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Reviewed on this page:
-- New Media and Society
-- 2600 The Hacker Quarterly
-- (Other reviews)


New Media and Society

Edited by Nicholas Jankowski, Steve Jones, Rohan Samarajiva and Roger Silverstone. Published by Sage. The journal has a website.

Reviewed here: Vol. 1, No. 1, April 1999.

Review by
David Gauntlett.


New Media and Society

This is a very welcome addition to the world of journals. Sage did well last year launching Sexualities (see review) and New Media and Society, a similarly well-focused journal, should also be a great success. I hope that it encourages new thinking, and discourages people from recycling tired ideas about 'computer mediated communication' into the new millennium, and the signs that this may be the case are quite good. It is obviously difficult (wrong, even?) to judge a journal on its first issue, but, er, let's have a go anyway.


First page: the list of editors. There may be some concern that the journal is edited by a wall of men when there are so many female new media experts on the planet. But since I don't believe that sex determines behaviour then I suppose I can't make that point really. But you may have noticed that, politically speaking, a ratio of four men to zero women doesn't look very generous. Caroline Bassett, the reviews editor, is not a man, however. I know that it would be nice to think that none of this matters, so don't write and tell me.


A good, helpful four-page editorial at the starts set out the stall for the journal effectively. You don't want them to be very prescriptive at this stage, and they're not. I found some parts a bit odd (inevitably). The editorial states that 'until very recently, little work on new media issues was conducted by cultural studies or interpersonal communication scholars'. Maybe I have a skewed perspective, but I thought that there was already loads of stuff about the internet and interpersonal communication. Too much, already, if we're talking relative proportions. And it's not like we want to encourage that area, until someone thinks of something genuinely interesting to say about it. Happily, however, the articles in this issue of the journal did not attempt to expand the pool of CMC tedium already published. And meanwhile, the editors are quite right that there is not much cultural studies material on new media, and this is something that cultural studies might be good at, so it will be nice to see that fostered.


A substantial themed section, made up of eleven short contributions by well-known scholars, asks 'What's new about new media?'. This is a good way to start vol. 1 no. 1, and the contributors cover different aspects of this question. (The editorial suggests that in future issues the journal will discuss the 'newness' of new media yet further, but this is quite enough for now).


The trouble with academic publishing about the fast-changing world of new media, of course, is that it is so slow. At any point in time, the current issue of Wired magazine -- which after all is basically about 'new media and society' -- is likely to be at least twelve months more up-to-date than the latest New Media and Society. (As if to highlight this, when New Media and Society tells you a simple fact about Wired, saying the magazine was launched 'five years ago', it is at least twelve months out).

An article about on-line newspapers in this first issue of NM&S, for example, whilst perfectly interesting, makes use of interviews conducted in 1997, which today's producers of online newspapers regard as being a very long time ago. The same author refers to 'Turkle's recent work (1995)'. Only a well worn academic would not see this as 'Turkle's old work (1995)'. I'm not saying Turkle's work is bad -- it's good -- but whatever it is, in the world of new media, it's not recent.


The book reviews were pleasingly critical. Personally I tend to find the book reviews to be the best part of journals, and so would prefer this section to get bigger.


For a journal about new media, New Media and Society didn't seem very excited about providing references to relevant websites (or CDs, or anything). That each contributor does not have a website URL next to their name seems not merely disappointing, but pretty freaky. If your new media expert cannot even put together a basic website to support their work (simply providing extra information and links, say) then I am not certain that we want to spend much time with them. Seriously. The only possible excuse could be if you were a new media expert who argued that the internet was evil and should be shut down, in which case your no-website position would be pretty consistent, but otherwise I don't understand it and it just seems lazy. Happily, New Media and Society itself does have a website. Full marks to them for that.


Overall, the first issue of New Media and Society is very promising. The problems I have discussed above are more to do with academia in general than this journal in particular. It's much better than we would expect, and is bound to flourish. For academics in this area, subscription is a must.



Published by 2600, New York


2600: The Hacker Quarterly

I was pleased to find 2600 (vol. 16, no. 2, summer 1999) in Tower Records, Dublin. (It's not readily available in the UK, though I'm sure you can get it in certain places. I later found it in Borders, Leeds). As the title suggests, it's for hackers. Hackers are not criminals, as it is keen to assert throughout. Sure, your hacking might involve doing criminal things, but hey, people do criminal things using their arms and we don't castigate all people who use their arms (or something). Even when hackers do things that mess life up for corporations, the view is often that the companies shouldn't have had such useless security in the first place. Yes, the hackers are helping them to identify system loopholes.

2600 does have some passages of code which will not draw in the everyday viewer, but there are enjoyable articles and many pages of interesting or amusing letters from readers. Whilst it has nothing to do with hacking, I particularly liked this letter:

"Dear 2600: I'm a new reader. I would like to write a letter to 2600, but I don't know what to write about. Do you have a cool letter that you would like sent?"


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