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The Social and Economic Implications of

Information and Communication Technologies

Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California

Communication (COMM) 345, Spring Semester 2001-2002

Class: 12.30-1.50 pm Tuesday and Thursday in ASC 232
Instructor: William Dutton, Professor of Communication
Office Hours: 11:00-12:00 Tuesday and Thursday, or by appointment, ASC 301B
Telephone: (213) 740-2759
Fax: (310) 379-9250
E-mail: wdutton@usc.edu
Web: http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~wdutton/
Reader: Pauline Hope Cheong
Contact: pcheong@usc.edu
Syllabus: http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~wdutton/345_syllabus.html

Course Objectives

The Internet and World Wide Web (Web) have focused more attention on the development and social implications of all kinds of information and communication technologies (ICTs), from the pager to digital music and TV. This seminar is designed to enable students to apply social science theory and research to issues concerning the social, economic, political, and cultural implications of ICTs.

One cross-cutting theme of this course is how social and technical choices will shape the communicative power of different actors, such as yourself. Will the Internet, for example, be a force for more democratic control over information and communication? Alternatively, will these new media be used to reinforce the existing structure of influence in households, communities, institutions, nations, and the world? Are we creating global technological systems that undermine anyone's ability to control our fate, or can individual social and technical choices shape the future of access?

The course will be based on:

1. lectures and seminar discussion of required and recommended readings;

2. the preparation and discussion of student writing assignments;

3. independent student research on the social shaping and impacts of new information and communication technologies;

4. online participation in discussions of selected topics; and

5. oral presentations of readings and selected student papers.


Students are encouraged to use their e-mail account at USC and participate in online discussions over Blackboard (Bb). They are required to:

1. Write a short essay (1,000-1,500 words) on George Orwell's 1984 that creatively applies one or more concepts, theories, or research findings drawn from readings and class discussion. You may argue that one or more of Orwell's themes in this novel are still relevant, no longer relevant, or in need of revision. Alternatively, invent your own approach to a social scientific approach to Orwell as a case study of the social implications of ICTs. Whatever your focus, explain and defend your position, with evidence and/or examples drawn from contemporary developments.

2. Write an essay (2,500 word maximum) on information politics in the digital age, which applies concepts and approaches covered in this course to one specific technology, context, or problem. Your paper should be based on desk research, conducted in the library and over the Internet, including the required texts for this course. However, I encourage you to move beyond this base to include interviews, direct observations, or other creative approaches that involve you directly in researching your topic.

3. Attend class and contribute regularly to seminar and online discussions and assignments. Attendance will be taken.

4. Participate in the class experiment with Blackboard -- course management software that has been widely adopted at USC -- which will allow the class to more concretely discuss developments in online education.

5. Complete a mid-term (1 hour, in-class, essay exam) and final examination (2 hour, in-class, essay examination) over the readings, discussion, and lectures.


Grades will be based on the following:

Assignment Points Date Due
Your "That's (Un)Interesting" Submission 2 bonus 11 Sept
Future Media Report 2 bonus 18 Sept
1984 Essay 20 2 Oct
Mid-term Examination 20 11 Oct
Social Aspects of the Digital Age Term Paper 20 4 Dec
Brief Presentations of Papers 2 bonus 6 Dec
Final Examination 20 11 Dec, 2-4 pm
Class Discussion (in class and online) 20 Regularly

You will need 91-100 points for an A, 81-90 for a B, 71-80 for a C, and so forth, however, distribution of total points will be taken into consideration in the final letter grade.

Academic Integrity

The University is committed to maintaining the highest standards of ethical conduct in all academic pursuits. Any student found responsible for plagiarism, fabrication, cheating on examinations, or purchasing papers, or other assignments, will receive a failing grade in the course and may be dismissed as a major in communication. See section 11 of Scampus.

