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Bits of power: struggling for control of information and communication networks

Mansell, Robin ORCID: 0000-0003-3950-3468 (2017) Bits of power: struggling for control of information and communication networks. Political Economy of Communication, 5 (1). 2 - 29. ISSN 2357-1705

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Contests for the control of information and communication networks and, specifically, control of digital bits of power (the capacity to control information processing) in the current period often take the form of struggles over network neutrality. This paper examines how, historically, such struggles have been accompanied by changes in the configuration of ideas or social imaginaries that have legitimized the actions of companies, the state and civil society in relation to the development of networks. The aim is to assess the likelihood that institutional arrangements will be put in place that might privilege citizen interests in preserving an open internet and strengthen the capacity of citizens to resist power asymmetries that threaten their fundamental rights to privacy, access to information, and freedom of expression in the digital environment. Concepts derived from historical institutionalism and the economic history of technical change provide a framework for examining continuity and change starting from the introduction of digital technologies. The analysis shows why a narrow policy focus on network neutrality can obscure the way citizen interests in the digitally mediated environment are subordinated to corporate and state interests, making it difficult to assess whether the current period is path dependent and locked in to a single direction for development or whether there is the potential for alternative pathways - a ‘forking of the road’ - which could be more favourable to citizens.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 The Author
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2017 13:40
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 02:32

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