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Citizenship and Participation in the Information Age

Citizenship and Participation in the Information Age

Manjunath Pendakur
Roma Harris
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 442
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  • Book Info
    Citizenship and Participation in the Information Age
    Book Description:

    This book reflects each contributor's vision of the future, visions that range from the enthusiastic and hopeful to the pessimistic and fearful.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0246-5
    Subjects: Political Science, Technology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
    Manjunath Pendakur
  4. INTRODUCTION Competing Visions: The Social Impact of Information and Communications Technology
    (pp. 9-16)
    Roma Harris and Manjunath Pendakur

    The new century promises to be a roller coaster ride fueled by rapidly changing information and communications technologies (ICTs). With the capacity for the almost instant transfer of digital information across the planet, commonly held notions of distance and speed, as well as our understanding of the nature and meaning of interpersonal contact are being challenged and possibly redefined. With redefinition, some believe that the very structural underpinnings of society will be transformed.

    Good or bad, it is hard to predict just what will be the eventual political, social and cultural impact of the global interconnectedness made possible by new...

  5. Perspectives on the Information Society

    • Forthcoming Features: Information and Communications Technologies and the Sociology of the Future
      (pp. 19-32)
      Peter Golding

      Sociology is always writing the history of the future, yet routinely declares itself unready for the task. Somehow, whenever we sense the emanation of epochal change, sociology is deemed to be wanting. In the intense debate of the 1960s, Alvin Gouldner, predicting then the ‘coming crisis of western sociology,’ argued that the sheer success of the discipline in entering the mainstream of popular culture had stunted its aspirations and achievements. Yet paradoxically, as social theory was being put to one side, those few that persisted in such work ignored the very real transformations of the society around them. Such theorists...

    • Illusions of Perfect Information and Fantasies of Control in the Information Society
      (pp. 33-55)
      Dwayne Winseck

      The above quotes reveal a fascination with the idea of ‘perfect information,’ whether from the perspective of mainstream economics, postmodernism or the critical social theory of Jürgen Habermas, as represented in the quote by Nicholas Garnham. Despite the diversity of the authors’ positions, each shares a familiar view of information as knowledge, the antithesis to uncertainty, a source of transparency and other good things associated with democracy and capitalism. The fact that such disparate perspectives can share similar assumptions is a key reason why the idea of the information society is such a powerful one. Essentially, this diverse base of...

    • Software Industry, Religious Nationalism, and Social Movements in India: Aspects of Globalization?
      (pp. 56-64)
      Ramaswami Harindranath

      Most theories of globalization have as their point of reference experiences in the developed world, thereby confining the debates to time-space compression or distanciation for example, or to quarrels about whether the world is becoming homogenous or heterogeneous. Such theoretical efforts are indicative of both the preoccupations of metropolitan academia, and also the lack of a cohesive theoretical thrust from the leftist intellectuals which takes into account developments in contemporary forms of global capitalism. The sometimes contradictory ways in which the diverse effects globalization are experienced or utilized in different parts of the developed world have come to academic and...

    • Labouring to Be a Citizen: Trade Unions, Public Interest and Cyber-Populism in India
      (pp. 65-78)
      Paula Chakravartty

      Since the mid-1980s, India has been preparing to become an information technology (IT) superpower in the twenty-first century. Its main competitive asset is the nation's large, low-cost labour force of English-speaking professionals in the fields of computer sciences, engineering and management. While the burgeoning business media exudes enthusiasm for a nation of information professionals, there is also widespread concern that technological advances will further reinforce problems of unemployment, turning India into a job-less society. India, like several other large emerging economies, such as Brazil, China and South Korea, has targeted the high-technology sectors of telecommunications and information technology (IT) as...

