Computerization Movements and Tales of Technological Utopianism

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                Computerization Movements and Tales of
                   Technological Utopianism          
                   Suzanne Iacono, Boston University 
                        ([email protected])
               Rob Kling, University of California, Irvine
                         ([email protected])
                     January 8, 1995 (Draft 4) 

For: Computerization and Controversy: Value Conflicts and Social
Choices. 2nd Ed: Rob Kling (Ed). Academic Press, 1995.

     Copyright, 1994. Suzanne Iacono and Rob Kling.

     Note: This article may be circulated for non-
     commercial purposes. Please contact the authors
     or compare it with the final published version
     before quoting directly.


       1993 was a watershed year for the promotion of communications
networks and computer technologies in the United States. President Clinton
and Vice President Gore linked America's destiny with the creation of the
National Information Infrastructure (NII), a vision of universal access to
seamless computer networks and unlimited amounts of information. The NII
is a new concept for transforming the lives of American people and
revitalizing the economy (White House, 1993).  It promises to "unleash an
information revolution that will change forever the way people live, work
and interact with each other." While high-speed computer networks,
including the Internet, and related information technologies have been
widely used and written about by computer specialists for many years, a
recent explosion of articles in the popular press has raised public
awareness and interest in the transforming potential of networked forms of
social life.  Ordinary citizens, as well as those with special interests
in business or education, now resonate with the government's framing of a
national agenda to network the nation.

       This national campaign to promulgate social change through the
Internet and other communications networks is also stimulated by
organizations whose members have long-standing interests in the
development of networking standards and other issues related to security,
reliability and civil liberties.  Organizations such as the Internet
Society (ISOC), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Computer
Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), and the Center for Civic
Networking (CCN) render new technologies socially meaningful to the
general public and advocate positions in national debates about computing

       Beyond such organizations, there are coalitions of organizations,
such as the Federation of American Research Networks (FARNET), an
association whose members include Internet service providers,
telecommunications companies and equipment vendors, and the Coalition for
Networked Information (CNI), a professional group which is supported by
three associations of academic institutions, EDUCOM, CAUSE, and the
Association of Research Libraries (ARL).  While the members and leaders of
these diverse groups do not agree on many issues (similar to differences
among the members and leaders of various environmental groups), they are
generally united in preferring a computerized future premised on universal
access over one that would perpetuate the gap between the information
haves and the information have-nots.

       Participation in these organizations has grown considerably in the
last several years. People who had previously expressed little interest in
computer networking often want to be on the net even if they don't know
exactly what it is or what being on it will do for them. For example, the
Vice-President has promised to connect every classroom, public library and
health clinic to the NII.  Many school administrators and teachers eagerly
seek to be connected, even though they are not sure what kinds of
materials will actually be available for improving education. But being on
the net has become an important symbol of progress and accessibility. Even
the President and Vice-President have electronic mail boxes and the White
House recently announced a home page on the World Wide Web.  While some
people may be drawn to the excitement and transformational possibilities
of computer networking, others may simply fear being left out of an
important new social capability.

       This discussion of the campaign to promote computer networking
illustrates how the spread of these technologies is not simply the
byproduct of ambitious marketing departments in high-tech companies. The
government, media, grass-roots organizations and coalitions of
organizations all communicate favorable links between computerization and
a transformed social order which help legitimate relatively high levels of
computing investment for many potential adopters. While the specific goals
of these organizations and coalitions vary, they all envision an
extensively computerized future that is deemed preferable to the less
computerized world in which we currently live.

        Our argument challenges the belief that the adoption of
communications networks and computer technologies is based solely on
fine-grained rational calculations about how a technology fits a set of
tasks and the relative costs of alternatives. The mobilization of support
for extensive computerization through loosely organized, but purposive,
collective action does not mean that computer technologies are not useful
to people and organizations. Many computer systems have arguably made
organizations more effective and efficient. But large expenditures on the
latest equipment and systems are often out of proportion for the attained
value while social costs are typically ignored. What this suggests is that
computerization has important social and cultural dimensions that are
often neglected in discussions of the rise of computer-based technologies
and networking.

        For example, the U.S. government's promise of universal access to
the NII and societal renewal through technology resonates with key
American beliefs about equal opportunity and the pursuit of life, liberty
and happiness. The government, and others, construct utopian tales about
these technologies to render them socially meaningful and to mobilize
large-scale support. If the goal of the NII is to revitalize the economy
or enhance equal opportunity, who can disagree?  Despite the fact that
goals such as economic renewal are complex problems which continually
elude us, people's hopes are renewed by the promise of new technology. In
fact, however, we know little about how computer networking will be
deployed, who will benefit and who will lose.

