by Caitlin Howell, 1995 (caitlin at cs dot wisc dot edu)
The purpose of this paper is to give a brief general overview of the impacts of this information revolution, particularly on Europe. Excluding the introduction and conclusion, it is divided into four sections: Europe on the Edge of the Information Revolution, which discusses the state of IT-related industry in Europe today, the Universal Impacts of Information Technology, which discusses possible effects of the information revolution on the world, the Impacts of Information Technology on Europe, which discusses effects particular to Europe, and Information Technology and the Future of Europe, which discusses possible European policies with respect to IT.
The mass media noticed the information revolution quite suddenly, and although information technology may be the natural outgrowth of decades of gradual technological advancement, the present is being declared a time of dramatic and sudden change. Fortune magazine said recently of information technology, "the new technology holds the potential to change human settlement patterns, change the way people interact with each other, change our ideas of what it means to be human."(Kupfer, 51)
Perhaps the media noticed information technology when it became clear that it would have a significant economic impact-one speaker declared the arrival of "'a new economic order'... characterized by open borders for goods, technology, of income and yes... information," calling it "one of history's greatest technological transformations."(Dionne, 339) He enthused further, "Stated another way, information has become the 'New Wealth of Nations,' the strategic tool that permits a country or company to understand the dynamic nature of its environment, and next to respond more quickly-and more effectively-to change."
Information technology, or IT, is defined as "the technology of collecting, channeling, and transforming knowledge."(M°ller, 59) It includes everything from language, systems of writing and writing materials to newspapers, books, and magazines, to mass communications, television, movies, and the telephone, to satellites, databases, and computer networks. It includes forms of communication and ways of manipulating information. Here I will use it mostly to refer to the newest, highest technology forms of IT, including multimedia and computer networks. The recent technological innovations in dealing with information are considered by some to be a revolution as important as the invention of the printing press.
Certainly, a technological revolution of this magnitude is expected to have some social impacts as well. James Burke comments, "Throughout history, radical improvements in the ability to generate and share information have always triggered information surge, which has in turn always generated bursts of innovation that brought into existence new entities, new kinds of people, new ways to live. The present surge is no exception; it's just immeasurably more complex than anything that went before."(324)
There is some doubt as to whether we can make a reasonable assessment of the impacts of IT on Europe. There are many opinions cited here, but it is questionable whether one can predict the impact of a new technology on society to any degree of accuracy.(Smit, 73) I will try to present the most reasonable ideas and those which have some basis in recent trends.
Europe on the Edge of the Information Revolution
Around the time of the Maastricht treaty in 1992, Europe's grip on the global information technology market seemed pretty weak, and Europe, rather reluctant to do something about it. Lucio Stanca, Chief Executive and Chairman of IBM Europe commented, "Unfortunately, when it comes to embracing information technology, Europe has been reluctant to put its faith in market forces." (Barnard, 12) The European Community's global market share in high technology products was shrinking and one author noted a "particular lag in electronics and information technology."(Harrop, 126) There were further worries that Europe was losing its stake in the computer industry, an industry with a key role in the information revolution. After the 1990 Siemens/Nixdorf merger, there was only one major European computer manufacturer.(Ibid.)
However, as the economic focus of the information revolution swings away from personal computers and towards telecommunications, Europe may be at more of an advantage. Domestic information infrastructure markets give Europe the advantage of entrenched domestic networks and regulatory control over a sizable share of the telecommunications market. In addition, Europe created the GSM, or Global System for Mobile Communications, standard in the cellular/wireless communications market.("A Rush to Untie...") This standard has been adopted by 17 countries in Europe, 16 in Asia, and 15 in the Middle East. The US, in contrast, still has two competing standards, leaving it at a disadvantage in its respective domestic market and abroad.(Ibid.) This means that Europe is at an advantage in the cellular/wireless market at home and abroad with the dominant international standard and a growing domestic market. According to Prognos in Basel, Switzerland, Europe's domestic wireless market is currently valued at about 5.8 billion dollars and is expected to nearly triple to 15.9 billion dollars by the year 2000. ("Brave Old World", 45) If Europe can use this advantage to lever its share in the overall telecommunications market, it increases its chances of competitiveness in the information technology markets of the near future.
