Silverstone, Roger (ed.) Media. Technology and everyday life in Europe: from information to communication. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005. xvii, 233 p. ISBN 0-7546-4360-3. £49.95
Technology and everyday life in Europe is composed of the chapters derived from the original reports by the participants of the Research Training Network EMTEL (European Media Technology and Everyday Life Network) funded by the EU 5th Framework Programme. All seventeen contributors come from seven European countries and a variety of higher education institutions. According to the Preface the collaboration was going on not only between the countries and institutions, but also between generations as it was a training network for young researchers in seven laboratories (p. xv).
The book definitely belongs to the 'second generation [research] of the Internet use'. This term is used in the chapter 7 by Katie Ward and seemingly has a double meaning. First one refers to the use of the Internet itself as the author states:
[Second generation Internet use is personalized and supplements the enactment of existing habits and routines]… second generation Internet use as having the following characteristics: i) Structured and targeted… ii) Embedded within offline communication patterns, routines and needs. iii) Integrated into existing consumption habits and practices surrounding 'older' media. (p. 107)
The second meaning (from my point of view this one is the only one that can be justified) refers to the approaches of Internet use research: the 'first generation' researchers investigated the 'online reality' as separate from the 'real life' and self-sufficient; the 'second generation' research approaches the ICT use as a socially constructed, embedded into the overall fabric of all levels and elements of social life, concentrate on the interaction of online and offline spheres.
The chapters are grouped in three parts: Inclusion and exclusion; Consumption and the quality of life; Methodology and policy. Each part starts with a chapter introducing academic discussion and the approaches adopted by the Network.
Six chapters are looking as a certain Internet users groups and the ways that these groups appropriate ICT technologies in certain everyday life situations (diasporic groups, transnational social movements, less-abled people, small-town dwellers, migrant researchers and young people). All of them are based on sound qualitative empirical studies and provide interesting data and fascinating conclusions.
One of the chapters (by Yves Punie) explores the challenges raised by the development of the ambient intelligence (where technology stays in the background and intelligent interfaces allow people to interact with them) by using critical everyday life perspectives.
The final part, apart from generalizing the methodological issues of the studies conducted by the Network in two chapters outlines the political implications and recommendations based on the research outcomes.
This book is definitely a good resource for any research institution as a guide to intelligent research designs and the source of new research questions. I found it also interesting as it proves that disciplines of information and communication sciences definitely belong to the same research area. The authors try to imply that moving from information to communication means moving from hard technology-centered to human-centered approaches. They, however, forget that communication also has hard technology connotations as in 'telecommunication' and 'mathematical communication theory'. On the other hand, research on information behaviour has been using a variety of the approaches mentioned in the book since the 1980s. It is also symptomatic, how isolated from each other these related fields are. The participants of the conference on Information Seeking in Context are invisible for the contributors of the reviewed book.
In addition to the research purposes, the book can also be useful for the developers of information and communication policies in the EU, European and other countries, though it would be advisable to test and find additional proofs of the conclusions of the studies.
Prof. Elena Maceviciute