Mythic Analogues: Space and Cyberspace, a Critical Analysis of U.S. Policy for the Space and Information Age
Journal of Communication Inquiry, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 64-87, 1995
12 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2011
Date Written: 1995
The information age came in like a strong, birthing baby: vibrant, vigorous, aching for development, aching for growth and loaded with potential. But what is the information age; what is an information society? We have named it, identified some of its characteristics, and have even devised policies at the national and international level for implementing its structures. But have we studiously examined the fundamental premise upon which this society is developing? The purpose of this paper is to critique the current discourse of development of the Information Age by examining its "promise." This promise sets the tone of federal policy as enunciated in the introduction of THE NATIONAL INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE: AGENDA FOR ACTION (NII) under Part I entitled The Promise of the NIl.
The "Promise" has a mythic and Utopian cast, asking the reader to "imagine... [n]o matter where you went or what time it was, your child could see you and talk to you," or that "the best schools... were available to all" regardless of "geography, distance, resources, or disability." It asks the reader to imagine that "[t]he vast resources of art, literature, and science were available everywhere" and that you could live virtually anywhere "without foregoing opportunities." The mechanism for this mythic result, often styled the Information Superhighway, is defined in federal policy as a commitment to develop a national information infrastructure that "enables all Americans to access information and communicate with each other... at anytime, anywhere." This same sort of mythic vision was developed once before by an earlier U.S. administration. In launching the Space Age, President Kennedy invoked "the wonders of science" to "explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap (lie ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce." Thus, the vision of the Space Age, as the mythic predecessor of the Information Age vision, will be looked at first as an analogue to discuss the grandiose conception of the latter, comparing and contrasting both through analogy to explore the meaning of the Information Age vision, which is only now beginning to coalesce and to express itself through policy and structure. Rereading the Space Age allows a historical backdrop against which the events formulating as the Information Age can be read and from which emerged the break boundary beyond which a different society would advance.
Keywords: Information Age, Space Age, national information infrastructure, promise of information age, President Kenndy, vision of the Space Age, technological innovation, space age as mythic analogue to information age
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