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?

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