The most important issue related to European telecommunications right now is the European Union's announced 1998 deregulation deadline. Europe is currently in the process of privatizing the state-run monopolies that dominate European telecommunication,("Brave...", 44) a process that worries politicians because it means that telecom workers will lose jobs before the benefits of free market competition take affect. ("A Rush...") However, people involved in the telecommunications industry believe that 1998 is too late for Europe to enter the global telecom market, so they're breaking into it now. For example, beginning with Amsterdam in 1994, the European Union is deregulating "test cities" all over Europe to help predict what the effects of telecommunications deregulation will be on the rest of Europe. ("Is Europe Ready..."18) In an example reported by EUROPE magazine, "the southern German states of Bavaria and Badan-Wurttemburg have launched Europe's largest multimedia projects to establish the potential demand for teleshopping and other interactive media services." (Barnard, 13) Also, because of a legal advantage Britain has over the US, it is becoming the "world lab for multimedia." ("Brave..." 45) British law allows the same company to sell cable TV and phone services over the same network, and as a result, multimedia projects are reportedly progressing faster there than corresponding projects in the US. Companies are rushing to build new, high speed communication infrastructures, analogous to higher quality phone and cable TV networks, but which will carry information between home computers and similar high technology information display and manipulation devices. Business Week reports that on April 11, 1994, "thirty European based manufacturers chose BT [British Telecom] and an AT&T led consortium to build competing private networks that will bypass local phone companies with more sophisticated services." (Ibid.) And if European telecommunications services can meet or beat the 1998 deadline, that will keep them competitive with the US where it is estimated that a market for multimedia networks will not mature for about five years. (Ibid, 44)
The European Union is taking its own steps to earn a bigger share of the IT market for Europe. Under the direction of Directorate General XIII of the Commission of the European Community, ESPRIT, or the European Strategic Programme for Research and Development of Information Technology, is developing "nine networks of excellence," or nine key fields of research in information technology. (Ryan, 48) The European Union plans to spend 76 billion dollars over the next few years for researching advanced networks, interactive video services, and related technologies. ("Brave...", 44)
European consumers are taking greater interest in information technology as well. In 1994, spending on IT's intimately related software and computer services increased 9% over the previous year to 74 billion dollars. (Barnard, 12) On average, the European Union spends 1.85 percent of its GNP on IT related products and services, from a low of 1.19 percent in Germany to 2.76 percent in Sweden. (Ibid, 13)
There is a remarkable difference between the levels of information technology available in the Eastern European and Western European nations. It is estimated that Eastern Europe lags in computer technology, for example, by about 4 to 10 years. (Havlik, 203) In the former Soviet Union, there is a marked unavailability of telephones, personal computers and computer databases, and the telephone infrastructure is of low quality. In fact, since information was considered politically dangerous under the Soviet regime, IT at almost all levels has to catch up to the West. In Eastern Europe since 1989, information technologies considered basic in the West: books, magazines, newspapers, have finally begun to advance into an uncensored competitive market. (Feather, 97) Quite obviously, high tech information technologies will take second precedence.
From a regulatory standpoint, the European Union divides mass communication related issues "among the governments of the member states and the institutions of the European Union, notably of the European Commission(EC), the council of ministers, and more noticeably (post Maastricht) the European parliament. (Cawson, 69) DGXIII, the telecommunications and information technology directorate of the EC which was originated by Industry Commissioner Etienne Davignon, "interprets its mission as principally industrial policy and its principal constituency as European-based information technology producers." (Ibid, 70) These are the political institutions that will most heavily influence the European role in the information revolution.
The Universal Impacts of Information Technology
The two most important impacts of IT are economic and technological globalization and cultural decentralization.(M°ller, 6) Globalization, defined as the "international growth of exchanges through the development of communication" is a concept reflecting the increasing economic and informational interdependence of separate nations.(Mattelart, 11) Cultural decentralization, or localization, is the trend in which people identify more strongly with their local culture as geographical boundaries lose importance. The information revolution will move us towards a better integrated world market economy as we move towards a more complex and fragmented earth culture.
According to Danish author J. ěrstr°m M°ller, as freer economic boundaries and increasingly complex cultural boundaries redefine peoples identities, we will be removed a step further from the agricultural age concept of territory as well as a step from our current political identities. M°ller asserts that "The national state is based upon the idea of territory. If or when territory loses its importance, so does the national state."(24) Although it seems unlikely that any technological revolution could reach so far as to rearrange the relatively stable governments of the West, M°ller points out an Eastern example.