    • Imagining the Knowledge-Based Economy: Soon-to-be Labour Force Entrants Predict the Future of Work
      (pp. 79-86)
      Roma Harris and Margaret Ann Wilkinson

      Since the 1950s, important changes have taken place in North American labour markets due, in large part, to the trend away from the production of goods toward a more knowledge-based economy that emphasizes the production, processing and distribution of information. Technological advances, especially recent developments in information and communication technologies, are also affecting the nature and social relations of work. Although the terms “knowledge-based economy” and “information society” are in frequent use in this context, little research has been undertaken to explore what these terms actually mean to members of the public, nor has there been any systematic exploration of...

    • Market Knowledge and the Good Citizen
      (pp. 87-93)
      Richard Maxwell

      A few years ago, I saw this question on a billboard near the Rue de la loi in Brussels. It served as the caption to a picture of a young woman with a bar code stamped on her forehead. Her expression was one of studied indifference to the inscription on her face and to the gaze of the camera: her image signified unconstrained cool, a connotation of extroversion, mobility, and individuality. Yet her indifference was framed as a peevishly infantile and brazen reaction to a legitimate business request. For as she shrugged off the weight of being a numbered subject,...

    • Neo-Liberalizing Welfare: Politics and Information Technology in a New Era of Governance
      (pp. 94-102)
      G. Dean Barry

      When it was announced in 1995 that Metropolitan Toronto would be putting in place a system to digitally fingerprint welfare recipients, alarms were raised in respect to a number of key issues, most notably the privacy and dignity of subjects and the criminal implications of what was proposed. This is in large part due to the imagery of an Orwellian ‘Big Brother’ state (1990 [1949]) and Bentham's panoptic surveillance society (Foucault, 1979). The association here is to state-sponsored regulation of population groups through advanced technologies. This concern is to be expected, as welfare clients have traditionally carried the label of...

    • Defining the Canadian DNA Data Bank: A Sociological Perspective
      (pp. 103-120)
      Neil Gerlach

      Genetics is no longer a science restricted to arcane laboratory processes. As Dorothy Nelkin and Lawrence Tancredi point out, it is rapidly entering the public sphere through a set of institutional processes involving primarily the criminal justice system, the health care system, and the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries. As DNA becomes an object of legislation, scientific analysis, and market exchange, the problem arises of how to make sense of it as a social and cultural phenomenon, as well as a scientifically defined object. While governmental and economic institutions struggle to define this relatively new entity, social meanings develop around it,...

    • ICTs in Dutch Schools: Problems, Prospects and Promises
      (pp. 121-134)
      Leen d’Haenens, Madelon Kokhuis and Cindy van Summeren

      Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are increasingly influencing the daily life of individuals, the way business organizations work and the work done by people within those organizations. Education can help promote social cohesion and political participation in society. For young people, this education could be an important factor in preventing a potentially dangerous dichotomy between those pupils who have access to a PC at home and those pupils who do not. This article will explain the ICT policy initiatives that are being taken in the Netherlands. Dutch policy (i.e., the National Electronic Highways Action Program [Nationaal Actieprogramma Elektronische Snelwegen], intended...

  6. Competing Interests:: Censorship and Access to Information

    • International Communication and the Extremist Right
      (pp. 137-146)
      John D.H. Downing

      The extremist right is defined as constituted in multiple, sometimes overlapping currents – racist, religious, nationalist, militia, homophobic, nazi. Racism is a frequent area of overlap. There are also forms of ideological interchange and overlap between these currents and some mainstream conservative organizations, and between these currents and certain legislators and state employees.

      The article will provide an initial mapping of these international information activities, and then address the question of how much influence, and which kinds of influence, may reasonably be attributed to this zone of global information flow. The presumption that the Internet lends automatic power to these...

    • The Harm of Hate Propaganda
      (pp. 147-163)
      Hilliard Aronovitch

      In Canadian law, hate propaganda – group libel or group defamation, as it is often called – is illegal and its criminalization by Parliament has been constitutionally upheld, the case for that being the famousR. v. Keegstra[1990]. Many other countries, including Australia, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and India, have similar laws (Jones (1998)). Quite exceptionally, the United States does not, and the U.S. Supreme Court has taken the stance that laws of that sort which have so far been tested are unconstitutional, by the terms of the First Amendment, the decisive case beingR.A. V. v. St. Paul...

