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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 11:07 01/06/2009
Journal Abstracts #313: December 11, 2008

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society:
Volume 11, Issue 7, October 2008

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


Social class and young people's technology use
Sue North and Ilana Snyder and Scott Bulfin (Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia)
Informed by Bourdieu's notions of habitus and taste, and Raymond Williams' notion of cultural form, this article considers the relationship between young people's use of technology and social class. Drawing on the findings of case studies of 25 Australian 15-year-olds, the article suggests that there is a strong link between technology use and class. We argue that markers of class such as parents' level of education and occupation inform the habitus of young people which, in turn, influences their digital tastes. The case studies set out to explore young people's digital communication practices at home and in school. The findings show the importance of habitus in young people's engagement with and interest in digital technologies. We found that new experiences, objects, actions and accomplishments using digital technologies were accepted as valuable or rejected depending on how well they fit with already existing thoughts and processes incorporated into the young people's habitus. Apart from common teenage interests such as music, young people's tastes are influenced by their social background. For schools to equip young people with the skills to participate and communicate in an increasingly digital world, an expansion in ICT resources is not the sole solution. The article concludes that the link between cultural capital, habitus and cultural form produces a socially entrenched digital inequality rather than an economically entrenched digital divide.

Keywords: information and communication technology; Bourdieu; taste; habitus; cultural capital; cultural form

Mobility, software and the laptop musician
Nick Prior (Department of Sociology, University of Edinburgh, School of Social and Political Studies, Edinburgh, UK)
In this article I address some images, categories and open-ended trajectories of the laptop in music production. The aim is to explore the laptop's increasing presence in the sites of music, from cyberspace to live venues, as well as the relationship between music and mobile computerized space. Implicit in the article is the claim that the laptop is a neglected device, but that close attention to its position in cultural networks and everyday settings is one way of examining some possible ways into the complex entanglements and layerings of mobile space. The first part of the article explores the laptop as the archetypal nomadic machine of the digital age, inserted into mobile networks, hubs and flows. The laptop mediates mobility and by doing so not only serves macro-processes of social and economic change, but also opens up creative possibilities for the musician beyond the studio and the home. The second part of the article examines the role of software in activating the laptop's capabilities. The growth of music software and Virtual Studio Technology in the early 2000s, it will be argued, represents a major transformation in music production. A case study is made of a single application, Ableton Live, to show that new forms of music software encourage norms of creativity and play that take it beyond emulations of hardware studios. A residual distrust of the laptop's automative capabilities, however, reprises an anxiety in the history of popular music around questions of creativity and musicianship. The final part explores this anxiety and argues that the laptop is a place-holder for conflicting meanings about what belongs in music: productivity and creation, reality and virtuality, play and work, the cybernetic and the organic. It thereby reveals socio-technical imbroglios in action, where digitized music and software code meet the material properties of technologies and the practices of users in complex, networked societies.

Keywords: laptops; music; digital; mobility; software; technology

Secondary effects of Internet on community
Andrea Kavanaugh and B. Joon Kim and Manuel A. Prez-Quiones and Joseph Schmitz and Philip Isenhour (Virginia Tech, Department of Computer Science, Blacksburg, US), Joseph Schmitz (Communication Department, Western Illinois University, Macomb, US)
Broad and diverse civic participation is essential to a democratic society. Studies of opinion leadership show that politically active citizens report that Internet information and communication helped increase civic involvement by enabling them to keep up more easily with news, interact with fellow citizens or engage in collective action. Yet information about less active citizens remains scant. Does the Internet influence the politically passive majority of citizens to become more involved in political talk or other forms of participation? Do they report that the Internet has been helpful in increasing their involvement in political issues, interactions with other citizens, or with local government? These kinds of impacts that follow the primary effect of gaining access to information are considered secondary effects of the Internet upon political participation (Sproull & Kiesler 1991). This article presents quantitative and qualitative findings from a case study of local political participation from the Blacksburg, Virginia region, within the context of a mature community computer network (the Blacksburg Electronic Village). Not only do politically active, but some politically passive citizens also report increased Internet use to communicate with other citizens and with fellow members of local groups about local or national issues. Further, in addition to politically active citizens, some politically passive citizens report that web logs (blogs) have fostered greater online exchange with other citizens through ad hoc political talk and knowledge sharing. These research findings help us to understand the secondary effects of the Internet on political participation in local communities.

Keywords: political participation; survey research; community computer networks; social impact

A content analysis of youth and issue websites
Roman Gerodimos (Bournemouth University, Media School, Poole, United Kingdom)
This article reviews recent thinking and practice on the issue of youth mobilization in the United Kingdom. Developing young people's sense of civic efficacy has been shown to be the key to facilitating civic engagement. However, different approaches and online mobilization strategies have been adopted by top-down government or parliament-supported projects, and by non-governmental or 'issue' organizations. To address the question of whether UK mobilization sites are making the most of the internet to facilitate youth efficacy 20 youth and issue mobilization websites were analysed looking at content, design and interactivity. The study found that most top-down youth sites, such as youth parliaments and forums, lacked appealing, relevant content and a clear purpose; their aim was to generically 'involve' young people without a set of specific reasons and benefits that would motivate young users. Youth portals were an exception to the rule as they provided users with comprehensive, accessible and relevant information and tools. NGO sites were much more empowering and strategic in their agenda and reach, with slick, comprehensive and appealing pages, although quite focused on citizens already engaged with the issues. Overall, the study finds clear signs of a move towards the politics of everyday life and the model of the citizen-consumer. Political organizations providing promotional material, participation tools and practical tips that link to young visitors' lifeworld are more likely to succeed in boosting their sense of efficacy. However, that raises important questions about the gravitas of such online activities in traditional political terms.

Keywords: young people; e-democracy; mobilization; web content analysis; participation; non-governmental organizations

Rajiv C. Shah (Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago, Bloomington, Illinois, United States); Jay P. Kesan (University of Illinois at Chicago of law, Champaign, IL, USA)
Software is increasingly seen as a policy tool to influence societal concerns such as privacy, freedom of speech and intellectual property protection. A necessary step in this process is deciding what the 'settings' should be for the relevant software. One powerful setting in software is defaults. This article puts forth a framework for how default settings should be determined. This normative approach towards software settings stands apart from most previous scholarship, which focuses on the effect of software.

The framework is illustrated with an example of an incorrectly set default in Apple's Airport Extreme wireless access point. Policymakers can influence competition, security, and privacy by relying on this framework. We believe that the manipulation of software to enhance social welfare is a powerful tool and a useful complement to traditional legal methods.

* This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0429217. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Keywords: defaults; policy; software; regulation; code

The Digital Rights Movement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the user-centered framing of fair use
Hector Postigo (Department of Broadcasting Telecommunications and Mass Media, School of Communication and Theater, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA)
This article undertakes an analysis of strategic framing strategies in the Digital Rights Movement by the movement's central Social Movement Organization (SMO), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Through analysis of a series of interviews with key members of the EFF and analysis of the EFF's 'Endangered Gizmos' campaign in response to the MGM vs Grokster case, this article shows how the organization strategically frames consumers as users' and fair use in user-centered fashion. In so doing the EFF develops a legitimizing rationale for expanding consumer privileges in copyrighted works. The analysis shows that the user-centered notion of fair use articulates with broader historical and emerging trends in media consumption/use and thus finds accepting audiences both within the movement and outside of it.

Keywords: social movements; strategic framing; fair use; digital rights; digital rights management (DRM); electronic frontier foundation (EFF)

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