        The belief that computing fosters positive forms of social life
glosses over deep social and value conflicts that social change can
precipitate.  Conflicts of interest among groups such as labor,
government, and higher education, between workers and their managers, or
between students and teachers are ignored. Sacrifices that might accompany
the attainment of these goals, such as displaced workers or teachers, are
portrayed as minor unavoidable consequences. Instead, computer
technologies are linked to all socially valuable behavior and are singled
out as the panacea for all social problems. We refer to these kinds of
ideas and the literatures that embrace them as "tales of technological
utopianism." They are easily spotted by the common, often unexamined,
assertion that computing technologies are the single most important
vehicles for moving us out of the "dark ages" and into the 21st
century. Such utopian accounts are bloodless, portraying social change
without reference to the battles staged and the consequent winners and

        This paper is organized in the following way: in the next section,
we present several competing explanations for why the U.S. is rapidly
computerizing.  Then, we describe the processes by which computerization
movements persist and recruit members. Next, we illustrate these processes
by focusing on two specific computerization movements, computer-based
education and computer networking. We then discuss why the emergence of a
counter computerization movement is unlikely and make some conclusions
regarding the elite status of computerization in the U.S. today.

              Why is the United States Rapidly Computerizing?

       Computerization is the process of developing, implementing and
using computer systems for activities such as teaching, accounting,
writing, or designing circuits, for example. Local actors make social
choices about the levels of appropriate investment, access to equipment
and expertise, as well as technical choices about what kinds of hardware
and software will be available.  Many professionals, managers, educators,
and students are rapidly adopting computing systems, while puzzling about
ways to organize positive forms of social life around them. By the early
1990s, computing and telecommunications accounted for half of the capital
investments made by private firms (Dunlop & Kling, 1991).  The latest
U.S. Census Bureau numbers indicate that one-third of American workers
used a computer at work in 1989, up from one-quarter in 1984 (Kominski,
1991).  Today, the Internet comprises over 31,000 interconnected networks
with 2.5 million computers attached (Wallich, 1994). Over twenty million
people currently have access to the Internet and it is growing at a rate
of one million new users a month (Leiner, 1994). However, the most fervent
advocates of computerization have argued that the actual pace of
computerization in schools, offices, factories, and homes is still too
slow (Feigenbaum & McCorduck, 1983; Hodas, (this volume); Lidtke &
Moursand, 1993; Papert, 1980; Yourdon, 1986; also see Kaplan, 1983).

        Why is the United States rapidly computerizing?  One common answer
argues that computer-based technologies are adopted because they are
efficient economic substitutes for labor or older technologies (Simon,
1977; Rule & Attewell, 1991).  Rapid computerization is simply a byproduct
of the availability of cost-effective computing technologies.  A variant
of this answer views computerization as an efficient tool through which
monopoly capitalists control their suppliers and markets, and by which
managers tighten their control over workers and the labor process
(Braverman, 1975; Mowshowitz, 1976; Shaiken, 1985).

        A second type of answer focuses on major epochal social
transformations and argues that the United States is shifting from a
society where industrial activity dominates to one in which information
processing dominates (Bell, 1979).  Computer-based technologies are power
tools for information or knowledge workers in the same way that drill
presses were the power-tools for the machinists of the industrial age
(Strassman, 1985).

         These answers depend on two kinds of social actors: computer
vendors who devise and manufacture products for sale and consumers (often
managers or organizational decision-makers) who purchase computer systems
and services because they meet an instrumental need which can be
determined by examining task structures or specific organizational
functions. Social influences from other environmental actors, such as
colleagues, trade associations for the computing industry, professional
societies, regulatory agencies, and the numerous journalists who write
about innovations in computing are assumed to play minor roles. In
addition, the subjective meanings that people attribute to computing,
e.g., their value as cultural symbols, are considered insignificant. This
viewpoint has a strong grounding in both the traditional bureaucratic view
of organizations in American sociology, and in conventional economic

      While each of these responses offers insight into computerization
processes, we believe that they ignore some of the broadly noneconomic
dimensions of computerization in industrialized countries.  The market
assumptions of these common answers have also shaped the majority of
social studies of computerization (See Kling, 1980, 1987 for a detailed
review of the empirical studies of computerization). Over the past 15
years, our own research and participant experiences have taught us that
the adoption, acquisition, installation and operation of computer-based
systems are often much more socially charged than the adoption and
operation of other equipment, like telephone systems, photocopiers, air
conditioners, or elevators.  Participants are often highly mobilized to
adopt and adapt to particular computing arrangements through collective
activities that take place both inside and external to computerizing
organizations (Kling & Iacono, 1984; 1988).

        We argue that the rise of computer technologies and networking is
due to collective action similar to that of other social movements, such
as the environmental movement, the antitobacco movement, the movement
against drinking and driving, or the woman's movement, for example. While
each has its own particular goals, e.g., clean air, elimination of smoking
in public places, reduced traffic accidents and deaths from drunk driving,
or equality of opportunity, they all focus on correcting some situation to
which they object or changing the circumstances for a group that suffers
some sort of social disadvantage (Gamson, 1975). Similarly, advocates of
computerization focus on the creation of a new revolutionary, world order
where people and organizations use state-of-the art computing equipment
and the physical limitations of time and space are overcome.