    • Censorship in Library Collection Development Practices and Civic Participation: A Theoretical Approach
      (pp. 164-182)
      Juris Dilevko

      Libraries have long been defenders of wide-ranging intellectual freedom, steady opponents of any attempts at censorship of the materials contained within their walls, and proponents of vigorous and unfettered debate about all topics, no matter how socially acceptable. When librarians advocate anti-censorship policies, they are essentially talking about the principles contained within their collection development practices, that is, the decisions made by individual librarians – increasingly based on written policy statements approved by library administrators and library boards – about what type of material, in whatever format, enters the library. These decisions, in turn, are based on a variety of...

    • Having a Cow: Reactions To “Veggie Libel” Laws and the Oprah Trials
      (pp. 183-195)
      Diana Knott

      “If you can shut up Oprah, you can shut up anyone,” complained a food activist in spring 1997 (in Goetz, 1997, p. 39) about Oprah Winfrey’s silence regarding the recent lawsuit filed against Winfrey by Texas cattlemen. The highly visible case,Texas Beef Group v. Winfrey(1997),¹ was filed after the April 16, 1996, broadcast of a show that focused on “dangerous foods.” At issue was a discussion about the outbreak in England of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or “mad cow disease,” in which consumption of infected beef was blamed for 23 deaths. The broadcast discussed the cause of the...

    • Risk and the Internet: Perception and Reality
      (pp. 196-208)
      Eric A. Zimmer and Christopher D. Hunter

      According to research overseen by Joseph Turow of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, fully one fourth of news articles on the Internet from October 1997 to October 1998 were alarmist in nature and two-thirds of these news articles raised disturbing issues about the nature and content of the World Wide Web (Turow, 1999). Additionally, parents express grave concerns about the content their children may encounter on the Web. Without a doubt, much exists on the Web that is troubling to parents of school-age children and to others who do not want to be assaulted by sexually graphic content. Yet, thirty...

  7. Concentration of Ownership in the Information World

    • Universal Access in IHAC and NIIAC: Transformed Narrative and Meaning in Information Policy
      (pp. 211-218)
      Martin R. Dowding

      The diffusion and adoption of new information and communication technologies have prompted the re-evaluation of long-standing policy issues relating to access to information. Those issues have a past, present, and future (Parsons, 1995, pp. 140-41) (i.e., a beginning, middle, and end); they define, reside in, and are most securely interpretable within a documentary (Smith, 1974) narrative structure (Kaplan, 1993). Such documentary evidence is also the first place we can identify change over time (Sabatier, 1993). Crucial questions in attempting to interpret the meaning and effect of Universal Service and Universal Access are whether they have been treated differently by policy-makers;...

    • Saving Books from the Market: Price Maintenance Policies in the United States and Europe
      (pp. 219-230)
      Laura J. Miller

      Political theorists and laypeople alike have long considered information a necessary ingredient for the exercise of citizenship.¹ In order for citizens to make rational judgements, individuals are believed to need information about the issues and events that affect them. Along with this, democratic decision-making is thought to depend on a diversity of opinions and perspectives exchanged among an informed citizenry. While print and broadcast media, and now electronic outlets, are prime sources of day-to-day information, books are believed to play a unique role in the task of equipping a populace to participate in the political arena. Books can provide complex...

    • Books and Commerce in an Age of Virtual Capital: The Changing Political Economy of Bookselling
      (pp. 231-249)
      Jon Bekken

      While a growing literature calls attention to ownership concentration in book publishing (Miller, 1997; Bagdikian, 2000; Gomery, 2000), far less scholarly attention has been paid to corresponding developments among booksellers, though the battle for market dominance has received attention in the business press. By 1997, the four largest chains in the U.S. accounted for 52 percent of all bookstore sales, up from 46 percent just one year earlier. Hundreds of independent bookstores had been forced from business, and three-fourths of independent booksellers surveyed by the American Booksellers Association were either unprofitable or marginally profitable. The two leading chains have continued...

