Information Communication and Society

Published by Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Online ISSN: 1468-4462
Print ISSN: 1369-118X
Publications
Debate on the social role of the Internet has centred on whether its use will tend to isolate or connect individuals, undermining or reinforcing social ties. This study moves away from this focus on more or less connectivity to explore the degree to which people use the Internet to make new friends and, thereby, reconfigure their social networks. The analysis identifies those who create new ties through the Internet and investigates under what conditions these online ties migrate to face to face settings. The analysis is based on data from the 2005 Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS), a national probability sample survey of individuals aged 14 and over in Britain. The findings indicate that about 20 per cent of Internet users have met new friends online, and about half of these individuals go on to meet one or more of these virtual friends in person. Sociodemographic characteristics, such as being single, shape patterns of Internet use, and are related to the greater propensity of some individuals to make online social relationships. However, experience with the Internet and the ways people choose to use the Internet, such as for chatting or communicating more generally, are most directly associated with who makes new connections over the Internet and who does not. These findings suggest that the Internet plays an important role in reconfiguring the social networks of many users. Also, multivariate analyses indicate that the dynamics of online friendships are driven more by the idiosyncratic digital choices made by users of the Internet than by any mechanistic social or technological determinism. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
 
This paper presents a simple typology of different forms of engagement with the Internet by families with children with various forms of chronic illness. The analysis is informed by ongoing debates about the nature, distribution and efficacy of reflexivity in contemporary social life, especially as it relates to the changing nature of information and knowledge. Drawing upon qualitative interviews with sixty-nine parents and sixteen children, the paper offers a nuanced account of the manner in which laypeople are engaging with e- health. It is an account that argues that any reading of the 'digital divide' that is based upon a simple homology between socio-structural location, reflexivity and differential ability to gain material purchase from information in the 'information age' is misjudged.
 
This article explores the conceptual problems surrounding popular definitions of Web 2.0 and proposes an alternative approach to understanding the cultural dimension of Web 2.0. Drawing parallels between the discursive and analytical challenges of Web 2.0 and online communities, this article suggests that a theoretical framework, based on Bourdieu's theory of field and habitus, can be applied to theorizing Web 2.0 sites. This framework re-conceives websites as structured spaces that interact with given dispositions, or modes of engagement, that make users' practice and participation meaningful. Applying this framework, an analysis of online communities and their evolution from 1998 to 2004 demonstrates a shift in community fields that suggests an increasing tendency towards personalist modes of engagement.
 
By examining the Canadian standards system, and especially the work of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) related to accessibility, this article explores the question: can legislation and/or standards ensure access and inclusion for people with disabilities in the area of information technologies? And if so, what type is required? It argues that the standards system in Canada privileges the voices of industry while creating a discourse of public accountability and corporate social responsibility. This paradox leads to an undervaluing of the need for addressing issues of accessibility and inclusion in information technologies. By proactively seeking out innovators in the disability community and bringing them to the table, the CSA could open up the standards development discussions and find creative solutions to accessibility barriers. The principles of balanced representation and consensus decision-making open the possibility for discussions around standards that can effectively address access and inclusion of people with disabilities in the development and use of information technologies, but only if the systemic barriers to both individual and organizational participation are recognized and addressed.
 
The United States federal government is in the midst of an e- government revolution characterized by a shift from paper-based citizen-government interactions to electronic-based interactions. Driven by the demands of citizens and supported by the President and Congress, federal departments are redesigning the look and feel of their Internet presences, moving away from traditional bureaucracy- centred presentation of information to more usable citizen-centred presentations. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the USA's principal federal agency tasked with protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, has undertaken a massive reorganization of its e-health enterprise. The most publicly visible component of this reorganization is the hhs.gov portal website. This desperately needed portal - usability testing indicated that more than 60 per cent of visitors to the Department's original website failed to find the information they sought - provides easy access to the wealth of HHS information and links its diverse operating agencies. The new HHS portal simplifies citizen access to the Department by: decompartmentalizing information by removing content from bureaucratic silos 2 and rearranging it in a natural navigation scheme; tuning content and navigation features to ensure that all users have access to information tailored for them; presenting content in appropriate and citizen-preferred formats; and complying with federal accessibility regulations for blind and vision-impaired users. This paper presents a series of lessons learned during the development of the HHS portal, and results of usability testing to determine what common design features present accessibility problems particular to the blind and vision-impaired communities. These discussions of practical avenues to improving the accessibility and usability of e-health websites through appropriate and effective information designs are followed by our thoughts on the future of Internet architectures and the limitations of 'layering' technologies when striving for universal accessibility.
 
Using the online activist organization MoveOn.org as a case study, I examine how an Internet-based organization constructs an image of community in the absence of traditional avenues for community development. Through the rhetoric in its e-mails, MoveOn constructs an image of 'the MoveOn community' and uses this image to mobilize members for political activism. To be successful, MoveOn must define community boundaries, empower members, and activate them. This top-down community construction does not allow members to negotiate the meaning or values of the community. I refer to this community form as a manufactured community because it is produced and marketed to activists much like a product. I also argue that the model of fast activism inherent to online activist organizations is adaptive to our current fast-paced society. Moreover, this model of activism allows new segments of the population to become 'biographically available' (McAdam 1986, 1999) for political participation.
 
