the social science of electronic technologies
The Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford arranged a meeting between Steve Woolgar and several journalists at a Press Lunch in London on 29 November 2000. There followed a massive surge of media interest (print, Internet and broadcast media) in Virtual Society? research, some sources for which are listed below. This in turn lead to a deluge of enquiries to the Oxford office and to the External Relations Office at the ESRC, an enhanced rate of hits to the Virtual Society? website and several hundred requests for copies of PROFILE 2000. The media coverage also generated further discussion and debate, some of which is documented online (see for example, zdnet.co.uk archives)
The quality of the coverage has, of course, been immensely variable. Some of the broadsheets, (notably Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian) and Radio 4 (Hugh Sykes on the PM Programme) stuck quite closely to the central story line that some outcomes/impacts can be counter-intuitive and unpredictable. As the storm unfolded, less careful coverage increasingly emphasised singular aspects of the research and built sensational stories around them. The Metro (a freebie paper for London tube travellers) apparently reported that 30 million people in the UK had stopped using the Internet. Some teenagers dropping off according to a US survey has been turned into the end of the Internet, the Internet is dead, no one is using the Internet anymore. When Steve Woolgar refused (on BBC Radio Scotland 7.12.00) to concur with the proposal that "there is no longer any point in buying a computer" he was told he was spoiling a good headline. By the time Channel 4 News got hold of it, Virtual Society? research had been turned into the anti-story: "although some researchers are saying that no one is using the Internet, in fact Channel 4 can reveal that lots of people are still using it."
(Germany) October 2000
To appear in 2001:
Virtual Society? researchers have given recent interviews to the following:
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Contents current at 19th November 2001