    • Copyright and Citizenship
      (pp. 250-266)
      Michael Rushton

      What is copyright for? Is it to reward creators of intellectual goods for what natural justice would have it they deserve? Or is it to create incentives for authors, such that valuable works will be created in the first place? Debate about copyright reform is frequently cast in these terms; this is how Canadians have argued about copyright for the past thirty years.

      The two sides in the debate have something in common, and that is how they think about individuals, and about what it is that intellectual goods are for. In the debate, both sides treat individuals as possessing...

    • National Public Radio: The Case for Normative Mission in the Marketplace
      (pp. 267-284)
      Michael P. McCauley

      For many residents of the United States, life would be unimaginable withoutMorning Edition, All Things Considered, and the other signature programs of National Public Radio (NPR). Founded in 1970 – rather late, compared to public broadcasting services in other nations – this noncommercial network has become the nation’s premier radio service, especially in news and information programming. NPR distributes programs over more than 600 affiliate stations coast-to-coast, and has a cumulative weekly audience of nearly 15 million people. Its reach promises to expand in the future, through partnerships with other program vendors and the use of new media technologies.²...

  8. Citizenship and Democracy

    • Human Rights in the Information Society: Civic Participation in Shaping the Future
      (pp. 287-299)
      Cees J. Hamelink

      At present, the prevailing practices and institutions of global governance are ill suited to shape future information societies in a humanitarian way. The kind of global governance that is required needs the active intervention of civic movements. In spite of encouraging initiatives around the world, this is a slow-moving process at a time of great urgency. Citizens are at the crossroads: but can they decide where to go? This needs reflection and consultation. However, time is limited and risks are real.

      The implementation of human rights, as Hossain rightly observes, requires ‘good governance.’ “Governments as well as powerful corporations must...

    • Networks for Social Knowledge: The Anti-NAFTA Challenge
      (pp. 300-309)
      Sophia Huyer

      Many social movement theorists contend that access to and ownership of information is a central social conflict that can catalyze the development of a social movement and is critical to its continuance and expansion. Alberto Melucci considers “the production and the appropriation of resources which are crucial for a global informationbased society” (Melucci, 1995, p. 116) to be a core issue for social movements. This includes the ability to produce information as well as have access to it. Others have commented that information technologies and services are increasingly part of state-sponsored industrial policy, and important carriers of the market in...

    • Globalization, Information Society and Social Movement
      (pp. 310-321)
      Marc Lemire

      The inescapability of transformation, adaptation to change, the imperatives of the laws of the marketplace, the necessity of withdrawal of the State, the inevitability of computerization and technological innovations, the pre-eminence of performance and competitiveness; these are the key terms of neoliberal logic developing the current process of globalization. For some, it has awakened the greatest sense of hope for economic and social progress, particularly thanks to the advent of an idyllic information society, but for others it is one of the greatest threats facing humanity’s future. The vigorous social opposition generated by the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), reaffirmed...

    • Web Sites of Resistance: Internetworking and Civil Society
      (pp. 322-336)
      Kelly M. O’Neill

      It is difficult to understate the impact new information and communications technologies² have had on facilitating corporate expansion across the globe. International financial transactions worth millions of dollars take place in the span of seconds, creating what Barnet and Cavanagh refer to as the global ‘casino’ (1996). In bold contrast to the success of global commerce in the latter half of the century, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) observes several widespread social trends that have occurred simultaneously and had a negative impact on the environment. For example, UNEP’s research documents an increase in disparity both between and within countries,...

    • The Citizen’s Right To Communicate
      (pp. 337-346)
      William F. Birdsall and Merrilee Rasmussen

      The initial acknowledgement of a right to communicate is Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, (Birdsall, 1998a) which states:

      Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

      Article 19 arose out of a post-war concern for the freedom of speech, the press, and other media. However, in the late 1960s, with the advent of satellites, it was recognized that Article 19 was too limited to encompass the newer media...

