Oct 24, 2009

ICT Infrastructures

Our readings for this week were sections from Transforming Global Information and Communication Markets: the Political Economy of Innovation by Peter F. Cowhey and Jonathan D. Aronson with Donald Abelson. In the introduction, the authors describe their perspective as an optimistic and “upbeat” one, contrasting to the “gloomy” world view about international communication and global governance that seems to have pervaded the world in 2009. The authors feel that the expectations for governance are too high. They argue that “pretty good” governance should be lauded instead of criticized.

The authors argue that there is now a new inflection point for ICT infrastructure. ICT infrastructure is becoming more modular. The authors give the example of lego bricks. ICT infrastructures build upon each other and advance when they are formed so that they “stick” into one another. I feel like this is one of the main points that I am taking away from all of the readings and discussions that we have had in this class so far. The first few readings we had this semester from Thussu and Mattalart described the historical context of developments in international communication technologies. Both authors described each new development as building upon the last one. Each development was described as a continuation of every previous development instead of a timeline of developments independent of each other. I took away the same sort of concept from when we talked about different theoretical perspectives in international communication. Each new theory or perspective built upon the former’s weaknesses or limitations. For example, modernization theory which argues that communication will lift the third world was criticized for keeping developing nations dependent on the West, and thus developed new perspectives on how trade systems benefit the West.

The chapter really talks about the shift towards media convergence similarly to how Hanson described in her chapter “the Globalization of Communication.” The three major branches of communication that Hanson outlines in the beginning of the chapter, telecommunication, audiovisual products, and computer-mediated communication are becoming increasingly convoluted with new products like Blackberries and Apple’s iPhone which allow for phone calls, e-mails, and videos, straddling all three branches of communication.

Cowhey, et. al. describe public policy as the “critical driver” of ICT infrastructures. Historically, governments and policy have been the most important entities in shaping ICT infrastructure. But now, the authors argue, ICT control is more in the private sector (we also read about this trend in Elizabeth Hanson’s chapters).

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