Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Group 1's Responses

Article 1
In his article “An Introduction to the Information Age,” Manuel Castellsdescribes what he refers to as the “network society.” Castellssummarizes the nine main features of the network society as follows- An informational economy – an economy that relies on knowledge,information and technology.- A global economy – the ability to link real time on a global scale. - The network enterprise – Both multinational corporations and companiesthat form strategic alliances through outsourcing that can bedissolved/reformed when needed.- Flexi-workers – refers to the changing job structure; going from acareer person to someone who is always changing jobs. - Social polarization/exclusion – increase inequality between the “have”and the “have nots” in society.- Culture of real virtuality – interactive media that allows fortargeted messages- Politics – politicians are increasingly reliant on media - Timeless time – technology changes how we view time. Example – TedWilliams head being frozen in hopes that someday he can be reanimated.- The space of flows Castells stresses that the IT revolution did not create the networksociety, but without IT, the network society would not exist.

Article 2
In “The information city, the new economy, and the network society”Manuel Castells describes the new economy as one based on productivity,with innovation, knowledge, flexibility and networks all playing majorroles. While these are not fundamentally new concepts, new informationtechnologies will allow them to really take off. Already, companies canact on a global level in real time, workers can travel between differentcountry offices, networks can coordinate, and participation in theglobal economy is increasing. In the coming future, companies will shareinformation with their networks on every level to facilitate innovationand drive increased production.In essence, the new economy is home to a bigger, more complex and lesspredictable marketplace. For instance everyone will be able tosimultaneously invest their savings and move large sums of money quicklyand efficiently. On top of this, currencies will be determined based onthe perceptions of the global financial market.The new economy creates an array of challenges for today’s cities todeal with. Socially, individualization will increase, the society willbecome increasingly fragmented, and a wider divide will appear betweenpeople of varying cultural and educational resources. If these result insocial exclusion and a loss of shared meaning, cities may lose theirsustainability. Also worth noting is that while technology has and will continue to aidethese changes, it is not itself sufficient to cause changes. This pointwas reinforced throughout the article and is worth noting.

Article 3
As we can see in the title, Garnham considers “information society theory” as “ideology,” i.e., a false discourse. His writing is, necessarily, about why information society theory insisted by Manuel Castells and others is a false discourse. His detailed critique on ‘information society theory’ is based on the following arguments.

1) It is not that technology solely determines the evolution of society.
2) The role of ICT in the ongoing social changes is overstated.
3) Capitalism has inherent capacity of metamorphosis. Thus, the ongoing changes in global capitalism are not due to the development of ICT, but to capitalism’s innate flexibility.

At the beginning of this article, Garnham argues that the study of communication as “part of the Enlightenment project” (p.166) should answer the conditions or forces of social changes. By his own arguments, the variable of ICT is excluded from the list of the “conditions of forces” that cause significant social changes. Then what can be the force? His answer to this question sounds like that of a Zen monk: that is the way capitalism is. Capitalism is originally good at transformation.

1) What does it mean by “modes of production” or “relations of production”? (pp.168-169) Does it mean the relations among ‘things’? Or producers? Or both? What is “superstructure” on page 178?

2) In our daily lives, can we specifically observe the transforming power of ICT? If so, can those arguments of Garnham be still valid?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why We Fight

For anyone interested in learning a little more about the American Military-Industrial Complex, I'd recommend the recent documentary Why We Fight. Released in 2005, the film uses Eisenhower's parting address as the centerpiece of a more involved look at the complicated relationship between researchers, workers, corporations, the military, and politicians from WWII to the present. It's definitely worth watching regardless of your politics.

The text of President Eisenhower's speech is posted online, as is video.

Reading suggestion - a fun one!

So, with all these readings about a movement to a post-industrial world, I found something you all might enjoy for another perspective – “Player Piano,” by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s a distopian novel that depicts a world where everything is run by machines, and everyone is separated into two groups by IQ tests: the managers who run the factories and everyone else. Only, since the machines control everything, there is now a massive population that has nothing to do beyond drink and occasionally clean up after the machines.

Not something that can make a resource for any of the projects, but a fun book – far more upbeat than “1984” – and one that shows what could happen if machines wind up replacing too many of our services. Plus, it's a shorter book with good-sized type.

Reactions to Bell and his critics

Some good reactions to the readings this week. Over atBroerdom, Ben writes that Bell's article has to be understood in the context of the period in which it was written -- the early 1970s:

His vision of post-industrial society is apt in that it describes information as an economic engine and he describes economic conflicts between working class and professionals caused by inflation, outsourcing, and high trade deficits (pp. 98-99).

