Past, Present, and Future of Research
in the Information Society

13-15 November 2005
Tunis, Tunisia

Home page | Program Page

Alphabetical List of Presentations

First Last name Presentation Abstract



Scientific Origins and Legacy of the Internet

Though the Internet today is a vehicle for commerce, entertainment,news, and personal communication, its origins lie in scientificendeavor, and it has been fundamentally shaped by scientific practicesand values. When the Internet was first conceived and built by a U.S.Defense agency in the late 1960s, its purpose was to supportscientists: first computer scientists, then other scientists funded bythe military, and eventually (by the mid-1980s) civilian scientists aswell. The Internet's protean character--its remarkable ability to adaptto new technologies and uses over its 35-year existence--stems largelyfrom the fact that the system was designed to be modified and extendedby its users. This design choice was based on the assumption that theusers would be technically capable and creative, reflecting the realitythat the first users were computer scientists. (In contrast, commercialproducts are often designed to be closed and "idiot-proof.") The choiceto build a system that is open to users' experiments also reflects thefact that the Internet was always an object of research as well as atool for research.

Many striking aspects of Internet culture, which have been celebratedas "virtual community," grew directly out of the scientific community'sideals of openness, collaboration, authority based on ability ratherthan position, and sharing of data and resources. (While neither theInternet nor science entirely lives up to those ideals, they areideologically important and have shaped both technology and practice.)Finally, the composition of the early Internet community mirrored thewider scientific community on which it was based: white, male, andsomewhat elite, but also international in scope. Even while the networkwas a project of the US military, scientists from Europe and Asia weredirectly involved in the design of the Internet protocols.

What are the problems and promises of this scientific legacy? TheInternet's origins as a tool for scientists laid the groundwork for aflexible, expandable, robust system that can successfully serve a muchlarger population. But policy issues arise from the conflictingphilosophies of the Internet's various sectors--scientific, business,government/military, and the general public. Habits of openness andsharing on the Internet conflict with the desire of business interestsfor secrecy, closed proprietary interfaces, and tightly controlleddissemination of intellectual property. The desire to treat theInternet as an ongoing experiment clashes with the military interest ina stable and secure environment. The atmosphere of collegiality andtrust that pervaded a smaller scientific community may not besustainable now that the Internet is open to a worldwide public thatincludes hackers, spammers, con artists, and terrorists. Without publicdebate on what the nature of the Internet should be--in whichscientists and STS scholars should participate--the Internet of thefuture may be defined by the strongest actors, defaulting to amilitarized and commercialized space. The scientific community haswell-established international social networks for interaction andinformation exchange, which policy makers may be able to tap into forInformation Society projects. At the same time, the community ofexperts who develop and promote information technology should be morediverse and inclusive than techno-scientific communities traditionallyhave been.




The Information Village Research Project

Access to knowledge through unhindered flow of relevant information can not only create a level playing field for researchers (lab-to-lab) in the developing world and thus hasten advances in knowledge but also can help the rural poor overcome poverty. What is more, as pointed out by Bruce Alberts and as shown by the Information Village Research Project of MSSRF, we can bring these two widely different communities to engage in a two-way communication (land-to-lab and lab-to-land)thus facilitating rural needs driving the research agenda. In a sense, the new information and communication technologies, especially the Internet and the World Wide Web, can not only help democratise the flow of information as they lend themselves readily to the public commons approach but can also help us realise the 'social functions of science' ás desired by John Bernal. Besides, such a culture of information has other benefits as was demonstrated recently following the tsunami tragedy in Asia; wherever information flow was better, relief operations could be carried out more effectively than in other areas.