In recent years, both academic and policy making circles in the UK have shown a growing interest in the potential uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the delivery of government services. Much of the academic literature has been centred around the concept of 'informatization', and it has been suggested that the new technologies are transforming public services. Key theorists in the field of Public Administration have argued that informatization is one of a number of major trends likely to shape public services in the twenty-first century. However, the dominant theoretical approaches within public administration- those rooted in political sciencesuggest that inertia and stability are the norm in the public sector; clearly there is something of a contradiction between these two broad approaches. This paper outlines three political science perspectives that might be used in analysing informatization: the policy networks approach, rational choice and the new institutionalism. Evidence is then drawn from the social security, health care and social care sectors of the British public sector and related to the political science frameworks in order to examine their utility. Not only do these frameworks rightly highlight the incremental nature of change, but they also help to explain important variations in ICT use across the three policy sectors. It is concluded that combining the study of informatization and political science offers a fruitful avenue for future research.
 
This article sets out the conceptual and analytical framework underlying a 3-year long, 8-country research project which will examine the dynamics of women's employment in sectors critical to the so-called 'Information Society'. The project is fundamentally concerned with the gender dynamics of employment in the 'Information Society' or 'Knowledge Economy', and with whether they signal potentially greater gender equity than we currently have in contemporary capitalist society. Specifically, the project's central objective is to examine the prospects for women workers to develop new forms of expertise and skill which promote their career and personal development potential. It will focus on women's work and employment in two growing service sectors, retailing and retail financial services, in the context of leading edge innovations in technology and work organization. This article outlines the thinking behind the research project, in particular the major conceptual frameworks and the research questions which they have generated. It discusses the concepts of the 'Information Society' and the 'Knowledge Economy', and questions their relevance for female employees in routine jobs, raising the historical issue of women's exclusion from knowledge and skill. It considers the importance of the two sectors under study, retailing and retailing financial services, both for notions of the Information Society and for their role as important employers of women. It reviews recent organizational, technological and employment innovations in these sectorsparticularly in the Anglo-Saxon economies. It then raises questions about how far these dynamics might be present in other European economies, and what their implications are for women's ability to develop significant bodies of expertise and career prospects. The project is in its early stages, and this article is planned as the first in a series of papers dealing with the work as it progresses.
 
Much of the health information available to consumers on the Internet is incomplete, out of date and even inaccurate. Seals of approval or trustmarks have been suggested as a strategy to assist consumers in identifying high-quality information. Little is known, however, about how consumers interpret such seals. This study addresses this issue by examining assumptions about the quality criteria that are reflected by a seal of approval. This question is of particular importance because a wide variety of quality criteria have been suggested for online health information, including: core aspects of quality such as accuracy, currency and completeness; proxy indicators of quality such as the disclosure of commercial interests; and indicators that reflect the quality of the site or the interaction it affords, such as the availability of a search mechanism. The results of this study suggest that seals of approval are assumed to certify information quality primarily with respect to core quality indicators, aspects that subjects both consider to be important and feel relatively less able to evaluate for themselves (compared with their ability to rate proxy indicators of information or indicators of site or interaction quality). This assumption is largely inconsistent with practice: most seals of approval involve assessment of proxy indicators of information quality, rather than direct assessment of content. These results identify a problem that certification or accreditation bodies must address since, unless and until consumer expectations are congruent with evaluation practice, seals of approval will seem to promise more than they deliver.
 
This overview of an online degree programme aims to develop a concrete illustration of an exploding array of courses and programmes. The approach at the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center, at the University of Southern California, seeks to address a targeted audience and to build on the special strengths and more unique degree programmes of the University.
 
This paper examines the fan movement surrounding Lara Croft, a computer- generated character who has appeared in computer games, comic books, men' s magazines, promotional tours, music videos, calendars, action figures and motion pictures. A fixture of the pop-culture landscape since 1996, Croft embodies or incarnates a nexus of cultural, economic, and technological forces, whose shared characteristic is their powerful hold on a vast audience base. Lara Croft is nothing without her fans. As the founding member of a new mode of celebrity system featuring female digital stars, Croft's essentially technological nature - the mode of her signification and circulation - produces continuities and ruptures with traditional fan practices, reframing our understandings of categories such as "fan', "audience', "character', and "text' in relation to a mediascape whose speed and multiplicity mark not just postmodernism, but adaptive responses to postmodernity. From this perspective, Lara Croft is less a singular entity than a coping strategy, a mediation of media. The concerns of this project are, first, to examine Lara Croft as a conjunction of industrial and representational forces intended to promote certain types of reception and consumption; second, to assess the ways in which her peculiar semiotic status - simultaneously open-ended and concrete - renders her available for appropriation and elaboration by fans; and, finally, to discuss the ways in which Croft's fandom opens up new debates about the relationship between texts, audiences, and technology.
 
