Digital Democracy

NON FICTION BOOK REVIEW  
 
340 words, November 20, 1998

Title: Digital Democracy; Cynthia J.  Alexander & Leslie A.  Pal; Oxford
University Press; ISBN: 0-19-541359-8; Paperback; 237 pages; CAN$24.95

Reviewer: Peter B. MacIntyre Digital Democracy does cover many subjects that
can affect the public at large and ... it should be read by all citizens
concerned with how the wired world is indeed reshaping our lives."

Digital Democracy, sub-titled Policy and Politics in the wired world is a
collection of essays (one per chapter) that covers the basic subject of
"...[exploring] the political promise and policy options that technology
prowess proffers."  The whole discussion on how the connected world can
and does operate is a large subject with many points of view.  This book
does a very good job of reviewing (sometimes in great detail) the
different sides of these view points.  

Written from a uniquely Canadian perspective, the two lead authors are
professors at Canadian universities, this book lends itself to many
current technological issues.  The chapters are lengthy in title, yet
this seems appropriate to adequately describe their content.  A sampling
of chapter titles (abbreviated) helps to establish this point - "New
Currents in Politics and Policy", "National Security Issues in a Wired
World", "Cyberdemocracy and the Changing Communications Landscape",
"Women on the Net", "Can Information be Property", "Discussion on the
Communications Decency Act", and "Regulation and Control of Pornography
in the New Wired World."

In the chapter on national security issues and the Internet there are
2 statements that stand out on the subject of how susceptible computer
networks and installations can be to malicious intent.  "... the US
Subcommittee on Investigations heard testimony in the spring of 1996
that more than 120 nations are reported to be developing 'information
warfare techniques' that could 'allow our enemies to seize control of
public networks...' " and "...computer hackers cruising the Internet
posed a serious and growing threat to national security, with the
Pentagon suffering as many as 250,000 "attacks" on its computers
last year [1995]."

Since this book is written at the University level, it lends itself to
being an excellent textbook for a political science course and should
be definitely used in that capacity.  However, Digital Democracy does
cover many subjects that can affect the public at large and although
it can be heavy reading at times, it should be read by all citizens
concerned with how the wired world is indeed reshaping our lives.


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