Students with Disabilities and Academic Accommodations

Students requesting academic accommodations based on a disability are required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP when adequate documentation in filed. Please be sure the letter is delivered to Professor Dutton (or Ancuta Marza) as early in the semester as possible. DSP is open Monday-Friday, 8:30-5:00. The office is in Student Union 301 and their phone number is (213) 740-0776. For additional information, see the Web page of the Disabilities Services Program at http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/gateway/programs_services/.

Readings for this Course

Required Texts available at the USC Bookstore

Castells, M. (2001), The Internet Galaxy (Oxford: Oxford University Press). [This text may be available late in the semester.]

Dutton, W. H. (1999), Society on the Line: Information Politics in the Digital Age (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press).

Orwell, G. (1949, 1983), 1984, with an afterword by Erich Fromm (New York: A Plume, Harcourt Brace Book).

Teich, A. H. (1999) (ed.), Technology and the Future, Eighth Edition (New York: St. Martin's Press).

Further Related Reading available at the USC Libraries and Annenberg Resource Center

Dutton, W. H. (1996) (ed.), Information and Communication Technologies -- Visions and Realities (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press).

Dutton, W. H. and Loader, B. D. (2000) (eds), 'New Media in Higher Education and Learning', a special issue of Information, Communication and Society, Vol. 3, No. 4.

Other Recommended Books

Evans, P. and Wurster, T. S. (2000), Blown to Bits: How the New Economics of Information Transforms Strategy (Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press).

Lewis, M. (2000), The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story (New York: W. W. Norton & Company).

Noll, R. G., and Price, M. E. (1998) (eds), A Communications Cornucopia (Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution).

Rifkin, J. (2000), The Age of Access: The New Culture of Hypercapitalism Where All of Life is a Paid-For Experience (New York: Jeremy P Tarcher/ Putnam).

Shapiro, A. L. (2000), The Control Revolution: How the Internet is Putting Individuals in Charge and Changing the World We Know (New York: Public Affairs).

Slevin, J. (2000), The Internet and Society (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press).

Selected Web Sites of Use to Students in this Course:

Albert Teich, Director of Science and Policy Programs for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has created a Web site that complements the 8th edition of Technology and the Future Web site at: http://www.alteich.com

The journal Information, Communication and Society (iCS) has a Web page with resources for exploring topics and sites related to this course.

Phil Agree, Professor of Information Studies at UCLA, has compiled a bibliography of recent books on the social aspects of information and communication technologies. This is available on the Web at: http://dlis.gseis.ucla.edu/people/pagre/recent-books.html. Survey this list for a useful overview of topics and you might well find some books that will trigger your interest in particular issues.

There are many Web sites related to George Orwell and 1984, including http://students.ou.edu/C/Kara.C.Chiodo-1/orwell.html and http://www.ucsolutions.com/nef/index2.htm#top.

Schedule and Outline of Topics and Readings

The course will focus on the extension and discussion of required readings, current developments and student papers. The following outline and schedule for readings, and discussion, may need to be adjusted in response to such events as opportunities to hear from guest speakers and the availability of readings.


1. Introduction to Course (28 August)

Utopian and dystopian perspectives on technology and society prevade debate over the social and economic implications of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Social research on ICTs in specific settings can improve our understanding of how technology shapes society, and vice versa.

I will review the course objectives, readings, requirements, and grading, and start an e-mail distribution list for the class. Students should use this class to gain increased familiarity with using e-mail, course management software and the World Wide Web.

Readings: Syllabus, Preface to Teich (1999) and Preface to Dutton (1999).

2. Information Politics in the Digital Age: Tele-Access (30 August)

I will provide a general introduction to a basic theme of the course - the point that social and technical choices are reshaping access to information, people, services, and technology. I argue that this focus is central to understanding information politics in the digital age, and the implications of ICTs more generally, using a case study of the Galaxy IV Pager Blackout to illustrate the point. Key concepts include: tele-access, information, and the information society, and the idea of an ecology of games.

Readings: Dutton (1999): 1-18.

Further Recommended Reading: Dutton (1996), preface and introduction, pp. v-16, also Dutton, W. H., Elberse, A., Hong, T. and Matei, S. (2001), 'Beepless in America: The Social Impact of the Galaxy IV Pager Blackout' in Lax, S. (ed.), Access Denied in the Information Age (New York: Palgrave, St. Martin's Press).


