Monday, October 30, 2006

Group 2's Responses for October 31st

TISR – Ch. 23

In his piece, "The Public Sphere," Jürgen Habermas addresses both the history of the public sphere and the way it has transformed from a bourgeois-centered realm consisting mainly of highly educated individuals to one with more participation from the general public.

According to Habermas, the media plays a significant role in the public sphere. The public can't always gather in a physical location and give everyone a chance to express their opinions, but media outlets like newsletters, newspapers, and television allow more people to participate in the public sphere. If Habermas had been writing 30 years later, after the Internet became popular, he would have definitely included new advances in public communication into his analysis. He might even say that the Internet allows for a return to some elements of the older public sphere with a more interactive structure

What is more useful: a relatively organized, small public sphere of highly educated individuals, or a relatively disorganized, larger public sphere that includes nearly everyone?

TISR - Ch. 24

In “Media and the Public Sphere,” Nicholas Garnham touches on the information divide that is occurring in society today. He blames this on the exclusivity of the public sphere, keeping those with little ‘knowledge’ out, and leaping others into prosperity. He goes on to examine the relationship between the public sphere and the media, particularly the broadcast medium. Garnham says that “public communication is transformed into the politics of consumerism” (363). Even public service announcements are influenced by competing commercial broadcasting. This is also true with political advertising, as politicians appeal to voters not as rational citizens concerned with public interest, but consumers who will respond to advertisements out of their own self-interest. It then becomes a question of public persuasion and how this influences the public sphere as a whole. The individual is persuaded on an individual level, rather than that of the general public. I think that niche marketing and narrow-casting in media today is a great example of reaching the individual rather than the public as a whole. Marketers have found a way to narrow their audience down to a specific person with certain needs and desires, and this is how they can sell their products or ideas. Some politicians even tailor their messages when campaigning in different markets around the nation. This reality raises an important question, which I think Garnham was trying to get at in his article, about media’s heavy hand in the development of the public sphere.

TISR – Ch. 25

John Keane’s article “Structural Transformations of the Public Sphere” discusses his vision of the public sphere. He believes that it is outdated to believe the ideal of a unified public sphere and rather it is the development of “complex mosaic of differently sized, overlapping, and interconnected public spheres that force us to radically to revise our understanding of public life” (366). He explains that the three public spheres are idealtypisch and rarely appear alone. Keane goes into detail the three different public spheres, the first the micro-public (local state), the second the meso-public (national state), and the third the macro-public (global state). Keane gives specific examples when defining the three aspects of the public sphere, the most interesting being the development of micro-public spheres among children with video games.

TISR – Ch. 26

Zizi Papacharissi’s article, “The Virtual Sphere”, investigates how political uses of the internet affect the public sphere. Many proponents feel that the internet has given people who wouldn’t normally have a voice, a place to speak their mind. However, many people feel that that there are some negatives to the internet in the public sphere. These people point to a digital divide as reasons why it is not as utopian as we once thought.

The internet is a useful avenue for people who would like to find out information about their representatives such as their voting records and their views on various issues. Another phenomenon that has emerged has been the fact that many political representatives have been using the internet to connect with citizens by posting blogs.

One of the many other reasons that people think the use of internet in the public sphere is such a good thing is because it allows people to connect with eac hother who would not be able to. In chatrooms and forums people can share and discuss their opinions, however this is a very utopian view and is in no way perfect.

Discussion Questions:

-Will public broadcasting survive and be important in the future?
-What public sphere do college students exist in or does everyone span
into many?
-Are there significant problems that cause divisions in the public
sphere(s) of today?
-Will the internet reinvent the public sphere or will it just transform it?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Group 1's response (Thur. 26, Oct)

1. Michel Foucault, “Panopticism”
In his article, Michel Foucault discusses the panopticon – a prison designed by Jeremy Bentham. The prison is circular with a guard station posted at the radius. The outside walls are windowed so light shines in on the prisoner providing a back light. Another window at the front of the cell shows a guard station, which is not lit/has darkened windows preventing the prisoner from seeing anyone who may be watching him. The theory is that the prisoner will never know when he is being watched, thus he will assume he is always under surveillance. This will keep himfrom breaking the rules as there is a possibility they are being watched. While initially planned for prisoners, Foucault's ideals are currently being implemented in public places worldwide.

Discussion question
1. The theoretical framework of Foucault depends on dichotomy between power/passive citizens exposed to it. Do you think citizens are passive and impotent in resisting to power? Can cyberspace be a tool for citizens to realize the autonomous resistance to “panoptic” power? Or has Panopticism already deeply infiltrated into cyberspace which is considered to be a relatively free space?

