Information Technology in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland
This thesis consists of an examination of the ways in which information technology is used by people living in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, focussing on the range of uses in two locations within the region, the island of Islay, and the village of Ullapool in the northwest Highlands. The methods used to gather information were primarily ethnographic, based on extended stays in these two locations, backed up by interviews with individuals elsewhere whose professional experiences bring them into contact with information technology users throughout the region. These methods were chosen with the aim of exploring the ways in which information technology figures within the context of existing business activities, and the interviews conducted with businesses and individuals on Islay and in Ullapool provide in-depth accounts of the ways in which people have developed their ideas, skills and practices related to information technology. Their views are set alongside those expressed in published work on the contribution of information technology to rural development, an exercise which highlights a number of radical contrasts between the ways in which academic researchers and policy-makers have thought about information technology, and the manner in which people using information technology in the Highlands and Islands have approached the subject. In particular, rural development policy at various levels of government has given a high priority to publicising the supposed benefits of information technology for rural businesses, a strategy which has resulted in the publication of a considerable amount of information aimed at those living in rural areas. Those living on Islay and in Ullapool, on the other hand, generally cited 'word of mouth' as their principal source of ideas about information technology, and took a critical stance to the way information technology was presented in government publications and the media, often terming it 'hype'.