However, his idea that post-industrial society is primarily a communal society in which public mechanisms, rather than the market, determines distribution goods reflects either his personal leftist views or his writing before the Reagan administration.

That health care and education (96-97) would be valued over product quantities seems idealistic in light of current devaluation of science education by politics and high-cost, privatized health care. Reganomics (free market rule except in military matters, insurance cum governance is communist) likely destroyed the reality in which he wrote.

Since Bell wrote when anti-povery legislation and social welfare wasn't political suicide, his predictions come across today as somewhat flawed.

We should also consider Bell's arguments in geographical context, though, writes Katie over at Katie's thoughts:

I think Bells statement on page 88, about how the "rapidity of social change and shifting cultural fashion bewilders the old" is true. This is not only true in our post-industrial society, however, our societies changes are forcing social change on pre-industrial societies, for example in the South Pacific. As a result of Western influence, services and amenities are become essential in life there, which traditionally was communal. However, to get money to pay for these things they are forced to work in factories, which come to their countries as a result of labor being cheaper there then in the United States, urbanizing society, spreading disease, poverty and disrupting their traditional way of life.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Interesting Writer

This is just an interesting blog posting from a technology writer I found online. Maybe it will be useful to someone or it will just be a good read. It is about Google and concentrating information and AI.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The AOL search data issue...

About the AOL search data we discussed in class... it took me five minutes of browsing here and there, and the whole dataset (about 439MB) is now in my hands. Indeed, on the Net you cannot undo what has been done. I'm not going to post any addresses here, but if someone in the class really needs it to research and is not that familiar with googling around, I can send him/her an email.
Another thing I noticed is that AOL was powered by Google. So it was not only the same kind of data, but exactly that data that Google refused to hand over to the government (at least in the States). Seems like even for Google, data that has been spread could not be undone.

More ideas about "code" from cyber-geographers

I've just posted two PDF articles on the main web site that folks might be interested in. Geographers Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchin have moved from analyzing cyberspace to defining what they call “code/space”. They conceptualize code as “embedded in everyday objects, infrastructures, and processes,” such that “the relationship between human and technology is complex, contingent, relational, and productive.” Understanding code/space begins with everyday practice: “Code enables everyday acts to occur, such as watching television, using the Internet, traveling across a city, buying goods, making transnational phone calls, operating healthcare equipment, and withdrawing money from an ATM. While some of these practices were possible before the invention of code, code is now vital to their operation, and in some cases possible only through the work of code.” The epitome of code/space is thus a social situation in which “coded objects, infrastructures, and processes have entirely replaced older (wholly manual, electromechanical) systems, meaning that they can no longer be undertaken in an alternative way.” Might be useful to consider how their definition of "code as architecture" connects with and departs from Lessig's.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Case study assignments

Group 1 - USA PATRIOT Act

Group 2 - "network neutrality"

Group 3 - Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Group 4 - professional journalism vs. blogging

Group 5- LOOKS LIKE YOU STILL NEED TO PICK A TOPIC ... since you had wanted to do blogging and professional journalism, how about blogging and political elections instead?

Group 6 - wikipedia

Notes on Lessig (part one)

I'm pleased that students seem to be finding Lessig's main arguments straightforward to understand (even if the tiny print is ruining all your eyes). Elissa put it well in her Critical Response Journal:

Lessig’s most significant point was the idea of regulation in cyberspace and if it was possible to regulate something so liberating and if so how to regulate it. He believes, and I agree, that the net will be regulated through architectures that enable identification to enable commerce. Commerce has its own incentive to regulate the internet and it will be successful through providing authentication, authorization, privacy, integrity, and non-repudiation. Lessig then continues with how government can help commerce and this I find very interesting. Even though the government can’t regulat[e] the net, it can regulate the architecture of the net through code. As he stated in his first chapter, code is law and the control of code is power. So as long as we can control the code of the net, the net will be regulated.

I'm also pleased that Lessig's specific examples and suggestions are raising some critical doubt. For example, over at Joe E.'s Musings on J676, Joe writes:

I also have serious qualms about some of the talk of identification and verification through digital IDs that Lessig seems to be hinting at as a strong candidate for reform in this Internet age. The categorization that comes with all of the information that would be present on a strictly-regulated PKI system comes with dangerous ramifications, in my opinion, and runs counter to the idea of e-democracy that is so en vogue at this moment in time. Although this sort of authentication would be helpful with examples like illegal gambling , this would open the door to other instances where whomever happens to be controling the power would be able to allow only individuals with certain characteristics to view certain content. It's all a little too '1984' to me.