        Not all movements are successful, however. Social movement success
has variously been defined as: social acceptance, the accrual of new
advantages, the creation of new social policies or the implementation of
new laws (Gamson, 1975).  Still other analysts argue that the most
important outcome of a social movement is a shift in public
perception. For example, the movement against drinking and driving and
affiliated organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have
shifted public perception about "killer drunks" so that state legislatures
have raised the legal age for drinking alcoholic beverages and lowered the
acceptable level of blood alcohol for drivers with little controversy or
        Similarly, organizations affiliated with computer networking, such
as CNI and CNN, as well as writers and the popular press, have attempted
to shift public perceptions about computing technologies. Until recently,
computer networking was the province of serious scientists, nerds, hackers
and hobbyists. But new magazines, such as Wired and ComputerLife, and
writers, such as Rheingold (1993), emphasize the "cool," often
counter-cultural, side of computer networking. Their articles focus on
new-found freedoms, the loosening of regulated behaviors or the emergence
of long-distance common-interest communities. Multi-user games and chat
rooms allow participants to take on identities from other epochs or from
fiction and play out their fantasies in virtual night clubs and hot tubs
(Quittner, 1994). Enthusiasts of virtual communities argue that computer
networking allows people to expand their circle of friends and affiliate
with them at a community level (Rheingold, 1993). While virtual hot
tubbing and virtual communities are less visible than a march on a state
or national capital, similar to other social movements, these activities
challenge the status quo and offer alternative visions of utopian social

       In this paper we examine how computerization movements advance
computerization in ways that go beyond the effect of advertising and
direct sales by the industries that produce and sell computer-based
technologies and services.  Our main thesis is that participants in
computerization movements, along with the media and the state, emphasize
technological progress and deflect competing beliefs, laying a foundation
for social visions that include the extensive use of advanced computer
systems. In this vision, computer users actively seek and acquire the best
computer technologies and adopt to them regardless of their associated
costs. These processes also frame adopters' expectations about what they
should use computing for and how they should envision the future. In the
next sections, we focus our attention upon the character of
computerization movements and their organizing beliefs, paying less
attention to the ways in which social movements serve as social worlds for

Computerization Movements

         Sociologists have used the concept movement to refer to many
different kinds of collective action.  The most common term found in this
literature is social movement, often used in a generic way to refer to
movements in general.  But sociologists also have written about
professional movements (Bucher & Strauss, 1961), artistic movements, and
scientific movements (Aronson, 1984; Star, in press). What analyses of
these movements share is a focus on the rise of organized, insurgent
action to displace or overcome the status quo and establish a new way of
life. Computerization movements (CMs) are no different.  Large-scale
computerization projects are typically accompanied by political struggle
and turmoil as the established structure is threatened and powerful actors
fear being displaced (Kling & Iacono, 1984; 1988). Historically, those who
advocate radically new forms of computerization find themselves in the
role of challengers of the status quo.

       Our analysis of the development and maintenance of CMs is focused
on two key processes: 1.) the ways in which movements persist over time
through Computerization Movement Organizations (CMOs); and 2.) the ways in
which computerization movements recruit participants.

Computerization Movement Organizations

        In order for any social movement to persist over time, pioneering
activists create more enduring organizational structures than those
embodied in emergent and informal groups. These organizations are entities
capable of taking social action. They can raise money, mobilize resources,
hold meetings and formulate positions (Gamson, 1975). For example, the
Moral Majority (an organization in the Christian Right) raised 2.2 million
dollars via mass mailing campaigns during its initial year. These funds
were used to appeal to other religious conservatives and to tie them into
the organization's network (Snow et al., 1986).

        Similarly, CMs persist over time with the help of Computerization
Movement Organizations. These are organizations or coalitions of
organizations like FARNET, CNI and CNN which act as advocacy groups for
the CM. They generate resources, structure membership expectations,
educate the public and ensure the presence of recognized leaders who can
lend their prestige and interorganizational connections to the movement
(McAdam, 1982; McCarthy & Zald, 1977). For example, CNI has task force
members from 170 institutions and organizations, including major
universities and corporations, all of whom contribute resources and time
to the mission of the coalition.

        Since movements are not monolithic, they may have any number of
organizations affiliated with them. For example, the civil rights movement
in the 1960s and 1970s consisted of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Black Muslims, the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Congress of Racial Equality
(CORE), and the Black Panthers, among others (McAdam, 1982). Each had its
own particular interests to push and under some circumstances worked with
the other organizations to achieve their goals. In other cases, these
organizations were in direct conflict about strategies and insurgent
tactics. Similarly, the CMOs affiliated with computerization movements
have different foci. During periods of crisis or opportunity, they may
work in concert with each other. For example, the NII has galvanized many
CMOs to form coalitions to insure a bigger voice in national policy. At
other times they may be in direct conflict with each other.