New media technologies provide opportunities to expand academic curriculum offerings and enhance student learning. Yet web-based and online learning tools should not be just repurposed text and information, or videotaped faculty lectures. Instead, the web calls for the inclusion of sound, text and visuals for learning tools that provide a media-rich environment. This allows faculty to create multidimensional experiences that cater to different learning styles and provide opportunities for problem solving. Drawing on my production experiences at HBS, as well as my own experience teaching visual anthropology and creating films, videos, photographs and web products, I discuss the teaching opportunities that new technologies and media can provide.
 
The concept of e-health has come to assume a key place within a larger Canadian governmental discourse that lauds the benefits of supplying Internet-based services to as wide an audience as possible. In order to fulfil its vision of a connected public accessing services cheaply and easily through electronic media, the federal government has assumed that the potential exists for all Canadians to use the Internet and has done its best to achieve this result through programmes aimed at ameliorating accessibility issues. There is particular enthusiasm over the possibility of moving some health services online, thus reducing costs incurred through personal patient-practitioner meetings while ostensibly creating more informed, proactive and healthy Canadians. This paper discusses whether or not the enthusiasm of the government, and of individual users, regarding e-health practices is merited, focussing particularly on the consumption of online health information by patients. Numerous consequences and conflicts can accompany such practices, but this paper specifically addresses the negative aspects of promoting informed health choices through a medium inaccessible to all members of Canadian society, such as the aged, the poor, rural dwellers and some ethnic minorities. The paper also assesses the potential risks of acting upon incorrect information provided online and addresses the possibility that health professionals' workloads will increase rather than decrease. However, as this paper also notes, e-health does contain potential for improving the delivery of medical services in Canada if contained within clearly defined parameters, and if alternatives still exist for those who cannot or will not benefit from such technology.
 
This article analyses the process of globalization from the perspective of a 'political economy of space' where the interactions of the processes of capitalist accumulation within contexts of geographic and social space has profound shaping effects upon the nature of politics, economics and society more generally. The argument will show that contemporary globalization has two dimensions: outward into geographic space, and inward into culture and society. The focus then moves to culture and information technology within the space economy of late capitalism and argues that a crisis of finite geographic space has led to the deepening of the commodificationary processes of capitalist accumulation into the 'identity-spaces' of culture and society. For hugely popular 'cyber-gurus' such as Howard Rheingold and Myron W . Krueger, the development of information technologies such as the Internet-derived 'virtual communities' are spaces where new forms of democracy and 'being' can emerge. This article argues that 'cyberspace' and 'virtual communities' are deeply dystopic and alienated spaces, and cyber-Utopian dreams of other, possible worlds made virtual through information technology are at best naive, when it is realised that the information revolution that evolved from the processes of a particular type of globalization, has conceived and developed technologies with primarily profit, productivity, surveillance labour-saving and escapism in mind.
 
This article argues that the changes characterized by many commentators as announcing the ‘information age’ are better seen, not as heralding a new type of society, but as the continuation, consolidation and extension of capitalism – something which is accompanied by constant upheaval and innovation. The shift from conceiving the ‘information society’ as a result of technological breakthroughs to one which lays emphasis on the primacy of ‘information’ itself is observed. The importance especially of informational labour’s ‘flexibility’ is regarded, not as indicative of a new age but of the requirements of globalized capitalism which engenders change the better to consolidate its practices. The instability of life today is ascribed, not to the upheavals resulting from the ‘information revolution’, but rather to the insatiable dynamic that has long been a distinguishing feature of capitalist enterprise. These processes are examined in terms of the shift from public to private provision of information and in the heightened uncertainty of existence today.
 
China has a long history of distance education with one of the largest and longest standing television distance delivery systems in the world. However, with the advent of online learning environments, China must face a brave new world of innovation. This paper examines the political rhethoric surrounding the allocation of funds and energies to online learning and considers critical components of that rhetoric including democracy, market driven education, open access, as well as issues of power, customization, and globalization which affect the ways in which China adopts new online learning technologies.
 
Are CCTV images of such evidential strength that they speak for themselves? If not, then for whom do they speak? CCTV cameras form a growing presence in Britain's high streets. There are estimated to be 2.5 million cameras in operation in Britain, there is an increase in legislation relating to cameras and there is increasing concern amongst civil liberties groups about cameras' effects. Claims are frequently made such as 'if you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about' and 'CCTV evidence is clear to see.' These claims depend upon acceptance of the proposal that CCTV images are simply left to speak for themselves and that CCTV staff do little interpretative work. However, to investigate these claims, we need to ask: How do CCTV systems actually operate in practice. How are identities for CCTV images made 'clear', accounted for and mobilized? What work is done to promote the notion that we have nothing to worry about with CCTV? How do issues such as 'surveillance', 'privacy' and 'public' become implicated within these identity production processes? This article seeks to tackle these questions through the interrogation of a single story involving a high-street CCTV system, local police, local residents, a national television company and civil liberties group. This analysis of interactivity (based on a broadly ethno-methodological remit) augments current sociological accounts of CCTV. Instead of accepting panoptic metaphors as a means of understanding CCTV, the article will open up the closed circuit of CCTV through an analysis of the pantopticon in practice.
 
