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Title: Wild but wired? : the co-construction of society and technology in rural Strathclyde
Author: Oakes, Simon C. C.
Awarding Body: Middlesex University
Current Institution: Middlesex University
Date of Award: 2000
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This study critically examines the co-construction of society and technology in rural Strathclyde during the late 1990s. A range of uses of information and communications technology (ICT) - spanning employment, community development and education – is accounted for, in a variety of highly localised settings on the islands of Arran, Islay and Jura and the Kintyre peninsula. Explanation is offered as to why certain outcomes have been arrived at. The reflexive relationship between technology and society is then highlighted, as it is shown that the challenge of introducing ICT to the region has affected change in local governance structures, catalysing new partnerships while challenging existing power relations. Building upon recent work in rural studies relating to the post-productivist countryside, theories derived from the sociology of science (specifically Social Construction of Technology and Actor Network Theory approaches) are employed in an attempt to heighten understanding of local sensitivity to 'globalising' technologies. A qualitative methodology is employed, consisting of depth interviews conducted with leading local actors throughout 1997 and 1998. The narratives give insight into these actors' beliefs and motivation as they have attempted to guide the innovation, diffusion and application of ICT in the region. Critical insight is sought as to how their frequently conflicting understanding of rural needs acts as a constraint upon the contingency of technical development locally, prompting certain courses of action to be favoured above others. The study draws more generally upon the experiences of rural Strathclyde to build a model of local sensitivity to technical change in the countryside. It is argued that the power to act rests in many hands and that those local actors who possess the necessary skills and resources to act as 'conduits' - linking local and 'global' circuits of production and consumption - do not always behave in ways that optimise local outcomes. Only under certain conditions can the effective deployment of ICT enable 'powerful' localities to act competitively 'at a distance' in seeking new trade and investment. It is argued that failure to appreciate the diversity of possible local responses to the provision of ICT has sometimes left policy-makers with exaggerated expectations for technically driven rural restructuring.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available