This chapter highlights the most significant ways in which research from across Internet Studies combines thematically to offer a picture of the challenges facing freedom of expression in the twenty-first century, as well as the need for broader theoretical frameworks. It suggests that a broader theoretical framework is required to catch the full range of law and policies shaping expression online, and to develop responses for policy and practice. The Internet presents just as many opportunities for digital surveillance or censorship as it does for free expression. The most helpful contribution of Internet Studies has been to expose and illuminate the many different forces that restrict or expand the opportunities to speak and communicate. The Internet has become central to communication and it plays a role in helping multiple actors to obtain their various goals.
This article attempts to map the depth and importance of the problems at issue: first, through a review of digital divide debates at a time (2005) when in policy circles they are no longer in fashion; secondly by linking this to recent debates in political sociology and media sociology about, respectively, the declining prospects for political engagement, and the public uses of people's media consumption; and finally by reviewing competing theoretical formulations of the communicative preconditions of democracy. It suggests that all citizens require a share of a society's communicative resources if they are to participate effectively in the democratic process, and considers what form such resources should take. Arguing that ‘digital divide’ debates have pushed this issue to the centre of policy discussions the article assesses what policies might be needed to achieve improved distributive equity with respect to these resources. It provides an insight into how the communicative preconditions of democracy might be understood in the light of the growing use of ICTs.
Gustavo Cardozo, Guo Liang, and Tiago Lapa
This chapter reviews the diffusion, uses, and impacts of the Internet worldwide and over time. The World Internet Project has been intended to become the vehicle for tracking what happens as households and nations adopt and use the Internet. The study of the connection between the Internet and society presents a window onto contemporary societies. The Internet mediates social changes and social relations. The age of users, the institutional context, and media culture determine the Internet use in a given country. The Internet has been more of a complement to the traditional media than a competitor, and displacement effects are hard to find and are not general or universal across countries. It is important to keep a vital perspective in comparative approaches, being mindful of the theory that differences verified between countries or continenta can lose much of their analytical relevance.
Eszter Hargittai and Yuli Patrick Hsieh
This chapter investigates the research on inequalities in society, and also considers the digital inequality beyond overly simplistic conceptions of access to technologies. Additionally, it describes how people's background characteristics relate to their web-use skills and what they do online. The social implications of differentiated Internet uses are covered. The theoretical perspectives presented point out various forms of inequality associated with information and communications technology (ICT) uses, and explore both the causes and consequences of digital inequalities from various research fields and traditions. It is noted that skills are not randomly distributed across the population, and that the social context of use refers to how people integrate digital media into their lives. Different types of online activities may have divergent implications for varying aspects of social capital. There are three possible outcomes of widespread digital media uses when it comes to social inequality.
The post-Athenian democratic relationship, in which political representatives speak for the absent demos and media gatekeepers translate between the intimate sphere of individualized experience and the impersonal, public sphere in which strangers must live together as citizens, is blighted by inevitable problems of miscommunication. Political representatives are accused of being ‘out of touch’ and not listening to the public. The media are blamed for being simplistic, cynical, and sensationalist. The public are depicted as lacking the attentiveness, political literacy, and moral energy required of active citizens. There is a powerful desire for more effective communicative structures, techniques, and technologies that can facilitate the free spread of information and unrestricted communication between citizens. The purpose of this article is to explore ways in which, theoretically and empirically, new digital media technologies can support the norms and practices of democratic political communication.
The first part of the article discusses some of the general questions raised thus far regarding ICTs. The second part examines the role of digitization in shaping today's global capital market and the extent to which it is or is not largely electronic, supranational, and hence able to escape all territorial jurisdictions. And the third part examines the formation of types of global politics that run through the specificities of localized concerns and struggles yet can be seen as expanding democratic participation beyond state boundaries. This article regards these as non-cosmopolitan versions of global politics. These types of politics raise questions about the relation of law to place that are the opposite of those raised by global finance.
Dimitri Williams and Adam S. Kahn
This chapter, which discusses the evolution of innovative research on game playing in the household and online, such as in studies of massive multiplayer, three-dimensional Internet game environments, demonstrates the need for Internet Studies to deal with the ebbs and flows of the market and the rapid pace of technical change. The video game industry is one of the most profitable and dynamic industries in entertainment. Its future will possibly add a mix of social connectivity and continuing advances in technology as players seek each other as much as they seek games. Casual games are frequently incorporated into pre-existing social networks. Serious games did result in a change in knowledge, opinions, and possible future actions. The research community surrounding games comes from communication, psychology, cultural and critical studies, sociology, and now even business, economics, and computer science.