3. Technology and Society: Competing Perspectives (4, 6 September)

Readings illustrate competing perspectives on the role of technology in society, as illustrated by Marx, Postman, Hughes, Weinberg, Florman, Mesthene, and McDermott. I will introduce such enduring issues as: What is technology? What is its role in society? Who governs technology? Key concepts include: technological momentum, technical fix, determinism, and social shaping versus social impacts.

Readings: Teich (1999): 1-80.

4. Turn-of-the-Millennium Debates over ICTs (11 September)

Students will read and debate the positions taken by Negroponte, Norman, and Postman, regarding the role of the information revolution in society.

Readings: Teich (1999): 13-25, 303-333.

Further Reading:

Joy, B. (2000), "Why the future doesn't need us." See: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html

The Unibomber's Manifesto is relevant in this context. If you haven't read it, I recommend that you scan sections of particular interest to you. Did he take this course? See: http://www.panix.com/~clays/Una/

Assignment: Browse the Internet and scan newspapers for articles relevant to social issues of ICTs that are interesting to you. Find one or two issues that you believe to be 'interesting', and one or two that are 'uninteresting'. Bring in a one page (maximum) summary to hand in at the end of class, and be prepared to discuss your example(s).

5. The Future of Technology and Society (13 September)

The class will blend a discussion of readings on the future of technology with how social scientists and engineers think about forecasting technological change and its social implications, including work by Kahn, Brody, Ceruzzi, and Coates.

Readings: Teich (1999): 169-212.

6. Forecasting Technological Change in Communication (18 September)

We will discuss a specific study as one means to stimulate discussion of the difficulties of forecasting technical change and its implications for society. Students should read the required handout, and write a brief summary and assessment of the report. In hindsight, was the report on target? Why or why not?


Future Media Research Programme, 'Consumers' Adoption and Use of Online Technology: Global Expert Panel - October/November 2000' (London: London Business School). [Handout]

7. Big Brother: A Continuing Series? (20 September)

We will discuss your reading of Orwell's dystopian classic, 1984, which provides on example of how scenarios help us think about the past, present and the future. Is 1984 -- (ir)relevant?

Readings: George Orwell (1949).

Suggested Further Reading: Find an old book review of 1984 that you find to be insightful. There are many Web sites related to George Orwell and 1984, including http://students.ou.edu/C/Kara.C.Chiodo-1/orwell.html and http://www.ucsolutions.com/nef/index2.htm#top.


8. Perspectives on the Role of ICTs (25, 27 September)

With a background on the general debate over technology and society, the class will shift back to a more specific focus on ICTs, looking at alternative ways in which social scientists and others have thought about their social and economic role, including such perspectives as the information society, media effects and the bias of communication media, technological determinism, the social shaping of technology, and access as an alternative perspective.

Readings: Dutton (1999: Chapter 2): 19-46; Schumacher, Goodman, and Winner in Teich (1999): 81-102, 150-67.

9. The Technological Shaping of Tele-Access (October 2)

ICTs, I argue, make a difference in the politics of information by influencing such factors as cost structures, the geography of access, the architecture of networks, gatekeepers, the power of senders and receivers, and control over content. We will try to find personal examples of these technical shapers.

Readings: Dutton (1999: Chapter 3): 49-78, and Winner in Teich (1999): 150-67.

Note: Orwell paper is due to be handed in by the start of class on 2 October.

10. Orwell's 1984 is (History) the Future (4 October)

Orwell's 1984 is no longer required reading for US highschool students. Has it lost its relevance? Was Orwell a technological determinist? Did he see the technology of surveillance to be socially shaped? Have new technologies made our world a surveillance society? Selected presentations and discussion of Orwell papers.

Reading: Orwell, G. (1949), 1984

11. The Social Shaping of Tele-Access (9 October)

How ideas, conceptions of the user, and other social factors, such as gender, shape the design of ICTs and other social choices shaping tele-access. We will refer back to the pager study.

