[Air-l] Re: research gaps

Bram Dov Abramson bda at bazu.org
Mon Mar 18 17:52:02 PST 2002

mandrejevic at campus.fairfield.edu:

>I'd be very interested in hearing more about the political
>economy of the Internet -- a topic that seems to beg for the depth of
>scrutiny/analysis possible in academic research. Intellectual property
>is certainly an important part of this research -- and one that has
>received plenty of attention from researchers both in AoIR and out.
>However, the way in which the broadband network will be structured and
>developed (and the role played by regulation and by the recent spate of
>merger activity) that remains a central concern, and I'd be grateful
>for suggestions regarding scholarship in this area.

Well, most of the Internet work I was involved with while at 
TeleGeography went exactly in that direction.  My experience was that 
this kind of work just isn't on the radar screen of most researchers. 
Which I guess is to some extent a self-perpetuating thing to the 
extent that if you're studying MUDs and MOOs and Usenet, then you're 
going to be most interested in papers that talk about those things. 
We'd hoped that some folks would be interested in using _Hubs + 
Spokes_ as a $50 course text -- that was a book TeleGeography put out 
as a basic primer on Internet infrastructure -- but most of the 
puzzled looks I got made me think that I'd have been better off 
sticking to engineering departments.

(A Web page for Hubs + Spokes is no longer online, but you can get an 
idea of the kind of work through 
http://www.telegeography.com/pubs/index.html.  I'm no longer at 
TeleGeography, but would be happy to pass on inquiries.)

Traditionally communications scholars have imho stuck to content- and 
broadcast-oriented research.  Critical telecom research has started 
to wade into this kind of Internet stuff a little bit more, as you'll 
know, and I'm thinking of Dan Schiller's book a little while back. 
Meanwhile there are places like the Economics of Infrastructure PhD 
programme that Bill Melody and others are involved with at the 
Technical University of Delft (Netherlands).

But there is still a real disconnect between actually understanding 
network structure and wanting to write broad sweeping conclusions 
about its arc imho; this is an area where I really feel that lots of 
small incisive research would be great to read, 
condemnation-of-the-world-at-large far less so.  In the meantime most 
of this work happens outside communications departments, and not as 
often tied to communications studies traditions.  Some of my 
favourite critical writing in this area includes pieces that pop up 
now and then from Geert Lovink, who's on this list, and there is 
loads of accessible journalistic writing as well.

(Two brief plugs you'll have to forgive me.  Greg Elmer has an edited 
book coming out sooner or later, Critical Perspectives on the 
Internet, one of whose chapters is titled "Internet globalization and 
the political economy of infastructure."  And Marc Raboy has an 
edited volume due from U Luton Press with a chapter on "The politics 
of broadband: virtual networking and the right to communicate" on 
similar issues.)

>My apologies for the length of this post...

Me too.


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