    • Crossing the Great Divide: Connecting Citizens to Government in New South Wales, Australia
      (pp. 347-360)
      Jan Houghton and Linda Tsiu-Shuang Chin

      In February, 1997, the New South Wales (NSW) government released its information technology plan for the state,Information Management and Technology Blueprint for NSW: a Well-Connected Future. The Blueprint provided the strategic framework for the delivery of “accessible and responsive” services to the community through the effective management of information and technology resources. This was followed in December, 1997 by a further document,An Internet Strategy for NSW: connect.nsw, which set out a number of strategies for exploiting the potential of the Internet to benefit communities, business and government. These included developing internal infrastructure to integrate technology-based activities across the...

    • Jacques and Jill at VPL: Citizenship and the Use of the Internet at Vancouver Public Library
      (pp. 361-371)
      Ellen Balka and Brian J. Peterson

      In recent years, many claims have been made about the potential of new communication technologies to enhance public participation in democratic society. Popular writers and government officials alike have equated access to the Internet with new possibilities of citizenship, and organizations such as the Washington D.C.-based Center for Democracy and Technology work to advance “democratic values in new computer and communications technologies” (Balas, 1998). Libraries, historically seen as institutions important to democracies (Schiller and Schiller, 1988), have been targeted to deliver equitable access to online information (Gutstien, 1999), and are seen, increasingly, as essential to supporting emerging forms of cyber-democracy....

    • Does a Networked Society Foster Participatory Democracy Or is Commitment to Place-based Community Still a Necessity for Civic Engagement?
      (pp. 372-387)
      Mary Wilson

      Will civic conversation accompany the virtual beers shared with digital netizens while bowling in a cyber bowling alley? Based on a look at events in this century, there is little evidence that administrative rationality functions properly or that society will benefit from a natural evolution of political forms. The vast majority of people are uninterested in civic affairs, and a growing number of people question the effectiveness of public institutions. Indicators suggest that engagement in politics and government has declined during the last generation (Putnam, 1995; Putnam, 2000). More disturbing is the claim that most adults in advanced industrial societies...

    • Access to U.S. Federal Government Information for People with Disabilities: An Analysis of the Legal Requirements, Interpretations, and Implications
      (pp. 388-399)
      Kimberly A. Lauffer

      Access to information, as well as the ability to communicate one’s opinions and information to others, is crucial to full inclusion in the community of the United States and full participation in a democratic society (Schauer, 1984). Access for people with disabilities to a wide variety of U.S. federal government information has been improved through disability legislation, federal freedom of information laws, other federal access laws and various administrative guidelines for implementing federal agency information access, and various court cases. No laws specifically have mandated access to federal information for people with disabilities, though parts of several laws have addressed...

    • Remapping the Canadian North: Nunavut, Communications and Inuit Participatory Development
      (pp. 400-414)
      Gail Guthrie Valaskakis

      An Israeli academic once said to me, “Here in Israel, we have too much history and too little geography. In Canada, you have too much geography and too little history.” With our struggles over Aboriginal rights – currently emerging around fishing rights on both coasts – our continuing constitutional debates, and our anxiety over the possible separation of Quebec, we may have too little shared history. Indeed, geography is a critical factor in our historical and political formation, and given our geography, Canada’s heritage owes a great deal to the technologies that have linked us together as a nation. With...

    • Bush and Bureaucrats: Women’s Civic Participation from the Australian Outback
      (pp. 415-426)
      Lyn Simpson, Leonie Daws, Leanne Wood and Josephine Previte

      Effective civic participation can be a catalyst for community development. Such participation comes about through identifying shared goals, developing cooperative networks and building trust. As a consequence, members of the created community are able to work towards the achievement of goals, both more effectively and on a larger scale than can individuals working alone. This article considers an online civic community called welink, in which trust, shared goals and cooperation form the basis for actions that contribute to a ‘bottom-up’ community development approach. In the case of welink, communication and cooperation between rural, academic, industry and public sector members of...

  9. The Contributors
    (pp. 427-430)
  10. Index
    (pp. 431-441)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 442-442)