One World…One Telephone: The Iridium Satellite Venture and the Global Age


This paper explores the ways in which the boundaries among technology, politics, and concepts of the global were constituted through one of the grand business initiatives of the 1990s—the creation of a global, wireless telephone system via a network of 66 satellites in low-Earth orbit. This venture, initiated by Motorola in the late 1980s and developed through a start-up company called Iridium, represented the largest private capital investment initiative of the last several decades, as well as the largest private venture for a space technology project. The technical system’s global scope was mirrored in its investment and business structure, as thirteen non-U.S. corporations and governments (including Cold War adversaries Russia and China) became partners in the project. The Iridium case bridges two distinct technical and political cultures. Emerging at the end of the Cold War, Iridium had deep roots in that era’s government-oriented approach to mega-technical projects—through strategies for managing big technology and through close connections to the US military. But as a privately financed and commercial venture, it exemplified the global market ethos that defined the 1990s. Through the development of a complicated, satellite-based telephony system and through the challenges of organizing an international business Iridium’s history opens up the detailed ways in which market notions of the global were created and overlapped with Cold War conceptions of the global. As a highly visible communications enterprise, Iridium became intimately linked with two ideological themes central to the period: The legitimization of national and transnational policies of deregulation and a belief in global communications technologies as bearers of liberal values and facilitators of individual autonomy. Motorola and Iridium used these technical-political resources to negotiate new sets of relations among their corporate partners, with national and international regulatory bodies, with U.S. agencies, with national governments, and other sites to shape an international framework favorable to their interests. Too, participating non-US investors and partners saw opportunity in Iridium to advance their own national and corporate agendas. Iridium, thus, provides a telling window on how communications technology, markets, ideology, and politics mutually interacted over the 1990s, engaging the literatures of social studies of technology, business history, and national and international aspects of the Cold War and its aftermath.


De Miranda

Technological Determinism and Ideology: Questioning the ‘Information Society’ and the ‘Digital Divide’


The paper uses the social shaping critique of technological determinism, and contends that this way of viewing technology constitutes reification. Whilst in reality technology is the product of a complex set of social relations, technological determinism presents technology as “ a thing” acquiring “a 'phantom objectivity', an autonomy that seems so strictly rational and all-embracing as to conceal every trace of its fundamental nature: the relation between people”. Technological determinism is the preferred view of technology for the powerful of society because it allows the social interests driving technological change and the winners and losers of the process to be hidden from view. As a result, technological determinism is incorporated into the dominant ideology of society and becomes ‘not the common sense but the mystifying common place of our times’. The social changes associated with technological change are presented as universally beneficial and technological change is equated with social progress. Also ascribing the changes that a society undergoes to an ‘objective’ quasi-natural phenomenon called “technology” creates the impression that the changes are inevitable and that it would be futile to oppose them. This discourages resistance on the part of losers from the process or any attempts to seek any alternatives.

It is argued that the concept of the “information society” is inherently technologically determinist and that its widespread adoption as a normative policy tool is due to its ideological usefulness to the dominant interest groups, which include the ICT corporations. It is also demonstrated through an analysis of public statements by politicians, of popular media stories and of corporate policies that the concept of the ‘digital divide’ is a subset of the concept of the ‘information society’ and that it plays a similar ideological role. It reduces the problem of lessening social inequalities within and between nations to ‘bridging the technological divide’. The physical and intellectual development of human beings is thus reduced to the ability to access and use the latest technologies. This becomes a tool in the creation of new markets for the ICT corporations aided and abetted by public policies and public investment which is justified as helping to ‘build the information society for all’. The need to accelerate the ‘bridging of the technological divide’ becomes all the more urgent as IT markets become saturated in the developed countries.

The paper concludes that whilst the ‘digital divide’ is undoubtedly real and dealing with it important because access to ICTs can now be considered a basic human need, it can only be ‘bridged’ within the broader context of tackling the socio-economic divide through effective actions by governments using redistributive policies. It cannot be left to markets. What we need is a World Summit on the Socio-Economic Divide rather than on the Information Society.

Ricardo B.


How the Internet Shapes the Chilean Scientific Community

This is a study of the relationship between scientific communication and productivity in Chilean science, focusing on the role of Internet adoption. Prior work in Africa has identified a “collaboration paradox” in the developing world: in resource-poor contexts, the high costs of collaboration may be greater than their benefits in terms of output. While the Internet has been promoted as a technology that will change this relationship, my recent findings contradict this notion. However, it is not known whether this results from conditions peculiar to sub-Saharan Africa or is true more generally. My study will be the first to address a Latin American research community within a global scientific and developmental context. It addresses theoretical issues in science and technology studies (STS), the institutionalization of global science, and the diffusion of technology. The study incorporates the emerging perspective of ‘reagency’ into existing historical and comparative perspectives on development. The investigation also focuses on the changing social network constraints resulting from the adoption of new communication and information technologies such as the Internet. The core research questions of the project are: 1) What social forces have shaped Internet practices within the Chilean scientific community? 2) How is the Internet shaping the local and global networks of Chilean scientists? 3) Is the relationship between collaboration and productivity mediated through Internet technology? The project relies on a dual research design. First, a quantitative survey will be administered to 300 scientists, covering professional background, activities, outcomes, personal and organizational networks, and Internet access and use. Second, digital video ethnography will be employed, continuing my qualitative interviews with scientists in three research regions in Chile - Santiago, Concepcion and Puerto Montt. Research will be conducted from March 2005 through May 2005 and facilitated through a collaborative arrangement with a local researcher at the University of Concepcion (Professor Omar Barriga, Department of Sociology). The intellectual significance of this project is its empirical focus on an under-researched Latin American scientific community and its contribution to a theoretical and methodological elaboration of STS and development studies. Its broader impact pertains to our understanding of the risks and potentials associated with the Internet and global knowledge production. The dissemination of results through articles and video presentations will aid organizational decision-makers and policy analysts assess the extent to which the current policy of promoting collaboration actually increases scholarly productivity.