This chapter addresses the research on governmental use of Internet and related digital information and communication technologies, a domain known as ‘e-Government’, and reviews the key concepts of e-Government. Next, it deals with the prehistory and evolution of Internet government, stressing the idea of developmental stages of online government and associated rankings. There is a progressive increase in e-Government sophistication. E-Government research in developing countries emphasises the very different economic, technological, and socio-cultural settings in which government operates, and has variously impacted public administration. Successful use of Web 2.0 technologies in e-participation in service delivery is apparent in the use of citizen feedback on local government services. In general, e-Government is a growing multidisciplinary field of study, with a distinct history to the broader church of Internet Studies. However, there are clear connections, overlaps, and similarities.
Joo‐Young Jung, Sandra J. Ball‐Rokeach, Yong‐Chan Kim, and Sorin Adam Matei
This article is organized around four of the major challenges that seem necessary to address in the effort to tease out this complex relationship. After introducing the challenges, it examines how past studies have tackled them. It concludes with an assessment of how well these challenges have been addressed and where we should go, in theory and research, to move beyond the present understandings. One of the first challenges is to go beyond utopian and dystopian visions of the new ICTs. New communication technologies that reach a critical mass of adoption generate a litany of hopes and fears — utopian and dystopian visions of how the technology will afford solutions to previously intractable problems, or will create intractable problems. In the case of ICTs in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the perceived decline in the viability and vitality of communities of place was one of the main problems addressed by ICT visionaries.
This article considers the gender relations of ICTs, canvassing both pessimistic and optimistic perspectives. Drawing on the social studies of technology, it argues that ideas about and practices of gender inform the design, production, and use of ICTs, and that, in turn, technical artefacts and culture are integral to the formation of gender identity. Technologies embody and advance political interests and agendas and they are the product of social structure, culture, values, and politics as much as the result of objective scientific discovery. While new ICTs can be constitutive of new gender dynamics, they can also be derivative of and reflect older patterns of gender inequality. The article argues that social science needs to continually engage with the process of technological change, as it is a key aspect of gender power relations.
John D. H. Downing and Lisa Brooten
Communication technologies, despite their huge corporate, military, and surveillance applications, also afford opportunities within political movements to debate, mobilize, reflect, imagine, fantasize, critique, archive, and inform, and will be pivotal to developing a future for humans rather than for capital. This article focuses on some possibilities offered by three such technologies, radio, the Internet and the mobile phone, to political movements. It provides a variety of illustrations of their uses and applications in social struggles, large and small. First, however, it dwells briefly on some of the issues and concepts in the air at the time of writing, which may help to frame and thus interpret the specifics.
This chapter deals directly and broadly with the Internet and democracy, specifically republicanism, pluralism, and cosmopolitanism, and also covers the connection between the Internet and democratic institutions such as elections, political parties, legislatures, and interest groups. Next, it investigates how the Internet has been associated with individual political behaviour and what effect this relationship might have on democratic citizenship. The Internet improves the capability of citizens to convey and receive information to and from governments. The Fifth Estate allows networked individuals to use the Internet to increase the accountability of the more traditional Estates. It is noted that as the Internet becomes increasingly intertwined with democratic life, it necessarily means that democratic citizenship relies upon digital citizenship. But as democratic life moves online, political scientists in general may find an increasing need to incorporate such methods and tools into their own research.
This chapter extends a critical perspective on the economic impact of the Internet to the study of information and communications technologies (ICTs) for development, concentrating on the effects of the Internet on the lives of some of the poorest people and most marginalized communities. The distinction between absolute and relative poverty is central to an understanding of the role of technology, and the Internet in particular, in development. Furthermore, the implications of the relationships between the Internet and ‘development’ are assessed in terms of development as economic growth, development as social equality, and development as political freedom. The Internet has been shaped and developed explicitly by the commercial interests largely of US capital. The success of the Internet in delivering development objectives depends very much on how such objectives are defined.
