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Culture, Technology, Communication: Towards an Intercultural Global Village

Editor: Charles Ess, Fay Sudweeks
Publisher: Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2001
Review Published: January 2003

 REVIEW 1: Michel J. Menou
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: Charles Ess and Fay Sudweeks

Prof. Michel Menou's extensive experience in the interactions of culture and ICT uniquely qualifies him to examine critically the goals and potential contributions of not only our volume, Culture, Technology, Communication: Towards an Intercultural Global Village, but also our CATaC conferences more broadly. Hence we are heartened by his careful and positive comments, especially when he writes: "CATaC can play a useful role in catalyzing interest for articulating sound cultural perspectives in ICT studies." This is certainly one of the central goals of the CATaC conferences, and we hope that readers, encouraged by Prof. Menou's positive review, will explore our volume precisely in order to help build and enhance their own understanding of how the many aspects of culture interact in complex ways with the design, implementation, and use of ICTs.

At the same time, Prof. Menou's is clearly correct to observe that while the authors in this volume represent a wide international experience, the majority hail from developed countries. And we certainly agree with his final point that, while these perspectives take us a good ways down the road towards much-needed scholarship on culture, communication, and technology - they very much call for still more voice and representation by scholars and researchers from developing countries.

To those ends, we are very happy to observe that the most recent CATaC conference (held in July, 2002, at the Université de Montréal, with the invaluable help of Lorna Heaton as local chair), several domains missing from earlier conferences were nicely represented by participants and their research, including France and the Francophone countries, China, and the Islamic world (e.g. Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates). In fact, a special issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (Vol.8, No.2) will appear at about the same time as this review. Focusing on ICTs in the Middle East, three of the contributions were originally presented at CATaC'02 (see www.ascusc.org/jcmc/).

Even so, much more remains to be done. We are currently finalizing arrangements for the venue of CATaC'04, which we hope will attract a still greater cultural range of participants and presentations. In particular, we hope to encourage more participation by NGOs and governmental institutions that have direct responsibility for implementing ICTs in diverse cultures. As we saw at CATaC'02, these organizations and institutions have considerable insights to offer on culture, technology, and communication, based precisely on their practical experience in attempting to introduce and diffuse ICTs in different cultural contexts. (One of the hallmarks of our approach in CATaC is the emphasis on praxis as illuminating theory.)

Perhaps it is also worth noting that the goals and work of CATaC are no longer ours alone. That is, when we organized CATaC'98, there was very little attention to culture and communication vis-à-vis ICTs, either on the level of theoretical analyses or on the level of empirical investigations into how these elements interacted with one another "on the ground" in specific cultural contexts. To our knowledge, CATaC'98 was the first interdisciplinary, international conference to address these topics. But the recognition that we must pay attention to culture has grown dramatically over the past few years, as is attested, for example, by the increasing number of presentations at AoIR conferences focusing on culture, as well as such recent publications as Global Encounters: Media and Cultural Transformation, edited by Gitte Stald and Thomas Tufte.

In any case, we are most grateful for Prof. Menou's careful and thoughtful review of our volume. We hope it will indeed encourage interested researchers and readers to not only read our volume, but continue to pursue questions of culture and ICTs in their own work. For additional information on our CATaC work, please visit www.it.murdoch.edu.au/catac/. Interested readers are also encouraged to contact us via email: Charles Ess cmess@drury.edu; Fay Sudweeks sudweeks@murdoch.edu.au.

Charles Ess and Fay Sudweeks

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