Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society,
Volume 3, Number 3, 2000
Women's Work in the Information Economy: The Case of Telephone Call Centres
Vicki Belt and Ranald Richardson (Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK) and Juliet Webster (Employment Research Unit, Trinity College, Dublin)
This paper is concerned with the work experiences and career opportunities of women employed in technology-intensive offices known as telephone 'call centres'. Call centres have grown rapidly across Europe in recent years, creating a significant number of new jobs and receiving considerable attention within the media, business and academic communities. However, despite the fact that the majority of call centre jobs have been taken by women, researchers have so far paid little attention to their position in this new 'industry'. The article addresses this research gap. In particular, it is concerned with the question of whether call centre work is offering women new opportunities for skill development and career progression, or whether a more familiar trend is taking place in which women are being drawn into a highly routinized, 'de-skilled' and de-valued area of work. The paper also uses the specific example of call centre work in order to reflect on broader issues about the changing nature of women's work and employment in the so-called 'information economy'.
The Rhetoric of Democracy in International On-line Education
Alison A. Carr-Chellman, Sarah Fitzpatrick and Ke Zhang (Pennsylvania University, USA) and Ben Salt (Independent Scholar)
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 inter-national 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.
China's Future with Distance Education: Rhetoric and Realities
Alison A. Carr-Chellman and Ke Zhang (Pennsylvania University, USA)
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 gloablization which affect the ways in which China adopts new online learning technologies.
Ireland: Distance Education in An Expanding Democracy
Sarah Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania University, USA)
The recent and explosive development of the Irish economy has earned the Republic the popular accolade, Celtic Tiger. Enticed by government subsidies and tax incentives, foreign investors favour location in Ireland in order to penetrate the Single European Market (SEM). Commensurate with the demands of foreign investors for a fully developed infrastructure, the deregularization of the Irish Telecoms market (I 998) has afforded new opportunities for the transformation of education and training in Ireland. This paper explores the democratizing potential of distance education within the Irish Republic. It focuses on awareness programmes and initiatives for the promotion of information technology (IT) access, and considers particular challenges in ensuring equal access to the benefits of new technologies, for all.
The New Frontier. Web-based Education in US Culture
Alison A. Carr-Chellman (Pennsylvania State University, USA)
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 online 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.
International Study Circles
Ben Salt (Independent Scholar)
In theory, computers have overcome the tyranny of distance associated with international education. In practice, many obstacles remain. An examination of International Study Circles allows for a greater understanding of the issues associated with computer assisted international workers' education.
The Virtual University As 'Timely and Accurate Information'
Neil Pollock (University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK)
This article investigates the implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning System in a redbrick university in the UK. The first part is concerned with the way in which the implementation project team has come to conceptualize its task or mission and represent it both to itself and to the rest of the university. On one hand, the discussion is about the rolling out of a rather mundane information system, purchased simply as a replacement for an out of date system called 'MAC'. On the other, for some people, the system amounts to a large, and complex almost mythical model of the university, a kind of 'virtual university'. Specifically, the article is interested in one particular phrase, script, or mantra that appears over and over as the accepted rationale, mission and justification for the project: the 'provision of timely and accurate information'. It is argued that the phrase helps to mediate the boundary between how the project team and others understand the university as a whole, and the ways in which it is, could be, and should be changing. The second part of the article is focussed on the way in which those implementing the new system are attempting to move the university from an old (seemingly 'chaotic') model to a new (supposedly 'ordered') 'informational model'.
Social Movement Networks: Virtual and Real
Mairo Diani (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland)
This paper discusses the impact of 'computer mediated communication' (or CMC) on political activism and social movements. CMC may be expected to affect collective action by improving the effectiveness of communication and facilitating collective identity and solidarity. However, the heterogeneity of social movements undermines generic arguments and their relationship to CMC. Accordingly, the potential consequences of CMC on three different types of political organizations are discussed: organizations mobilizing mainly participatory resources, organizations focussing on professional resources, and transnational networks. The potential to build 'virtual [social movement] communities' seems highest among sympathizers of movement organizations who act professionally on behalf of causes with vast resonance among the public opinion and low radical potential. All in all, the most distinctive contribution of CMC to social movements still seems to be instrumental rather than symbolic. Existing bonds and solidarities are likely to generate more effective mobilization attempts than was the case before the diffusion of CMC; it is more disputable though as to whether CMC may create brand new social ties where there were none.
John Tomlinson (Nottingham Trent University, UK)
'Proximity politics' refers to a certain set of new political-cultural problems and issues that the globalization process confronts us with. Specifically it refers to the Sort of engagements globalization entails as it draws us all closer together: both 'structurally', via the complex institutional interconnections of globalization, and 'phenomenologically' via the sort of experienced proximity that is provided in time-space bridging technologies - particularly communications and media technologies. The article contends that this 'relational closeness' - in a complex set of interactive modalities which do not abolish, but, in some contexts, actually intensify cultural differences - presents its own distinct order of politics. It attempts to map some of this emergent terrain, focussing on some recent debates about cosmopolitanism. Here it explores, for instance, problems of conflicting cultural-political principle thrown up by the structural impact of enforced proximity: principles of universalism and humanism vs the demands of cultural difference; ethical interventionism vs the principle of sovereignty; 'global governance' vs the claims of localism. It concludes, optimistically, by suggesting that the grosser fears of incompatibility of such principles may often be exaggerated and that there is, in fact, a good deal of room for (at least theoretical) manoeuvre on the emergent terrain of cosmopolitan politics.
Information Interdependence: Keohane and Nye's Complex Interdependence in the Information Age
Kenneth S. Rogerson (Duke University, Durham, USA)
A well-known and respected attempt to theorize interdependence in the field of international relations is complex interdependence. In Power and Interdependence, Robert 0. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, Jr define interdependence as reciprocal effects among actors resulting from 'international transactions - flows of money, goods, people and messages across international boundaries'. Though much research has been done on the effects of interdependence on the first three, the flows of messages have been studied less often. Keohane and Nye addressed the issue in a 1998 article in Foreign Affairs, discussing changes in the global environment resulting from the information which have had an impact on their ideas. This article proposes to go deeper into complex interdependence. The world is becoming increasingly 'information interdependent' and this essay is an attempt to apply the assumptions and concepts presented in complex interdependence to the information age. In the final analysis, complex interdependence complements research from the field of communications, that information flows should be understood as underlying mechanisms and processes that facilitate contextual understanding of issues. It maintains the integrity of the assumptions of complex interdependence, while adding an understanding of the nature of information and information flows.
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