This chapter discusses how useful it can be to view the Internet as an infrastructure, demonstrating how technical changes of the infrastructure can have unanticipated and unintended societal consequences. The Libyan decision induced substantial dismay in the Internet industry. The case of Violet Blue entails technical decisions about the design of interactive software, usability, culture, religion, history, politics, and economics. Moreover, the infrastructure studies of the Internet are outlined as the relationists and the new materialists. The Internet turns out as an infrastructural primitive or template for its parents: a model privately organized system of distributed computation – the ur-infrastructure. Communication in its original meaning was transportation, a box of goods was said to be ‘communicated’ when it was delivered. It is observed that the Internet demands attention as a foundation for modern life.
Shane Greenstein and Jeff Prince
This article analyses the rapid diffusion of the Internet across the United States over the past decade for both households and firms. It puts the Internet's diffusion into the context of economic diffusion theory where costs and benefits are considered on the demand and supply side. The article also discusses several pictures of the Internet's current physical presence using some of the current main techniques for Internet measurement. It highlights different economic perspectives and explanations for the digital divide, that is, unequal availability and use of the Internet. This article provides an overview of the economic processes underlying the geographic digital divide. This involves two goals — to analyse a specific phenomenon, and to communicate general lessons.
Darren G. Lilleker and Theirry Vedel
This chapter evaluates a number of positive claims surrounding the role of the Internet in campaigns and elections. It is observed that the Internet is becoming embedded within campaigns and elections. Capturing the influence of any campaign, or isolating the impact of any specific tool or aspect of a campaign, is at best a highly complex moving target. The hypermedia campaign must allow for and expect the ‘decomposition and recomposition of messages’. The chapter recognises that, to be successful, one must both produce and join the communication ecosystem. Investigating the campaigns of Howard Dean, Segolene Royal, and Barack Obama can help explain the evolution in adaptation to such campaigns. Engagement with election campaigns is being determined by the Internet. In general, the political campaign communication has been transformed, but only to an extent.
Nicole B. Ellison and Danah M. Boyd
This chapter reports authoritative insights into one of the most significant developments related to social interaction – social network sites – and offers an analytic framework for exploring these new sites, while underscoring the centrality of social interaction since the Internet's earliest days, such as through email. Social network sites (SNSs) presented several characteristics that made it possible for individuals to easily update their profiles. The implicit role of communication and information sharing has become the driving motivator for participation. The concept of ‘Web 2.0’ was an industry-driven phenomenon, hyped by the news media and by business analysts alike. Social network sites emerged out of the Web 2.0 and social media phenomena, mixing new technologies and older computer-mediated communication practices infused by tech industry ideals. Server-level data offer a unique opportunity to access elaborated behavioural data about what people are doing on SNSs.
This chapter, which argues that the structure of the Web reflects the offline world, making it a valuable lens for exploring society, introduces the theories and issues which make general observations about the Web and then provides examples of investigations into particular topics, such as academic web use. The Web offers unique entrée to free information from Wikipedia to news websites and from government information portals to search engines. Moreover, the two broad approaches to investigating society on the Web are reported, which are based around link analysis and Web 2.0 investigations. Web 2.0 has spawned broad research to probe its effect on several aspects of society. The publishing of personal information on the Web, particularly on the social web, appears likely to continue and expand.
Studies of the Internet in Learning and Education: Broadening the Disciplinary Landscape of Research
Chris Davies and Rebecca Eynon
This chapter investigates the role of the Internet in reshaping learning and education. It describes distinctions between formal education, where the Internet has made few inroads, and informal learning, where it seems to have excelled. Moreover, the chapter explores how the Internet has – via the World Wide Web – enabled an expansion in informal and incidental learning opportunities. Online courses are dealt through learning management systems, or virtual learning environments. The Internet's contribution to formal learning has been considerably less transformative than its contribution to informal learning. The Internet is not primarily an educational tool, but it self-evidently offers unique and unparalleled scope for the exploration of new forms of exploration and collaboration in the development and sharing of knowledge.
This chapter, which investigates a range of evidence about online dating behaviour, and a synthesis of approaches to research in this area, also evaluates the nature of the market and the experiences of those who have engaged in online dating. Further issues linked with patterns of online self-disclosure and self-presentation, and concerns about deception in online dating, are then assessed. Corporate data have indicated that the online dating business is mostly on an upward trajectory. Data show greater age difference tolerance of online daters and a willingness to adopt a broader selection of partners compared with offline-only daters. Many online dating site users increasingly fail to be fully engaged by sites that offer search opportunities for partner matches using check-box profiling. The issues of deception and trust in relation to personal profiles have been regarded as problematic factors that could cause tension among online daters.