High Technology and Low Income Communities: Prospects for the Positive Use of Advanced Information Technology. (Book Reviews).
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Subject:||Books (Book reviews)|
|Publication:||Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2001 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774|
|Issue:||Date: Winter, 2001 Source Volume: 10 Source Issue: 2|
|Topic:||NamedWork: High Technology and Low Income Communities: Prospects for the Positive Use of Advanced Information Technology (Book)|
|Persons:||Reviewee: Schon, Donald A.; Sanyal, Bish; Mitchell, William J.|
Schon, Donald A., Bish Sanyal and William J. Mitchell, editors.
Cambridge, Mass. and London, UK: MIT Press, 1999.
$27.95 US (paper).
This book, a product of a colloquium series entitled "Advanced Information Technologies, Low-Income Communities, and the City," held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's School of Architecture and Planning in 1996, came out of two seemingly divergent streams of planning thought: those interested in advanced information technologies (IT) and its use in urban planning; and those concerned with equity issues in low-income American communities. The colloquium and the subsequent edited volume were a way of conceptualizing the "digital divide" that inhibits the poor from using the new technologies and of framing the role that IT could play in revitalizing marginalised communities. That the two divergent paths that this project took was not successfully resolved in this book is a reflection of the difficulty of the issues uncovered and the intractability of the problems posed.
The edited volume is divided into two main sections: "Setting the Context" and "Strategies of Action." In the first section, leading theoreticians speculate as to the impact information technologies have on the transformation of urban form and social structures. However, the contributors have different positions as to what constitutes advanced information technologies, what the transformations are, and whether these transformations will have positive or negative impacts on urban poor. Manuel Castells, Peter Hall, Julian Wolpert and Leo Marx are concerned about the potential of IT to transform social and economic relations and exacerbate the segregation between rich and poor. Their proposals for policy directions reflect a commitment to linking technological change and social reform, and emphasize educational initiatives that narrow the gap. William Mitchell takes a more enthusiastic, pro-technology perspective, arguing that advanced information technologies can offer important benefits to the poor, and that to be excluded would be to their detriment. The positions articulated in these papers have been outlined by these authors and others in many other publications. What makes them salient here are the concluding comments on policy implications, especially Castells' lucid proposals that address both social-economic relations and spatial form.
In the second section, the authors use case studies to present a range of strategies for the use of advanced information technologies to enhance the wellbeing of the urban poor, but again have varying definitions of what constitutes advanced information technologies, and varying strategies and vastly different levels of scale. The critical issue to William Mitchell is access to the digital world. He proposes more widespread availability of the Internet and the World Wide Web in community settings. For Joseph Ferreira, Jr. and Michael Shiffer, the issue is how to use technologies for data collection, storage, distribution, representation and analysis to effectively allow low-income people to participate in urban planning and development. Alice Amsden and Jon Clark are cautious in the possibility that low-income people can transcend the barriers and use the new technologies as entrepreneurs in software development, especially since they recognize that it is not physical capital that is important, but rather so cial capital requiring education, training and work experience. Jeanne Bamberger, Mitchell Resnick, Natalie Rusk and Stina Cooke explore the computer's potential to educate disadvantaged children and youth.
Bruno Tardieu, Alan Shaw, Michelle Shaw, Sherry Turkle and Anne Beamish describe various uses of the computer for community development, emphasizing how to bring technology back to the grassroots. While these individual case studies are interesting, they do not form a coherent understanding of how IT can be used in a comprehensive community planning and development strategy.
In the concluding chapter, Bish Sanyal and Donald Schon articulate the role of public policy in overcoming the barriers identified, and propose a number of interesting recommendations on the intricate relationship between IT and Social Policy. While recognizing that a profound redefinition of work and the consequences for full-time employment needs to occur, their recommendations highlight the need for inclusion of the urban poor in policies affecting them, better and equal public education, public policies targeted to entrepreneurship in low-income communities, and the effective use of computers by grassroots planners.
This is an important book given that it is one of the first to try to articulate the issues of the digital divide from a multi-faceted planning perspective, and offers tangible policy proposals and strategies for action. While many issues are not resolved, and the strategies described have sometimes questionable value to the problems of the urban poor, still it ably articulates the complexity of the impact of the new economy on those most disadvantaged and it opens doors for others to explore how to address these problems in research and action.
|Gale Copyright:||Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.|