I finally completed an abstract for my talk at the forthcoming conference of the International Communication Association (ICA). It will be the 66th Annual Conference, this one to be held in Fukuoka, Japan, from 9-13 June 2016. The conference theme is ‘Communicating with Power’, so I chose to speak about my career long interest in the study of power shifts, most recently tied to my concept of the Fifth Estate. I was fascinated by the community power literature as a graduate student in political science, and began research on power shifts tied to computing and telecommunications in 1974 as a co-principal on a study of urban information systems. But over time, and across technologies, I’ve continued my focus on what Anthony Downs once argued to be the ‘real payoffs’ of information technology. My title and abstract for the ICA meeting are:
Communication Power Shifts and the Rise of the Fifth Estate
William H. Dutton
“Innovations in communication and information technology have generated controversies over their political implications. From the printing press to the Internet, debate has revolved around Utopian versus dystopian – democratic versus autocratic biases, technologically deterministic versus socially shaped power shifts, and normative forecasts versus patterns that are inductively anchored in empirical research. This talk tracks the most prominent expectations tied to communication and technology, concluding with a focus on the rise of the Internet, and the communicative power it has provided to an emerging Fifth Estate, composed of networked individuals able to use the Internet strategically to hold institutions, and other estates and of the Internet realm more accountable.”
My first major publication on power shifts is my book with Jim Danziger, Rob Kling, and Ken Kraemer, entitled Computers and Politics (Columbia University Press, 1982).
Most of my work on the Fifth Estate is listed on http://quello.msu.edu/research/the-fifth-estate/