The evolution taking place in central and Eastern Europe is a clear-cut example of the two-sided effect of information technology. On the one hand, it globalizes the dissemination of information and knowledge, on the other hand it not only makes possible, but also stimulates the drive for cultural decentralization. Globalization and localization go hand in hand. They do not contradict each other.(6)
We shall return to the issue of information technology's impact on Eastern Europe in the next section.
The information revolution has already given countries that used to be relatively isolated, like China, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Australia inexpensive and convenient access to information through satellite and optical cable.(Shimizu, 17) Such a sudden jump in the availability of information impacts the life of the individual as well as the nation. Some believe that information globalization will only lead to international desensitization; Professor Daniel Bougnoux of the Stendhal University of Grenoble-3 worries that instead of enlisting help for communities in need, "the communication window merely engenders a feeling of powerlessness and shame."(9) In contrast, Brazilian author Eduardo Valverde wonders if mass communication will encourage a new, more open state of mind in the individual, and stresses, "The modern media make us aware of the limits of human freedom and of the relative nature of the reality in which we have always been submerged."(15) However, Bourgnoux warns that media often cannot give a deep enough cultural analysis to make a difference in an individual's way of thinking. He warns, "at world level, it seems that the mosaic of races, cultures, beliefs, and histories is far more opaque than the superficial imagery of 'communication' would have us believe."(10)
Bougnoux also predicts that IT affects a social trend from the vertical to the horizontal.(8) This is true in the workplace, where middle levels of management are being eliminated to increase productivity. The trend is also visible in the move from religion to secularism and in the educational system where people are encouraging an exchange of knowledge instead of learning strictly in a one-way relationship.(Ibid.)
It was once believed that advances in IT would completely redistribute the population. People, freed to move wherever they chose by fax machines and a connection to a distant computer network, would pack up and move out of the cities to beautiful expanses of countryside. It was even expected that IT would stop the relentless growth of Tokyo.(Ito, 32) However the megalopolises of the world continue to grow. The reason for the continued trend of urban centralization has not yet been determined, but it seems that IT cannot substitute for human relationships at the office or the stimulation and culture of a big city.(Ibid.) Now it is predicted that in the future "we may have a world structured around a small number of megalopolises."(Mattelart, 14) M°ller visualizes a pattern of megalopolises scattered over the northern hemisphere, with one sprawling megalopolis located in Western Europe. He goes so far as to name the seven most likely locations: "Along the Rhine and Rhone Valleys, Switzerland, Lombardy, Part of Southern France, and Northern Spain;" the eastern United States from New York City to Washington D.C.; Tokyo-Osaka; Hong Kong and Guangzhan, Shanghai; Taiwan and the opposite coast of China; and the western part of the US encompassing Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.(63)
It seems unlikely that IT will eliminate the social problem of city dwellers: while city dwellers are surrounded by people, they are almost completely socially isolated from each other. Studies with new communication technology in urban and rural areas indicated that the rural dwellers were more likely than city dwellers to use the new means of communication, and then only to substitute them for less advanced means, communicating with people they already knew. (Ito, 31) Electronic communities of people on the Internet and other types of electronic services that use these services for political, intellectual, and other discussion don't often meet in real life, because the ease with which someone can misrepresent themselves in an electronic community make contact somewhat dangerous. It is expected that in the future, as participation in these electronic services becomes as standard as owning a telephone, these services will also be used mostly by people communicating with people they already know. (Kupfer, 60)
One fear associated with information technology that conflicts with the trend towards cultural decentralization is that of cultural imperialism. Armand Mattelart, Professor of Information and Communications at the University of Rennes-2 in France warns, "If we are not careful, the one-sided glorification of the consumer will lead to the legitimization of the subordination of certain peoples and cultures. (Until the late 1970's this process was known as cultural imperialism, and ethnologists continue to describe it as 'ethnocide'.)"(14) As the economy becomes global and such culture-carrying markets as entertainment become internationally unbounded, the countries who control these markets have the ability to swallow these culturally important foreign markets whole. This sort of concern is slowing the trend towards economic globalization because some countries refuse to deregulate and allow international competitors into their mass communications markets.(Prei▀l, 184) The fear that these countries face is not unfounded. One-sided cultural exchange undermines a country's self confidence, and there have been incidents where this has lead to a disastrous collapse of cultural integrity.(Ito, 134)
The development of a truly global economy demands the reevaluation of what is considered a competitive asset. Some of the advantages associated with location are lost, because advanced communication and transportation can make the faraway company competitive with a local one. (M°ller, 23) Bougnoux predicts that the mobility of finances will become more important than fixed capital, because the speed of transactions on the global level will accelerate. He also predicts that a product's visibility and marketability will grow in importance in comparison to the product itself.(8-9) Dr. Ulrich Cartellieri, a member of the Board of Managing Directors of Deutsche Bank AG sees speed as vital to doing business in the emerging global marketplace.
