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senorjosh.comApril 2004: → Tue. 04/06
more posts in this category: watson
04.02.04:    |    April 2004    |    04.25.04:
«what's china like? only in china? »
annotated bibliography
April 6, 2004
In the process of cleaning out my hard drive, I came across this annotated bibliography that I compiled last year. The following is an excerpt from the introduction, you can download the entire pdf file here.

In this annotated bibliography I review some of the works that analyze the flip-side of digital globalization. Starting from the question, “What are the detrimental effects of spreading information technologies?” I have tried to find authors who attempt to deflate some of the optimism surrounding the information revolution. This bibliography is amazingly incomplete, and only scratches the surface of most arguments; nonetheless, it serves as a broad survey of the types of arguments that are being made. The hope is to provide a quick overview of some of the criticisms offered from a wide range of disciplines, from the formulaic analysis of the Bridges.org economic report to Husserl’s philosophical discourses.

In the modern era of worldwide informatization, people in every walk of life are proselytizing the numerous benefits to be reaped from the increasing ubiquity of information technologies. Exemplifying this enthusiasm, Walter Wriston writes:

All of a sudden everyone has access to everything…The power of a telecom network can change economic destinies and may start a train of political events of immense consequence…by drawing nearly all the world into a single global conversation, one that now assesses, approves, and disapproves products and services, institutions and ideas, that once were evaluated primarily on local markets.

John Perry Barlow, a former lyricist for the grateful dead and the author of “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” expresses similar optimism:

What the Net offers is the promise of a new social space, global and antisovereign, within which anybody, anywhere can express to the rest of humanity whatever he or she believes without fear. There is in these new media a foreshadowing of the intellectual and economic liberty that might undo all the authoritarian powers on earth.

In this annotated bibliography I review some of the works that analyze the flip-side of digital globalization. Starting from the question, “What are the detrimental effects of spreading information technologies?” I have tried to find authors who attempt to deflate the immense optimism surrounding the information revolution. This bibliography is grossly incomplete, and only scratches the surface of most arguments; nonetheless, it serves as a broad survey of the types of arguments that are being made. My goal is to provide a representative sampling of the more compelling criticisms offered from a wide range of disciplines, from the formulaic analysis of the Bridges.org economic report to Husserl’s philosophical discourses.

To facilitate the comparison of arguments from often unrelated disciplines, I’ve conceptually (and somewhat artificially) grouped them into three sets:
The first set of books (i-v) deals primarily with the digital divide. Though Compaine writes to debunk the divide, the predominant belief is that there is a harmful technology gap that exacerbates existing economic divisions. The authors stress the potential of information technology, generally agreeing (Haywood being the notable exception) that technology is inherently good. For instance Norris and Holderness, in a manner similar to Gustavo Lins Ribeiro (not included), focus on the democratic potential of the Internet, optimistically describing a cyber-enabled direct democracy while simultaneously condemning “promises of technological quick fixes for civic engagement in democracy akin to one-week wonder diets or surgical tummy tucks to save us from slothful selves without the need for painful exercise.”(Norse) For these authors, their misgivings arise from the lack of technology in certain areas, and equivalently the disparity in access to technology.

The second set of authors (vi-viii) present arguments that more directly call into question the value of technology itself. As opposed to the first set, where technology is assumed to be beneficial despite ominous disparities, these works argue for a more tempered (Feenberg), or altogether different (Poster) understanding of technology itself. While not claiming technology to be good or bad, they seek to reevaluate our conception of technology and its consequences. For instance Husserl, an existentialist philosopher, highlights inconsistencies and shortcomings in the way we relate to systems assumed to accurately represent natural phenomena. The discussions in this set are necessarily more abstract than in the first set. They do not necessarily portray technology in a worse light than the first set (in many cases the digital divide arguments are the most critical); rather, they seek to shift the focus of our attention.

The third and final group (ix-xi) represents some of the more vehemently anti-technology points of view. As opposed to the preceding authors, who had a relatively neutral attitude toward technology, these authors depict technology itself as a harmful entity. Menzies sees technology as a “deskilling” force, Heidegger claims it is impeding our quest for truth, and Sale believes many advances to be unnecessary and dangerous. I have not included works from the many “cultural critics” who essentially worry that, as Mark Poster writes, “the Internet destabilizes the community and undermines the felicity of face-to-face relations,” or equivalently, in Margaret Morse’s words, that the Internet “erodes the sociality of a well-functioning society.” Nor have I done much justice to the many authors who decry the “cultural imperialism” implicit in the fact that the ‘global technology’ is really ‘Western technology,’ and who point to statistics such as the fact that seventy-five percent of the Internet is in English, and that all the major software producers are in the U.S.A.

The grouping of the authors is ad-hoc, as the literature does not represent a cohesive body of work. The hope is that the reader, given this representative sampling, can get a rough idea of the ways people are framing arguments against technology.

download the entire pdf file here

Posted by senorjosh at April 6, 2004 05:18 AM | TrackBack
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