        The number of CMOs affiliated with a CM is not constant across
time and space. Some time periods are more favorable than others, due to
resource availability and historical conditions.  Beginning in 1990 with
the growth of NSFNET and the passage of the High-Performance Computing Act
of 1991, more resources became available and CMOs dedicated to
computer-based education and networking flourished. In addition, some
geographical regions, such as San Francisco Bay/Silicon Valley and
Boston/Cambridge, are hotbeds of innovation and centers of CM activity due
to the proximity of multiple universities, research centers, high-tech
startups and large numbers of computing specialists.  Relational networks
and professional associations are plentiful in these areas, fostering
social intercourse across organizations and the emergence of new CMOs.
Recruitment to Computerization Movements

         The primary resources of all social movements are members,
leaders, and some form of communication network. Shared beliefs are
communicated along these networks and lines of action are advocated. For
example, organizations may learn about and implement the latest computer
architectures because their members belong to professional associations
that recommend them. Alternatively, friends, classmates and family members
may be avid Internet users and mobilize individuals to participate.
        Since the social significance of technologies, like the Clipper
Chip, multi-user dungeons or hypermedia, are often obscure, uncertain or
uninterpretable, most people depend on the analyses of their friends,
known or self-described experts, government officials and CM entrepreneurs
to interpret, frame and attribute meaning to them (Snow et al., 1986; Snow
& Benford, 1988).  CMOs undertake much of this framing work for
constituents by amplifying current problems, interpreting events, and
emphasizing the advantages of a transformed social order, where
computerization and networking are central, over the current
arrangements. Once these frames become publicly available, people can
align their own beliefs and actions with those of movement entrepreneurs.

       A rhetorical form, which we call technological utopianism, is a key
framing device used by movement entrepreneurs to envision the renewal of
society through technology. Specific technologies, such as groupware or
personal digital assistants, are key enabling elements of utopian visions
(Dunlop & Kling, 1991; Kling, 1994). Technological utopianism does not
refer to the technologies themselves. It refers to analyses in which the
use of specific technologies plays a key role in shaping an ideal or
perfect world. For example, the Executive Summary of the NII: Agenda for
Action (White House, 1993) asks readers to imagine a world where people
can live anywhere and telecommute to work, where everyone has access to
the best teachers via virtual classrooms, and where health care is
available on-line. With little or no articulation of the underlying
technologies, the costs associated with actually implementing such a
vision, or the political struggles that will certainly ensue, the
government invites public identification with and participation in the
mobilization of support for the expansion of computer networking into
every facet of people's lives -- in their homes, workplaces, and schools.

      Thus far, we have focused on positive identification with new
technologies and the rhetoric that accompanies it. But, negative
identification with technology is also available, although somewhat less
widespread today than in the past. Technological anti-utopianism analyses
examine how certain broad families of technologies facilitate a new world
order which is relentlessly harsh, destructive and miserable. For example,
technologies embedded with artificial intelligence (AI) are common focal
points for science fiction scenarios where humans have lost control to
machines (cf., Gibson, 1984). Alternatively, the dark side of
computerization can be seen in the cyberpunk movement, i.e., the hackers,
crackers, and phone phreaks who exploit the weaknesses of
telecommunications systems. Cyberpunks wreak havoc, engaging in hacking
for profit (Edwards, 1991), espionage (Stoll, 1989) or the pure pleasure
of it (Hafner & Markoff, 1991).  Whether portrayed as science fiction or
actual exploits, anti-utopian analyses focus on the central role of
computerization in the emergence of a dystopian future.

       Technological utopianism and anti-utopianism signify distinct poles
in the framing and interpreting of large-scale computerization projects
and what they might mean to the people that will experience them. While
actual outcomes of past computerization projects have fallen somewhere
in-between the two extremes, these visions serve to either galvanize
support for or the rejection of an extensively computerized future. In the
next section, we focus on the beliefs and goals of two specific
computerization movements, computer-based education and computer
networking, and the CMOs and recruitment processes which enable them.
Specific movements are the various wings or submovements of a broader,
general movement (Blumer, 1969). Many movements, like those that advance
the Christian Right, Eastern religions, antitobacco interests or
computerization, are heterogeneous. The distinction between specific
movements and general movements helps us to characterize the relationship
between a general computerization movement and some specific or distinct
wings of the larger movement.

