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Changing Society with ICTs: An Investigation of Tech. Determinism OASIS Workshop 2004 Author: Pratyush Bharati University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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Presentation on theme: "Changing Society with ICTs: An Investigation of Tech. Determinism OASIS Workshop 2004 Author: Pratyush Bharati University of Massachusetts, Boston."— Presentation transcript:

1 Changing Society with ICTs: An Investigation of Tech. Determinism OASIS Workshop 2004 Author: Pratyush Bharati University of Massachusetts, Boston

2 Introduction  ICTs driven prognostications abound: Friction-free capitalism (Gates, 1995) Death of distance (Cairncross, 1997; Dyson et al., 1996; Toffler, 1980) Weightless world (Coyle, 1997) Digital economy (Shaw, 1999; Tapscott, 1998)  Popular and academic discourse claims arrival of a digital world

3 Introduction  Is the digital world a reality or have we been seduced by the popular rhetoric? Enamored by the novel (Barley, 1998) Wonder overpower scepticism (Barley, 1998) Sweeping predictions mislead (Orlikowski and Iacono, 2000) Need for a balanced perspective (Baskerville and Myers, 2002; Hirschheim and Klein, 2003; Markus and Robey, 1988; Orlikowski, 1992; Orlikowski and Iacono, 2000; Sarker and Lee, 2002)

4 Research Study  Investigating technological determinism and ICTs Historical accounts of tech. determinism Recent accounts of tech. determinism State of the digital world International digital divide

5 Technological Determinism  Given the past and the laws of nature, there is only one possible future course of social change (Van Inwagen,1983)  Technological development determines social change (Bimber, 1994)  Unidirectional relationship (Bimber, 1994)

6 Historical Accounts of Technological Determinism  On “June 1993” written in 1893 (Marvin, 1987) “Today the inhabitants of this planet … owing to the unlimited facilities of intercommunication, they are almost as closely united as the members of a family”  On the Telegraph (Wilson et al., 1986) “The influence of this invention… Space will be, to all practical purposes of information, completely annihilated…”  On the Telephone (Smith, 1986) “Nothing less than a new organization of society”

7 Recent Accounts of Technological Determinism  On the ‘Work-Free Society’ (Dertouzous, 1997) “The people of the world will do no work, because they will derive all revenue they need to buy their desired goods and services from the machines that they own. Machines will make the machines that are needed, too”  On the Microchip and Computer (Gilder, 1989) “The central event of the twentieth century is the overthrow of matter … The powers of mind are everywhere ascendant over the brute force of things.”

8 Recent Accounts of Technological Determinism  On 2009 (Kurzweil, 1999) “Students of all ages typically have a computer of their own …”  On the new ICTs (Gates, 1995) “It will enhance leisure time and enrich culture by expanding the distribution of information.” “… a new world of low-friction, low overhead capitalism …” “… friction-free capitalism…” “A Computer on every desk and in every home”

9 Investigating a Digital World  Is the digital world becoming a reality?  Global diffusion of technology Older technologies Atleast 50 years or older  Telephones  Television Newer technologies Less than 50 years old  Cellular phones  Internet

10 Methodology  Country level data on technologies World Bank, UNDP and ITU 130 countries  Hierarchical cluster analysis Six cluster solution for each of the four cluster analyses

11 Results  First cluster analysis Both older and newer technologies First cluster (74 countries) and the second cluster (30 countries) significantly lack both older and newer technologies Rest of cluster have significantly higher density of both older and newer technologies  Second cluster analysis Newer technologies First cluster (100 countries) significantly lack newer technologies The rest have significantly higher density of newer technologies

12 Results  Third cluster analysis Older technologies First cluster (75 countries) significantly lack older technologies The third (15 countries) and fourth (8 countries) clusters significantly higher density of both the older technologies Other cluster have a lower density of the telephone mainlines but a higher density of televisions  Fourth cluster analysis UNDP Index Second cluster (42 countries) significantly high score First (50 countries) and third (4 countries) clusters high index score for all but the GDP index Clusters four and five low score on all the four indices

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14 Preliminary Conclusions  Technological Determinism and Digital world Accounts of technological determinism Prevalence of historical and recent accounts on ICTs Extremely low density of ICTs, especially older technologies, challenges the basic assumption of technological determinism Older technologies – acting as primary and independent force for social change not universally prevalent Substantial number of countries lag far behind in terms of density in both older and newer technologies

15 Balanced View of Technology  Balanced views of technology: Complex pattern/path of interaction between social, economic, political, cultural factors and technology (Castells, 2000; Kranzberg, 1987; Orlikowski and Iacono, 2000) Involves numerous processes and components (Kranzberg, 1987) Technology and society relationship is reciprocal not unidirectional (Bimber, 1994)

16 Balanced View of Technology  Does technology shape society? Non-technical factors take precedence in technology- policy decisions (Kranzberg, 1987) “… factors affecting technology – from the human personality of the inventor to the larger social, economic, political, and cultural milieu.” Technology does not determine society: it embodies it. But neither does society determine technological innovation: it uses it (Castells, 2000) “… final outcome depends on a complex pattern of interaction.”

17 Thanks! Questions or Suggestions


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