper concentrates on the former and suggests that the reconfigurations afforded by MP3 technologies can be understood in terms of Katherine Hayles' conceptualization of 'incorporative' and 'inscriptive' practices allied with Apple's own theory of the iPod as an 'iconic interface' cultivating an auratic 'veneer of simplicity'.

Keywords: MP3; MP3 players; iPod; interface; compression; digitalization; music culture; virtual; mobility

WWW.FAITH.ORG (Re)structuring communication and the social capital of religious organizations (p89-110)
Pauline Hope Cheong (Department of Communication, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA); Jessie Poon (Department of Geography, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA)
This paper examines the relationships between Internet and social capital building within religious organizations, which are relatively understudied foci. Building upon theoretical insights provided by new institutionalism and recent research on the Internet, social capital and religion, this article explores the ways in which religious organizations have (re)structured their norms, values, and practices of religious community in light of the incorporation of the Internet into their congregational life. Drawing from interviews conducted with Christian and Buddhist religious leaders in Toronto, this article discusses three major relationships in which the effects of the Internet on social capital may be understood, that is, complementary, transformative, and perverse relationships. Religious organizations are traditionally associated with relatively high stocks of social capital, yet findings here suggest that their communicative norms, values, and practices are changing to a varying extent. The results also indicate that the relationship between the Internet and social capital building is largely complementary; however, the Internet is perceived by some to be a 'mixed blessing', facilitating the potential transformation of organizational practices that affect community norms while leading to the dispersion of religious ties that could undermine community solidarity. Thus, contrary to earlier studies that have documented no evidence of innovations involving the reconfiguration of organizational practices and the adjustment of mission or services, findings here illustrate how some religious organizations have expanded the scope of their calling and restructured their communicative practices to spur administrative and operational effectiveness. Like other organizations, religious organizations are not insulated from technological changes including those associated with the Internet. This study clarifies and identifies key ways in which the distinct spirituality, cultural values, and institutional practices and norms of religious organizations influence communication processes that constitute bridging and bonding forms of social capital in this era of faith.

Keywords: Religion; Internet; social capital; religious organizations; world cities

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