Specific Computerization Movements

         One theme in our discussion of computerization and the specific
movements that help produce it is the importance of seeing how local
practices and concerns, in schools, homes or communities, are linked to
external developments.  By distinguishing between a general CM and several
specific CMs, we want to draw attention to how similar conceptions about
modes of computerization found across many organizations or social
settings should be understood. The rise of computing in general can be
characterized as steady over the past thirty to forty years with recent
large growth. Similarly, the two specific computerization movements that
we investigate here, computer-based education and computer networking, are
particularly interesting because of their recent exponential growth. For
lack of space, we do not focus on other computerization movements such as
artificial intelligence, virtual reality and personal computing which we
have written about elsewhere (Kling and Iacono, 1988; in press.) In
addition, we expect that new CMs will continue to emerge as new
technologies are developed. If this were a book length document, we could,
at length, list the major CMOs in each of these movements and describe
their members and communications. We could sample their publications,
topics from their conferences, describe their meetings, and excerpt
keynote speeches and reports.  Instead, our descriptions of computer-based
education and computer networking will be suggestive rather than

Computer-Based Education

        Computer-based education refers to both specific technologies,
such as computer-assisted instruction (CAI) programs, and the social
arrangements in which they are embedded, e.g., wired universities and
virtual classrooms.  Technologies for computer-based education include a
broad array of applications such as computer-based simulations, tutorials,
and courseware. Advanced graphics capabilities, hypermedia, and
object-oriented features allow animation, charts and tables to be linked
by professors in presentations or by students in computer labs. During
classroom lectures, systems can be connected to student response keypads
allowing for instant feedback.  The key belief is that interaction and
dynamic adaptation of course materials will maintain student interest,
improve retention and enhance the learning process.

       The social arrangements for computer-based education include all
levels, from pre-school to college to life-long learning, and all forums,
from classrooms to research labs to the Library of Congress and art
museums (White House, 1993).  In the mid-1980s, several private colleges
and universities required all their incoming students to buy a specific
kind of microcomputer to use at school. Other schools invested heavily in
visions of a wired campus, increasing computer lab space and wiring the
dorms, libraries and study areas for network connections.  There was also
a major push to establish computer literacy and computer science as
required topics in the nation's elementary and secondary schools. In the
mid-1990s, virtual classrooms have become the focus, enabled by computer
conferencing, digital libraries, distance teaming, and global
networking. These new instructional vehicles are being promoted and funded
by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Telecommunications
and Information Administration (NTIA), and the NII.  The President's
Fiscal Year 1994 budget included $1.1 billion for the High Performance
Computing and Communications Initiative, including $100 million to develop
applications in areas such as education, health and digital libraries, and
$50 million for NTIA grants to demonstrate application of the NII for
non-profit institutions such as schools and libraries.

       To mobilize support and generate resources for enabling these
large-scale visions at the local level, partnerships and collaboration
among business, government, school and the community are
encouraged. Advocates of these social changes argue that students will
become active learners and information managers rather than passive
receptacles of information transferred to them from the teacher (Hodas,
this volume). At the same time, the role of educators will be expanded as
they collaborate with other educators around the world and move from a
"chalk and talk " type of education format to one where they act as
facilitators, trainers and innovators. Thus, along with the push for
increased computerization in educational settings, this CM advocates a
major shift in core beliefs about what students and teachers actually do
in the classroom and what constitutes learning.

        This CM is very far ranging and includes numerous organizations
which promote special projects, publish enthusiastic reports, and sponsor
periodic conferences. Brief descriptions of two CM organizations, CoSN and
CNI, suggest the scale of this CM. The Coalition for Networked Information
(CNI), was founded in 1990 to "promote the creation of and access to
information resources in networked environments in order to enrich
scholarship and to enhance intellectual productivity." It is a joint
project of the Association for Research Libraries, CAUSE, and
EDUCOM. CNI's members are organizations, and it currently includes over
170 colleges, universities, publishers, network service providers,
computer hardware and system companies, library networks and
organizations, and public and state libraries. CNI sponsors several
working groups. For example, one group called for descriptions to identify
"projects that use networking and networked information resources and
services in the broadest possible ways to support and enhance teaching and
learning (Coalition Working Group on Teaching and Learning, 1993)." This
public call for descriptions also noted:

          The Coalition will use the project descriptions it
          receives in response to this call:  (1) to build a
          database that can be used to share information
          and experience in this area; (2) to promote
          awareness of individuals, institutions, and
          organizations making important contributions to
          the state-of-the-art in this area; (3) to attract
          attention to and mobilize resources for this area;
          (4) to plan a program in this area for the
          EDUCOM...conference in Cincinnati...and 
          (5) to otherwise encourage individuals,
          institutions, and organizations to use networks
          and networked information resources and services
          to support and enhance teaching and learning.

        The organizers of this call are not timid in making their
interests in mobilizing support for network applications very explicit. In
order to mobilize more commitment and loyalty to their cause, they
encourage people with experience to share information about their own
projects and to network with others who are interested but less

       The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), a non-profit
membership organization, is working with FARNET to develop a model for the
information-age school, one that incorporates communications and computer
technologies in a new culture of active learning. They are promoting the
use of electronic networks as resources for kindergarten through high
school. Their long-term vision is of a transformed educational system with
empowered teachers and involved communities, and of students educated to
succeed in the workplaces of the 21st century.