If I put it very generally, then I would say, for a big enterprise of 70,000 people with subsidiaries and branches all around the world, the most difficult problem is the challenge to keep its competitive position in a world market where something new happens and something else changes every day... And the pace of events is becoming ever faster. That's due to the electronization of business life, which forces us to react much faster. In this context, I would say, the biggest challenge to an international service enterprise like ours is to realize opportunities deriving from the rapid technological change in this information age: recognizing what can or what must we do and finally taking the right investment decisions.(Shimizu, 16-17)
This leads to the tricky business of assessing information and people as capital. AICPA Task Force Chair Edmund Jenkins comments, "The components of cost in a product today are largely R and D, intellectual capital, and service. The old accounting system, which tells us the cost of material and labor, isn't applicable. (Losee, 28) It is difficult to determine how many software-related and emerging communication-related positions contribute financially to their company. The GATT agreement treats communication, and therefore most information services, as a service industry, consequently challenging another belief regarding prudent business strategy. Cartellieri comments, "I notice that American people argue that you cannot have a service economy without some manufacturing basis, but I think that we need not have a long way to go until we reach that point. The service industry isn't just the dishwasher at McDonalds. It is also the software engineers ad software programmers-- jobs which were nonexistent 20 years ago but which are spreading right now."(Shimizu, 18) Cartellieri visualizes "a replacement of mechanically based industries by electronic based industries."(Ibid.) With this increasing level of technology in products and production, there are increasing demands on the workforce. Intellectual capital and level of training are becoming palpable advantages or disadvantages for an individual or an enterprise.
Competitively and geographically, information technology will have the strongest impact on the class of white collar office workers, people who can do their job without physical contact with machinery or other people and who deal mostly with matters of information.(Kupfer, 60) These workers will probably have to retrain continually to keep up with the improving information technology and use it to their advantage. It is also predicted that businesses and freelance workers will be competing in a global market, where jobs will be advertised and bids will be accepted over a global electronic network. This is one specific example of how advanced information technology will encourage a free global market.(Kupfer, 58)
Professor Youichi Ito of the Institute for Communications Research of Keio University compares the economic impact of IT to the economic impact of transportation technology: "Transportation technologies made it impossible for non-Western countries in the 18th and 19th centuries to seclude themselves from the Western world. Today information technologies are making it impossible for many socialist technologies to seclude themselves from the capitalist bloc. The impacts of information technologies have domestic and international aspects."(27) It seems that the economic effects of the progression of information technology occur almost in an evolutionary pattern, beyond the control of politics, individuals, or individual enterprises.
The Impacts of Information Technology on Europe
M°ller writes in his book, The Future European Model: Economic Internationalization and Cultural Decentralization that "It is especially interesting to note that the Maastricht treaty, contrary to the beliefs of many people, opens the door for decentralization and regionalization instead of centralization."(10) He grants that the treaty paves the way for economic internationalization, but considers it fortunate that the treaty does not attempt to unify Europe culturally since that would oppose one of IT's strongest impacts.
M°ller goes on to predict the fall of the nation-state as a natural result of the spread of IT and its two major impacts.
The artificial nation-state is being squeezed from two sides. Economic internationalization removes much of its economic and industrial policies by transferring powers to the European Union. Cultural decentralization means that people are transforming their identity and their loyalty from the nation-state to the region...