For-profit firms use the internet to offer classes, courses and degree programmes in direct competition with nonprofit and government-supported colleges and universities. At the same time, many firms seek to partner with academic institutions in offering online instruction or distance learning.This paper outlines and discusses alternative models of academic/for-profit collaboration that are being developed in the USA. Collaboration requires the partners to define responsibilities for technology, administrative services, content development, promotion and student selection, instruction, awarding of credits and overall quality control. Firms may want to 'unbundle' the traditional faculty role of both course designer and teacher,and use different professionals for the two functions. Although most collaborations today involve non-degree programmes, many schools of business are working with for-profit firms to offer MBA degrees online. The diversity of higher education in the USA means that many different models will be tried. Collaborations will expand the markets for online distance learning, but a number of difficult issues remain to be resolved.
 
In much of the recent literature on contemporary social movements there is call for a re-conceptualization of the definition and understanding of political struggle given the impact of new emerging information communication technologies (ICTs), and the Internet in particular, on social movement organizing, contentious politics, and the electoral political process. This paper undertakes an analysis of MoveOn within a critical theory framework and argues that electronic social movement organizations, such as MoveOn, are in many ways broadening public opinion and the public sphere. It draws on the work of Habermas and theories of the Internet to illustrate how ICTs can revitalize communicative action in the public sphere and thus enhance participatory democracy.
 
Event count and binary logistic regression of media use
In contrast to technologically deterministic approaches that focus on how communication technology affects social relationships, this paper examines how individuals draw on a variety of commonly used communication media in conjunction with in-person contact to stay connected to their personal networks. I term this use of multiple communication media the 'personal communication system'. Findings are based on a random sample telephone survey of 2200 adults living throughout the continental USA. Descriptive statistics show that despite the popularity of email and mobile phones, in-person and landline phone contact are still the most common ways of connecting with personal networks. Multivariate analysis reveals a more complex picture of media use, showing that the extent to which each medium is used varies to differing degrees with the size and diversity of personal networks. Hierarchical cluster analysis is used to explore the possibility that individuals may have different types of personal communication systems. Results show only two distinct clusters: those who draw heavily on all types of media to connect with their personal networks and those who draw less heavily on all types of media. Heavy communicators typically have larger and more diverse personal networks than light communicators. When taken together, the results presented in this paper suggest that rather than radically altering relationships, communication technology is embedded in social networks as part of a larger communication system that individuals use to stay socially connected.
 
The seriousness of computer hacking is not exaggerated, it is far worse than that. The computer hacker has attained the status of myth; society associates all computer crime with a mythical perpetrator that bears no resemblance to reality. This paper will argue that in the early stages of the myth the computer hacker was regarded as a highly skilled but mentally disturbed youth who has an unhealthy association with computers. The new reality of electronic commerce resulted in pressures that culminated in the computer hacker becoming regarded as a dangerous criminal. A thorough analysis of the statistics will demonstrate that the majority of computer intruders are neither dangerous nor highly skilled, and thus nothing like the mythical hacker.
 
The application of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to higher education has recently gained a new impetus, fired by the promise, and also perhaps the threat, of the 'virtual' university. While there has been much empirical research on individual ICT initiatives, most of this has been narrowly evaluative with little attention paid to their cumulative impacts on the university as an institution. Equally, while there has been much writing on the development of virtual higher education, much of this has been speculative, concerned with the advent of still marginal new institutions and little of it has been empirically grounded. This paper is based on in-depth studies of ICT initiatives in four established universities in the North East of England. It argues that one of the consequences, often unintended, of the introduction of these technologies has been to generate demands and pressures for a more corporate institutional form in which goals, roles, identities and procedures are made explicit and standardized across the institution. To the degree that these demands are met, the result appears to be that the closer that institutions move towards the goal of becoming a virtual university, the more corporate, or 'concrete', their institutional form becomes.
 
This paper explores the impact of communication media and the Internet on connectivity between people. Results from a series of social network studies of media use are used as background for exploration of these impacts. These studies explored the use of all available media among members of an academic research group and among distance learners. Asking about media use as well as about the strength of the tie between communicating pairs revealed that those more strongly tied used more media to communicate than weak ties, and that media use within groups conformed to a unidimensional scale, showing a configuration of different tiers of media use supporting social networks of different ties strengths. These results lead to a number of implications regarding media and Internet connectivity, including: how media use can be added to characteristics of social network ties; how introducing a medium can create latent tie connectivity among group members that provides the technical means for activating weak ties, and also how a change in a medium can disrupt existing weak tie networks; how the tiers of media use also suggest that certain media support different kinds of information flow; and the importance of organization-level decisions about what media to provide and promote. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications for Internet effects.
 
How do engineers and software developers perceive the link between the sustainability theme and their development activity? Chances and limits of using the sustainability concept in the sphere of ICT construction are commented based on the results of an empirical study conducted between 2006 and 2007, with design, system, and software engineers in Austrian companies.
 
This paper explores the localization of new media production in San Francisco. It is contextualized within a debate about the material culture of cyberspace. Much rhetoric has been expended in "reading off" idealized "online" worlds into probable "off-line" worlds: the "death of geography" is a case in point. The case is made for a corrective to both the idealist-culturalist, and the materialist techno-economic, accounts of cyberspace that accords an opportunity for both to infuse one another. The paper uses the concept of the material cultural practice of making products, underpinned by the notion of product space, to argue in favour of a co-construction of the "off-" and "online" worlds. The case study illustrates the point of how the most ecstatic "online" community is rooted in a particular space and place, and how "off-line" practices are essential to its "online" presence.
 