         The Clinton administration supports this approach arguing that
what people earn depends on what they learn. Consequently, the NII is
dedicated to preparing children for the fast-paced workplace of the 21st
century (White House, 1993). This approach emphasizes the preparation of
students for new work which will require problem-solving skills and
creativity rather than order- taking and narrowly defined
specializations. Examples of programs that focus on the acquisition of
these types of skills include the Global Laboratory Project in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and the Texas Education Network (TENET). The Global
Laboratory Project is funded by the NSF and links students from 101
schools in 27 states and 17 foreign countries in a global environmental
monitoring study. TENET makes the Internet available to Texas school
districts. School children, especially those in remote or impoverished
school districts, are expected to benefit from the additional resources
and access to distant learning opportunities. These schools without walls
are utopian visions of education transformed. Despite their actual
usefulness to the students and teachers in Cambridge, Massachusetts and
Texas, they may do little to change education in the U.S. or alleviate
critical problems, such as illiteracy, high school dropout rates, and
inner-city school violence.

       Mobilized by the belief that more computerization is better,
coalitions of administrators, teachers, and parents are banding together
to push for extensive computerization in classroom settings and a basic
shift in the educational programs in public schools, universities and
libraries. Advocates of computer-based education promote utopian images of
information-age schools where students learn in cooperative,
discovery-oriented settings and where all teachers can be supportive,
enthusiastic mentors (Kling, 1986). In fact, however, the deployment of
technology in schools has generally not affected the day-to-day values and
practices of teachers and students due to its threat to the existing
social order (Hodas, this volume). But utopian visions resonate with
parents, teachers and school administrators who are concerned about how
education will meet the challenges of the future.

Computer Networking

       The computer networking movement encompasses a wide range of
domains, some of which overlap computer-based education. For example, the
computer-based education movement currently advocates extensive network
links across schools, libraries, art museums and research centers. The
computer networking CM pushes this vision even further, advocating the
weaving together of all institutional sectors into one giant electronic
web. This web is sometimes referred to as cyberspace, a term first used by
Gibson (1984) in his science fiction novel, Neuromancer, to describe the
electronic realm where the novel's action took place. Today, we use the
term to refer to the place where all social interactions via computer
networks take place.

       Prior to 1990, the physical manifestation of cyberspace was the
Internet and the primary users were government employees, research
scientists, and other academics in research universities and centers
throughout the United States and western Europe. The Internet started as
an ARPA demonstration project on internetworking in the early 1970s (Kahn,
1994). After splitting off from MILNET (the military network), ARPA
Internet became known as the Internet.  The National Science Foundation
(NSF) paid for new computer science sites to be added to the Internet
through CSNET (the Computer Science Network) and then commissioned the
NSFNET to link NSF-funded supercomputer centers across the United
States. The Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA) built HEPNET (high energy physics net), SPAN
(space physics analysis net), ESNET (energy sciences net), and NSI (NASA
science internet), all used primarily by research, academic and government

       In the last few years two related events have helped strengthen the
public appeal of the Internet: the expansion and growing commercialization
of the Internet and the promotion of technological support for the NII by
the Clinton administration.  These actions have already expanded the range
of Internet services to most universities and colleges, many libraries,
and some elementary and secondary schools. Government subsidy and other
resources generated by CMOs along with strong advocacy about the
transformational capacity of computerization by the media and popular
magazines help to fuel the increasing demands for computer networking.

        While most users connect to the Internet through work or school,
situations where the institution bears the financial burden, increasingly
people are willing to pay for Internet connections out of their own
pockets. Today, PCs can be found in over 26% of U.S. households and many
of them are connected to local computer bulletin boards, on-line services
or the Internet (Brody, 1992).  In 1992, New York City had two providers
of public Internet access. In 1993, there were seven. More people have
been connected to the Internet in the last two years than in the previous
twenty. It is currently estimated that approximately four million homes in
the United States are now connected to some type of on-line service and
these numbers are growing daily (Eng & Lewyn, 1994). Current scenarios of
home use portray exciting social interactions with distant people and
places, primarily in the guise of entertainment, home shopping and group
game playing. The NII: Agenda for Action (White House, 1993) states, "You
could see the hottest video games, or bank and shop from the comfort of
your home whenever you chose."  Although the Clinton administration
consistently advocates universal access and affordable prices for users,
today only the rich can afford the equipment and network connections
required to be online.

       A less entertaining but nonetheless utopian vision of computer
networking focuses on uses that empower and preserve the public
interest. Several networking CMOs, like the Society for Electronic Access
(SEA), and the Center for Civic Networking (CNN) have focused attention on
grass roots networks and the recreation of civic life. The first civic
network was the Community Memory in Berkeley, California, started in the
mid-1970s to strengthen and revitalize the Berkeley community (Schuler,
1994). Today, over 100 civic networks are planned or are currently in
operation in the United States. They include the Cleveland Free-Net
(Ohio), Big Sky Telegraph (Montana), Electronic Cafe International (Santa
Monica, CA), and the Cambridge (MA) Civic Forum, all based in and run by
local communities in partnership with networking CMOs. Global civil
networks have also emerged. Examples include PeaceNet, EcoNet, GreenNet
and ConflictNet, all of which are dedicated to peace, human rights, and
environmental preservation.  In 1990, these networks with the support of
the MacArthur, Ford, and General Service foundations and the United
Nations Development Program established the Association for Progressive
Communications (APC) with partners in ten countries and affiliated systems
in many other countries (Frederick, 1993).