For a concrete example of some of this, Lisa discovered that 60 Minutes aired a report on Internet gambling the other day. She describes the connection to Lessig on Lisa Bu's J676 Blog:

Internet gambling is illegal in the United States, but millions of American do it on hundreds of web sites, often from the comfort of their homes. Usually those web sites are served from computers somewhere overseas. Because there's so much profit to make online, American gaming industry is crying for legalizing yet regulating Internet gambling. And it's definitely regulable using the constraints described in the "Code" book:

Law: punishment (e.g. fine, jail term) for illegal Internet gambling providers, licensing legal providers. Technology makes it easy for law enforcement to tell if a online gambling site's server sits in U.S. or overseas.

Norms: this is a bit hard to do because people can gamble online from their privacy of home, and keep their activity a secret. But at workplace, employer can post a warning that employees' online activities will be monitored. That will deter some people from visiting gambling sites.

Market: online gambling sites usually use credit card as transaction method. To control access to online gambling, credit card companies can be asked to refuse transaction if cardholder is American. If online gambling becomes legal, credit card companies can be asked to charge extra fee or tax for online gambling transactions, thus to discourage gamblers.

Architecture: online gambling sites can build in its code to deny access to people who are underage or from the United States. American Internet service providers can add a filter to block out online gambling sites to their subcribers. Families can set up filters and blocker on their computers to restrict their children's access to online gambling sites.

These are all good things to talk about today. One more I might add is ... what kind of cyberspace is this little interconnected web of blogs that we've constructed for our class? What kind of regulation on our speech -- for better and for worse -- does the "code" of Blogger (and the way we're using it) mandate?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Of course, Lessig has a blog

LessigFor anyone who's looking for a little more information on Lawrence Lessig, I'd recommend checking out his blog at: It's a pretty general treatment of Internet issues, with a lot of focus on new developments on the Internet and open-access topics such as Creative Commons licensing and net neutrality.

And in case "Code" isn't enough, Lessig is currently in the process of working on the page proofs for "Code - Version 2.0"

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Blogger use update

Just a reminder as we read Lessig this week -- your personal reactions to the reading should be posted to your individual critical response weblogs, not to the main weblog. I'll be culling through student responses and posting some excerpts up here before each class in order to get people thinking along common lines.

After you've posted your reactions to your critical response weblog, if there's something in particular that you want to say about a reading to the all-class weblog (here), by all means go ahead. But remember that at the end of the semester you need to have a record of your responses on your own weblog first.

P.S. Any student may also post items dealing with the day's news or other tidbits related to the class to our class weblog (here). I'll do the same occasionally.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Living on Thin Air

This author makes a lot of pretty strong claims throughout this section of his book, so I found it hard to keep up with what I agreed or disagreed with. However, I paused when I read his claim that by turning our backs on the global economy, we would also then leave behind the importance of what he calls the 'knowledge economy.' I am not sure that I agree with this statement, because I think that this drive to create new products for the market is not necessarily reliant on relations with other countries. He says that protectionism and nationalism should be replaced with global trade and investment, which is not a bad alternative, and definitely relates to our discussion of Utipia in a way, but I didn't like the negativity he associated with the american economy. Nationalism, in small amounts, is healthy for a nation to grow and to pride itself on its own successes (in the economy). However, if we are to find these perfect 'economic recipes' that he claims drive economic growth, perhaps it is essential to look to the global market for inspiration? I could be twisting the meaning of what he is getting at entirely, but I think it is interesting to think about.

Image of the Future Information Society

I think the title of this article is a good place to start before analyzing one of the main ideas in this article. I think it would be interesting to talk to Masuda now and see if his image has changed since 1990, when the article was written. One statement that I think really summarizes our current technology-infested society is Masuda's claim that " 'computer technology' will be the innovational technology that will constitute the developmental core, and its fundamental function will be to substitute and amplify the mental labour of man" (Masuda, 16). I feel like we are moving in a direction of complete reliance on this man-made machine, to a point where the ultimate goal is for it to replace our physical involvement in daily activity. Although the author does go on to dissect the composition of the information society, I think the above statement is something that we can all recognize today in our increasingly 'lazy' society.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How do we unravel this contradiction?

As intended, the readings this week have been provoking some good discussion, especially the Robins and Webster piece. Over at Directions for the Information Superhighway", Amanda wrote,

This piece has a little of that "1984" or "Brave New World" vibe with all the talk of social control and government management. They discuss a conception of the information age as unequal access to and control over the info resources. I'm not sure I agree entirely--clearly there are some very egalitarian information sources available today (MOST web content, social networks, Wikipedia, access to blogs, access to world news, even international libraries, in some cases...)