The USA has always prided itself on the defence of freedom for all its peoples, democracy as well as being on the leading edge of innovations. The USA, therefore, is a particularly unique setting for an examination of the rhetoric associated with the politics of adopting online learning technologies. This paper examines the context of the US on-line learning system with a particular focus on those aspects of the movement which appeal so keenly to Americans. Certain values are expressed in this movement which are almost uniquely American such as democracy, freedom, efficiency, independence, the vocational nature of education, and meritocratic schemes for education as a sorting mechanism for the society.
 
Not long after computer scientists first began working on the technical design of the network that ultimately became known as the Internet, in 1969, they began to document their discussions, information shared, and decisions made in a series of documents known as the Internet requests for comments that is still being used for this purpose 40 years later. A comprehensive inductive reading of these documents reveals that legal and policy issues were often raised or confronted in the course of resolving technical problems. In many of these instances, the technical decisions that resulted had law-like effects in the sense that they constrained or enabled the ways in which users can communicate and can access and use information over the Internet, whether or not such decisions supported or subverted legal decision-making, and whether or not legal decision-makers understood the societal implications of the technical decisions that were being made. This is one of the two ways in which technical and legal decision-making have become interpenetrated. The literature on legal engagement with problems generated by the technical features of the Internet is vast. This article appears within the nascent literature on technical engagement with legal problems. It does so in an effort to contribute to the building of a shared epistemic and decision-making space that involves both the technical and the legal communities.
 
The defining moments of traditional spatially based higher education are made up of fixed and fluid experiences. These 'moments' are now creaking as funding per student falls and the romanticized ideal of an education detached from 'real' life falters under the weight of highly variable student experiences. Distance learning in all its guises has always been regarded as inferior by those embedded in the traditional system. However more and more students demand something different from costly campus-based education. It is time for a more open discussion about the tensions between richness and reach and the role that new facilities like the Internet could play in reaching more students without wallowing in the nostalgia that often accompanies such debates.
 
This paper examines the impact of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) on levels of intra-party democracy in the UK in light of recent claims of increasing centralization of power and marginalization of members within West European political parties. Specifically, it examines whether parties adoption of the internet, in the shape of an internal computer communication system (ICCS) and internal party groups' use of the World Wide Web (WWW), is promoting intra-party democracy in two areas: (1) the vertical distribution of power between members and elites; (2) the spatial concentration of power between intra-party groupings and central party elites. The findings show that while many parties have made use of the internet for internal communication there is no concerted effort being made by parties to harness its potential to promote members input into decision-making and elite accountability.
 
On-line education has been heralded as the next democratizing force in education, particularly in higher education (Daniel 1996; Jones 1997). By opening access to populations which have not had access either because of geographical location, job status, or physical handicap, the rhetoric of on-line education suggests that this new technology will democratize education, breaking down the elitist walls of the ivory tower. However, it is not at all clear that the reality of implementing distance learning solutions have in fact any potential, much less actual value for democratizing higher education. Much the opposite, founded on the myth of the meritocracy, on-line education has the potential to exacerbate already intractable views of individual achievement through education as rectifying failures to meet disadvantaged populations' needs. This paper presents several cases of international on-line education and the rhetoric that surrounds its introduction. In some cases we are able to share stories of implementation of distance learning programmes or governmental promises made to those interested in distance learning. In each case, we attempt to tell a story that sheds light on the ways in which the noble goals of democracy are and aren't met in the harsh reality of on-line learning.
 
This paper addresses three issues: the potential trade-offs of democracy and liberty that the Internet may produce, the connection between real life and cyberspace, and the consequences for the conceptual apparatus of political science. It is argued that the Internet and real worlds are entwined, and thus classic political trade-offs remain pertinent. Important normative issues are addressed. It is established that the Internet is a nearly-neutral medium, so it is important how its development and effects are controlled. It is argued that a privately-controlled Internet would have negative implications for citizenship, political democracy and liberty.However, it is shown that existing Internet politics is significantly democratic, and if the 'net was used within a system similar to existing arrangements, i.e. with checks and balances, then one could optimistically foresee enhanced democracy. In this relatively unexplored but rapidly changing area of political life, this paper serves as a simple warning - public good, private bad - and justifies this in terms of the potential trade-offs of political citizenship versus market consumerism.
 
Drawing on several larger literatures on diffusion processes, including literatures on the diffusion of innovations, disease spread, and the diffusion of information, this paper examines the classes of diffusion processes that may be relevant to understanding online protest and social movements. The author also argues that one commonly studied type of online, protest-related diffusion process - the online diffusion of information - has only minor theoretical implications for social movement theory. Two other diffusion processes - the diffusion of online, protest-related innovations and the diffusion of protest in its many forms as a problem-solving heuristic to new populations - are likely to qualitatively alter other (non-diffusion) social movement processes, creating important second-order, theoretical effects from these types of diffusion.
 