       The goal of participants in these civic networks is to make
information flows more democratic, break down power hierarchies, and
circumvent information monopolies. At the local level, city- and
region-wide citizen dialogue is considered critical to the development of
innovative solutions for the improvement of government services,
industrial competitiveness and a revitalized democracy.  At the global
level, network enthusiasts argue that the present flow of world news is
too regulated. Five news agencies around the world control about 96
percent of the world's news flows (Mowlana, 1986).  By providing low cost
appropriate solutions, APC networks can democratize cyberspace and provide
an effective counter-balance to trends in corporate control of the world's
information flows.

       Computer networks are central to utopian accounts of the next wave
of human culture where much of life is spent on-line. Participants are
referred to as settlers or homesteaders (Rheingold, 1993). Specialists are
portrayed as cowboys with keyboards rather than six-guns. Exciting images
of life at the frontier propel many into participation. Networking
activists imply that there are no limits to what can be done in cyberspace
by downplaying the actual costs of new technologies and the continuing
benefits of physical forms of social interaction. Other media for
learning, socializing, working, or revitalizing the community are treated
as less important. Real life is life on-line. The physical world is
relegated to IRL (in real life) or life off-line (Rheingold, 1993).

     The beliefs and strategies advocated by the two CMs have changed over
the past several decades. But both have moved in the direction of
increasing computerization and networked forms of social arrangements.
Helping to fuel this momentum are utopian visions that downplay the actual
social choices that can constrain or inhibit institutions from making such
large-scale changes and the political challenges that will certainly
accompany them. These CMs require enormous resources and their orientation
is sufficiently elitist that one might expect some systematic progressive
alternative to it. In the next section, we focus on some organizations
that have emerged to serve the public interest and which participate in
the forming of national policy about computerization. We also discuss the
challenges associated with the development of a general movement to
counter computerization.

Counter-Computerization Movements

          We have argued that CMs generally advance the interests of elite
groups in society because of the relatively high costs of developing,
using, and maintaining computer-based technologies.  This pattern leads us
to ask whether CMs could advance the interests of poorer groups or whether
there are counter-movements which oppose the general CM. Many CM activists
bridle at these questions. They do not necessarily value helping the rich
or perceive themselves as part of the elite. In our fieldwork we have
found that CM advocates more frequently see themselves as fighting
existing institutional arrangements and working with inadequate resources.
While many CM participants may have non-elite opinions and beliefs, they
must develop coalitions with elite groups in order to gain the necessary
financial and social resources to computerize with their preferred
arrangements. Given this elite status, one might expect a
counter-computerization movement (CCM) to have emerged.

           There is no well-organized opposition or substantial
alternative, however. Such a movement would have to rest on
technologically anti-utopian visions of computerization in social
life. Societies or groups which have adopted anti-utopian visions, such as
the Amish in the U.S. or the Luddites during the Industrial Revolution,
are typically marginalized and not considered as viable models of future
social life. However, some writers are clearly hostile to whole modalities
of computerization (Berry, 1991; Braverman, 1975: Mowshowitz, 1976;
Reinecke, 1984; Weizenbaum, 1976). These writers differ substantially in
their bases of criticism, from the Frankfurt School of critical theory
(Weizenbaum) to Marxism (Mowshowitz, Braverman) to conservationism
(Wendell Berry).

        Today, the major alternatives to CMs come from relatively new and
specialized advocacy groups such as Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility (CPSR) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).  CPSR
emerged out of a Xerox/PARC antiwar distribution list in 1981 with an
original mission to oppose certain kinds of computer-based weapons
technologies such as the Strategic Defense Initiative. Today, it is a
national organization of computer professionals with 22 chapters and a
much broader focus on public issues and computerization, e.g., workplace
democracy, civil liberties issues in networking, and broad public access
to national computer networks. CPSR has become an active participant in
national policy negotiations about information technology policy and
currently sponsors action-oriented research to shape social change and
social responsibility (cf., CPSR, 1994).

          The EFF is a small organization started in 1990 by Mitch Kapor
and John Perry Barlow. They argued that long-time advocacy groups such as
the ACLU were not taking seriously the violation of electronic publishers'
and crackers' civil rights. The Secret Service paid scant attention to due
process in their late night raids and confiscation of computer
equipment. The EFF supported the accused and continues to support similar
litigation, fund educational projects, protect the public interest and
insure that the Bill of Rights is extended to include computer and network