(Wanna see how the Panopticon looks like?

2. Shoshana Zuboff, "Managing the Informated Organization"
This article has many different aspects to it. First is her discussion of technologyand how it changes the world. Zuboff writes, "Technology makes the world a new place" and then goes on to explain Braudel's quote about how people turn to technology when nothing is changing. Technology is obviously going to change the way things are done in the world. Without technology, we would still be building everything by hand and everything would move much slower than it does today. Technology allows us to do things that we were not able to ever do before.The second topic is Zuboff's writing on managers. She writes, "When managers increase their engagement with the electronic text, they also risk a new kind of hyperrationalism and impersonalization, as they operate at a greater distance from employees and customers". This is a terrible thing that is going to happen to society if it does continue on like this. Managers and co-workers should have to speak with each other and not rely only computer and machines, or else why not just let robots run all the businesses?

Discussion questions
1. If we continue to let electronics take over, will businesses continueto run smoothly or do we need people making decisions and interactingwith one another?
2. Is there a downside to technology changing the world at such a fast pace?

3. David Lyon, “New Directions in Theory”
Lyon touches on an interesting dichotomy between the desire to be included in the information flows and the surveillance that accompanies it. In his attempt to explain this relationship Lyon discusses four strands of surveillance theory. The first strand deals with surveillance in relation to political and military factors. The second strand focuses on the bureaucracy of surveillance, asking important questions such as who is controlling this information and how will it be used? The third strand centers on the themes of technologic and the fourth strand spotlights the political economy. These strands show how technology has become central to everyday life, while also showing how technology can produce anxiety due to its power and ability to control. Lyon also discusses the superpanopticon and hypersurveillance, which can be broadly understood as modern surveillance trying to interpret the scattered identities of different individuals. While Lyon does not reject the established theories from people like Max Weber and Marx, he does however, believes that in order to understand surveillance we must look forward for new signs about the future of the information society. In constructing a surveillance theory Lyon believes that three things should be included. The first is the thought of keeping real people central to surveillance. The second is omniperception must continue to be explored and the third is that politics and theories on surveillance should be thought of cohesively.

Discussion Question
1.Do you believe that we are voluntarily participating in our own surveillance by making online transactions, participating in online social networks,using cell phones, banking online, etc.?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Week 8: Divisions (by Group 6)

Short Summaries

Schiller: Data Deprivation
In 'data deprivation', Schiller argues that corporate power has been growing to govern the flow of information that are crucial to today's life. He points out three important aspects in which it has taken place: deregulation of economic activity, privatization of the public functions, and commercialization of social activities. Though information is proliferating in this age, we are deficient of the necessary social information(p271).

Norris : The Digital Divide
In this article, Norris analyzes the concept many of us are familiar with, the “digital divide”. He differentiates between three distinct realms of the digital divide, namely the global divide, the social divide and the democratic divide. These illustrate the divides between industrialized and developing countries, between the rich and poor on a national level, and between those who use modern technologies to participate in public life and those who don’t. Norris first acknowledges how the information age has changed our economy and also its impact on our social spheres. He then brings up a possible negative consequence of the information age that only a few of our previous articles have mentioned. He states how, “there are many plausible reasons why the emerging Internet age may reinforce disparities between postindustrial economies at the core of the network and developing societies at the periphery”. He elaborates that these disparities may not only be reinforced, but with increasing investment help the leading technologic countries to pull even further ahead.
However, Norris illustrates both sides of the issue as he indicates ways that the information age may have more positive consequences for the laggard countries. Without being overly optimistic about whether developing countries can achieve more technological diffusion, he points out that if this were achieved, the increased flow of information could foster socioeconomic and democratic development. Norris also mentions how existing barriers to Internet access are becoming more surmountable as inexpensive and mobile alternatives to the PC are being developed.
The two last points Norris makes concern social stratification within countries and the democratic divide. The general feeling from the country and from Norris' point of view is that a social divide will not have a lasting effect on a country. Two main selling points for this idea are that high-tech companies are always going to want to make more money and to do that they need to reach more people, so they will compete to include everyone including the less privileged to gain access to technologies. The second point is that many old technologies such as the telephone and the television started out as socially divided as the Internet and computers. The old technologies, however, have made it into nearly every home today. The second point Norris makes is about a democratic divide. Norris says that democratically, the Internet can only get better. As of now many presidential campaigns or other elections only use the Internet as a brochure or fundraising tools. Norris also mentions that it takes little information to run a successful democratic site on the Internet.

