Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society,
Volume 1, Number 2, Summer 1998
Governance and Electronic Innovation: Whither the information polity?
By John A. Taylor (Glasgow Caledonian University, UK)
Governments have taken shape universally through their creation and use of institutional structures of the State, yet it is the perceived failure of these Institutions that has, of recent years, established enthusiasm for governance rather than government. Whereas government has historically been constructed within a paradigm that interprets the relationships between government and citizen in formal, constitutional terms, governance is emerging from a competing view that sees those relationships as altogether more complex and uncertain. The constitutional view interprets both government and citizen behaviour as occurring within settled and agreed boundaries. In contrast, governance replaces constitutional certainty with confusion and dilemma. It replaces secure policy outcomes and citizen satisfaction with policy failure and a democratic deficit, as citizens become increasingly skeptical of governments' ability to deliver their election promise. A new expectation has emerged amongst policy commentators that new governance can resolve deep policy questions where governments have previously failed.
This paradigmatic shift is occurring alongside the emergence of organizational and service innovations whose provenance is usually understood by reference to the rhetoric of the Information Age. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are depicted as bringing profound changes to those aspects of organized society into which they are introduced. Thus, as governments have come to redefine their raison de tre as one which engages them primarily in governance processes, so we see the intensive application of ICTs emerging to sustain and support this paradigmatic shift. The core relationships of the contemporary polity thus become amenable to new forms of analysis, that stress the information flows, communications facilities and opportunities that characterize these core relationships. Thereby, we are provided with opportunities to explore the characteristics of the emergent information polity, examining as we do so these informationally- and technologically-mediated relationships that it embodies.
Preparing for Information-Age Conflict: Part Two: Doctrinal and Strategic Dimensions
By John Arqilla (US Naval Postgraduate School, USA) and David Ronfeldt (RAND, USA)
Across the spectrum of Information-Age conflict, from social activism at one end to active military operations at the other, 'swarming' is emerging as an optimal doctrine for actualizing the potential of small, dispersed, networked groups using new information technologies. Swarms will feature a capability for 'sustainable pulsing' - manoeuvring separately, while combining on a particular object or target simultaneously, from all directions. This will be found both on battlefields, where decentralized, networked command and control will unleash the power of a BattleSwarm - a possible successor to the twentieth-century blitzkrieg form of war - and in 'global civil society' actions, as seen in the campaign to ban landmines and in the protracted information operations to deter the Mexican government from using force against the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas. Achieving the organizational and doctrinal shifts we discuss will require unprecedented levels of information sharing. At the level of grand strategy, democratic states are advised to emphasize 'guarded openness' - to remain open politically, economically and even militarily (to allies, especially), while creating mechanisms for guardedness as a 'filtering system' in order to mitigate the risks inherent in pursuing open information strategies. Improving relations between state and nonstate actors may prove a crucial challenge. Ultimately, the doctrinal and strategic ideas we raise imply calling for a 'revolution in diplomatic affairs' to match today's 'revolution in military affairs'. Although power politics are not becoming obsolete, the classic model of realpolitik no longer quite fits the new realities; it will give way to what we call 'noopolitik' – a new form of world politics in which the balance of power is superseded by the 'balance of knowledge'.
Reform Opportunities Missed: Will the Innovative Potential of Information Systems in Public Administration Remain Dormant Forever?
By Klaus Lenk
Few conceptual efforts have been made to design the public administration of tomorrow which makes full use of the potential of information technology to create new structures and work processes. Business process re-engineering, the Internet and other sources of innovative information systems at the citizen interface, are important directions into which efforts at developing the public sector of the future may be channelled. But due to an unwillingness to devise bold solutions for administrative reform, it is doubtful whether traditional IT strategies in public administration and the new wave of applications based on a national information infrastructure will concur to deliver substantial innovation.
Society's Shifting Human-Computer Interface: A Sociology of Knowledge For the Information Age
By Steve Fuller
In the first age of information technology - that of the printed word - state-licensed expert communities helped restore some sense of authoritative knowledge to the relatively free and chaotic world of published opinion. However, in the relatively free market that dominates the second age of information technology - that of computers - knowledge engineers have forced human experts to compete with expert systems to satisfy consumer needs. In several fields, this has reduced the social role of expertise from standard or agent to mere tool - and a relatively inefficient one at that, which has led to expert redundancies. But there is also a reverse tendency, as knowledge engineering becomes subsumed by larger trends in transnational capitalism. In that case, entire domains of knowledge may be effectively owned by companies whose intellectual property rights are so strong that they are the sole providers of the systems capable of satisfying consumer needs in those domains. Should we reach such a state of information feudalism, we would have come full circle to the idea of information technology as a standard of human performance, except that it would be a standard that would remain a mystery to all but the most elite corporate computer programmers. It may then be time to regard human expertise as a scarce natural resource.
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