Now we see how the industrial society is under attack. It is gradually being crowded out-so to speak-by the immaterial society based on culture, knowledge, and information. The industrial technology (a mechanical technology) is giving way to information technology and biotechnology. With the fading away of the industrial age, we see the withering away of the artificial nation state.(40)
Demographically, M°ller visualizes a move towards the European megalopolis described in the previous section. Secondarily, he visualizes an abandonment of industrial regions as new geographical areas become centers of economic activity. "In Germany," M°ller enumerates, "it is Baden-Wurttemburg. In France it is the south. In Britain it is the south and west."(24)
As Europe becomes part of M°ller's "Immaterial Society" he claims that "the Europeans will be in an advantageous position because the new era which emphasizes design, service, and technology, disengages itself from physical production."(47) In fact, it is predicted that the emerging IT market will be one of close competition between Western Europe, Japan, and the United States, with Europe slightly behind.(Prei▀l, 188)
It has been debated whether the advance of IT actually ended the Cold War. Ito notes that information technology has the greatest impact over socialist countries because it forces them to compare their quality of life with capitalist countries and demand a higher quality of life.(30) M°ller believes that "Information technology liberates people and takes control away from regimes."(16) He further asserts that
It is not surprising that this cultural revolution in Central and Eastern Europe took place at the end of the 1980s. The introduction of information technology paved the way for this cultural revolution. The information technology has brought about a total revolution with regard to dissemination of information and technology. It has made it impossible for a political regime to control what kind of information its citizens devour. As long as the printed letter was the vehicle for dissemination of information and knowledge, the regime could control the information available to the citizens. The Central and European regimes used this control to paint a totally false picture of the achievement of the communist ideology, the state of affairs in the national states, and economic growth and welfare.
One occasionally reads articles and comments by people who fear that information technology provides the power elite with a magnificent instrument for controlling the large mass of people. To our mind, that idea is wrong; it happens the other way round.(5)
A less fortunate impact that IT may have on Europe is "Americanization," or cultural imperialism affected by the United States. One less technologically advanced example in which this is already occurring is the film industry. Currently, about 80 percent of films shown in Europe are produced in the US, but about 1 percent of the films shown in the US are European.(Andrews, 132) Furthermore, according The Economist correspondent John Andrews, "of America's audiovisual exports, from films to CD ROMs and video games, some 60 percent are sold to Europe," leaving Europe with a 3.6 billion dollar deficit in that range of exports.(Ibid.) In response, France has passed laws requiring minimum percentages of European works to be shown on French television, but measures along these lines can have undesirable consequences. The entertainment media in France is regulated to such an extent that one French television star, Jeanne Moreau, "recently complained to Newsweek that the new generation of French directors is more interested in bureaucratic maneuvering for subsidies than wooing audiences with art."(Ibid., 134) The concern over Americanization may be one reason that the telecommunications deregulation deadline was set as late as 1998, annoying those involved in the industry as they rush to keep up on an internationally competitive scale.(Ibid.)
The Information Technology and the Future of Europe
Is it possible to control the development of a technology or its effects? Wim A. Smit of the University of Twente Department of Science and Technology in the Netherlands argues not, but that it might be possible to influence its course.(75) More pessimistically, J. Blondel of the European University Institute Department of Political and Social Sciences adds that historically, man has not been able to use technology "to solve one problem without creating another, and that costs soared to a point where society would no longer be able to drive science and technology without destroying itself in the process."(55)
Contrasted with other technologies, for example, chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, or even the mass production of the automobile, information does not seem to hold the potential for armageddon or massive environmental destruction. The possible negative impacts of IT seem to be ethical questions of a more subtle nature. Is it ethical to let countries strong in IT impose their culture on other countries, even in a completely non-violent fashion? If information technology changes the way we work and the way we meet people, will it result in a lower quality of social interaction? If it does, should we try to stop it?
Ito sees two ways to deal with the problem of cultural imperialism. One is to restrict the exchange of information, which has similar disadvantages to the restriction of free trade, if not the foreboding of a police state. The other solution is to "expand the object of cultural identity from a country to an international region. For example French, German, Italian, and British people might give up their traditional identities and adopt the identities of Western Europeans."(35) Unfortunately, transforming Western Europe into one cultural identity would be similar to most European nations to adopting a foreign cultural identity. To truly avoid cultural monopoly the purpose of this union must be to create a strong economic union which has the power to mass market its own cultural products but still recognizes individual cultures.
Michel SÚnÚcal, professor at the TÚlÚ-universitÚ of the University of Quebec sets the following goals required to achieve a democratic communication system. These rules are meant to be applied to the internet, or an internet-like system of the future, but they are equally valid for most information and cultural exchange.
