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Communication and Technology: What’s New?. Professor Robin Mansell Department of Media and Communications London School of Economics and Political Science 19 January 2008. India. Cornwall. Social Scientists’ Views of Mediated Communication and Technology.

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Communication and Technology: What’s New?

Professor Robin Mansell

Department of Media and Communications

London School of Economics and Political Science

19 January 2008




Social Scientists’ Views of

Mediated Communication and Technology

  • An Exogenous View and an Endogenous View
  • on
  • Technology & Organisation – personal communication via computer-mediated communication, online media, and personal publishing.
  • Technology & Governance – hactivism and mediated terrorism.

Source: BrewTech Labs, Inc. Automated Brewing Solutions


Source: Peety Passion Blog


Visions - Remote Control for Life

“As users we will come to rely on our handset as a single device to manage not just communications but much of our lives. It will truly become a ‘remote control for life’, with massively enhanced capabilities, advanced methods of user interaction and in-built tools … The substantial change that end users are going to witness has become possible more because the underlying infrastructure has become stable than because it is rapidly evolving”

(Webb 2007).


Finnish Child (Ukko Ilmari Kasvi)


Source: The Children's Therapy Center, Fair Lawn, New Jersey, US


Critical Views of Technology

“One part is bureaucracy (in both the private and public sector)...The second part is science which is being taken over increasingly by the third part, capital. The fourth part is tools and machines created by engineers. The fifth part is ideology which provides the raw materials with which the sixth part, propaganda, seeks to mould public opinion to accept the myth”

(Smythe 1984)


Jodi Lundgren, Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC, Canada


Source: Pink Tentacle Blog


The Futurologists’ View

By the 2030s, learning will be superseded by transparent interfaces to a smart computer; by the 2020s, network based telepathy will be in use; and by 2017, the first bacterial computer will be available.

(Neild and Pearson 2005 - BT)


Source: Jeremy Welch Blog


Source: Signal Processing and Multimedia Communication (SPMC) research group, University of Plymouth, UK


An Exogenous View

‘Our civilization is constructed by technique, for technique and is exclusively technique’.

(Ellul 1964)

‘Technology is the instrumental mode of rational action… Technology has created a new definition of rationality, a new mode of thought …’.

(Bell 1979)


Source: Andrew Orlowski Blog

Based on 600 e-mails received from readers of The Register in response to a sceptical article on Web 2.0


An Endogenous View

  • Power is located in the interwoven alignment of state (administrative and military), private capital and civil society interests.
  • The focus is on the way technology mediates human relationships.
  • Research examines the constraints that distort benefits that might otherwise accrue to those who are not at the centre of economic and political power.
  • (based on Silverstone 2007)

Source:Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University/KTH


Communication, Technology

and Organization

Online Media

  • Email, chat or Internet telephony; MUDs, discussion or chat forums; web-sites or web-logs.
  • Synchronicity and different forms of digital content.
  • Interactivity: eBay,,
  • Detect user needs and interests without user input or awareness.
  • Content modularization and personalisation
  • What’s New?
  • Most successful online media founded by established media or publishing houses with infrastructure and know-how to re-use content; producing or purchasing it at lower prices. Main trend - cross-media utilization.
  • User-generated content: selected, revised and assembled by professional providers for discussion forums, weblogs, user diaries, personal essays.

A New Set of Affordances

Source: What Is? Blog


Multiple Identities

Marshall Soules,Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC, Canada

Originally, Steiner, P. (1993). The New Yorker. July 5, 69(20): 61


Communication, Technology

and Organization

Online Personal Communication & Personal Publishing

  • What’s new?
  • Hyperpersonal communication leading to intimate, satisfying communication and interpersonal evaluations; frank exchanges; less superficial self-disclosure and more personal questioning.
  • Those with skill deficits in face-to-face communication find gratification or further deterioration. Depression, loneliness, shyness, and other syndromes lead some to withdraw from face-to-face social interaction.
  • Evidence is mixed but suggests that radical behaviour occurs less frequently than popular media accounts often indicate.
  • Weblogs as alternative or citizen journalism; tools for virtual communities but the most important uses are as means of creative expression.
  • Boundaries between public and private are subject to radical change.

Emoticons &

New Languages



Open Publishing

– but what is the business model?

On Sylvia Plath

'There certainly isn't enough genuine talent for us to take notice.'

The Spy who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

‘You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future.’

Animal Farmby George Orwell

‘It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA’

Excerpts from Publisher Rejection Notices

Originals may have come from Andre Bernard, Rotten Rejections: The Letters that Publishers Wish They’d Never Sent, Robson Books, 2002


Communication, Technology

and Governance


Governance issues arise when users access computerized systems –

Should there be sanctions for ‘bad’ behaviour?

  • What’s New?
  • ‘Mass action’ hacktivism emulates traditional forms of protest and applies them in mediated electronic spaces, e.g. Electronic Civil Disobedience.
  • ‘Digitally correct’ hacktivism uses technical features of online media to amplify a message without disrupting communication networks.
  • Hacktivists face problems in maintaining critical/radical stance - political impact is translated into the media.
  • ‘We should be done once and for all with the search for an outside, a standpoint that imagines a purity for our politics’ (Hardt and Negri 2000).
  • Arguments for new governance measures to control the use of technologies in order to avert threats, but which infringe on civil liberties, may be misguided.

Hacktivism – Homeless Shelter with Radio Communication; Shellhouse

Source: We Make Money Not Activism


Communication, Technology

and Governance

Mediated Terrorism

  • What’s new?
  • Potential for propaganda - the Web, chat-rooms, ICQs, blogs, email; mobile technology, and technologies that combine text, audio and video elements.
  • Internet used by fundamentalist groups as a ‘portable homeland’.
  • Netwar or cyber-terrorism as convergence between non-state actors and communication technologies involving hackers or hactivists.
  • Evidence is that terrorists make full use of online communication but that they have not yet engaged in cyberterrorism.
  • Hackers, Hacktivists being repackaged as terrorist in the media; ordinary cybercrime is being relabeled as cyberterrorism.
  • Many are being constituted by the media as contemporary ‘folk devils’.

IT'S A NEW BREED of activism--wired and confrontational. Some question whether it's really a desirable form of protest, but the Electrohippies are hoping to defuse criticism by popularizing not just their tools, but a code of ethics. D. Cassel

Source: Steven Verriest (artist)


Communication and Technology -

What’s New?

  • Much hype and speculation.
  • Too little systematic empirical research on the appropriation of technology.
  • The turn to governance and control of new communicative spaces by the state is often based on media stories that, when challenged, are found lacking in empirical substance.
  • Policy is over-reactive, responding to the ‘folk devils’ of our time.