Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society: Volume 9, Number 1, February 2006
Online ISSN: 1468-4462, Print ISSN: 1369-118X
Making mammograms mobile: Suggestions for a sociology of data mobility (pp1-19)
Catelijne Coopmans (Innovation Studies Centre, Tanaka Business School, Imperial College London, South Kensington Camp, London, SW7 2AZ, UK)
Although academic interest in the study of mobilities is on the increase, exactly what it takes and what it means for data to become mobile is seldom asked. This paper addresses that question for the case of digital medical images, more precisely mammograms (X-ray images of the breasts). It is argued that the kind of reasoning which treats mobility as a fixed asset of such images is problematic, because it obscures the particular perceptions, circumstances and practices that play a part in the accomplishment of medical images as mobile. The argument is based on ethnographic involvement with an e-Science/telemedicine research project aimed at demonstrating the benefits of a digital mammography database for breast cancer screening services, epidemiological research and radiology teaching in the UK. By focusing on the ways in which mammograms are re-presented as 'mobile data', and on how their movement is practically organized in the context of this project, the paper indicates a new direction for the sociological study of data mobility: one that understands the relationship between 'data' and 'mobility' as accomplished and emerging rather than fixed and inherent.
Keywords: mobility, medical imaging, telemedicine, e-Science, science and technology studies, immutable mobiles
Speed up or slow down? Social theory in the information age (pp20-38)
Nicholas Gane (School of Social Sciences and Law, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH, UK)
Extreme processes of social and cultural acceleration lie at the heart of the information age but social theory, for the most part, continues to be a slow and patient affair. In view of this, this paper asks how such theory is to respond to the speed-up of social life and culture. Should it attempt to keep pace with a world that is changing faster than ever? Or is the strength of theory that it is a slow, detached and reflective form that lies outside the accelerated logic of contemporary capitalist culture? In an attempt to address such questions, this paper considers two main alternatives: first, that theory should follow the speed-up of the world by technologizing itself (as argued by Scott Lash and Peter Lunenfeld), and second, and seemingly contrary to this, that in times of cultural speed-up theory should either call for social and cultural slow-down (Marshall McLuhan, Paul Virilio), slow down itself (Jean Baudrillard), or perhaps both. In considering these alternatives, media theory (associated with the above figures) is used as a resource for questioning the focus and form of social theory today.
Keywords: acceleration, events, speed, new media, technology, theory
Monsters in cyberspace cyberphobia and cultural panic in the information age (pp39-61)
Barry Sandywell (Department of Sociology, University of York, Heslington, York, YO1 5DD, UK)
This paper explores popular attitudes toward the Internet (and computer-mediated communication more generally) by mapping some of the more threatening, transgressive and 'monstrous' images associated with cyberspace. An account of risk consciousness is developed in three parts: (1) comparisons with earlier information technologies reveals similarities and differences with regard to public attitudes toward cyberspace and its risks; (2) the development of a model of contemporary teratological space derived from images of boundary-dissolving threats, intrusive alterities and existential ambivalences created by the erosion of binary distinctions and hierarchies; and (3) possible historical and sociological explanations of cyberpanic drawing on recent theorizations of globalization (capitalism/information society theory, risk society theory, reflexive modernization theory, and alterity theory).
Keywords: cyberspace, cyberphobia, cybercrime, cyberterrorism, teratological space, moral panics, digital capitalism, globalization, risk society, alterity theory, critical Net research
Whose voice is heard in online deliberation?: A study of participation and representation in political debates on the internet (pp62-82)
Steffen Albrecht (Department of Technology Assessment, Hamburg University of Technology, Schwarzenbergstrasse 95, 21071, Hamburg, Germany)
One of the core elements of the vision of 'electronic democracy' is the hope that the Internet permits free and equal access to political debates. However, experiences with online discourse challenge this view. The digital divide being one obstacle to participation, even more interesting is the fact that online communication is constrained in ways similar to the offline world. This paper attempts to reassess the question of whether the Internet makes political debate more open to voices that are normally not heard in the political field. Based on empirical evidence from a large-scale online deliberation, it analyses who participates in political debates on the Internet and whose views are represented. The results challenge both the optimistic and the sceptical view on electronic democracy. A theoretical model is developed that is able to explain the results. It extends current research by including the cultural practices of technology use and the specific effects of large-scale communication in the analysis. Though preliminary this model can help to inform the designers of online deliberations to make the most of their democratic potential.
Keywords: electronic democracy, political participation, Internet, deliberation, public sphere
Employment services in an age of e-government (pp83-103)
Greg Marston (Lecturer in Social Policy, School of Social Work & Applied Human Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia, 4072, Australia)
The increasing use of information and communications technologies among government departments and non-government agencies has fundamentally changed the implementation of employment services policy in Australia. The administrative arrangements for governing unemployment and unemployed people are now constituted by a complex contractual interplay between government departments as 'purchasers' and a range of small and large private organizations as 'providers'. Assessing, tracking and monitoring the activities of unemployed people through the various parts of the employment services system has been made possible by developments in information technology and tailored computer programs. Consequently, the discretionary capacity that is traditionally associated with 'street-level bureaucracy' has been partly transformed into more prescriptive forms of 'screen-level bureaucracy'. The knowledge embedded in these new computer-based technologies is considered superior because it is based on 'objective calculations', rather than subjective assessments of individual employees. The relationship between the sociopolitical context of unemployment policy and emerging forms of e-government is explored using illustrative findings from a qualitative pilot study undertaken in two Australian sites. The findings suggest that some of the new technologies in the employment services system are welcomed, while other applications are experienced as contradictory to the aims of delivering a personalized and respectful service.
Keywords: employment services, information and communications technology, surveillance, governmentality
F. W. Taylor and the legacies of systemization (pp109-120)
Martin Harris (Department of Accounting, Finance and Management, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ, UK)
F. W. Taylor (1856–1915) is a seminal figure in the history of industrial society and a key reference point for the study of technology, work and the organization of production. This paper locates Taylor's work in the broad historical development of formal systems and 'rational' management. The paper notes the historical continuities that link the 'technologies of control' which emerged in US industry during Taylor's lifetime and those which appear in contemporary work organizations. This is counterpoised with recent comment on the information technology and the 'end' of Taylorist work practices.
Keywords: Taylor, work organization, information technology, industrialization, management ideology
(This journal is available online: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/1369118x.html)