Digital audio broadcasting is a major innovation in radio, one that is at its most advanced in Europe. It has the potential to deliver high-quality audio reception and to increase significantly the capacity of the radio spectrum, with the possibility of an expansion of both the range and diversity of radio programming. Nevertheless, in the UK and elsewhere it remains relatively unknown and under-adopted in comparison with other consumer technologies like digital television. This article examines the origins of digital radio, and considers how this technology is expected to become a mass communications technology, eventually supplanting analogue radio. However, in its present form, there is little that is novel currently being offered on digital radio, and the economic and political contexts in which it is being developed may encourage further concentration of ownership and reduce diversity of choice in listening. Unlike previous innovations then, such as FM broadcasting, there appear to be few compelling advantages of digital radio that will persuade listeners to adopt this new technology. If this new technological system is to succeed, alternative uses must be found for it, and one area for which it might be suited is mobile data communications. The article concludes by suggesting that this might mean that radio becomes of secondary importance to this potentially lucrative application of digital audio broadcasting technology.
 
This paper presents an overview of the development of new media in the secondary and higher education systems of the European Union (EU) and USA. A combination of driving forces in pedagogical thinking, technological progress and business models have raised new expectations for the wide-spread use of educational technology, such as by providing major market opportunities as in the adult training segment. Many public sector and private commercial initiatives for connecting schools to the Internet, first adopted in the USA, and then in member states of the EU, have met with marked success. Most of the secondary schools are, or are being, wired, if but to a limited extent. The diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the EU schools is particularly rapid given their initially low penetration rate. If American organizations are indeed leading the development of online courses and programmes in the higher education sector, European universities have now realized the importance of investing in this field. However, for new media to significantly improve the educational process in the EU and in the USA, they must be embodied in the complex school or university environment, and be nurtured by new partnerships between business and the academy.
 
Senior citizens are often positioned as 'have nots' in the digital age, but internet use among older Americans ranges from 68 per cent among those just entering their senior years to 17 per cent of those age 75+. About 70 per cent of online seniors report using the internet for health information. This study uses grounded theory to explore online health communication among older Americans. Open-ended survey responses from 357 internet users age 55+ were analyzed. Selective coding categories were: empowerment, personal and professional communities, and watchdogs and peer assumptions. These themes are discussed in the context of health communication literature with suggestions for future research.
 
The growth of transnational communications, most notably the Internet and email, has had a profound impact on social and political interactions across borders. Doreen Massey, a social and political geographer, has written widely about space, with an emphasis on examining relations between actors, rather than the roles that they play. Her research suggests that space can be conceived of as constructed of these relations and, as a consequence, power can be seen to operate at multiple and complex levels. This article examines Massey's work, identifying areas of particular relevance to communications scholars. Massey's thinking is applied to the contemporary communications arena, where her ideas on space and 'power-geometries' offer new insights into how the complexities of transnational relations can be understood.
 
Despite a history of educational resistance to technology, the internet and, in turn, the information superhighway, have been popularly heralded as having the potential to transform schools the world over. In doing so there has been a conspicuous lack of critical examination of the information superhighway's role in education. This article therefore contrasts popular conceptions of the 'educational' superhighway with the likely social and cultural implications of the 'wired' school. From this perspective the article first examines three central claims that are popularly made about the information superhighway in education: namely, the unbridled access to information it will afford teachers and learners; the potential for interactive communication with other individuals; and the equality it will imbue. These popular discourses are then contrasted with two fundamental characteristics of the information superhighway which are often overlooked by its advocates: the different quality of learning experienced 'on-line' and the educational implications of the inherent economic nature of the emerging information superhighway. The article then concludes by suggesting an alternative approach to examining the implementation of the information superhighway in an educational context.
 
The simplistic assumption that technological advancement will result in social change is prevalent amongst the mass media, academic communities and government bodies alike. Whether fuelled by a utopian or dystopian vision, predictions of immense social change brought about by technological developments surround us. Central to these visions is information, which many perceive as being imbued with revolutionary potential. However, the author argues that much of the rhetoric and hyperbole surrounding these deterministic predictions bears little relationship to the technology as used, and there is a pressing need for descriptive and empirical work. This paper provides an empirical study of the nature and usage of the internet in a variety of organizational settings. The findings show that the technology, as a popular example of technological advancement resulting in social change, has the propensity to confirm both utopian and dystopian outcomes, albeit in relation to a variety of social factors. Whilst these visions are often presented as a mutually exclusive paring, the study shows that they both express a partial truth. More often than not, the consequences of internet usage are situated at some point along a continuum from utopia to dystopia; it is useful for some people for some of the time, for some particular purpose.
 
