Winter 2004-2005

Book Review
Seeking Convergence in Policy and Practice: Communications in the Public Interest Volume 2
by Diane DeChief

Edited by Marita Moll and Leslie Regan Shade
Publisher: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Hardcover: 412 pages
© 2004
ISBN: 0-88627-386-2
Order online

For many, reading about policy isn't exciting or enticing, but fear not. Without essentializing issues, Seeking Convergence in Policy and Practice: Communications in the Public Interest Volume 2 does its utmost to provide a clear, lively and concise mix of institutional analysis, case study findings, and examples of new directions that digital activists, indymedia and civil society organizations are charting. The resulting volume has an attractive density—in fact, the book weighs in at over four-hundred pages! If you're fed up with conceptions of “new media” as cyborg-filled, alienating and ethereal—or conversely as an inherently positive tool for democracy and freedom—this book may be the antidote.

Seeking Convergence creates a variety of windows into current debates over new media. Following the release of their first co-edited volume, E-Commerce vs. E-Commons: Communications in the Public Interest in 2001 , Marita Moll and Leslie Regan Shade have educed a new set of essays of value to students, educators — and ideally policy-makers — because of the insight into communicative practice and policy-making they provide in this post 9-11 era. A s contributor Michael Gurstein writes in his opening, this is a time when “The early promise of the Internet as providing an alternative to centralized concentrations of power and as a means for widely dispersing economic opportunity has faded.” More pertinently, what remain are the ways and reasons why the Internet and other communications technologies have become part of our everyday lives.

Seeking Convergence is effectively organized into two sections: policy and practice. This arrangement creates an element of plot, leading us through the complex histories of the stakeholders and into present debates, demonstrating the major players in action and leaving an open ending; a mix of ‘to be continued” and “choose your own adventure.” Tough questions are posed; how will you respond?

Applying the perspective of political economy, t he authors of these chapters – including Vincent Mosco, Darin Barney, and Michael Gurstein – form a call that ignites debate over the consideration of ICTs as public goods, protests media concentration, and demands accountable governance. Moll and Shade provide readers with a chisel to get through glossy messages created by corporations and governments and carried to us by mainstream media. Seeking Convergence is a tool that can pull us out of complacency and toward understanding why we need to be involved in making the policies that govern our everyday interactions with technology.

Diane DeChief is working on an M.A. in Media Studies at Concordia University in Montréal, Quebec, Canada.

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