Lasch: Degradation of The Practical Arts
Lasch's article criticized the view that technology is ethically neutral and argues that "much of modern industrial technology has been deliberately designed by managers for the express purpose of reducing their dependence on skilled labor"(p288)

Discussion Question(s)

-Even taking Schiller's solid explanations into account, what kind of measures are possible to counter those trends? Regulation and restoring private commercial sectors to the public would be an easy answer in theory, but not very realistic. Can the public domain be restored without sacrificing (capitalistic) efficiency?

-One question that comes to mind here is, if finding adequate food and healthy living conditions, for example, are the biggest problems in some these developing countries, will the population of these countries really be that worried about keeping up in a technologically evolving world? Also, how are people in office going to use high-tech savvy people to make the transition from a web 1.0 to a web 2.0 and get people more involved in politics using the Internet?

-What does he mean by "technology"? Does it mean general technological knowledge or the chosen or adopted technology? If it means the former, then many of his arguments and examples may sound unconvincing or even conflicting with his point. For instance, the "job enrichment" and "self-management" experiments he cited lead to realization by both management and workers that automation technology can make manager's function obsolete. So technology is not always on the management's side. Lasch treats the case as an exception. Do you agree? Can technology empower both manager and workers? What technology often gets chosen in reality? Why?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Student weblog checks starting Sunday

As I mentioned in class today, expect that come Sunday I will be checking people's critical-response weblogs to ensure that students are keeping up with the class readings. Consider this like a midterm of sorts.

Also, folks should meet with their groups in the next week to begin apportioning project work and assembling lists of resources (bibliographies).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Group #5 - Zook Part 2

Chapter 7

Zook describes the foundations for the Dot-Com boom as relying heavily upon a venture capitalist social network. He prefaces the chapter by explaining that even in failed business ventures there is experiential value; “Even if a new firm does not succeed, valuable information, experience and contacts develop during the process.”

The history of venture capitalist culture in the San Francisco Bay Area starts with the founding of the Arthur Rock and Thomas partnership in 1961. The pair’s first investment was in a company called Scientific Data Systems; they acquired the needed capital from social networks formed in past ventures, including Teledyne and Fairchild. The possibility of matching Rock and Thomas’ earnings (up to 20% of company profits) attracted more venture capitalists to the scene.

While the 70s and 80s are characterized by a slump in capital investment, Zook said the decades also see the emergence of venture “angels” (investors with lots to spend) and seed venture firms. The 1990s see a resurgence of capital investment culture, and social networking becomes the primary tool for attracting investors to blossoming business ideas.

The birth of the Netscape project in 1993 begins to bring more developers to the region. Attracting investors was still difficult. But in 1995, when Netscape went public at $28 a share, the demand was so high that the price doubled by the end of the trading day, proving that the Internet was a “viable commercial space.” (p. 107) This excited activity and investment in other Internet based companies, specifically eBay, which also became a huge commercial success.

Though securing funds was still a time consuming task for upstart businesses, the money began to pour in, laying the foundation for an ultimately unsustainable “hypercharged” venture capital bubble.

Chapter 8

In this chapter, Zook focuses on the influx of finances from venture capitalists that served as the breeding ground for a variety of dot-coms coming into fruitation despite subpar business plans and limited research. Ignoring their previous role as the "technological
gatekeepers," venture capitalists "descended into a rout of chasing companies to invest" (122).

Although it is tempting to use a hindsight bias to ignore this fact, venture capitalists were put into a tough spot as the overwhelming belief of many in the industry at the time was that the Internet would change everything, and it was "touted as a way to completely revamp business models" (116) -- the "dot-com model." Entreprenuers went about gaining market share as quickly as they could without much thought given to profitability, but when the pressure came to go public as an IPO, the game shifted. As a result, many dot-coms folded and unemployment rates skyrocketed by mid-2001, particularly in the Silicon Valley area.

Chapter 9

Zook ends his sermon with an examination of the positive aspects of the dot com boom subsequent bust. He argues that while much human and financial capital was invested in poorly concieved products, business practices, and massive overheads, the enthusiasm for the internet and investment in innovation eventually allowed companies like Ebay, Yahoo, and Google to learn from mistakes and garner market share. "Overinvestment an inherent part of the innovation process (152)."

