BOOK AND SOFTWARE REVIEWS
Cornelius, Ian. Information policies and strategies.. London: Facet Publishing, 2010. xiv, 209 p. ISBN 978-1-85604-677-0. £44.95.
Ian Cornelius, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Information and Library Studies at Dublin Universtiy College, has produced a book that takes up the issues of information society, information and public sphere, information rights, such as freedom of speech and expression, freedom of information, privacy and data protection, censorship and intellectual property, on several levels. The issues mainly are explored in the light of governmental policies, but other actors (such as public institutions and private companies, as well as individuals) are introduced in the course of deliberations on how they influence and are influenced by information policies. Information strategies are addressed on this level as the ways to achieve policy goals. The cases and examples mainly refer to European and American contexts. The author also provides an historical context to explain and illustrate the developments of different information issues into the aspects of information policy.
The book consists of three parts and a broad introduction. In the introduction, the author defines the main concepts and mechanisms of information policy as well as its relation with other governmental policies, law, ethics etc. However, the divisions between information policy, information strategy, and information management remain quite fuzzy. On the other hand, the author convincingly explains the complexity and multiplicity of the phenomenon that is covered by the concept 'information policy'. He also introduces other actors, such as non-governmental institutions and big companies as actors that influence information policies.
The second part is devoted to 'macro-level studies of contexts' (p. xii) of globalisation, information society, public sphere and information rights (as well as interests) that shape not information policy itself, but also its understanding in modern world. The issue of information rights is explained in more detail by introducing Branscomb's list of information rights.
The second and the largest part of the book addresses 'four areas of activity' (p. 85) of information policy: freedom of expression and speech, privacy and data protection, freedom of information and intellectual property. A variety of approaches and mechanisms enacted on the international and national levels and regulating both public sphere and market are explored within these four areas of activity. The author is also keen in revealing the consequences and exploring the tensions occurring among interest groups in relation to different solutions.
I was not entirely happy with the whole content of the book, though found the reasoning style sophisticated and intellectual level very satisfactory. There were curious omissions of solutions alternative to those presented in the book, the examples carefully selected to support a position that I could recognize as ideological, or dismissing other positions without a fair presentation or examination of their claims.
At the moment when I was about to start composing a list of all 'faults' and 'sins' of the book, I have discovered my own omission. I have forgotten the author's statement made quite clearly in the introduction (p. xii): "The easy stance to take, and the default position in this book, is that of the outraged liberal. This is just a rhetorical device to help drive the discussion and to provoke the response".
I am not sure if we can apply the characteristic outraged to the author as the image emerging from this text is rather of a balanced intellectual. But it is definitely written from the liberal positions in the sense of: favouring an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets. This, of course, does not rule out governmental information policy or diminish the quality of the book under review. On the contrary, an openly stated position in exploration of information policy is very helpful and provides a sound basis for forming ones own opinions and positions in relation to the problems presented in the book.
I would recommend the book to most of the academic libraries as long as they have any programme in political, social science or humanities.