Impact of New Media Annotated Bibliography


Bagdikian, Ben. The Media Monopoly. 4th ed., 1992.

The renowned dean of UCB's School of Journalism recognizes the U.S. media as one of our most critical institutions in terms of not only informing the American public but shaping their opinion. The increasing conglomeration of newspapers, television, and radio into fewer, larger, mostly privately held corporations is held responsible for mass media's conservative bias, and frequently silence or 'blackout' of controversial or possibly anti-establishment ideas. The author follows the money, with less explanation of specific instances of reporting, and more examples of ownership, buyouts, mergers, and acquisitions. Each subsequent edition of the book is revised to reflect the concentration of power into fewer hands. The definitive study of this issue.

Bell, Daniel. "The Social Framework of the Information Society" in The Microelectronics Revolution: The Complete Guide to the New Technology and its Impact on Society, ed. T. Forester, 500-549. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1980.

Bettig, Ronald V. Copyrighting Culture: The Political Economy of Intellectual Property, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996.

This text focuses on intellectual property, with an emphasis on the film industry and the changes wrought by cable television and videocassettes. A very exhausting history with background on the philosophy of copyright, and lots of detail about major players like Disney, Murdoch, and Turner. Comes complete with statistical tables exhibiting strong support for his theories relating rights ownership, media power, and wealth concentration. Once again, the international market manages to get a brief concluding chapter, and Bagdikian's definitive text on media monopoly is cited (Herbert Schiller is thanked prominently in the acknowledgments).

From the political/ideological standpoint, the book discusses clearly the workings of modern-day western capitalism and connects this definitively to each historical event in the process of consolidation within the industry. Comparisons with Marxist and different varieties of economic theory are made. For anyone not previously convinced of the futility of capitalism, clear lines are drawn implicating it in the widespread homogeneity, repetition, and ideological blandness and vacuity of present-day Hollywood.

Not evident from the title is what is excluded from the analysis. The publishing industry in its entirety gets barely a mention; apparently books are not "Culture" by the author's standards. The business of music recording and performance, at least as complex as film, is similarly shortchanged. Also, although dated 1996 the book completely fails to mention digitized intellectual property and the ramifications of the internet in recent changes in production, distribution, sales, and the laws pertaining thereto. Despite these omissions, there's so much to say just about movies, producers and directors, writers and rightsholders, takeovers and buyouts, that the text is complete, well-researched and -documented, and convincing as is.

Boyle, James, Shamans, Software, and Spleens: Law and The Construction of the Information Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.

The author considers various recent and controversial cases in informational property. He observes them from the point of view of conflicting economic interests, considering in each instance whether granting rights to one party or the other is likely to either create or destroy incentive. Many analogies to other actual and theoretical circumstances are made, pointing out the frequent futility of finding a clear-cut solution. The title refers to three specific realms of native medicinal plant biology, international piracy of popular computer programs, and university ownership of patent on patients' genetic material.

Carchedi, G. "High-Tech Hype: Promises and Realities of Technology in the Twenty-First Century." in Davis, Jim, Thomas A. Hirschl and Michael Stack (eds.), Cutting Edge: Technology, Information, Capitalism and Social Revolution, New York: Verso, 1997.

Chomsky, Noam, and Edward S. Herman. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, New York: Pantheon Books, 1988.

The well-known political scientist, lecturer and critic takes on the popular U.S. media outlets (New York Times, Time and Newsweek, CBS, etc.) and definitively demonstrates how politically charged events are embellished or diluted when reported to the American public through supposedly 'unbiased' sources.

Specific instances the authors examine: the murders of civilians by the military and governments of both Eastern European states and clients of the U.S.; similar coverage of 'free' elections in three oppressed Central American nations, terrorist regimes in southeast Asia and their U.S. backing or demonization. Articles and coverage by media outlets in the nations themselves, and elsewhere in the world, are dissected and contrasted to those of the mainstream U.S.

A great summary of the topics both authors had written and spoken about extensively throughout the 80s, later adapted into a documentary film by the same name. Although exhaustive and definitive at the time of publication, like Herbert Schiller's Culture Inc. and Bagdikian's Media Monopoly, it predates the internet and web, and thus of course does not take these factors into account.

de Long, J. Bradford and A. Michael Froomkin. "The Next Economy?" in Deborah Hurley, Brian Kahin, and Hal Varian, eds., Internet Publishing and Beyond: The Economics of Digital Information and Intellectual Property, Cambridge: MIT Press, forthcoming, 1998.

