Departmental Papers (ASC)

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Journal Article

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Publication Source

Telematics and Informatics





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Recent advances in communications technology are revolutionizing the speed with which information of all kinds reaches the home and workplace. These advances, which include developments in the computer industry, interactive communication systems, laser and fiber optic based communication, and geostationary space platforms, are also affecting the extent and content of the information which is now accessible, with trends suggesting even greater impacts in the near future. Given the premise in a democratic society that the availability of information is critical to a responsible citizenry, such trends would seem to spell good times ahead for mass politics. A closer inspection of recent trends suggests reasons for concern, however. Patterns of the control of and sources of information; the content, quality and extent of information, and access to and use of information which is becoming available through the new technology show evidence of little change from the previous state of affairs. In addition, what change does exist demonstrates as much potential for adding to social, economic, and political inequities which already exist as for helping to reduce these inequities, leading to a society of the information rich and the information poor. The solution as to whether technological change in communications is a positive or negative addition to democratic politics depends ultimately on our willingness to learn from past mistakes and see this technology as a resource which needs to be carefully integrated into the larger social, economic, and political environment.

Copyright/Permission Statement

NOTICE: This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Telematics and Informatics. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms, may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Telematics and Informatics, VOLUME 1, ISSUE 3, 1984, DOI: 10.1016/S0736-5853(84)80033-7.


At the time of publication, Michael X. Delli Carpini was affiliated with Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Currently, he is the Dean of Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.



Date Posted: 29 June 2015

This document has been peer reviewed.