Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First half of the second half of Network Society

Doesn’t really do it justice, but here are sections five and six of The Network Society in 250 words:

E-learning is a significant factor in education, though teaching and learning have not radically changed. E-learning provides flexibility in education but employs many of the methods of the traditional classroom. Bates’ wonders: who benefits from an e-learning environment?

Centralized health websites have great information but not the popularity or psychological support of decentralized sites. Doctors approve of the self-health care initiative but really don’t want emails from their patients. Katz, Rice and Acord say the greatest potential of e-health is still unrealized: universal access to individualized patient information management and resource tools.

Servon and Pinkett argue access to and the ability to use technology is necessary to combat income inequality. Community technology centers help, providing services from access and assistance to job training and placement. While somewhat successful, they lack both funding and a repeatable model.

Technology-based social movements are an alternative political structure, with the anarchist ideals of grassroots autonomy and direct democracy. As global media networks, they exchange mobilization messages with a diverse audience. Juris says they will spark changes in – not replace – current political institutions and processes.

The internet is a new political space, used most commonly as simply another delivery method for top-down information, but with the potential – as demonstrated by Howard Dean in 2003 – to facilitate uncontrolled democratic participation in the political process; to circumvent the media-determined confines of political discussion; and, most importantly, to fundraise. These functions, Sey and Castells argue, will address the crisis of legitimacy in today’s politics created by media framing.


Dan Lewerenz said...

I found the Servon & Pinkett (did I get those names right) piece interesting, and think it's good that they explore who and why technology adoption takes place. However, since they take the time to differentiate between early adopters and others, it would have been nice if they'd explored ways by which early adopters can encourage adoption by others in their communities. It seems to me this idea of "community technology centers" is very broad, and doesn't really give one much of an idea what it actually takes to achieve tech adoption.

Anonymous said...

Assorted comments on Part V of The Network Society:

While reading the Bates chapter on e-learning in post-secondary educational institutions, I could not help but wonder how technology is being used in elementary and primary schools, particularly in those areas where public schools are severely under-funded. I say this as a Cleveland native, where Ohio’s public school funding system has been at least three times ruled unconstitutional for its reliance on property taxes. Many Cleveland public school classrooms literally do not have textbooks. What sort of position does it put policy makers into when they must decide how to allocate a very limited amount of resources, and now, I am guessing, are contending with the price of including technology in the schools as well? How does one decide between books and a computer lab? I guess that speaks to our overall crisis of public education in this country.

This made me think of the digital divide(s) that we’ve discussed on a few different levels. Servon and Pinkett write about how the divide extends beyond access to training and content. They seem to focus on individuals. But as far as issues of scale and geography go, perhaps we can think of digital inequality in institutional terms, like the urban public schools example, as well as a divide at the level of countries themselves. Does not the Internet reinforce the lead of affluent societies? Or do the benefits of the Internet “trickle down” to developing countries?

Jeremy White said...

In general, there were two aspects of network propagation that I felt didn't get enough attention in Castell's book. First, marketing shouldn't be underestimated in terms of acceptance. Engineers can develop a superior product but an “Intel Inside” sticker on the outside of the box can have as much influence as months of electronic architecture. Second, the legal environment can dictate whether or not corporate or private investment will occur. The lack of intellectual property laws has hamstrung China and Russia in the past and will continue in the future unless changes occur that will make investing more protected. It’s dangerous to invest in a company if the possibility exists that the intellectual property might follow the employees when they decide to leave.