chapter  15
Oh, What Webs Those Phantoms Spin
ByCarl J. Couch, Shing-Ling S. Chen
Pages 16

Although most social scientists conceptualize information technologies as phantoms, they treat the content that those technologies preserve and dispense as if they have consequence. Some look to social scientists and media scholars for informed assessments of the opportunities and risks that accompany the development of information technologies. Symbolic information has qualities not shared with inorganic and organic phenomena. Whereas the transmission of energy and matter diminishes the source, the transmission of information does not. For example, opening a web page in a browser calls for the transmission of a file over the Internet, and a copy of that file is downloaded to the requesting computer. Human beings are capable of constructing a vast range of social relationships without benefit of any complex and artifactual information technology. The development of electronic technologies has moved the contests for hegemony from the national to the international arena. The electronic technologies probably will neither destroy nor save humanity, but they will transform it.