Preserving Open Access through Web Archiving


Information resources are increasingly not only “born digitally” but “die digitally” as well. Many resources that are posted on the public Web have great value across the international information society-- as long as they remain accessible on the Web. However, current estimates of the average lifespan of a Web page range from 44 days to 100 days (SAP AG, 2004; Rein, 2004). There is a growing need for systematic identification, evaluation and preservation of many digital information resources to document the historical development of information-based societies as well as to provide the public, along with scholars, journalists and other social, business and political analysts, the primary digital materials necessary for many kinds of retrospective analyses. However, few countries have developed a strategy for preserving digital information resources. Web objects that inscribe many kinds of knowledge, cultural identities, social movements, and collective memories would gain value over time if properly preserved and catalogued, but most disappear as Web files are re-written and technology platforms change. Furthermore, the few large-scale, systematic Web archiving efforts underway are concentrated in the EU, the US, and Australia, led in most cases by national libraries with a mandate to preserve Web objects that have “national value”. While laudable, this suggests a disproportionate level of loss of Web objects produced in developing countries. This paper provides an overview of the Web archiving process, identifies legal and ethical issues in Web archiving which need to be addressed by the open access movement, and contends that open access values should inform the development of digital preservation strategies.



The International and Scientific Origins of the Internet and the Emergence of the Netizen

The International and Scientific Origins of the Internet and the Emergence of the Netizen by Ronda Hauben The processes of the Internet's development offer an important prototype to understand the creation of a multinational, collaborative, scientific research project which depends on and fosters collaboration across the boundaries of diverse administrative structures, political authorities, and technical designs. The mythology surrounding the origins of the Internet is that it began in 1969 in the US. That is the date marking the origin of the ARPANET, a US packet switching network, but not the birth of the Internet. The origin of the Internet dates from 1973. The goal of researchers creating the Internet was to create a network of networks, a means for networks from diverse countries to intercommunicate. At the time, there were several national, but diverse networks being planned or in development. These included NPL in Great Britain, CYCLADES in France and the ARPANET in the US. It was not then politically feasible, however, to interconnect these networks. Instead, a research project including Norwegian, British and US researchers was created to develop a protocol to make an internetwork possible. This protocol originally called the Transmission Control Protocol is now known as TCP/IP. Along with the research to create the TCP/IP protocol in the 1970s, several other research projects were started to investigate how to link up the computer systems of different countries. By the 1980s, networking research was common in a number of countries and there were conferences where an international group of researchers gathered to share their research results. Though the Internet, as we know it, didn't become a reality until the early 1990s, the networking development in the 1970s and 1980s set the foundation for the Internet's the rapid spread in the early 1990s. Along with the rapid spread of the Internet in the 1990s, was the emergence of the Netizens, the online net.citizens who were active participants in helping to spread the Internet and to foster its continued development as a communication advance that could be available to all. This paper will explore how the Internet developed and spread and how the discovery of the emergence of the netizen occurred. It will explore the process by which the role of the netizen in the continued development of the Internet was identified and embraced by numbers of online users around the world. Also the paper will consider early efforts which recognized the importance of considering the potential impact of the Internet on science and society. A conceptual framework for the continued investigation of the international and scientific origins of the Internet and the emergence and development of the Netizen will be proposed in an effort to provide a framework for the papers for this conference session and for future Internet research.



The politics and practice of accessibility in systematics


This presentation will focus on a case study exploring the moves within the biological discipline of systematics to make the tools of research and the products of research accessible online to the wider community. The case study will focus on the drivers for accessibility and the constraints on access for this community, drawing out the concerns that making material accessible raises and the ways in which formulations of the audience for accessibility are arrived at. The presentation will draw out some elements of good practice, and some caveats about the extent to which open access should be pursued as a goal in itself. I call for attention to the specificities of accessibility for each community, as it develops a situated response to broader calls for open access.



