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The challenges of ICTs

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Many scholars have documented the way information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been entwined with major changes in society since the invention of electrical telegraphy in the 1830s.1 For some, the early ICTs, as well as those stemming from the invention of the microprocessor in the late 1960s, are best characterized as being revolutionary. This is because of the cascade of opportunities they created for new forms of media and information and communication services and for new ways of organizing society. Enthusiasm for digital ICTs peaked towards the end of the twentieth century and began to subside with the economic downturn that occurred at the end of that century. The ‘irrational exuberance’ concerning the economic value of businesses in the ‘new’ economy began to dissipate. This made way for renewed reflection on the implications of the ways that ICT production and consumption have become embedded within societies—both historically and in the twenty-First century. In this handbook our aim is to introduce readers to these theoretical and empirical reflections as they appear within research undertaken by academics across a range of social science disciplines.

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