If a communication system is to be used democratically, it must meet a number of other conditions as well as being interactive. These conditions are: immediate and complete reciprocity in all exchanges; plurality of viewpoints; the establishment of direct relations between partners free both to transmit and receive messages; decentralization of information circuits; respect for freedom of expression and for privacy.(17)
This description is a little bit abstract, because the global information network we will join in the future has not been fully formed yet. SÚnÚcal is stressing a system where individuals have approximately equal control over information; where everyone is connected at an equal level, like a telephone system, with no one-way information networks like television and radio. He is also stressing two personal rights: freedom of expression and freedom of privacy, which may not be currently acceptable to all governments of the world. The responsibility of asserting these personal information rights as the global electronic information network forms will fall on the shoulders of those countries who already grant them, including the nations of Europe.
To protect their economic interests in the post-information revolution marketplace, it is suggested that European enterprises take steps to protect their intellectual property rights. Ideas have become as valuable as any other form of capital, and should be protected as such.(Dionne, 341) It is also important to maintain strong and up-to-date connections with the world market. M°ller comments, "It should be noted that no geographical location can dream about competitive advantage if it is not linked to the international communications network and the transportation systems."(66)
For purposes of research and development, Blondel rejects the idea of pan-European education for science and technology. Instead, she maintains that different national perspectives in later pan-European projects will be a European advantage in technological development.(59) The ESPRIT research initiative, in which a typical "network of excellence" includes researchers working in ten European countries, appears to be a step in the right direction.
The Eastern European lag in IT is not expected to disappear in the near future, and Europe is not sure how to go about closing it. Havlik comments that "Whereas more [IT trade] restrictions could perhaps help to broaden the Eastern [European] technology gap, increased free trade would probably lead to mere Eastern dependence on the West while maintaining simultaneously a certain lag in most advanced areas anyway."(197)
Too many scientists and engineers, I think, pursue their interests without considering what sort of impact it will have on society. This is unfortunate for two reasons. First of all, it is ethically irresponsible. Although we may not be able to predict exactly what effects our research will have, if we would take the time to draw conclusions from past interactions between society and technology, we could at least try to steer our research away from destructive ends. Second, studying the relationship between technology and society helps the engineer find ways to better serve the society and modify the technology to fit society's needs.
As an engineering student, I found it particularly interesting that information technology could have political impacts, especially as strong as that on the former Soviet Union. I also had no idea that America was regarded as culturally imperialistic, and I find myself more sympathetic towards the cultures being victimized than the American media. In a way, America is a victim of its own cultural imperialism, because although it promotes itself as multicultural, the images remain dominated by the racial majority and the ideas generally mainstream conservative.
In the future, if the global exchange of information succeeds in being democratic, I think that the cultural imperialism of today will be replaced by a world cultural make-up dominated by America, Europe, and Japan, and after that, by the cultural outflow of the megalopolises of the northern hemisphere mentioned by M°ller. Unfortunately, because of the great economic expense of keeping up with the advances of information technology, the free market exchange of information will probably leave less economically developed countries with a disproportionately small cultural representation. The preservation of these cultures will fall on the information consumers of the world who, historically, do not always make the best or fairest choice.
I think that the information revolution will continue to progress steadily over the next several decades, as it has for the decades before. Hopefully, the European telecommunications deregulation will come quickly enough that the European-Japanese-American information technology exchange will begin at a near balance. In a way, I see the information revolution as an opportunity for all industrialized nations to have a fresh start in a relatively new economic market. In reality, some countries have a head start over others, but what people will demand from this technology is unpredictable enough, and modern enterprises are inexperienced enough in dealing with ideas as assets that anyone could take the lead.
In terms of European integration, I think that IT will merely accelerate the economic integration and interdependence occurring in Europe now. The ease with which IT handles banking information will probably eliminate the need for a common currency, for example, but the technology will make exchange almost as convenient as a common currency. Generally speaking, I agree with M°ller's thesis that as Europe moves toward global economic integration, it also moves towards cultural decentralization. I don't think that IT will ever be powerful enough on its own to convince Europeans to adopt one European culture. That would depend on a major change in the attitude of the European people, and historically, Europeans seem to enjoy their each cultural uniqueness.
In the article mentioned at the beginning of this paper, James Burke speculated that the trend towards cultural fragmentation and complexity was actually a positive thing. He meant this globally, but I think it applies particularly to Europe. Although cultural decentralization makes steps towards pan-European peace and harmony more difficult, it gives Europe a greater range of solutions to choose from when it encounters a political problem, and gives Europe a better chance of surviving and thriving in the long run.
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caitlin at cs dot wisc dot edu