While Zook admits there was much wasteful spending, he holds the lessons learned from the Bust to be crucial to the future of IT investment. And buy low-sell high is an inherent part of the capitalist process. With the bust, the price of labor, technology and knowledge went down, providing a mass of cheap resources for new companies to start up – is one such example. The company took a more modest approach to investment, and focused on providing a simple yet valuable service to customers instead of promising the world. Despite the crash, a strong entrepreneurial climate prevailed.

Discussion Questions:

Zook makes a convincing case for the proximity of venture capital and human resources as a driving force in the acceleration of the internet, but his case implies a lot more than he states explicitly. For instance, if you needed to know someone to get "in" with a "VC," these networks were necessarily geographically insular, but what are the moral implications that Zook fails to mention about this model? Money breeds more money, and for the same types of people who had it in the first place. How does this mesh with the utopian internet that Dyson and others envisioned? Is there any way around this model, or is it simply, as Zook suggests, a fact of capitalism?

Pretend you're a "futurologist": With resources so concentrated in certain metropolitan areas, what will happen to mid-sized cities like Madison, or to sububs, or rural areas, or to the burgeoning cities in less-wired places like Brazil and Kenya? Will they always be hopelessly lagging behind? If so, does it matter? If not, how will they pull themselves ahead?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Geography of the Internet Industry (first half)

In Chapter 1 Zook introduces us to geography and how it relates to the development on the internet. He characterizes venture capitalists as "knowledge brokers who acquire and create intelligence through personal (and generally local) networks about industries, market conditions, entrepreneurs, and companies thought a constant process of interactions and observation." (pg 3). He also defines the internet industry with three criteria:
-Internet based company or one whose operation wouldn't be possible without the Internet
-the expectation of extremely fast growth
-financial backing from investors expecting a high return rate

Chapter 2 begins by saying that the world is fascinated with the ability to "distribute information on a real-time basis across the globe." In the early days of the Internet, the main idea was packet switching, which is dividing information into smaller units to send that are put back together when they reach their destination. He goes through the details of the ARPANET and the NSFNET to show how we got the what is now the World Wide Web. The change to the World Wide Web was essential in making the internet a medium of communication. The majority of internet users are in North America and Eastern Europe. It is hard to tell how much of the internet is located in which countries, but the best indicator is the domain name (ex: The US actually does not have the highest percentage of the population online, the UK does. However, we do have the highest percent of the world's domains. As the internet has grown, the location of domains has increased, but the central cities have remained at the top.

In Chapter 3, Zook compares various indicators, including number of users, number of domain names, top web sites, and internet industry firms regionally, to unveil patterns in the concentration and "clustering" of Internet Industry firms. Trends:
---80 percent of users located outside of major Internet centers
---Top six regions account for:
- 40.6 percent of all domain names in US
- 56.2 percent of US Internet firms
- 61.8 percent of the top web site in the US
(Among these six regions are San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York). Zook's observations in this chapter expands upon his idea that is illustrated throughout the book that the internet industry is embedded in geography, and does not wipe away the importance of locality, geography and other social and normative contexts in commercialization.

Zook's purpose in Chapter four is to detail, define and explain the relationship between various types of knowledge, venture capitalism, and their combined effects on the geography of the internet industry. First, he explains that there are two different types of knowledge codified, and tacit (44-45). According to Zook, "codified knowledge is defined as knowledge that is possible to record or transmit in symbols such as words, drawings, or other technical specifications or that is manifested in some type of concrete form such as a piece of machinery or equipment" (44). This type of knowledge, one can infer, seems to work incredibly well with the internet and our current quality and quantity of information technology. In contrast, Zook points out, "Tacit knowledge is not easily captured in transferable form" (44). On the other hand, tacit knowledge is best understood through observation, social interaction and networking in real life.
Though these different types of knowledge in and of themselves house their own implications for the possibility of electronic transfer, "geographic proximity still plays a significant and even leading role in this process"(50). For example, regions that can successfully create and utilize tacit knowledge will surely be at an advantage in the global market. Likewise, however, regions that don't might be disadvantaged, and may lend better to codified-knowledge transfer (45).
So where does the actual geography fit in, then, if each type of knowledge already self-selects a certain type of transfer that complements it best? Well, Zook says many centure capitalists choose to "leverage non-market factors, reduce costs and increase the quality of information" by restricting their investment to nearby companies (56). This way, essentially, they can access certain tacit knowledge that they wouldn't otherwise be able to access.

