Copies of all of these articles can be found here.
I am reading Jones from the perspective of what his writing can offer in terms of both the historical and more recent developments in information technology (specifically the Internet) and how community and communication online diverges and converges worth traditional forms of communication.
Jones’ early work deals mainly with the impact of technology on space and time. Jones makes the point that as digitisation becomes more prevalent, space becomes more transparently and technologically a social construction. He looks to anthropology for discourse on space, location and identity and his understanding of the social construction of space is influenced by the work of McLuhan, Innis and James Carey. In a number of his early works he deals with how audio (specifically recorded music) and space relate. He investigates the idea of re-creating a sense of 3D space in the home when listening to digital audio recording, (Sound, Space, and Digitisation, 1993) although he notes that in music consumption, like film, fidelity and realism are not problematic as it is clear that the sound is recorded, rather than live.
In Video Literacy (1989), Jones once again deals with the dichotomy of realism and fidelity in digital media, this time in video. He draws a parallel between written word and video, saying that while text is often difficult to refute, because its ‘context-free’ language prevents it from being easily contested, video is even harder to refute. He makes the point that there is often no place for argument or right to reply when video evidence is given, and to the American public “seeing is believing”. Drawing on Ernst Cassirer’s theories of symbolic communication (An Essay on Man, 1962; The philosophy of Symbolic Forms Vol 1-3, 1923,1925,1929) Jones says “Human beings create and locate themselves in cultural patterns that are created by use of symbols, interpret and transcend those patterns, and communicate with each other using naturally evoked images that acquire meaning through use and shared experience.” (p94) In essence he is arguing that human narrative is the systematic structuring and restructuring of cultural patterns. Because culture affects perception of space and time a change in culture can also effect human perception of space and time. Jones also touches on the notion that as oppositional, avant-garde practices are brought into mainstream TV, rebellious movements such as Rock and Roll lose their oppositional status.
In Unlicensed Broadcasting: Content and Conformity (1994) Jones discusses the results of a study of the reasons why pirate broadcasters believe that their stations were shut down by the FCC. Jones starts out by saying that recent scholarship “Claims that most unlicensed broadcasters believe the FCC shuts down their operation because program content is offensive, obscene, unpatriotic or tasteless” (p395) but Jones’ content analysis indicates that unlicensed content is generally much the same as licensed content. He posits that shutting down pirate operations is rather the Police’s way of retaining control over what Yoder describes as “clandestine” operations which are radically and politically motivated and support violent change. (A. Yoder, Pirate Radio Stations, Blue Ridge Summit, PA:Tab Books, 1990) Jones makes two generalisations, based on his results. The first is that the content of pirate stations is very similar to licensed stations with broadcasters mostly relying on Rock. From this he speculates that pirate stations do not so much provide an alternative to commercial stations, but rather they are a means of ‘joining in’ for disenfranchised youths. The second finding is that generally the unlicensed broadcasts are outside of standard AM and commercial FM frequencies and this implies a desire to avoid complains from licensed broadcasters and to stay off the mainstream radar. Jones concludes that the connection between unlicensed broadcasting, youth and rebellion may simply be that pirate stations are the youth’s way of joining in on their own terms and creating their own space.
In Hyperpunk: Cyberpunk and Information Technology (1994) Jones examines the Cyberpunk ideology, typified by contemporary science fiction novels as near-future constructs in which information fuels both global economy and individual existence. Jones says “The consumption of information via the mass media is an ideological practice within the realm of symbolic activity.” There is no such thing as Nationalism in Cyberpunk as it is seen as a barrier flow. Rather than governments, the economic structure is dominated by Zaibatsu – the multinational corporation. The core of the Cyberpunk ideology is that all information should be free to everyone. This is largely due to their perception that information is power and an uneven distribution of power allows the Zaibatsu to exert control over the masses. Tesla first set out the cyberpunk ‘ethos’ in 1904 when he wrote of his desire to transmit information for free to everyone. It is also important that the information be separate form it’s context and that the audience be allowed to make their own sense of it (hypertext). The heroes of cyberpunk books are the people who can master cyberspace, a virtual space of information through which the mind “has immediate access to a global information network” (p83) and Jones concludes that this is what those who subscribe to the Cyberpunk ethos aspire to.