The existence of many minority languages is threatened by language shift, whereby the community of speakers moves to using the majority language in place of the minority language. Social network sites such as Facebook might be important environments for minority language maintenance, as networks of strong ties may help speakers resist pressures towards language shift. However, to date, there has been little research that investigates this aspect of minority languages' online presence. This paper presents an initial examination of the current use of the Welsh language on Facebook. The paper introduces a method for sampling the network of groups being used by a language community, based on the 'Related Groups' information within Facebook group profiles. Basic information is presented about the use of Welsh in Facebook groups, including membership numbers, the range of topics, and the levels of activity. Visualizations of the network reveal a small number of popular central groups playing a significant role in connecting the community. The successive removal of central groups results in a relatively sparsely connected network and reveals a number of geographical neighbourhood and topic-specific sub-networks. The use of Welsh on personal profiles is also examined, as are the demographics of Welsh speakers on Facebook. The results of this examination provide evidence that suggests that the use of the Welsh language has been normalized to some extent within Facebook and that the language has established an active presence on Facebook groups and profiles.
 
Summary of protests surveyed.
Most important channel through which people heard about the demonstration.
With whom people came to the demonstration.
Cross tab of how respondents heard about the demonstration à how they came to the event.
Cross tab of how respondents heard about the demonstration à how they
What role does the Internet play in mobilizing participants in days of action? Although most research has focused on the way that computer-mediated communication is changing transnational collective action, it is unclear how social movement reliance on this new form of communication is modifying protest within nation-states. This paper analyses how participants in a national day of action in the United States were mobilized, focusing on the role that the Internet played. We find that a very high percentage of participants in all cities heard about the day of action through e-mail lists or websites. Those who mobilized through the Internet, however, were very different from those who mobilized through personal and organizational ties. In particular, the participants who heard about the event through all channels of mediated communication - including the Internet - were much more likely to come to the event alone than those who heard about it through their social networks. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of our findings to collective action and civic participation in the digital age.
 
This article examines one of the most popular computer games The Sims to consider whether the shared understanding of the game's "rules' can be understood through the concept of genre. The main argument is that the genre being used is "real life'. The game's creators are assuming the players share with them, and with each other, an understanding of real life, which can be transposed into the game world. The article explores this notion of a real-life narrative that is shared, by considering the ways in which family and other relationships are both conceptualized and played out in the game. Whilst real life as genre is problematized here, the tensions and conflicts of contemporary real-world conceptualizations of family and other relationships do appear to be represented in the game. What is interesting then, given this, are the ways in which players negotiate the gameplay. The article concludes by suggesting that players are active agents negotiating both the game' s version of real life, and their own real-world experiences.
 
In this paper we discuss sustainability, particularly social and cultural sustainability, in relation to an e-commerce application used in the kitchen of a Swedish public school. The notion of sustainability got its public definition through the Brundtland Commission and the report Our Common Future in which ecological as well as economic and social dimensions were underlined. An additional dimension, culture, has recently unfolded. The data reported in this paper were collected in public school and pre-school meal production. This is a large, institutional, tax-funded activity in Sweden as all pre-schools, compulsory schools and most upper secondary schools serve free lunch to the children and students. We discuss how an e-commerce application complicated the daily routines in the school kitchen rather than making the ordering of food stuff easier or more flexible and how small things that mattered in the staff's day-to-day activities shed light on the application's problems and weaknesses. Following Agenda 21, we relate these shortcomings to sustainability and also to participation. The discussion builds on social and cultural sustainability and participatory design with a focus on the involvement of users in design and implementation of IT systems and services.
 
New Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are changing the ways in which activists communicate, collaborate and demonstrate. Scholars from a wide range of disciplines, among them sociology, political science and communication, are working to understand these changes. The diversity of perspectives represented enriches the literature, providing an abundant repertoire of tools for examining these phenomena, but it is also an obstacle to understanding. Few works are commonly cited across the field, and most are known only within the confines of their discipline. The absence of a common set of organizing theoretical principles can make it difficult to find connections between these disparate works beyond their common subject matter. This paper responds by locating existing scholarship within a common framework for explaining the emergence, development and outcomes of social movement activity. This provides a logical structure that facilitates conversations across the field around common issues of concern, highlighting connections between scholars and research agendas that might otherwise be difficult to discern.
 
Today sustainable rural development is of paramount importance in Indonesian development. Yet, different social actors have different perspectives on it. Non-government organizations (NGOs) in Indonesia have established themselves in pivotal positions in the social, economic and political landscape across the country, and a large amount of their work has been connected with development in the rural sector. But, there has been little attempt to understand how NGOs in Indonesia, particularly rural NGOs, engage with the issue of sustainable rural development itself. Since rural development is one of the oldest issues to be discussed among activists, since the early days of Indonesian NGOs, it is interesting to see how they understand the issue of sustainability in rural development and rural reform. An empirical study was conducted recently to see how some Indonesian NGOs, in their endeavour to respond to and broaden the discourse, utilize Internet technology. The study employs a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches to build a detailed story about how different organizations working in rural development deploy strategies to deal with the issue. By doing so, it aspires to contribute to the advancement of theory relating to the efficacy of the Internet as a tool for social reform and sustainable development by taking Indonesia as a case study.
 
