Civilizing the Internet: Global Concerns and Efforts toward Regulation

Dr Alistair S. Duff (Lecturer in the Information Society, Dept of Print Media, Publishing and Communication, Napier University, Edinburgh)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 February 2000




Duff, A.S. (2000), "Civilizing the Internet: Global Concerns and Efforts toward Regulation", Library Review, Vol. 49 No. 1, pp. 40-48.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Civilizing the Internet opens logically enough with a chapter on the history and structure of the Internet. Though helpful as an introduction to the technology, it is rather poorly‐written, as sentences like “The Internet has a lot of goodies to offer” (p. 14) may indicate. Chapter 2 covers the social effects of the Internet, or rather it touches on this subject: the content is incomplete, almost to the point of arbitrariness, neglecting, for example, the problem of informational inequality. Many of Kizza’s statements are also too stark, such as one to the effect that the Internet is the first fully participatory communication technology (p. 25): a claim which seems to forget venerable point‐to‐point systems such as telephony. There are other major stylistic problems. On electronic commerce, for example, the author briefly lists six reasons why e‐commerce has speeded up the process of globalisation (pp. 28‐9). This might be perfectly acceptable on a lecture overhead but does not work at all well as part of a written text; and the ensuing breakdown of current e‐commerce payment schemes suddenly injects an excessive and pointless level of detail.

Kizza claims in his preface that he spent most of his time on Chapters 3‐5, but there is little evidence of this. Chapter 3 enumerates digital crimes and briefly introduces the debates over privacy, censorship, and information overload. It could have been written in a day or two. Chapter 4 discusses regulation and control of the Internet. There is more detail here, but it is arguably of the wrong kind, with too much of the 20‐page chapter sacrificed to the minutiae of different Internet rating systems. One must ask if a short textbook (if that is what Civilizing the Internet aspires to be) is the correct place for information to the effect that cyber‐NOT defines as “Satanic or Cult” any material which contains sublime (sic: subliminal is meant) messages that may lead to Devil worship or an affinity for evil (p. 88)? Chapter 5 is no less formulaic, documenting national and regional efforts in the regulatory sphere. The author has collated some useful material here, but it is the kind which becomes obsolete overnight; perhaps the Internet itself would be a much better source for those interested in keeping track of regulatory developments. The book closes with a lacklustre “look into the future”; it does not contain any substantive contributions to futurology.

Regrettably, I cannot recommend this book for purchase. In fact, I suspect it is not really a book at all, since it sems much more akin to a set of undergraduate lecture notes and overhead transparencies. Whether the “bullet points” worked in the class‐room I cannot say, but in the present form they come across as perfunctory, simplistic, and just plain dull. Their author is described as a professor of computer science and electrical engineering, and while it is good to see an engineer taking an interest in information society studies, this disciplinary provenance perhaps helps to explain the book’s deficiencies as social commentary. Kizza should negotiate some thoughtful work penned by information scientists and sociologists – people like Lyon, Webster, Haywood, Roszak, Miles, Kling – before venturing into print on this subject again.

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