In The Consequences of Interaction in Electronic Communities (1997) Jones notes that throughout history every advance in technology/development, from nuclear power to the written word, has had a positive and negative side. He posits that once we get used to the technology, we learn to accept it for its positive side and we feel that we have gained some measure of control of its negative side. Any new communications medium is deemed to cause revolution when it is initially introduced and there will always be a proportion of the population that will oppose this.
Jones is influenced by Schuler’s work in New Community Networks (1996) when he says that communications communities are groups of people with common goals. He once again comes back to the concepts of space and time and how the Internet can break these down. He also quotes McLaughlin et al. (Standards of Conduct for Usenet, 1985, p105) when he says that Internet users feel that the Internet’s content ‘belongs to them’. There is a touch of the long-running Technological Determinism vs Social Shaping of Information Technology debate in the article, as when Jones says, “We are, simply, more likely to restart the computer than to think of alternatives to it, or how it shapes and defines the activities we believe we solely define, or how we (and not it’s designers) think it should work.” (p31) The eventual conclusion he reaches however is that it is not the technologies that make the quality of socialisation, but rather the way in which we choose to use and view them.
In Understanding Community in the Information Age (1999) Jones once again focuses on the spatial and temporal issues that Internet technology brings. He says that in online communities space is illusory and time is problematised by the “instantaneity” of Computer Mediated Communications. The whole notion of ‘space’ online is built around the presence of knowledge and information and the beliefs and practices of communities and societies “abstracted from physical space”. It is the “Ritual sharing” (Carey, 1987) of this information that binds an online community.
Likewise in Rheingold and the Illusion of Community (2000) Jones talks about the ability the Internet gives us to “surmount time and space and ‘be’ anywhere”. Jones adds “The manner in which we seek to find community, empowerment, and political action all embedded in our ability to use [Computer Mediated Communication], is thereby troubling. No one medium, no one technology, has been able to provide those elements in combination, and often we have been unable to find them in any medium. CMC has potential for a variety of consequence, some anticipated, some not.” (p227)
In The Bias of the Web (2000) Jones discusses the parallels and differences between the history of Journalism and the Internet. Beyond that they are both vessels for content and information, they share the trait of being potential public forums which create and host imagined communities. Jones equates the Internet in some ways to old penny papers because it gives the public what they are looking for. Having said that, Journalism on the web differs from traditional journalism as the focus and context has shifted to centre on the user rather than the journalist/medium. The history that Internet journalism catalogues is largely driven by the public interest. Jones says “on the web, referral is built in via the hyperlink. As a result, news on the web has less to do with creating a local record of life [...] and more to do with anticipating what’s next by accumulating information and making connections among stories, hearsay, gossip, disparate pieces of information that are sometimes coupled in the readers imagination, and other times linked via hypertext markup language or HTML.” (p178)
In Internet Use and the Terror Attacks (2002) with Lee Rainie, Jones examines the ways that Americans used the Internet for communications and to gather information in the days following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Although people relied more heavily on the telephone and television at this time, 50% of Internet users went online looking for news about the attacks and 72% of users used email in some way related to the event, to display patriotism, contact family, discuss the events, etc. Jones and Rainie suggest that this engagement with the internet at this time may have influenced many of these users to continue to use the internet to engage with news topics etc in a way that they previously had not.
In Political Activism in the Digital Age: The Use of the Internet for Political Engagement Among Meetup Attendees (2008) Jones and Francisco Seoane Pérez examine the use of the Internet in Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign for the Democratic Presidential candidate position. The campaign had a huge online backing and most of the people who involved themselves initially online had not been involved in politics before. They had found out about the campaign through the internet rather than through their own personal connections and the article examines whether the internet better facilitates the involvement of those who were previously not politically active.
In this instance Jones and Pérez equate the Internet to a Greek Chorus, with a cast telling people how they should invest their time and which candidates they should be putting money behind. The Greek Chorus not only helps the audience to follow the play, but also represents the reactions of an ideal public and this type of role, played out by supporters online, helps to engage the unengaged.
They asks the question “Once the system is radicalised, enraged, alarmed by a threat, where does he/she go to find a solution, or a way of contributing to respond to that menace?” (p4) This is where the Internet comes in, fulfilling the need to communicate and learn about, and ultimately take action in relation to perceived changes or threats as they occur.