The Past, Present, and Future of Internet Research

Internet Research is research that investigates the way individuals, communities, and nations, use computer network technologies and the interconnections those technologies provide in their everyday lives as parents, researchers, workers, entertainers, institutions, governments or whatever they were, are or are becoming. It is an expansive field for research and has become accepted Since its first Internet Research conference in 2000, the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) has produced a solid body of research, exemplified in its Research Annual and numerous publications.This presentation will provide an overview of several trends and methods within the field of internet research as exemplified by the AoIR's first five conferences, and extrapolates some future directions for research based on those trends and methods. Some of the specific trends that will be discussed are: the internationalization of collaborative internet research, the development of an understanding of community norms and self-governance of internet-based organizations, and the needs for ethical internet based research. Some of the methods that will be introduced will be qualitative research, ethnographic research, community and/or network modeling, and mixed methodology internet research. These trends and methods in internet research point toward a future in which ethical, transdisciplinary research, pursued across national boundaries will become the core of the major projects for internet research.



The Information Society Divide


WSIS is about the information society, but which information society? Not only information and communication technology itself, but also the widespread notion of an emerging information society seems to be framed by an extensive interpretative flexibility. The first stage of the WSIS in Geneva showed no sign of a general agreement among world leaders on how to interpretate the information society. On the contrary, severe conflicts over aspects like freedom of information and intellectual property rights demonstrated that relevant stakeholders ascribed radically different meanings to the information society concept. Neither has there ever existed a shared understanding of the information society in the past. Parallel to the constant transformation of computers and ICT during the last 40 years, the information society discourse has also redefined itself over and over again, moving from one relatively stable state to another often in relation to major social, political or technical changes.

This paper aims at exploring the information society debate and the conditions of interpretative flexibility and stabilization it has created since the 1960s. It will identify and analyse different understandings, as well as relevant stakeholders and their objectives. Building on this historical perspective, the paper also aims at exploring and analysing the present development of the information society debate, focusing on the WSIS process. Hypothetically four interpretations of the information society are identified: The freedom of information society, the information for development society, the information as commodity society and the control of information society. This suggests that the information society debate is an open process, with different possible outcomes. As a theoretical framework, the paper draws on SCOT perspectives, using the ideas of relevant stakeholders, interpretive flexibility and stabilization. Methodologically, the paper basically uses an in-depth case study approach.


Lauritsen , and Caspar Bruun Jensen

Development in Action: On Information Technologies as Globalization Agents


Globalization is often described as a process, which, with a high degree of automatism change the lives of many people. This notion is based in a basically dichotomous understanding of the phenomenon. On the one hand local people (for example, in a Peruvian village) are viewed as cut off from a flow of goods or information, but through development they might become able to enter this flow. On the other hand this flow itself is often presented as coming from nowhere particular although it always has Western roots. The Western thereby is made to function as the unmarked category of the ‘global’. In discourses of development and globalization information technologies are often imagined as privileged vehicles, enabling connection and linkage to global flows. We report on an ethnographic study of IT use in Ayacucho, Peru, which, rather than considering globalization in the abstract, encountered it in the shape of a concrete project. We trace the relationships between political visions of globalization and their practical implementation and we analyze the ways in which the global and the local are variably shaped as categories through concrete technologically and culturally mediated interaction. Finally, we use these analyzes to pose a number of questions and challenges to the received dualistic view of globalization, and to argue for the need for more nuanced understandings of so-called globalizations processes. Research at the intersection of science and technology studies, development studies and cultural anthropology would be ideally suited to engage this task.

Working Group


Open Access Citation Indexing


This presentation will discuss the challenge and problems of citation indexing in the context of electronic and open access publishing.


Peet, and Karel F. Mulder

Globalization and ICT lock in

barriers for capacity building in developing countries?

The last decades ICTs have seen an enormous growth in both homes and businesses especially in industrialized countries. More than any other technology ICTs drive economic and financial globalization as they facilitate rapid transactions and global market transparency. Moreover, the internet is the means of transport for a rapid growing service economy.

Globalization leads to a more rapid spread of products and services than we have ever seen before. Locally a wider variety of products will (has) become available. On a global scale product diversity will decrease as the larger (global) suppliers have a large cost advantage. Understandably this has an effect on local cultures both in the developing world as in industrialized countries.

This applies even stronger for software. Fixed costs of developing software are high, but the marginal costs of selling an additional software package are almost zero. Transport costs are negligible. The current standards on the software market of operating systems for home and office computers appear to be in a lock in situation, despite the rapid technology development in the ICT sector.

