Information, Communication & Society, Volume 4, Number 2, 2001
Cultivating society's civic intelligence: patterns for a new 'world brain'
by Doug Schuler (The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington, USA)
In spite of remarkable advances in science and technology, humankind is beset with a number of serious problems. These are not just problems that 'won't go away'; they are problems that are worsening considerably. These problems include the growing gap between rich and poor, between those who have too much and those who have too little, as well as a broad range of environmental issues that may have major consequences but, at the same time, are little understood. This essay explores the idea of 'civic intelligence'. What projects, perspectives, policy and technology might humankind develop that would help us collectively address these problems? This essay discusses six aspects of 'civic intelligence' (orientation, organization, engagement, intelligence, products and projects, and resources) as well as ways to make cultivating our 'civic intelligence' a practical--non-utopian--enterprise.
civic intelligence, democracy, ICT, activist networks, advocacy networks, community networking, public sphere
Web pages, authors and audiences: the meaning of a mouse click
by Christine Hine (Brunel University, UK)
One popular framework for analysing web pages has been to think of them as identity performances on the part of the author. This framework opens up possibilities for analysis of the ways in which identity performances are composed. The personal web pages to which this perspective is most immediately applicable, are, however, now only a small proportion of the overall amount of information available on the World Wide Web. It would be possible, by extension, to analyse institutional web pages as performances of the institutional identity. It is the contention of this paper that to do so is to miss out on some important aspects of web page design: namely that the production of a web page involves understandings not only of the audience for the page but also of the capacities of the technology. In addition, web page production has to become a socially meaningful act for the individual web page developer and the institution concerned. It is, therefore, argued that the analysis of web pages can usefully learn from media studies and the sociology of technology in this respect. An interview-based study of the developers of web pages for the service departments of a UK university is described. The ideas of audience which the authors use are far from homogeneous: they include an institutional offline audience for the page, a pre-existing imagined audience, developers themselves as audience, and the technology of the browser as a stand-in audience. The audience and the capacities of the technology are developed in context through the practices of designers.
World Wide Web, Internet, audience, user, technology, identity
Ethics, regulation and the new artificial intelligence,
part I: accountability and power
by Perri 6 (King's College, London, UK)
A generation age, there was a major debate about the social and ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI). Interest in that debate waned from the late 1980s. However, both patterns of public risk perception and new technological developments suggest that it is time to re-open that debate. The important issues about AI arise in connection with the prospect of robotics and digital agent systems taking socially significant decisions autonomously. Now that this is possible, the key concerns are now about which decisions should be and which should not be delegated to machines, issues of regulation in the broad sense covering everything from consumer information through codes of professional ethics for designers to statutory controls, issues of design responsibility and problems of liability.
artificial intelligence, robotics, digital agents, technological risk, ethics, regulation, accountability
Information technology and the character of contemporary life
by Mario Radovan (University of Rijeka, Croatia)
The paper deals with the basic features of the life-space created by the contemporary information industry, and with the dominant attitude towards the opportunities and limitations information technology offers and imposes. We consider the problem of information glut, the quality of public discourse, the question of privacy and technological alienation. Concerning the basic attitudes, we discuss the aesthetic, the moral and the religious views, considered in the context of the present life-space pervaded and shaped by information technology. The paper concludes with a discussion of the possible consequences of global homogenization and of the cultural ahistoricity that are being created by the massive use of information technology. Among the positive aspects of this new 'global culture of the present' we point out the possible increase of global human solidarity: among the negative ones, we point out that flattening and shrinking of the space of human experience, which this uniform culture of the present imposes.
information technology, public discourse, alienation, time, homogenization, solidarity
Research Issues in Connected Communities
Information-centred design: a methodology for designing virtual meeting environments
by Masood Masoodian (University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)
Development of single-user computer applications has often been based on user-centred or task-centred design methodologies, with some success. These methodologies are also useful for guiding the development of multi-user CSCW applications whenever the basic characteristics of the users, or the type of tasks for which the system is being designed are identifiable. The effectiveness of these methodologies as a basis for the design of virtual meeting environments for supporting community-based activities, on the other hand, is rather limited. This is mainly due to the fact that for such systems it is not generally possible to identify the user or task requirements, as they vary considerably from one community to another, or even within the same community over a period of time. New methodologies needed to be devised, or existing methodologies have to be modified, to direct the development of virtual environments for which the characteristics of the users or their activities are not known in advance. This paper introduces the concept of information-centred design. Information-centred design, though not fully devised yet, focuses on the identification of the type of information, as well as the way it is collected and utilized by the users of a virtual meeting environment. This pool of information, which plays an important role in facilitating interaction and communication between the members of a community, could be defined as their communal memory.
information-centred design, virtual meeting environments, virtual communities, communal memory, user-centred design, task-centred design
External aids for social memory
by Patrizia Marti, Francesco Pucci and Antonio Rizzo (University of Siena, Italy)
Collective or social memories belonging to communities are not just a way for accumulating and preserving but also for sharing and developing knowledge. Indeed, as knowledge is made explicit and elaborated by a community, it enriches the local culture and the current practices, becoming a basis for communication and learning. This paper addresses the concept of 'social memory' in a specific 'community of practice': teachers and students of primary schools. The work is developed within HIPS (Hyper Interaction within Physical Space), a three-year (1997-2000) research project funded by the European Commission within the I-Cube Programme. HIPS is a hand-held location-aware tourist guide that delivers information related to the surrounding space mainly reacting to the physical movements of visitors (Benelli et al. 1999). The guide is designed to minimize the boundary between the physical space and the related information through a number of situated and contextual-aware interaction mechanisms. In the paper we present a specific application of HIPS as tool to support the creation of a social memory. First, we illustrate the theoretical framework, the cultural psychology (Vygotsky 1978), which we adopted to design the tool as an external and for social memory. Afterwards we describe the user study and the design process that resulted in the development of an early prototype. The conclusions are a reflection about the use of new technology to open new learning opportunities for students.
Collective memories, community of practice, learning, knowledge sharing, scenario-based design
Thinkers Past and Present
Harold Innis and 'The bias of communication'
by Edward Comar (American University, Washington DC)
Fifty years after his death, Harold Innis remains one of the most widely cited but least understood of communication theorists. This is particularly true in relation to his concept of 'bias'. This paper reconstructs this concept and places it in the context of Innis' uniquely non-Marxist dialectical materialist methodology. In so doing, the author emphasises ongoing debates concerning Innis' work and demonstrates its utility in relation to contemporary analyses of the Internet and related developments.
bias of communication, globalization, Harold Innis, Internet, methodology
Hey, the future is Brave New World + 1984: two impressive but depressing books about the twenty-first-century global communications plutocracy
by Ted Becker (Auburn University, USA)
M. Tehranian, Global Communications and World Politics: Dominance, Development and Discourse (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999), pp.212
D. Barney, Prometheus Wired: The Hope for Democracy in the Age of Network Technology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp.340
C.R. Neu, R.H. Anderson and T.K. Bikson, Sending your Government a Message – Email Communication between Citizens and Government (Santa Monica, CA: Rand Science and Technology, 1999), pp. 200, SBN 0 8330 2754 9
C. Hine, Virtual Ethnography (London: Sage, 2000), pp. 192, ISBN 0-7619-5896-7 (pbk)
Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. and James W. Cortada (eds), A Nation Transformed by Information: How Information Has Shaped the United States from Colonial Times to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 390, ISBN 0-19-512701-3 (hbk)
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