The authors concisely examine the nascent effects of the information economy, and observe how traditional models, particularly Smith's "invisible hand of the market," break down in the face of it. A few real-life examples are given in illustration, with the sale of music compact discs via the web given the most discussion. The authors isolate "bargain bots", programs with the ability to surf cyberspace in search of optimally priced products, as a perfect example of the decline of "fair" competition and the rise of a winner-take-all economic paradigm. Refraining from lengthy technical explanations or jargon, the authors, an economist and a lawyer, set forth a clear argument likely to spark debate for several years to come about the broad issues of rapid legal and financial change due to the internet.

Gandy, Oscar H. The Panoptic Sort: A Political Economy of Personal Information, Boulder, CO: Westview, 1993.

This book draws a parallel between the classical philosophical idea of the panopticon (all-seeing authority structure or prison), and modern-day information-age technologies as privacy invasion. A variety of late-twentieth century practices (in the U.S. at least) -- not only the internet -- are discussed and evaluated in terms of their capability to create a society in which a few have the power to observe, and thus control, every aspect of the lives of the many.

Credit records and histories are given the greatest weight, although direct marketers get a thorough look-over as well. Corporations, rather than government, are surveyed for opinions on the issue, and their view of the debate overwhelmingly seems to be that they have the inalienable right to collect and distribute personal and confidential information about citizens without restriction. Several chilling quotations from marketing CEOs and PR specialists are included.

The most important point the author makes is the contradiction of government mandating collection of information and then giving or sellling it at bargain rates to the private sector. A convincing case is made for reigning in business-driven privacy invasion, although it is unclear whether legal or judicial methods will be the solution. Personally-empowering individual purchase, or development, of competing protective technologies could very well be the only answer to the dilemma.

Litan, Robert E. and William A. Niskanen. Going Digital!: A Guide to Policy in the Digital Age, Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institute, 1998.

Federal policy wonks bulldoze the skeptics and proclaim the start of the third industrial revolution. Changing economic models and the labor pool are viewed purely from the business standpoint. The authors stake out their ground in defense of allowing the invisible hand of the market to make decisions and, predictably, a stand-aside, laissez-faire policy of government (non)intervention. Only the positive aspects of global technology progression are mentioned while countless downsides are merely glossed over in the interest of making their argument seem to hold up. The book is clearly written and necessarily brief and to the point, although likely to be preaching to the converted.

Marvin, Carolyn. "Challenges to the Dominant Ideology of the Information Age: Philosophical and Theoretical Assumptions, Images of the Future, The International Dimension." in The Ideology of the Information Age, edited by Jennifer Daryl Slack and Fred Fejes, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1987, Chapter 3.

Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume 1: The Process of Capitalist Production, New York: International Publishers, 1967, Chapter 1.

McChesney, Robert. "The Political Economy of Global Communication," in Capitalism and the Information Age: The Political Economy of the Global Communication Revolution, edited by Robert W. McChesney, Ellen Meiksins Wood, and John Bellamy Foster, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998, Chapter 1.

This article, which introduces the others in the book, is an excellent summary of the "globalization" issue from the policy and economic perspectives, with both traditional (federalist) and radical theory. There are citations and quotes from not only Mill, Madison, and Marx, but also Chomsky, Bagdikian, and Mosco.

The author points fingers at transnational corporations and the corresponding disappearance and irrelevance of political borders. He gives some historical context of the development of political economy as a study over the past century. The media industry in this same period is summarized and the recent monopolization into fewer and fewer hands is mentioned. Specific cases such as TCI, Time Warner, and Disney get taken apart in greater detail.

The narrowing of information availability is isolated as (at least in part) to blame for the increasing political detachment of the public in advanced cultural states such as the U.S. The article serves as a perfect introduction to the remainder of essays in the collection, all of which touch on these topics.

Menzies, Heather. Challenging Capitalism in Cyberspace: Information Highway, the Postindustrial Economy and People. in McChesney, Chapter 5.

The author, a Canadian professor, condenses her full-length Whose Brave New World? into this brief article which touches on a lot of the issues facing society via "friction-free" capitalism. Discussed in various ways are the deskilling of the workforce, the feminization of poverty, the growth of casual employment, and the disintegrating social safety net. The contradictions of "globalization", whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, is the underlying theme.