Chapter 5, "Connecting Venture Capital to the Geography of the Internet Industry," is extremely well written by Zook who thorough discusses the geographical impact venture capital has had on the development of the Internet industry. During the boom the acquisition of venture capital was a strategic asset, as investors immediately responded to the success of yahoo and Netscape by investing more capital into Internet industry. Attempting to capitalize off 1st mover's advantages and the success of EBay and Amazon, the large amounts of capital invested also facilitated the expansion of many companies within the Internet industry.
Zook argues that the increase of venture capital invested resulted in placing a high premium on time and obtaining what he terms "smart money." By smart money Zook simply means capital that derives from not only a wealthy but highly influential and connected source. Ironically, with so much risk involved in investing, starting and maintaining an Internet industry; the biggest problem for many entrepreneurs was finding people who recognize the potential of the business as worthwhile. Thus "as a result regions with more risk capital available or in which it was easier for entrepreneurs to get access to this capital were better environments for the entrepreneurial activity surrounding the creation of the Internet industry." (61) Location therefore became a strategic choice for entrepreneurs of the Internet industry. Moreover, with a premium placed on time, lead investors preferred to invest locally. Due to the accessibility of capital and the means to explore new ideas, San Francisco became the hub of the Internet industry. Lastly, the clustering of companies in the Internet industry also stems from the interpretation of money as a social relation. Zook argues that "venture capital investing depends upon no monetary inputs such as knowledge and investors prefer to be close to companies in order to monitor and assist." (76)
By analyzing data, Zook drew a number of conclusions about the affect on venture capital on the geography of the Internet industry. Reflecting the important role venture capital played in the development of the Internet industry, Zook concluded that venture capital did indeed contribute to the clustering of the Internet industry. Another interesting conclusion was that "although they ( companies) were based on the use of technology, many of these companies are not technology companies per se."(75)

Chapter 6, Finance and the Brokering of Knowledge, shows that venture capitalists spend a lot of time building and sustaining their social networks. They offer a variety of non-monetary inputs of which entrepreneurs value the most. Therefore, Zook calls venture capitalists "knowledge brokers" that choose promising industries to invest in. The internet industry values the knowledge of venture capitalists who will validate their companies and spread the word of a good sound investment. However, local investors have better access to the tacit knowledge about the company and its industry. As word spreads, tacit knowledge loses its value, and thus quick access to knowledge is important. To venture capitalists, online access isn't the same as making deals in person. Personal relationships are key to investment knowledge and determine a VCs traction in a regions "deal flow." Local contacts are usually the most productive in producing deal flow. Proximity is important even after the investment due to active involvement of the VCs in their companies. VCs also support entrepreneurs by providing advice on how to grow a company. One investor said "the way you add value is to be close." If a VC is located in the center of a system he/she is provided with valuable local tacit knowledge of which entrepreneurs value most.

Discussion Questions:
1) Zook referred to the firms with more domain names and higher rank (visited more often by users) as more "important." Do you think that these dominant sites are really the most "important" or do you think that there are outside commercial factors that drive their success within the Internet Industry? What are these factors and how do they change the internet industry as a whole?

2)Is tacit knowledge more valuable in the information age than codified knowledge? If so, is it work sacrificing cyberspace geography in order to have access to this tacit knowledge? Furthermore, as a member of the Internet Industry, is there a way to achieve a balance such that you can maximize your internet network (through which you'd acquire codified knowledge), your social network (through which you would acquire tacit knowledge) and your profits (without which, you likely wouldn't have the choice of where to situate your corporation or its assets to begin with)?

3) Do you think location is as significant a factor in the geography of the Internet industry today? With increasing globalization, do you think the status of Silicon Valley as the hub of the Internet industry could eventually be challenged? Do you think the risk of investing in the Internet industry has increased or decreased since the initial craze?

4) As people become more comfortable with making transactions through cyberspace, is it possible to acquire the valuable tacit knowledge and close relationships that Zook talks about through other communications modes other than just personal face-to-face communication?

Friday, October 13, 2006

"Second Life": The body in cyberspace

This article in Popular Science discusses a contemporary version of the "virtual reality," that Wiliiam Gibson wrote about twenty years ago: the web-based "Second Life"

I'm standing in an airy train station surrounded by rolling, wooded hills. Distant sounds of birds and trickling water reach my ears over a low buzz of chitchat from the people around me. They have come from all over North America to meet here, and now they're lounging on couches and standing in sociable little clots. Ballerinas are talking to men in body armor, while guys in suits show off their dance moves to aliens and ladies with wings. I try not to stare.