Reading and Discussion: Dutton (1999: Chapter 4): 79-109; Wajcman in Teich (1999): 137-49; Forester and Morrison in Teich (1999): 259-275.

Recommended Further Reading:

Dutton (1996), chapters by Woolgar 87-102 and Garnham 103-19.

12. Mid-Term Examination (11 October)

One hour essay exam over required readings, lectures, and discussion of topics 1-11.

13. The Reach and Boundaries of Business and Management (16 October)

Many firms and industries are being reengineered around ICTs. Here we will discuss the changing role of ICTs in business and management, including discussion of the virtual or networked organization, the changing geography of the firm, and the strategic use of ICTs to create new virtual boundaries and gatekeepers.

Reading and Discussion: Dutton (1999: Chapter 5): 113-140; Zuboff in Teich (1999): 294-301; and Kraemer & Dedrick, "Dell Computer: Using E-commerce To Support the Virtual Company". You can download the pdf file for this case study at: http://www.crito.uci.edu/git/publications/pdf/dell_ecom_case_6-13-01.pdf

Recommended Further Readings: Dutton (1996), chapters by Freeman 123-41, Coombs and Hull 159-76, and Goddard and Richardson 197-214.

14. Redesigning the Workplace (18 October)

Working at home and at the office is being shaped by ICTs, ranging from the pager and fax to the Internet and handheld organizer. We will discuss such developments as the alternative office, telework, gender and technology, and the role of ICTs in productivity, employment and unemployment.

Readings: Dutton (1999: Chapter 6): 141-169; Wajcman in Teich (1999): 137-149.

Further Recommended Reading:

Dutton (1996): chapters by Freeman 19-36, Webster 143-57.

15. Digital Democracy (23 October)

Since World War II futurists have discussed the potential for teledemocracy, and there have been major advances in technology that might well enable new forms of electronic participation, or what some have called e-democracy. We will discuss these potentials as well as related forms of electronic service delivery (ESD), privacy and surveillance, and decision-making about technology.

Reading and Discussion: Dutton (1999: Chapter 7): 173-201; Sclove in Teich (1999): 103-120. Also, see the recent Carnegie Endowment Working Paper on the Web, entitled: ' The Internet and State Control in Authoritarian Regimes: China, Cuba, and the Counterrevolution', Working Paper No. 21, by Shanthi Kalathil and Taylor C. Boas.

Further Recommended Reading:

Dutton (1996) chapters by Taylor et al., and Raab et al.: 265-99.

16. Case Study: The Democracy Network (DNet) (25 October)

DNet has been designed to improve access by voters to useful information that could enable more rational voting, based on the issues at stake in elections. We will look at DNet and discuss it in the context of the 2000 elections.

Read: Try to use The Democracy Network at http://www.dnet.org/

17. Knowledge Gatekeepers: Learning and Education (30 October)

ICTs are critical to the production and dissemination of knowledge, and thereby of great relevance to the role of ICTs in learning and education, distance learning, and the virtual classroom. What is the future of the (virtual) university?

Reading and Discussion: Dutton (1999: Chapter 8): 203-224

Further Reading:

Dutton, W. H. and Loader, B. D. (2000) (eds), 'New Media in Higher Education and Learning', a special issue of Information, Communication and Society, Vol. 3, No. 4.

18. Case Study: USC (1 November)

How should USC exploit ICTs in ways that could improve learning and education and enhance the value of campus-based and remote opportunities for access by and for faculty and students? Will the Net undermine USC, or make it a more influential institution? Has our use of Blackboard shaped your views on the future of new media in higher education and learning?

Reading: See the chronology of activities, reports, and statements on distance education and distributed learning at USC on the Academic Senate Web site.

19. The Intelligent Household: Domesticating ICTs (6 November)

Are ICTs bringing the public together, as consumers, citizens, audiences, and users, into more vital communities, or isolating individuals from real experience and personal associations? We will discuss information politics in the household and community, including issues of content control and the concept of domesticating ICTs.

