I was delighted to contribute a chapter to the forthcoming book, edited by Bill Dutton and Mark Graham from the Oxford Internet Institute, Society and the Internet: How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing Our Lives. It’s now available for pre-order!

Tackling the most important real-world social implications of the information age, this book deals with the network’s impact on government, policy, digital divides, digital shadows, power and law, not to mention big data, privacy and self-empowerment. From the blurb:

How is society being shaped by the diffusion and increasing centrality of the Internet in everyday life and work? By bringing together leading research that addresses some of the most significant cultural, economic, and political roles of the Internet, this volume introduces students to a core set of readings that address this question in specific social and institutional contexts.

The book begins with an introduction by the editors, which provides a brief history of the Internet and Web and its study from multi-disciplinary perspectives. The chapters are grouped into six focused sections: The Internet and Everyday Life; Information and Culture on the Line; Networked Politics and Government; Networked Businesses, Industries, and Economies; and Technological and Regulatory Histories and Futures.

Although the site says the book’s for “Academics, researchers, and students across the social sciences,” I think it’s actually a great analysis of the issues for everyone with an interest in understanding our changing world.

Here’s a bit of sample text from my chapter, Inventing the Internet: Scapegoat, Sin Eater, and Trickster:

Technology is often greeted with equal degrees of excitement and fear when it’s first introduced. In the web wars of the first two decades of the 21st century, the utopians champion the digital world as a panacea, arguing the case for enthusiastic adoption as a widespread social change for good. The web dystopians, on the other hand, warn of the great upset the technology will bring, and in particular how they expect it to undermine the trust bonds that hold family, community, and society together.

The fierce debates that center on arguments at the polar ends of the spectrum are usually divorced from historical experience, focusing only on the now and ignoring concerns that accompanied earlier innovations. In the 1830s, for example, the telegraph, which like the Internet sped up communication between people, countries, and corporations, was at that time expected to “[revolutionize] business practice, [give] rise to new forms of crime, and [inundate] its users with a deluge of information,” as Tom Standage wrote in 1998 in his history of the telegraph, The Victorian Internet. “Attitudes to everything from newsgathering to diplomacy had to be completely rethought” (Standage 1998: 8). And the popular press at the time of the inventions of the telephone and the electric light was similarly preoccupied with moral panics about how they would transform class, family, and gender relationships (Marvin 1988). Few public conversations consider that very little—or indeed nothing—might happen to individuals or society because of the innovation. As Marvin and Standage both argue in their treatments of new technologies, not much change is more often reality.

What these popular social historians also propounded was that the fear surrounding the technology masked the fears surrounding the changes in the interpersonal and societal structures that were already in progress. The technology became the scapegoat, a sin eater, a trickster. The same can be argued for the newest media: the Internet.

It’s out in May, but you can pre-order it now.