Or rather, a digital version of me called an avatar tries not to stare. I'm sitting at my computer, and my point of view hovers about three feet behind as I use the arrow buttons on my keyboard to amble toward the street outside. Next to me, a blue elf and a towering woman in a black cape tap on invisible keyboards that hover in the air. I can hear the click of the keys, and cartoon speech bubbles near their heads reveal that they're discussing computer programming.

Read the rest of the article here or visit Second Life yourself. Maybe we should all join and hold class there ...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Is It Possible: Internet Broken Up?

Internet Governance Forum (IGF), set up by UN, warns that the Internet could be broken up one day, BBC reports.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

And in 2006... Google...Buys...YouTube

Yesterday, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion.

The BBC coverage of the sale is fairly straightforward, while the NY Times article focuses on the paralells of unproven purchases during the dot-com boom that proved not to live up to their billing, like Yahoo's purchase of Geocities for in $3.6 billion in 1999.

YouTube will keep their corporate identity and staff, but integrate Google's search technology into the popular video site. Google Video will remain intact, probably just to limit an uproar from those who have already posted content there.

Along with the world's largest internet video site, Google may be acquiring a wave of legal headaches, as a significant portion of YouTube's content violates or at least skirts copyright law. YouTube recently made deals with several major media organizations to host copyrighted content, but users of new technology always seem to find every possible means of exploitation.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Group 3's Response

Here is a summary of the numerous unique findings from Part Four: "Transformations," along with some questions for further discussion:

Urry, "Mobile Sociology"
Urry discusses the idea of sociology and how it is developing and changing with our changing technology and something he terms "mobilities." First, he makes a good point by saying that "sociology" is a very roughly defined term to begin with. He says that "there is something 'more' in social life than 'individual men and women and their families', exactly what that surplus amounts to is not so obvious." (192) In the past, societies were usually defined by nationality, language, customs etc..., but with today's globalization, the entire idea of society is changing. Therefore, it's study must also change. Huge multi-national corporations can communicate and mutually benefit through language, religious, and cultural boundaries. Some of his cool terms:-Complex mobilities are physical and social systems that have a very large number of interacting elements-scapes: network of machines, technologies, organizations, texts, and actors that constituted nodes of communication.-Flows: the information that flows through these entities.

Urry uses the metaphor of "mobility" to describe the current society, and argues that sociology should be concerned with this mobility. He claims that our concept of society is based on nation-states, thus is no longer suitable for analyzing the current globalizing world. To Urry, the contemporary world and globalization is not based upon the metaphor of region, but upon the metaphors of "network" and "fluid" which cross the regional boundaries of societies and "produce complex and enduring connections across space and through time between peoples and things" (p. 195). Urry emphasizes the complexity of the global mobilities and the resulting dynamic relationships between global and local, and concludes that a "sociology of mobility" should deal with the complexity and uncertainty of the "global civil society".

Discussion questions: What ideas in Urry's article are new and beyond Castell's analysis of the "network society"? Do you agree that the transformation of the society is so dramatic that the classic sociological debates (such as structure vs. agency) are useless for analyzing contemporary world?

Discussion Questions:
-It seems like he is describing a world of business, not sociology. What is the effect on the study of arts, religion, and relationships that really define societies and communities?-If inovation is the mixing of academic fields (201), isn't this a new line of study? Why say that sociology needs to intrinsically change for this technological revolution?

Richard Reich, “The Three Jobs of the Future”
Reich discusses the role of the global web in creating an international economy that changes American competitiveness in the global market from a monetary standpoint to a value standpoint. He identifies 3 categories of work, which he claims most Americans fall under: routine production services, in-person services, and symbolic-analytic services.
“Routine production services” encompasses jobs that require repetitive tasks preformed by reliable, loyal employees with minimal education, who are closely supervised and paid based on the amount of time put in and the amount of work completed; there services can be traded worldwide (i.e. data processors).

“In-person services” are similar to routine production; however, are provided person-to-person, thus require pleasant demeanors as workers are in direct contact with those who benefit from their work (i.e. flight attendants).
“Symbolic-analytic services” represents jobs that require the so-called “manipulations of symbols and data”, like problem-solving and devising of strategies. They require higher levels of education, are not paid in the same scale as the other categories, and are not supervised, instead working with associates and partners (i.e. lawyers, professors). Reich notes that not all professors, for example, can fall under this category if they continually repeat the same lecture, as the task is more akin to a routine production.
Reich highlights that the “new economy” has brought about changes, such as the presence of unidentified problems and unknown solutions-no longer will the mastery of previously existing knowledge result in a good income. He notes on pg. 211 “The only true competitive advantage lies in skill in solving, identifying, and brokering new problems.”

