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COMMUNICATION FUTURES IN AUSTRALIA
John V. Langdale
BRINGING MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES TO AUSTRALIA’S COMMUNICATION FUTURES: BEYOND THE SUPERHIGHWAY?
June Lennie , Greg Hearn , Tony Stevenson , Sohail Inayatullah & Tom Mandeville
A case study is presented of the multi-method and multi-discipline approach to anticipating the social and policy implications of new communication and information technologies (C&IT) being adopted by the Communication Centre at the Queensland University of Technology. This work draws on frameworks which include action research, structurational approaches to technology, coevolutionary systems theory, information economics, feminist and poststructuralist theories, and civilisational and critical approaches to futures studies. The main theoretical perspectives and methodologies we draw on are outlined, together with some of our research findings. Some future scenarios for communication in Australia, beyond the technological optimism of the information superhighway rhetoric, are presented. The often paradoxical relationship between technological change and social change is recognised. We argue that rather than being driven by the entertainment or commercially-oriented applications of the ‘information superhighway’, we need alternative future scenarios and designs for C&IT which facilitate cooperation, gender equity, inclusion of the Other and social justice.
A TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE IS NOT AN INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE
We are now living in the Information Age, where information-handling activities, taken, together, are the dominant claim on resources. The infrastructure needed to make this socio-economic system work is much more than the phones, switches, cables and satellites of the telecommunications engineers and the telecommunications equipment industry. The other complementary resources are a mix of people with skills, organizational capital, markets, a legal framework, regulatory institutions, and, especially, information stocks. Our concept of capital has to take in this mixed bag of resources.
A focus on the social and economic implications of the growth of codified knowledge may well contribute to understanding the complex processes of change given new emphasis by the Information Age. One way of tackling this task is to develop a taxonomy of information, based on its economically significant characteristics, to replace the general purpose concept now in wide use.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVES ON AUSTRALIA’S COMMUNICATIONS FUTURE
John V. Langdale
Australia’s communications future is being increasingly shaped by globalisation trends. However, complex interrelationships exist between forces operating at global, national and local scales. Social and business networks have a major role in moulding Australia’s communications future. The changing nature of family social networks have significant communications implications. The use of telecommunications to deliver public services is growing in importance as governments attempt to lower costs of the delivery of these services.
AUSTRALIAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS POLICY IN AN INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT: ISSUES FOR THE FUTURE
Australian telecommunications policy is undergoing a period of rapid change. Policy statements released to date have placed emphasis on competition and liberalisation but with a focus on the domestic situation. Australia’s involvement in international telecommunications policy change has received less attention than domestic telecommunications reform issues. It is argued in this paper that the success of what Australia wants to achieve nationally through telecommunications will depend in large part on international telecommunications regulatory developments and Australia’s response to them. The complexity and direction of international change in telecommunications requires a more sophisticated approach to policy development than has taken place in Australia to date. This paper sketches an outline of current trends in international telecommunications reform, Australia’s response to them and identifies issues for the future. These future issues include information policy, tensions between competition policy and trade policy, industry policy, direct foreign investment, and codes of conduct for multinational companies. Some areas requiring further research are also identified.
TELEVISION FUTURES IN AUSTRALIA
In this paper I discuss “Television Futures in Australia” and social science’s attempts to describe that future. In the first part of the paper I note characteristics of the discussion of television futures drawing attention to the communicative positions of the various industry players and their resulting debate cultures. I also insist on the role played by mundane actions of agents in the broader television milieu. In the remainder of the essay, I discuss some characteristics of television generally not in dispute identifying the ways various agents—industry and social scientists alike—apprehend the future by projecting alternative uptake scenarios. In one way or another all these questions come back to questions surrounding Australian content which I want to pose in the first instance not so much as a question of content regulation as a question of distribution of cultural discounts in program formats.
RE-ENGINEERING TELECOMMUNICATIONS FOR THE WAY PEOPLE WANT TO LIVE: SOCIAL RESEARCH IN THE DESIGN OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES
Patricia Gillard , Karen Wale & Amanda Bow
This article uses findings from a close study of eleven people’s telecommunications uses at home and a national survey to argue for the importance of technology development which is based on people’s demonstrated uses and interests. Values about privacy at home and practices of controlling phone intrusion were shown to be related to choice of future technologies. Those who wanted to be accessible to callers chose services which enhanced communication such as video phones whereas those who wanted to control incoming calls chose services such as ‘intelligent’ phones. The study illustrates the contribution of ethnographic approaches and criticises research based on economic models and quantification alone.
REVIEW ARTICLE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT: WHY REFORM IS NEEDED
Experiences of environmental impact assessment (EIA) for some major transportation projects, particularly in urban areas strongly suggest that decisions have been made with highly adverse environmental consequences. Political and bureaucratic influences have overridden scientific and economic inputs to the EIA process subverting the intent of environmental legislation. This imbalance could be considered as a corruption of democratic government in favour of vested interests. Reform of the process must therefore involve redrafting of legislation, at the same time making it uniform throughout Australia. Timely disclosure of information will be assisted by appropriate change in freedom of information legislation throughout Australia in order to prevent bureaucratic delay and prevarication. Disclosure will also be assisted by revision of the defamation laws so that public comment on the activities of proponents, bureaucrats, consultants and politicians will not be inhibited. Judicial inquiries requiring environmental evidence by affidavit and subject to cross-examination may prove to be the most cost-effective way of ensuring overall integrity of the process. These matters are discussed with reference to a recent book on EIA.