For it is inescapable that every culture must negotiate with technology, whether it does so intelligently or not. A bargain is struck in which technology giveth and technology taketh away. (Postman 1992, p. 5)
The quote from Postman's Technopoly captures the ambivalence and many of the contradictions that people experience with technology. It is as true today, with information and communication technologies (ICTs), as it was during the industrial revolution with the steam engine and industrial factories. Technology affects us at various levels, and for both good and ill.
As one of the key transformative factors in a globalizing world, the advances in ICTs have transformed everyday life and how people interact and interconnect with each other, communities, states, and markets. The so-called “ICT-revolution”, as noted and debated by scholars, politicians, and policy-makers, has had an inordinate effect on economies and societies, leading to what has been termed a “global shift” (Cerny 1995). This suggests two fundamental alterations to the global political economy. First, there is the movement from an industrially-based international economy to one that is information- and knowledge-based. For some, these changes signal the emergence of the “Third Industrial Revolution” which is both transnational in character and based on post-Fordist regimes of accumulation. Second, the ICT revolution is said to have profound positive and negative social, political and economic consequences that can become factors in determining development and underdevelopment. As such, ICT and its management have become a new rhetoric of development.
It is against this backdrop that the compendium of papers in this book examines how people's lives in Asia are being affected by ICTs and the new ways of communicating (i.e. via Internet, mobile phones, cameras, blogs, short messaging system, call centres) that come with it.
A CALL TO ACTION FOR ICT RESEARCH
Rich Ling (Chapter 1) opens this collection of papers with an examination of the parallels between the sociological efforts to understand the changes that had occured during the industrial period, and current endeavours to study the effects of new ICTs. Asian societies are experiencing the transition from a dearth of ICTs to universal access; hence, Ling argues that it is an opportune time for researchers to examine their impact. Whether it is technology that is shaping contemporary society, or whether it is society which dictates how technology is used is irrelevant.