Discussion Questions
Reich suggests that professions categorized as “symbolic-analytic services” formerly required mere memorization of previously existing knowledge. Hasn’t innovation always been present throughout history and required the skills he claims are only necessary now in order to generate a “true competitive advantage”?
Based on Reich’s description, is there any way to gauge which nations have the most potential to thrive in this emerging international economy?
Do the 3 categories Reich identifies aptly cover and describe the variety of professions that exist in America?

Nico Stehr

Stehr addresses the nature of the changing economic structure in modern society. He claims that this is important for many reasons. First of all, the development of this new knowledge society is connected to the change in economic activity. Secondly, the new knowledge-based labor, public debate, political discourse and other societal sectors cannot be understood without connecting it to and understanding the transformation in the economic system. Stehr sees the biggest change in the economy to be a shift from an economy driven by material to an economy that is driven by ‘symbolic’ or knowledge-based inputs and outputs. Stehr claims that this new economy, driven by knowledge, is ignored by economists.More specifically, Stehr claims that people like Bell, and others who believe that this shift in economy has diminished the importance of the manufacturing sector and industrial production, are wrong. He believes that there has not been a big shift in the relative contribution of different sectors of the economy to the total output. He believes that big shifts are however, taking place within the manufacturing sectors. In regards to employment, Stehr believes that output in advanced societies has increased, while contribution to employment has declined. He argues that the rise and persistent unemployment is due to an increase in non-standard work. In the long run he believes that unemployment maybe as a result of the transformation in the economy, and will require a different set of skills.

Anne Balsamo, "Forms of Technological Embodiment"
In her article "Forms of Technological Embodiment," Anne Balsamo arguesthat one cannot disregard the material body when speaking of technology,for the gendered and racial identity of that body informs itstechnological development and cultural reproduction.

She describes fournew bio-technological forms of embodiment:
1) The Marked body, as seen in multi-cultural mannequins and cosmeticsurgery,
2) The Laboring body, as seen in mothers and microelectronics industry,
3) The Repressed body, as seen in virtual reality and computer-mediatedcommunication, and
4) The Disappearing body, as seen in bio-engineering and databasesinvolving bodies.

Balsamo especially explores these ideas as they appear in Pat Cadigan'scyberpunk novel, _Synners_. This book illuminated gendered differencesin the ways the characters related to technology - the women usedcyberspace to communicate with other people, while the men used it toescape the limitations of their material bodies.Overall, Balsamo encourages those involved in technology discourse toconsider the ways that assumptions of binary gender identity affect theanalysis of and predictions for technology in our society.

This chapter differs with others in this book radically: it is not a society-level analysis, but a feministic "body theory" study. It focuses on the transformation of the conception of the human body, rather than the significant macro issues in the "globalizing", "informational" or "network" society.Although many pieces that we've read touched on the transformations of human lives, this is the first time in this semester that we read about things so micro and so close to our everyday lives: fashion magazines, cosmetic surgeries, online communication, virtual reality technology, electronic database, etc. By recounting a science fiction, the author introduces her body theory � the postmodern forms of technological embodiment: (1) the marked body which bears the cultural identities, (2) the laboring body which reproduces materials and culture, (3) the repressed body which means the repression of the material body, and (4) the disappearing body which signals the increasing replaceability of body components. Focusing on gender and racial analysis of hi tech, the author provided a new perspective for us to understand the transformation in the information society. Questions: 1.How this feministic account of body theory fits into the information society theories that we've been talking about so far?2.Think about your own online communication experience and the role of gender identities. Do you agree on the author�s stand on this issue?

Friday, October 06, 2006


An article from a future news source used only by the elites and the elderly.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Group 2's Response

As a group we picked out what we thought were the most important chapter/ideas...’s Virtual Voyager:

In Boczkowski’s chapter on the Houston Chronicle’s Virtual Voyager, two reasons seemed to stand out as to why online innovation by print newspaper companies was so reactive:

1) The extensive coordination networks that had developed in order to
publish on the web. The editors, reporters, multimedia recorders, programmers, designers and executives all had to communicate and come together just to get one item published.

Today’s most successful media organizations have developed a system where reporters and other content producers can publish themselves and have an editor (possibly hundreds of miles away) look it over and give it a go ahead within an hour.

