The Information Society


Letter from the Editor-in-Chief Rob Kling
18(1) 2002

This issue of The Information Society starts a year in which we have expanded from four issues to five. TIS issue 18(1) includes five articles and four book reviews.

The first article by Jeffrey Hart and Sangbae Kim examines how the international competitiveness of the US economy in the 1990s was influenced by a new hi-tech production regime that they refer to as Wintelism. In “Explaining the Resurgence of U.S. Competitiveness: The Rise of Wintelism,” they define Wintelism as “the structural dominance of components providers, like Intel and Microsoft, over assemblers, like IBM and Dell, effected by applying strategies for controlling architectural standards in a horizontally segmented industry.” Hart and Kim see the essence of Wintelism “as a reliance on open but owned technical standards and extensive outsourcing of component production to enable industrial structures to become less vertically and more horizontally integrated.” Unlike Manuel Castells who writes about new business partnerships and high-tech synergies as if they were the byproduct of imaginative entrepreneurs, unregulated markets and "network logic," Hart and Kim are keenly aware of the role of U.S. trade regulatory policies and their anchoring in national security rationales. They observe that “U.S. regulatory policies encouraged the value chain specialization with open but owned standards that are the hallmarks of Wintelism, greatly contributing to the success of U.S. firms in the global PC computer industry.” Their article explicitly contrasts the industrial consequences of the U.S. regulatory regimes with those of East-Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea. Their article contributes an important political analysis to our understanding of new industrial formations.

Of The second article, “An Information-Based Model of NGO-Mediation for the Empowerment of Slum Dwellers in Bangalore” by Shirin Madon and Sundeep Sahay shifts from national industrial formations to the organization of social services in a huge urban area. Madon and Sahay have been studying the organization of social services in Bangalore India, a city that has been hailed as India's Silicon Valley. In the 1990s, Bangalore became a high growth high technology center. But it is also the home of millions of people who have not benefited directly from the high technology boom.

Approximately 29 million people live in the city of Bangalore in central India, and about 25% of them live under the poverty line of approximately $215(U.S.) per year. There are various estimates of the number of slums, but most studies identify hundreds of slums that house well over one million people. While there a number of programs to help Bangalore's poor, such building water supplies for slums that have none, and improving their sanitation. Madon and Sahay's article rests on extensive field work in Bangalore. They observe that many of Bangalore's poor are doubly disadvantaged, since they are often unaware of public programs that could improve their quality of life. However, Madon and Sahay are optimistic that some kinds of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's) can serve as important informational intermediaries between poor groups and aid organizations.

Their article examines the activities of one NGO, Jana Sahayog, that uses informationally rich means to help increase the quality of life in some slums. Jana Sahayog helps these slum dwellers "to produce a newspaper to both express their problems, and as a forum in which they can engage in dialogue with, and hold accountable, government officials and so resolve their problems." They are also working with about two dozen slum organizations and local government agencies to have their slums recognized by the government, which can lead to their residents obtaining land titles to their home sites. The land titles can enable these slum dwellers to obtain yet additional resources, such as funds for developing local water supplies. While Jana Sahayog maintains a web site to enlist the interest of international activists and researchers, most of its informational strategies are appropriately low-tech: they rest on the production of newspapers, audio tapes, meetings and similar media that poor people can communicate through and learn from. Madon and Sahay conclude their article by identifying this NGO's informationally intensive strategies as those that are likely to be more effective in Castellian global multi-organizational networks.

The next two articles examine social issues of privacy and surveillance. "Toward a Typology of Internet Users and Online Privacy concerns" reports the intriguing results of a survey conducted by Kim Sheehan. Her survey asked informants to examine 15 different situations involving the collection or use of personally sensitive data. She identified four major orientations towards these scenarios: unconcerned, circumspect, wary and alarmed. Sheehan reports the extent to which her informants fit into these four orientations. She also examines how these orientations vary with one's age and education. In general, better educated and older informants expressed greater caution about the privacy practices of Internet services and their sites.

In the fourth article, Johnson and Blanchette argue that people's feelings about surveillance practices should not be the primary basis for formulating information policies about personally sensitive data. In "Data Retention and The Panoptic Society: The Social Benefits Of Forgetfulness" they examine three domains where data about people can have substantial consequences: bankruptcy law, juvenile crime records, and credit reports. They are concerned that one unintended side-effect of indefinite data retention "is the disappearance of social forgetfulness, which allows individuals a second chance, the opportunity for a fresh start in life." They examine how different policy approaches could handle the retention of data and they propose a comprehensive policy so that information policies can be planned, rather than developed piecemeal in an ad-hoc and reactive manner.

The fifth article, by Holsapple and Joshi, offers professionals a rich framework for planning and applying knowledge management practices within an organization. Their article, "Knowledge Management: A Threefold Framework" provides both the framework and an assessment of its applicability by a group of faculty and professionals who have intensive expertise with knowledge management practices. The framework -- organized around themes of knowledge resources, knowledge manipulation, and organizational influences -- provides a usable and useful common language for practitioners, as well as some important themes for intensive research.

This issue ends with four book reviews: Journalism and Democracy: An Evaluation of the Political Public Sphere (reviewed by Mark Brewin); Systems, Experts, and Computers: the Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After (reviewed by Steve Jackson); Technoromanticism: Digital Narrative, Holism, and the Romance of the Real (reviewed by Jonathan Elmer) and The World Wide Web and Contemporary Cultural Theory (reviewed by John Rowe).

Please check our web site ( for news on forthcoming issues, calls for papers, abstracts of articles from previous issues, and the full text of some sample articles. Prospective authors may reach us via email at

TIS's publisher, Taylor and Francis, is now making an electronic full text version of this journal available at no additional cost with an institutional subscription that is priced at approximately $200. This new service is an exceptional bargain for large organizations, such as universities. It is possible to site license one electronic subscription for the use of all students, faculty, and staff for the price of one institutional subscription. TIS's web site (URL above) includes additional information about this opportunity. TIS also offers significant discounts for individual subscriptions to the members of certain scholarly societies. Please see the Subscriptions Page on our web site.

Rob Kling
Center for Social Informatics
Indiana University - Bloomington

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