Similarly, in J676: Mike's Musings, Mike questioned whether Robins and Webster were too pessimistic in their critique:

Robins and Webster ignore the recent Internet developments that allow individuals to produce and share content on a global scale. This piece was written in 1999. If Robins and Webster were writing today, they would have to acknowledge the community-building and personal-publishing advances that have become available. [...]

Today%u2019s world isn%u2019t quite the corporation-controlled desert the authors describe. For example, for every new feature that Google produces, thousands of people criticize it. For every product that Steve Jobs comes out with, thousands of consumers critique it. [...]

The grand collection and systematic organization of information by those in power can have a numbing effect on the %u201Clittle guy%u201D, but the sharing of information on a global scale can return at least a small portion of that power back%u2026 a portion that seems to be growing every day.

This is tricky though, because unlike, say, the Roszak piece, I think Robins and Webster are arguing that the development of cyberspace is neither utopian nor dystopian, but contradictory. After all, even though they argue that their purpose is "to explore this dark underside of the Information Revolution," they admit that "serious, rather than just well-meaning, responses are only possible if we confront, not just the repressive potential of information and knowledge, but more significantly the integral and necessary relation between repressive and possible emancipatory dimensions." [66] In other words, there is a "dialectical" (intimately interrelated but often necessarily oppositional) relationship between the good things we as consumers, citizens, and cultural animals want cyberspace to provide, and the risks which result from the way that states and markets end up providing those thiings.

Further thoughts?


Hi everyone... I am just seeing if I actually figured this out, so if it works I will rewrite my introduction!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Values embodied in technology

I just want to share one interesting paragraph of Langdon Winner which I read some years ago.
I think what he wants to argue in the following quotation and "Who will be in cyberspace" is basically the same.

"The two hundred or so low-hanging overpasses on Long Island were deliberately designed to achieve a particular social effect. Robert Moses, the master builder of roads, parks, bridges, and other public works from the 1920s to the 1970s in New York, had these overpasses built to specifications that would discourage the presence of buses on his parkways […] The reason reflect Moses’s social-class bias and racial prejudice. Automobile-owning whites of ‘upper’ and ‘comfortable’ middle classes, as he called them, would be free to use the parkways for recreation and commuting. Poor people and blacks, who normally used public transit, were kept off the roads because the twelve-foot tall buses could not get through the overpasses. One consequence was to limit access of racial minorities and low-income groups to Jones Beach, Moses’s widely acclaimed public park." (Langdon Winner, from "Do artifacts have politics?")

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Textbook available

UPDATE: Sorry folks, someone has already taken the textbook.

What is the "third way"?

In the UK and in the US, the "third way" has slightly different meaning. Over there it was a conscious policy of the Blair administration; here it was a conscious policy of the Clinton administration. In each case it combined embrace of certain market ideals -- deregulation, privatization, globalization, workfare -- with at least a limited recognition that markets could fail and require social investment (in technological infrastructure), social insurance (healthcare and retirement), and social knowledge-production (schools and universities). The official "Third Way" policy think tank -- closely affiliated with the Democratic party -- is at "Third Way: A strategy center for progressives" ...

What is "technology"?

Each week I'll try to excerpt some good things from student critical response journals and open them up for wider discussion. This morning I was reading the blog from "advee" entitled 676=676 and thought we might like to mull over a point this student raises:

In a conversation, we say 'technology' and think we know what we're talking about. For instance, I often tell people that I'm interested in technology and its effects on writing, or that I'm interested in teaching with technology. But this often goes unprobed. Does this mean that I am interested in computers? Are computers just those processor/keyboard/screen combinations produced by Dell and Gateway and Apple? Or what about ipods and projectors and, better yet, pencils? In short, I really have no idea what I'm talking about when I say 'technology.' But no one calls me on it.

What do the rest of you think technology means -- or should mean? Or perhaps a better question is, if we think there have been significant (if not "revolutionary") changes in political, economic, and social life in the last few decades in part due to new technology, how have those changes affected our very definition of technology itself? (That's like a PhD prelim question right there for ya.)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Project groups (revised again)

We have five students that need to be assigned to project groups, so I will wave my magic wand and ...

Alyson Fishkind - group 1
Chelsey Carey - group 2
Brigid Moroney - group 3
David Kivowitz - group 4
Ben Broeren - group 5
Ross Viland - group 6

Could one person from each group please "comment" on this blog post and list the members of your group -- names only? This way the new people will be able to more easily connect with their group. And if anyone is still "unassigned" please email me. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


That last poster had the right idea -- how about if other folks introduce themselves on this blog too. The best way would be to "add a comment" to Kihun's post below (good practice in using this feature).

Monday, September 04, 2006


Hi folks.

I am Kihun, a J676 student. Let's listen what patterned sound comes out of the subtle - but massive - wave of the internet society!