2) An inability or unwillingness of reporters and editors to expand their skill set beyond simply writing to include web publishing and multimedia editing. There isn’t a need for reporters to be able to program java applets, but at this point in the game, they should at least be trained in basic HTML.

At the same time, as is evident in the example of the Houson Chronicle’s Virtual Voyager site, programmers don’t always have the skills or perspective to communicate effectively with those producing content for the web.

Digitizing the News

New York Times’ Online Venture

Boczkowski’s chapter about the New York Times on the Web shows both the accomplishments and the struggles of the paper in its beginning online venture in the mid-1990s. I would think that this portrayal would be representative of most papers that were looking to venture into the web at this time. There were issues with newsroom processes, technology and interacting with the print section of the newspaper.

Boczkowski looks at how technology was used in the journalistic process in the CyberTimes news room and shows that its effects were small, for this venture at least. The journalists writing for the NYT’s online portion reported no significant changes in the way they reported their stories, since most of it was print on the site anyways. The changes came in the editorial and formatting side of things with editors adding links to relevant things within the stories or links to previous articles about the topic at hand. The links raised issues came up
about who to link to and how often, journalists were concerned about being seen as a PR rep by including those links. He also talks about limited use of technology and technology equipment in the Times’ operation. This was interesting to me, as it seems the Times’ online operation was really set on focusing only on one group of

He also focuses on the interaction within the Times organization between the CyberTimes unit and the print operation. The description of what happened in the early days of the CyberTimes operation seems that it was at times difficult for both operations to interact and be on the same page. However, a fluid relationship developed over time as meetings increased and someone who had previously workedin the online unit took charge in the print unit, he knew what the online people needed and worked to getthem that. This fluid relationship growth signified the online operation as legitimate, with increasing sharing of content between the two.

This is a through look into the operation of the Times’ online news operation and a look that probably had the same issues at many other news operations around the country as they turned to the web. Boczkowski does a great in-depth job of showing the challenges of this venture and how it progressed from a trial to something that is commonplace today.

Distributed Construction: New Jersey Online’s Community

Boczkowski’s chapter on online communities sheds insight into the non-profit world of publishing. Town and state newspapers online have given non-profit organizations an opportunity to have their own websites within the larger site. Boczkowski makes a solid point that “community connection” has illustrated many things. Two very important being that this “connection” illustrates not only great usability but also builds many connections. A person not knowing anything about HTML can write messages, edit graphics and change the overall page with no ptior knowledge. Also, this tool helps to exemplify what the internet is about, connections. It greats a one way stream of information from the non-profit organization to the users.

Chapter 2

Chapter two focuses on the vast changes newspapers undergo beginning with exploration in the 1980s to the “settling” of newspapers on the web in the early to mid 1990s. He begins by explaining the difference between the 1980s as the exploring years, the 1990s as the settling years, and finally 1995 with the success of the web. Boczkowski describes the culture of innovation as the combination of reactive, defensive, and pragmatic traits. Reactive referring to actors following social trends, defensive referring to newspaper’s failure of moving into new areas, and pragmatic also referring to newspapers and their inability to focus on the long term.
Boczkowski continues with an in depth explanation the different technologies produced through the 1980s concluding that videotex was the only technical alternative that was somewhat profitable. Although he spends a great deal of explaining these developments, I believe the narrowing down and settling which took place in the 1990s to be far more important. He attributes the Clinton-Gore campaign, “information superhighway” and privatization to the development of the internet. Newspapers soon realized they must conform to the demands of society by being on the web or they will fail as an industry.

Discussion Questions:

The creators of Virtual Voyager tackled projects both projects that focused on content over timeliness and vice versa. Which is more valuable? Is it possible to do both? Which way are media and news website leaning towards today?

-Are journalists more adapted now to working in both the print and online world or will it take more time to get fully adjusted to the differences?

-Is unidirectional message flow good? Is it good for the public to have more access to
journalists? Do forums like the Times’ ones provide a constructive place for people to talk about things, or is it just a waste of time?

-Is it better for an online news entity to focus their content (text, broadband multimedia, etc) on one specific user group (Like the Times) or should they look to include things for more than one group?

Good News, Bad News for Papers

Just read this article on the Wired web site concerning online newspapers, very relevant to what we're reading this week.

"Although print circulation continues falling, major American newspapers are experiencing a healthy rise in traffic to their websites. Most encouraging: The web editions are attracting a younger audience."