A Complex View of Technological Change in the UK

A Complex View of Technological Change in the UK

Anoush Simon (University of Wales Aberystwyth, UK)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch019
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Abstract

This article seeks to discuss women’s ambivalent but potentially positive attitude to and relationship with new technologies, as exemplified by Internet and mobile technologies, using as an illustration the results of a UK-based qualitative study into women’s perceptions of technological change. The research sought to investigate how individuals understand recent technological developments, analysing the data in the light of theoretical discussions of new technologies and the information society, as well as feminist analyses of gender and technology. The spread of information and communication technologies has been rapid and significant. For instance, the number of UK households that are connected to the Internet has increased steeply from 9% in 1998 to 52% in 2004, while also in 2004, 37% of UK adults had not yet used the Internet. Meanwhile, individual ownership of cellular phones has increased swiftly to over 70% (Office for National Statistics, 2004). This implies a considerable range of experience and inexperience of new technologies amongst the general public currently. Government policy has also impacted the diffusion of ICT in the United Kingdom, as elsewhere. In particular, the development of the People’s Network of Internet access points in public libraries throughout the United Kingdom has been a prominent strand in the government’s information policy (Library and Information Commission [LIC], 1997), aiming to make new technologies widely available to the citizenry and requiring people working in this field to become Internet literate, with implications for library staff at all levels of employment. Indications are that the People’s Network may be altering the library-user demographic, and that many people are experiencing the Internet for the first time via the public library (“Beardy-Weirdies’ Rule,” 2003). These developments led to an interest in perceptions of technological change, particularly among those working in the library sector, as a site of government information policy. The focus of the research was women working in this field, but it was complemented by a further sample of women with little or no experience of new technologies. The intention behind this was to provide a rich variety of data whilst maintaining a focus on individuals who are less often the subject of research on new technologies. The study took an interpretive perspective, utilising in-depth, semistructured interviews with 50 women as described above during the period of 2001 to 2002, and using grounded theory to analyse the resulting data. This approach favours the development of concepts that are rooted in the data, useful for an exploratory project, which can be subsequently compared to and placed in the context of existing literature and theory. An overview of the central theoretical contexts of the project is presented below followed by a discussion of the results and their wider relevance.

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