Society and the Internet

Mark Graham & William H. Dutton

Published by

Oxford University Press

ISBN

978-0-19-966200-5

RRP

£24.99

Reviewed by

Dr Mick Phythian MBCS CITP

Score

8 out of 10

This book consists of 23 chapters by a combination of 31 authors from a range of academic disciplines, all largely with some connection to the Oxford Internet Institute, drawn together to answer some of the ‘big’ questions on ‘internet studies’. The book is divided into five parts, with the fifth considering aspects of the future.

Whilst making the claim to be multi-disciplinary, the book fails to include philosophy, and in particular ethics. While there are some elements that refer to this in a few of the chapters, in fact an ethical discourse should be fundamental to all the ‘big’ questions being asked around power, equality, diversity, hierarchies, communities, privacy and governance.

Given my personal interest in e-government the first chapters I explored were chapters 11 and 12, “Transforming government by default” and “The Wisdom of Which Crowd?”, whose conclusions seemed to support my own research whilst adding some information of which I wasn’t aware - always a good sign!

Then, reading the book from cover to cover, I found it to be a veritable vade mecum of the internet and its social consequences, with a wealth of information for the researcher and the authors suggesting lots of opportunities for further research, including social media and big data.

Some fascinating chapters on less publicised areas of work cover the Thai silk industry and the Sudanese labour market, both of which reveal the unrealistic expectations and limited potential of what change the internet is capable of delivering in the less developed world.

The editors also include a chapter on legal aspects of the cloud - not an particularly easy area to disseminate and one that changes very quickly, but at least such a sexy topic (for professionals) is raised and covered well within the space constraints. Similarly the currently topical issue of governance and social media is sensibly dealt with. The final chapter takes us on to the future and the semantic or ‘linked data’ web - who knows what will happen to future incarnations, but some tentative views are offered.

Overall a useful book for the university or college library, and anyone else to dip in and out of. How easily it will date - who knows?

Further information: Oxford University Press

December 2014