The number of languages of these operating systems compared to the number of languages spoken worldwide is very little. Language communities have protested. Some initiatives have been taken to make software available in local languages from both Microsoft as the open source software community, creating opportunities for people of underdeveloped countries and local communities to benefit of ICT developments in communication and education as well.

In this paper we consider the process of globalization and/in the ICT sector and the effects it has for local cultural communities. Next to that we reflect on the lock in situation in the global software market. An analysis will be given to what extent this lock in situation is a barrier or enabler of capacity building in developing countries.





Contexts and Practices of R & D for Appropriate Technology in Facilitating ICT for Development Projects: Case Studies from India The dynamics of R & D initiatives for Information and Communication Technologies used in the context of facilitating social development projects in developing countries raises important questions pertaining to the processes of innovation and scientific research on the one hand and appropriateness of technology thus developed by State industry and research institutions on the other. One of the questions that have prompted many of the technology initiatives in ICT for Development projects is the appropriateness of the technology that is often offered to rural people. Also, as Hård and Jamison (1998) noted, the appropriate technology in order to become truly appropriate, it should be appropriated by the subjects to who it is delivered. In the case of technological innovation in ICT oriented development initiatives one can clearly detect an ongoing effort to design and disseminate appropriate information technology for the poor. Nevertheless, such projects face challenges from market structure and political economy that work against appropriate technology initiatives. There has been a significant effort to adapt and induce innovation of new information technologies to suit the social and economic conditions that exists in rural areas. Two important examples are that of Simputer and corDECT WLL developed by scientists in Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Banganore and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Chennai in India respectively. A closer look at the processes of innovation for the Simputer and corDECT WLL as well as an analysis of the political economy of diffusion of these technological innovations and the politics of appropriate technology that informs these projects offer a platform for further reflections on technical and organizational dynamics of scientific research in this domain. One of the key innovations for the poor, the Simputer, has been specifically designed as an appropriate technology for the rural masses living in areas with unreliable electricity supply and inadequate resources to procure equipments required to access the useful information available in the internet. corDECT WLL is designed as a transmission technology for rural connectivity. In many cases they trigger off innovative processes by creating unique local specific demands for ICT products in he rural areas. In the case of the Simputer, the private sector-academic collaboration has resulted in the birth of a CSO, the Simputer Trust which provides license to the manufacturers. Although Gyandoot is the major project in the rural sector to make use of corDECT, many private sector players have begun to use this technology by linking their kiosks with the help of corDECT while competition from MNCs form a major threat to its diffusion. The Simputer and similar experiments with appropriate technology however need careful scrutiny in terms of the successes and failures and also in terms of their political and social impacts. The questions that we address here will include: • How can we understand the dynamics of R & D for innovation in projects that attempt to provide appropriate information technology to the rural poor? • What are the political and ideological tensions and ironies that mark the evolutionary trajectories of technological innovation, scientific research and private-public collaboration in ‘ICTs for Development’ projects in developing countries?



Wouters, Katie Vann, Matt Ratto, and Anne Beaulieu

Open Access to What for Whom?


Open access to scientific information is a key element in thinking about the information society. It is also a banner of social movements theories and practices, which attempt to break the shackles of present information monopolies, be they private companies or governmental bureaucracies. The World Wide Web and the Internet are usually seen as catalysts to construct new forms of public voice and to open up the available pool of data and information. The open access movement is also based on the assumption that more consumption of information, data, or knowledge will lead to a better society. This may be formulated in terms of less economic imbalance or inequality, accelerated innovation and welfare production, and improved public services in areas as otherwise diverse as health care, education, and environmental management.

On the basis of our studies of data sharing in neuroscience, of the use of the Web in the context of participatory water management, and of the open source movement in computer science, we will critically discuss the role of ICT in the shaping of access to scientific information. We explore the ways in which the Web is not always as open as its protagonists hope or claim it to be. In addition, we address the concept of openness itself, noting that open systems require adherence to particular sets of communicative, organizational, and technological knowledges. ICT in this sense may actually be employed to foreground already powerful actors, thereby both maintaining present inequalities in resources and restricting access to new users. This is not only a matter of technology. For example, with respect to data sharing, we show that scientific researchers may have rational reasons to wish to refuse to share their data. We also discuss how data sharing may create new problems in the distribution of resources among research groups. We will use these controversies to better understand what open access may mean for different audiences and actor groups.