        Long-term advocacy groups such as the ACLU and other social
movements, such as the anti-war movement, have tended to focus more
narrowly on the specific areas where technology intersects their central
concerns. For example, the ACLU has developed long-term projects in the
area of technology and privacy while peace activists have criticized new
technologies that they view as making war more likely. Union spokesmen are
especially concerned about how computerization affects the number and
quality of jobs (Shaiken, 1985). However, they are all relatively mute
about many other kinds of computing applications. As a consequence, each
of these reform movements is relatively weak and specialized, leaving many
arenas of computerization still unexamined and unprotected.
        During periods of crisis or opportunity, members of these groups
may cooperate. For example, the EFF, CPSR and the ACLU, among others, are
responsible for shifting public opinion against a hardware encryption
device, the Clipper Chip -- now called Skipjack due to a trademark
conflict -- that they believe is potentially harmful. They have emphasized
its role in the government's ability to conduct surveillance on the
telecommunications activities of American citizens. Computing activists
such as John Perry Barlow and Mitch Kapor have framed the technical,
political and policy issues involved so that its use is seen as
potentially dangerous to privacy rights and other civil liberties. People
who before knew little about encryption, are encouraged to think
negatively about it and to join the EFF or CPSR to reassert "control over
their own government (Barlow, 1993:26)."

        Some groups have argued that the EFF effort in regards to the NII
is too narrow and they have organized to reach a wider base of public
support. The Telecommunications Policy Roundtable, for example, is a
coalition of organizations, including the Center for Media Education
(CME), American Library Association (ALA), CPSR, ARL, and CCN. They are
interested in assuring that upscale elite groups associated with the
Internet are not the only groups involved in its development. Their goal
is to give consumers and low-income persons more voice and power in the
policy making process, to build ties among the various groups and to
motivate them to broaden their scope and work together.

       In part, the NII has stimulated these groups to form coalitions to
insure more say in the development of national policy and the deployment
of resources.  They view appropriate computerization as something other
than the most technologically sophisticated computer use at any
price. Some of these groups are trying to envision computer use which is
shaped by other values--such as the improvement of human life and the
preservation of civil rights. While these groups challenge the most avid
computerization enthusiasts, their missions can not be characterized as
counter computerization. The general drift in most sectors of American
society today is towards increased and intensive computerization with CMs
playing the major enabling roles.


        We have argued that the computerization of many facets of life in
the United States has been stimulated by a set of loosely linked
computerization movements guided by mobilizing belief systems offered by
activists who are not directly employed in the computer and related
industries (Kling, 1983). We have characterized computerization movements
by their organizations and the ways in which they recruit new members. In
particular, a rhetorical form, which we call technological utopianism, is
a key framing device for portraying societal renewal through technology
and allowing people, many of whom know little about computing, to identify
with the goals of the movement. Our analysis differs from most analyses of
computerization by considering movements which cut across society as
important sources of interpretations and beliefs about what computing is
good for and what social actions people should take to secure the future
they envision.

        A primary resource for all movements are members, leaders and
communications networks. Academics like Daniel Bell, popular writers like
Howard Rheingold, and the White House stimulate enthusiasm for the general
computerization movement and provide organizing rationales (e.g.,
transition to a new information society, participation in virtual
communities, and societal renewal) for unbounded computerization.  Much of
the enthusiasm to computerize is a byproduct of this writing and other
visions of technological utopianism. Not every computerization movement
thrives and the members are selectively influential. We believe that when
one studies the sites where new computing applications are being adopted,
it is common to find the influences of computerization movements. Members
of the adopting organizations or people who consult to them are likely to
belong (or have belonged) to a number of organizations which promote that
form of computerization.

        Computerization movements play a role in trying to persuade their
audiences to accept an ideology that favors everybody adopting
state-of-the-art computer equipment in specific social sectors.  There are
many ways to computerize, and each emphasizes different social values
(Kling, 1983).  While computerization is rife with value conflicts,
activists rarely explain the value and resource commitments which
accompany their dreams.  And they encourage people and organizations to
invest in the latest computer-based equipment rather than paying equal or
greater attention to the ways that social life can and should be organized
around whatever means are currently available. With the recent and notable
exceptions discussed in the previous section, activists provide few useful
guiding ideas about ways to computerize humanely.

        There is unlikely to be a general counter computerization
movement, although some organizations, like CPSR and EFF, have emerged
with some interest in the humanistic elements central to the mobilization
of computing in the United States. But more frequently, humanistic beliefs
are laid onto computerization schemes by advocates of other social
movements: the labor movement (Shaiken, 1985), the peace movement, or the
civil liberties movement (Burnham, 1983).  Advocates of the other
movements primarily care about the way some schemes for computerization
intersect their special social interest. They advocate limited
alternatives but no comprehensive, humanistic alternative to the general
computerization movement. In its most likely form, the rise of computer
technologies and networks, while promising technological utopias for all,
will lead to conservative social arrangements, reinforcing the patterns of
an elite dominated, stratified society.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leigh Star for her continuing enthusiasm about
this project.  Jonathan Grudin has been a stimulating discussant about
social movements and new forms of computerization. Vincent Janowicz, Paul
Hower and WooYoung Chung made helpful comments which made this chapter
more readable and provocative.


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