Decision Making And Information Politics

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Decision Making and Information Politics

Decision Making and Information Politics

Information Politics on the Web, by Richard Rogers, is both an ''expose of the politics of information devices'' and a call for new practices of source inclusion and information adjudication that will help increase the inclusivity, fairness and scope of representation in electronically mediated politics. Rogers argues that a combination of exclusivity and closed logics in key information portals, such as Google, privilege entrenched political actors and official sources, reinforcing traditional hierarchies at the expense of alternative accounts of political reality. For example, a search for ''terrorism'' in Google yields ''the White House, the CIA, the FBI, the Heritage Foundation, a smattering of strategic studies groups at Universities, CNN, and Al Jazeera'' within the top twenty listings (Rogers, 2004).

These results provide an indication that the Web is becoming increasingly dominated by what Manual Castells refers to as ''informational politics,'' where governments and political parties act not through traditional government-citizen exchanges but through mediated forums such as newspapers, broadcasting media and the Internet. Although cyberspace may be seen as opening opportunities for political representation, this outcome is by no means guaranteed.

To counter these anti-democratic trends, Rogers introduces instruments designed specifically to flatten the hierarchies of political voice and move the processes of information adjudication back into the public sphere- from the back-end politics of paid search engine placement, for example, to the front end politics of transparent (but not necessarily inclusive) information tools (Trompenaars, 2003).

By creating instruments that can illuminate the Web's ''embedded information'' (that information generated online and not simply repurposed from offline sources) and the ''adjudicative cultural processes'' that drive its evolution, Rogers hopes to open a new space for informational politics, a space where formally disenfranchised actors may have a voice ''side by side'' with more mainstream political actors. The book will likely be of interest to a wide range of readers: social scientists looking for new approaches to Internet research, activists frustrated with the obstacles of traditional information politics, politicians and policy makers interested in the democratic potential of new media, and even artists striving to provide new windows into the dynamics of reality construction in new electronic social spaces (Burnes, 2003).

Rogers details four instruments in the book: the lay decision support system, the Web issue index, the issue barometer and the election issue tracker. Each tool will likely appeal to different sectors of the reading audience.

The ''lay decision support system'' playfully and artistically exposes the collision of official and unofficial accounts of Viagra as they appear in Web space. This ''viagra tool'' leverages the relative flatness of the open Web to highlight the many (occasionally illicit) uses of this Pfizer drug that one is unlikely to see in a promotional brochure or even the evening news. Rogers argues that the emergence of Viagra culture is more effectively mirrored by, and thus observable in, the information dynamic of Web media (Church, 2002).

While the overall point that the Web harbors important points of view and clusters of information ...
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