Hornby, Susan and Clarke, ZoŽ (Editors), Challenge and change in the information society, London; Facet, 2002. 256pp. ISBN 1 85604 453 X. £39.95
This hardback book comprises 12 contributed chapters, falling under four main themes - the information society: fact or fiction; the information society and daily life; the information society and policy; and the information society and the information professional. The authors include well-known luminaries such as John Feather, Alistair Black, Chris Batt, Ian Rowlands, Maggie Haines, Graham Cornish, Eric Davies and Peter Brophy. These authors address subjects dear to their hearts. The most impressive of the essays is John Feather's with thoughtful insights into theories of the information society. Black's accessible history and philosophy, and Muddiman's provocative alternative view are also excellent. Batt's thoughtful chapter takes a directly contrasting approach to Muddiman, and it is a pity that the two authors were not made to debate their differences in their chapters. Town provides a clear introduction to the area of information literacy.
Unfortunately, the chapters in the second half of the book are generally not as strong as those in the first. The chapters on imaginative communities and KM in government, for example, are each too focussed on one particular case study, whilst Rowlands' excellent chapter on information policy is let down by a too short bibliography. Cornish's chapter touches on many key points, and nicely combines his interests in both copyright and IFLA, but does not explore some issues, such as the link between protection of technical measures by law and licences, sufficiently. Davies provides an excellent introduction to data protection law, but its relationship to the information society could have been developed further. Warwick provides a gentle introduction to electronic publishing, debunking some myths on the way, but again the link to the information society is not made explicit. Similarly, Brophy's interesting introduction to the role of the professional does not explore the importance of professionalism in the information society, and does not discuss aspects of a profession such as self-regulation.
The book has a few minor typos, such as mis-spelling Lotka and mixing "envious" for "enviable", and has a few minor mistakes, such as the claim that e-books are always networked, or that in UK law, copyright protection is weak; the book also has a rather too modest an index. The major weakness, however, is that the book is (with the exception of Brophy's chapter) totally UK biased. I also felt that in some cases, authors missed the chance to be passionate about their topics. There is a general feeling of caution about a lot of the chapters.
Overall, the book can be recommended to those who teach, or are learning about the information society in the UK. I do not, however, think there is sufficient of interest to appeal to practitioners, or to those outside the UK.
Professor Charles Oppenheim
This review is also published in the print journal, Education for Information, and appears here by permission of the editors.
How to cite this review
Oppenheim, C. (2003) Review of: Hornby, Susan and Clarke, ZoŽ (Editors), Challenge and change in the information society, London; Facet, 2002. Information Research, 8(3), review no. R087 [Available at: http://informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs087.html]