December 11, 2009

The Evil Empires That Always Manipulate New Technologies

Pornographers, fundamentalist religious movements, paedophile networks, racists, terrorists, ethnic cleansers, electronic stalkers—all these will make use of the Internet and global networks to expand the range, and sometimes the profit, of their seedy activities. Police forces all over the world are currently bemused as to how to deal with the abuse of public networks used to smuggle bytes of sadism and violence across national borders, and we are in for some big debates about what we should be allowed to do with these networks. When is a server a publisher? What is a newsgroup? And so on. All forms of publishing technology have raised issues like these in the past, but the freedom and liberty of the wired individual will tax our old moral and ethical values like no other form of publication has done. The digital copying of everything that is not nailed down will also tax good relations between nations and companies, and a select band of lawyers will make fortunes out of advising on the law (or the lack of it) concerning international and national copyright. As the old map makers of the fifteenth century put it when they did not know what was over the next ocean, ‘here be dragons’ indeed.

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December 08, 2009

Deteriorating Political Agendas for Public Access to Information and The Widening of Existing Economic Disparities

While there is a tremendous amount of interest in all societies as to how those with the tools and instruments to access the new global networks, e.g. modems, computers, software, telephone or cable lines, boxes full of interactive intelligence and the skills to understand and handle them, will be empowered, there are generally few political agendas addressing how accessible these networks will be for the sizable populations who will not have easy access to these tools. The impact of exclusion both on the haves and the have-nots, and the extent to which such a discrepancy changes each group’s assumptions about the world, looks like being left to market forces to mould and then control. It has ever been the case that the affluent in any society have always had new discretionary wants created for them by the market while the economically hard-pressed simply tend to adjust their wants downward to cope with new conditions.

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December 04, 2009

A Critical Perspective of Technological Development

By avoiding the more Utopian accounts of the information society thesis, the contributors to this collection have attempted to adopt a critical and perhaps more cautious (although not intransigent) approach to the technologically driven changes currently underway. In particular technological development is seen as being shaped by social, economic and political relations which in turn often produce indeterminate outcomes. From this perspective the explanation for the uneven spread of Information and Communication Technology (ICTs) within and between societies is to be sought from a clearer understanding of the relationship between technological development and differential opportunities for exercising power.

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December 02, 2009

Defining Literacy and Cyberliteracy

What is cyberliteracy? The term literacy is a highly contested one; I will provide a brief overview of this issue to illustrate how I am using the concept. Looking at this overview leads one to the logical conclusion that in the digital age, the concept of literacy must be reconfigured if it is to be useful for helping us understand communication in the future.

Kathleen Tyner, in Literacy in a Digital World (1998), provides a succinct overview of the literacy debate. She notes that in general, the term literacy is often equated with the ability to read and write. Before World War II, scholars wrote about “literacy as a tool for transforming higher psychological processes”.
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