The current volume opens the topic of communication, information, and technology. It is by no means exhaustive and potential contributors to the Journal should not think that we will not be doing more on this issue. In fact, already two related thematic issues are in the works. The first is on information policy. The second is on communication and the economy. Potential contributors may contact the editor for further information.
The inspiration for this volume results from research activities which David Crowley and David Mitchell have been involved with recently. The contributions presented here are part of a wider interest of the contributors and the guest editors in society and technology. The theme itself is not of course new. It touches earlier scholarship as diverse as that of Lewis Mumford and Siegfried Giedion, and makes reference to such current issues as preoccupations with global-local interactions. There is also a Canadian direction in the emphasis on communication technologies as key agents in social and historical change. The antecedents are clearly Harold Adams Innis and in varying degrees others associated with the University of Toronto in the 1960s. Since then, subsequent generations of scholars have engaged the technology /history problematic, among them, Donald Theall and Paul Heyer, helping to institutionalize this research in graduate programs.
Today the study of communication technologies within the wider discourse of technology and society has become strongly international and transdisciplinary in scope and scale. As the selections from the U.S. and U.K. suggest, scholarship in the United Kingdom and the United States figures prominently in these developments, in both theoretical and applied ways. The importance given to policy issues and emerging practices is particularly noteworthy.
David Crowley's opening essay serves two purposes. First, it provides readers with a roadmap into the contemporary sociotechnical literature. Secondly, it indicates how the contributions in this volume fit into this literature. Robin Mansell follows with an analysis of the orientation of research on information and communication technology in the U.K. funded by PICT, the Programme on Information and Communication Technologies established in 1986 by the Economic and Social Research Council. She contrasts the consideration given in this work to historical factors, the capacity of individuals and institutions to adapt and act, and the decisions of technology producers, users, and government policy makers to the simpler "impact of technology" model still to be found in social science literature.
Jesse Hunter reviews the thin history of cross-referencing from the classical and medieval through to current electronic concepts, capabilities, and practices. He takes particular note of our concept of authorship and how it has and will evolve in a time of heterogeneous input to electronic discussion groups.
Leslie Shade provides a clear and insightful descriptive account of the development and nature of CANARIE, Canada's high-speed telecommunications network. She discusses the likely impact of CANARIE on the economy but takes note of the predominance of a technical spirit and the absence of social and legal considerations particularly with respect to private sector ownership and control.
David Mitchell outlines a bottleneck in the realization of technological capacity. He takes note of the lack of an integrated and sustained effort to fully realize technological potential through the establishment of bibliographies and bibliographic tools that are transparent, encompass all relevant literature, and address all interests.
Rohan Samahajiva considers the nature of surveillance within a framework of social practice rather than law. He begins with a sophisticated definition of surveillance as related to the boundaries of intended reception of discourse. Focusing on three policy issues, he moves on to consider the nature of the interests that individuals, specific groups, and the general public have in the nature of those boundaries and the impact of those interests on technological development.
At one level Phil Vitone's contribution can be read as an ethnomethodological analysis of communities interacting with communications and other technologies. Consistent with the concerns of other contributors, although addressing the issues differently, he notes the difference between technological capacity and human use of technology, posing a query into the meaning of the literature that projects technological capacity directly onto social forms. Like Samarajiva he examines the nature of surveillance but attends to its circular nature and thus provides an interesting counterpoint to Samarajiva's analysis.
We wish to thank Professors Jay Weston and Donald Theall for their advice and counsel. We are especially grateful to the contributors for their help in giving substantive shape to both the social and the historical agendas. We would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Graduate Program in Communication Studies at the University of Calgary and the Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. We would also like to thank those students in the Graduate Program in Communications at McGill whose work with Professors Phil Vitone and David Crowley continues to support these beginnings.