Contemporary Internet

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  • Book: Leslie Haddon (Ed.), The Contemporary Internet, Berlin: Peter Lang Publication, 2011, 210 pp


By Raul Pertierra, in: International Journal of Communication 5 (2011), Book Review 1687–1690

"The Contemporary Internet is one in a series of volumes on the effects and consequences of the new communication technology. Over the last few years, COST (European Cooperation in Society & Technology) has been sponsoring international conferences to examine the uses of the new media, in particular the Internet and broadband. While these conferences generally deal with European examples, they also include research beyond Europe. The theme of this volume, the third of the series, is culture.

While the concept of culture is increasingly being challenged by anthropologists and sociologists for its vagueness and broadness, no other term can capture the need to refer to notions of value and meaning encountered in everyday life, from representations and identities to practices and material goods. It seems that contemporary life is characterized by an excess of meaning even if most of us can make little sense of it. The global condition and the new communication technology exacerbate this paradoxical situation, where culture is a free-floating signifier rather than located in concrete and meaningful experiences. This volume examines how the new communication technology is embedded, entwined, and intercalated within cultural factors in various European countries.

Editor Leslie Haddon does an excellent job of contextualizing the diverse articles by pointing out how, in significant ways, these are all related to cultural norms. For example, there seems to be less concern in the mainstream media about the dangers of child pornography in Nordic countries. There may be several reasons for this relative lack of concern, but it may also be related to a more tolerant Nordic attitude toward sexuality. Certain national cultures such as the Netherlands, with its emphasis on individual expression, may encourage more creative and generative uses of broadband services than might a society like Spain, with its greater emphasis on collective interactions and media-consumerist practices. These differences in the uses of the new media indicate that cultural factors affect how the new communication technology is described in the mainstream media, adopted by particular users, and developed by appropriate agencies." (