Mosco, Vincent. "Introduction: Information in the Pay-per Society", in The Political Economy of Information, edited by Vincent Mosco and Janet Wasko. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988.

The author warns of the implications of a widespread change from subsidized and theoretically "universal" service provision, to a sheer market-driven economy in telecommunications (and by extension, the internet). The problems of access, class divisions, and disparity in education are brought to the fore, if and when government gives up its levelling function in providing not only newly-essential telephones but even basics like literacy to increasing segments of the public.

Qvortrup, Lars. The Information Age: Ideal and Reality. in The Ideology of the Information Age, edited by Jennifer Daryl Slack and Fred Fejes, Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1987, Chapter 8.

Robins, Kevin and Frank Webster. "Information as Capital: A Critique of Daniel Bell." in The Ideology of the Information Age, edited by Jennifer Daryl Slack and Fred Fejes, Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1987, Chapter 6.

This article takes apart the propositions of philosophers and techno-theorists Bell and McLuhan, and reviews further the opinions of Marc Porat, F.W. Taylor, and Krishan Kumar. Observed in detail are the social value of information and communication as commodities, a gradual replacement for tangible manufactured goods, from which "all forms of wealth result." Bell's early argument, that private enterprises lack incentive to create knowledge because of its immateriality and availability to all, is refuted by subsequent commercial developments of the 1980s. "Postindustrial" society is presented as neither the end of capitalism nor the rebirth of Marxism, but something new entirely.

Schiller, Dan. "The Information Commodity: A Preliminary View." in Davis, Jim, Thomas A. Hirschl and Michael Stack (eds.). Cutting Edge: Technology, Information Capitalism and Social Revolution, New York: Verso, 1997.

Schiller, Herbert I. Culture, Inc., New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Subtitled "the corporate takeover of public expression", this book tackles the thorny area of mass media's influence on the ideology of the populace, and the extent to which private, wealthy, mostly conservative interests have gradually coopted it. The focus is mostly postwar U.S., but the author makes a point of mentioning the increasing global nature of capital movement and, especially, marketing and advertising. Television is picked on as the worst/most obvious culprit, with some discussion of newspapers, radio, and museums along the way.

In a relatively brief but concise summary, the author makes many general sweeping statements, giving a few supportive examples but without a lot of detail. The whole text is divided into short punchy chapters that make their point and move on, resembling a serialized newspaper or magazine article.

Important aspects include: the concept of constitutional freedom of speech for individuals and its perversion to defend the rhetoric of corporate capital; the eventual corresponding warp of judicial decision; the philosophical reversal of the public mind regarding the idea of freedom from participatory democracy to mere consumer choice. The debate of capitalism v. communism is mentioned only in terms of its invocation by business as a scare tactic, equating a commercial-free public realm with totalitarianism(!) Ben Bagdikian's theory of media monopoly gets a much-merited mention.

(N.B. book written circa 1988, pre-internet and web; thus only begins to touch on digitized information and the availability of electronic databases.)

Webster, Frank. Theories of the Information Society, New York: Routledge, 1995.

The author takes a step back from the techno-hype of other writers to critically evaluate the terms "information" and the information "society". He enumerates five analytical factors: technological, economic, occupational, spatial, and cultural, as criteria for a definition. Growing expenditure on IT in business, education, and media are examined. The difficulty of quantifying information and "change" and drawing a line between the "advanced industrial" and information age is detailed. The ideas and past predictions of other futurist theorists Toffler and Drucker are compared to the present-day state of the art.

Young, T.R. "Information, Ideology and Political Reality: Against Toffler." in The Ideology of the Information Age, edited by Jennifer Daryl Slack and Fred Fejes, Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1987, Chapter 7.

The author looks at social justice, equality, and individual diversity as logical and attainable goals of a global free society, but goals which have as yet not, even (especially) in the U.S., come close to being realized. Toffler's benefits of technology, namely the devolution of "mass" culture and power in favor of individual, decentralized parity, are briefly summarized and criticized as overly naive and dismissive of the historical reality of gross inequity of wealth worldwide. However, accurate though these criticisms might be, the argument was written in 1987, long before international networks enabled the (not universal but possible) communication and organization of people on a global scale.