This paper raises the question of the significance of information practices for individuals' management of personal health. In particular, it focuses on the notion of an 'informed patient'. The question of expertise is examined first through an analysis of the nature of information sought, the trust placed in information sources and the challenge to professional authority, and then in the light of the everyday dimension of information seeking that pervades all living interactions. Taking the case of online health information seekers, the paper is based on interviews conducted with Internet users, using the electronic medium for health information. Study findings reveal the everyday dimension of the information sought and the importance of 'experiential knowledge' over medical expertise. Rather than dismissing experts' authority, findings show how the mediated environment of the Internet favours a process of displacing and regaining trust in professionals. The paper argues that the use of the Internet by a lay public for health information reflects individuals' socio-cultural information contexts, drawing the contours of a responsible project of health by means of information. 'Informed patients' are negotiating agents whose health responsibility is both a matter of increasing knowledge about everyday experience as part of a reflexive project and a matter of locating this project within a broader informational environment.
 
This paper analyses the latest management assumptions and theories of playing at work, by examining how management strategies, especially relating to new media, invoke elements of play to create distinct and competing genres of discourse. After a brief overview of the latest management crisis of innovation, we will provide a few definitions of play, followed by a short summary of where play and other competing dialogues converge and overlap at worksites historically. This context will then enable us to present an ethnographic account of play at work at a non-profit forecast research firm known as the Institute for the Future, a site where notions of play are linked to a number of business and cultural discourses about the future of new media and presented in full relief. What we find is that while elements of play exist, the discourses that arise from it do not necessarily belong in the realm of play at all. Instead, notions of play at work are tied to wider historical frameworks acknowledging earlier 1960s American counter-cultural appeals for new values in management and worker self-actualization, and linked to a process for transforming that renewed impulse into the service of a networked economy in the 1990s.
 
Projected employment growth in Information Technology occupations, 1996-2006.
First mention of 'World Wide Web' in San Francisco Chronicle classiied advertisements.
1995 Webmaster study.
The flexible reinvented worker figures prominently in accounts of informationage work (Touraine 1971; Bell 1976; Zuboff 1988; Block 1990; Aronowitz and DiFazio 1994; Castells 1996; Rifkin 1996; Sennett 1998). These accounts argue that new media workers, in particular, need to be flexible, to often readjust to new technology and to reskill constantly. While these arguments normally emphasize the role of changing work conditions, in this paper, I investigate the formation of skill in the new media industry. Specifically, I ask how employers in the late 1990s framed a particular new media skill, web design, and how this skillset dealt with upgrades and changes. Using classified job advertisements, trade publications, informant interviews, and fieldwork, I document the articulation of web design skill and its boundaries. My findings highlight how skill definition, rather than work conditions, affects new media work. I show that the web design skill-set: 1. emerged as a fluid, rather than narrow and technically defined, set of competencies; 2. thrived in a tension between art (design) and code (development); 3. utilized web technology itself to create professional institutions; and 4. required constant skill maintenance and upgrading, what I, echoing an informant, call "keeping up". I conclude by suggesting that the definition of what constitutes a skill is essential to one of the greatest challenges of new media work: the phenomenon of re-skilling.
 
A wide variety of organizational structures and technologies are associated with the 'virtual campus'. This paper compares the UK's two largest distance learning initiatives: the Open University (OU) and the University for Industry (UfI). The comparison suggests four alternative approaches to 'virtualization' and shows that debate has often under-estimated the variety of possible approaches. The relationship between ICTs, knowledge and organizational structure is complex, reflecting a diversity of values and rationalities embodied by learning institutions.
 
This paper is about the Internet as a new mode of meeting people and forming relationships. It is argued that the rapidly growing number of Internet 'dating resources' constitute a domain where people are entering into particular forms of interactions that are characterized by interactional 'rules' that facilitate the building of 'trust' between users. Authenticity and 'emotional communication' is, as Giddens (The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1992) has suggested, central to the 'pure relationships' of our late modern era. It is therefore appropriate that information and communication technologies are supplementing or replacing traditional routes to potentially romantic encounters that have in the past been mediated by the marriage broker, shadkhan or others taking similar roles.
 
Explanatory model.
Notwithstanding a growing interest in online politics, the analysis of web sites' qualities by social movement organizations (SMOs) has received little attention in social research. In creating their sites, SMOs often underline the capacity of new technologies to involve members and sympathizers in organizational processes and internal decision-making. However, web site design and management implies many choices among various goals, often in reciprocal tension: stressing organizational identity versus opening to the outside; increasing transparency versus reserving some sections to members; informing users versus mobilizing them; widening the debate to people with different opinions versus deepening the discussion in homogeneous groups. In this article, we focus on how the web sites of SMOs are fulfilling Internet potentialities, considering various aspects of their online presence. The empirical research was based on the analysis of 261 web sites of Global Justice Movement (GJM) organizations in six different European countries and at the transnational level. Diverse qualities of SMOs' web sites can be explored empirically, focusing on a series of dimensions such as: information provision, identity building, transparency/accountability, mobilization, and intervention on the digital divide. In our analysis, we will use contextual characteristics (level of Internet access, GJM features) and organizational characteristics (structural features, territorial level of action, year of foundation) to explain the different qualities of the web sites.
 
Top-cited authors
Keith Neil Hampton
  • Michigan State University
Dan Mercea
  • City, University of London
Grant Blank
  • University of Oxford
Jan W. van Deth
  • Universität Mannheim
Yannis Theocharis
  • Technische Universität München