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Taking apart the roads ahead: user power versus the futurology of IT

Gooday, G. (1998) Taking apart the roads ahead: user power versus the futurology of IT. Convergence, 4 (3). pp. 8-16. ISSN 1748-7382

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How often have futurologists ever succeeded in making accurate global predictions? Bell’s utopian vision of a leisure-laden ‘Post-Industrial’ society now seems hopelessly naive; Fukuyama’s ‘End of history’ thesis was arguably just a fleeting Reaganite delusion about the stabilization of post Cold War politics. Notwithstanding the failure of such widely hailed prophesies, and despite the lack of any well-attested laws about the historical development of information technologies, a brazenly upbeat futurology pervades many debates on new IT. This is most obviously the case in Bill Gates’ recently updated The Road Ahead. To challenge Gates’ prognostications about the future of information technologies, I will argue for the importance of users (vis-à-vis producers) in the social shaping and ‘consumption’ of IT, especially the power of many (if not necessarily all) such users to resist falling into futures that others prescribe for them. I contend that the non-passivity of IT users undermines the cogency of any claims about the inevitability of technological change, and helps to explain why so many past ‘futures’ of IT have never fully materialized.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: Copyright © 1998 by SAGE Publications.This is an author produced version of a paper published in Convergence. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds) > Division of the History and Philosophy of Science (Leeds)
Depositing User: Leeds Philosophy Department
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2007 12:46
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 16:55
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/135485659800400302
Status: Published
Publisher: Sage Publications
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1177/135485659800400302
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3226

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