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section heading icon     overview

This guide brings together some of the writing about life in 'wired' or 'information' societies - digital environments.

subsection heading icon     digital environments?  

Since the late 1980s it has become accepted wisdom that we are living in a 'digital environment', one that embodies a 'law of code' (a law founded on US libertarian values regarding free speech and private enterprise) that will bring nations - and individuals - together in a global market featuring ubiquitous access to information via electronic media. That environment is supposedly both unprecedented and inevitable, although delayed in parts of the world such as Kazakhstan or Zimbabwe that have not inhaled the zeitgeist.

This guide, and by extension the site, question some of the digital pieties.

The following pages suggest that it is more useful to speak of a range of digital environments, in which culture is often as important as the availability of infrastructure or hegemonies regarding markets, the state, individual autonomy and community.

Few of the digital environments are unprecedented: many of the laments about digital woes (or merely the discontents of modernity) look distinctly traditional and rhetoric about the evils (or wonders) of the net could have come from writing about television, the telegraph or the printing press. Eschatological visions of the Telecosm, the Noosphere or what Nicholas Negroponte acclaimed as 'Being Digital' (sort of 'cool' without taxes or inconveniences such as governments and the distressingly un-hip lower classes) are also misplaced.

Like any description of an environment it is necessarily patchy. We have highlighted online and offline writing about work, gender, the arts, morals, communities and the state.

More detailed information on issues such as privacy, anonymity, intellectual property and the 'new economy' is found in other guides on this site.

subsection heading icon     in this guide 

The following pages cover -

  • technologies offers pointers to some basic texts about digital technology: machines, software and networks
  • etopia looks at some visions of the infotopia or etopia - Toffler, Gilder, Negroponte, Dyson, McLuhan, Barlow - and critiques of the 'Californian Ideology'
  • dystopia considers equally fashionable laments that digital technology means the end of civilisation as we know it - no more books, quality broadcasting, well-behaved children or table napkins, depending on the guru of choice
  • geopolitics considers geographies of information production, information flows and consumption in the digital environment. There is a supplementary note on the 'New International Information Order', 'New World Information & Communication Order' (NWICO) and World Summit on the Information Society
  • rights explores debate about digital rights, responsibilities and freedoms
  • time - considers the 'new laziness', 'information overload', 'internet time' and lifehacking
  • spaces & traces looks at the notion of cyberspace: everywhere and nowhere, out of control or business as usual? It also offers an introduction to wired and wireless networks
  • cities looks at urbanism, location and architecture
  • bodies points to some of the more interesting (and loopier) writing about mind and body in the digital environment, including cyborgs and the 'body as data'
  • datasmog, electrosensitivity and e-waste
  • gender discusses writing about gender, intimacy and sexuality in cyberspace, including adult content
  • intelligence & information offers two perspectives on cyberspace, considering claims about artificial intelligence and pervasive profiling
  • community, class and generations deals with how 'being digital' affects nations and communities, including the digital ghetto and the digital divide. It also examines notions of the 'New Class' and 'generation i'
  • culture highlights information about culture online
  • education considers the shape of education in the digital environment, including debate about the 'enterprise university', knowledge management and 'learning ware'
  • commerce offers a snapshot of issues explored in a separate guide on the Information Economy, along with comments about cyber-busking
  • work & play considers the nature of work, employment and industrial relations
  • play - recreation and entertainment in the 'internet economy'
  • happiness considers characterisation of happiness and satisfaction
  • the state is an introduction to some of the studies of politics and governance explored in our guides
  • war & peace considers the shape of conflict in the digital environment
  • forecasting offers a reality check, in considering predictions by the gurus, through an examination of the crystal ball gazing business
  • futures points to writing about emerging technologies and their implications, including truly pervasive computing and artificial intelligence, and comments on technology forecasting.

subsection heading icon     related info 

Most of the 700 plus pages on this site touch on what it means to 'be digital'. Among those of particular relevance are two background profiles:

The Revolutions profile explores the nature and impact of past communications revolutions

The profile on the net looks at the evolution of the global information infrastructure and considers writing about its developers

The site provides detailed coverage of 'old media' in the 'age of the internet'.

An irreverent list of 200 books for making sense of the net is here.

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version of April 2004
© Bruce Arnold | caslon analytics