Reading: Dutton (1999: Chapter 9): 227-256.

Recommended Further Readings:

Dutton (1996), chapters by Silverstone 217-31 and Collins 233-48.

20. The Digital Divide (8 November)

I will review research on equity in access to ICTs, from the telephone, and pc, to the Internet and Web. We will discuss whether we are becoming a more divided society of information rich, information poor, and how we should think about such concepts as 'knowledge gaps' and the digital divide. Is the divide merely economic, or is it based on gender and ethnicity as well? What can be done?

Reading: Dutton (1999: Chapter 9): 227-256; Jenkins in Teich (1999): 121-136.

Recommended Further Readings:

Dutton (1996), chapters by Silverstone 217-31.

21. Privacy and Surveillance in Everyday Life (13 November)

We will revisit some of the themes of Orwell in discussing the degree to which emerging ICTs threaten our privacy and security. To what degree can you control who knows what about you? The Internet and Web are of central relevance, but so is video surveillance, satellite surveillance, electronic sensors in highways and automobiles, and so forth.

Reading and Discussion: Dutton (1999: Chapter 9): 227-256; Cate in Teich (1999): 276-293.

22. Wiring the Global Village: Shaping Access to Audiences (15 November)

The battle for eyeballs is a war to shape access to you. As we wire cities, build information superhighways for broadband Internet access, and our wire households, how will we be reshaping who gains access to us and therefore what we know, who we know, and what we consume?

Reading and Discussion: Dutton (1999: Chapter 10): 257-282.

Recommended Further Readings: Dutton (1996): 387-405.

23. Case Study: The Future of the News: The Los Angeles Times (20 November)

The Tribune Company's purchase of Times Mirror, which owned The Los Angeles Times, will be used to discuss trends in the news industry, and how ICTs are involved in reshaping our access to news and information in a variety of significant ways. Is this acquisition for the better or the worse?

Reading: A draft forum discussion paper will be distributed to the class.

Thanksgiving Recess 22 November: No Class

24. Access in Industrial and Economic Development (27 November)

We will discuss the role of ICTs as an industrial and economic development strategy, distinguishing between policies that might support the production versus utilization of ICTs within an economy. We will review notions of an information economy and how this perspective has made ICTs a central element of local, state, and national competition and industrial policy.

Readings: Dutton (1999: Chapter 11): 285-318.

Further Recommended Reading:

Dutton (1996), chapters by Kraemer and Dedrick 319-333, Gillespie and Cornford 335-51, Baer 353-370.

25. Regulating Access (29 November)

The fragmentation of communication and information policy has prevented more coherent and effective policy. I will use the concept of tele-access to suggest a means for thinking more systematically about the interconnections across what are often thought to be disjointed areas of policy, such as privacy, anonymity, security, property rights, and other access issues.

Readings: Dutton (1999: Chapter 11): 285-318.

REMINDER: Your final term paper is due 4 December.


26. The Politics of Access: Social Relations in a Network Society (4 December)

During the class session, I will summarize and lead a discussion of the major themes and concepts covered in this course, from the social shaping of technology to notions of technological determinism, in a review and discussion of Manuel Castells' most recent book, The Internet Galaxy. We will also discuss any topics or questions raised by students concerning the readings and lectures.

Readings: Castells (2001); Dutton (1999: Chapter 12): 319-337.

Further Recommended Reading:

Dutton (1996), chapters by Melody 303-317 and Mansell 371-386.

27. Presentations of Selected Term Papers (6 December)

Most students will present brief 5-minute summary presentations of their final paper or essay and discuss the presentations of others. Students may use up to 2 overheads or slides, and/or up to 2 minutes of video in their presentation. However, no visual aids are required, and students are responsible for insuring that any equipment used is available and working.

28. Final Examination: Closed Book (Tuesday, 11 December, 2-4 pm)

Students will take a closed-book, essay examination, focused on required readings and class discussion. Each student will write on 4 of 6 essay questions.

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