Cyberspaces and Global Affairs
Sean S. Costigan.
Reviewed by Andrew Whiting.
This book consists of a series of chapters covering a multitude of different topics under the title Cyberspaces and Global Affairs. Split into three parts, the book examines: cyberspace and security; the challenges ICT poses for politics, society and the individual; and finally, the difficulties surrounding both the ‘information overload’ (p. 319) and the ‘digital divide’ (p. 239). The scope of each contribution varies greatly, with some concentrating on broad international topics such as cyber-war, and others focusing on how ICT has impacted on particular case studies including, but not limited to, corporations such as Google, a national comparison between China and India, and a regional study of the Middle East. Each chapter adds to the fundamental argument in its own particular way: that ICT, and in particular cyberspace, has had a tremendous impact, both positively and negatively, across several different domains. This book is aimed at ‘scholars, students and lay people with an interest in this emerging and increasingly salient field’ (p. xxi) and, due to its breadth, would be appropriate for anyone looking for an introduction to the political and societal impact ICT has had.
Reviewing this book as a whole fails to do the individual chapters justice. The book makes a compelling argument that ICT has played a significant role in changing politics and society. However, this in itself is not a particularly ground-breaking thesis. Additionally, read cover to cover, the different chapter formats and writing styles hinder the book’s flow. Hence, the editors stress that ‘this book is meant to be sampled’ (p. xxi).
Reviewed as the sum of its parts, several of the chapters succeed in making significant and thought-provoking arguments, utilising well-researched empirical data, as well as an engaging combination of different analytical and methodological approaches. The mixture of qualitative and quantitative research, case studies and opinion pieces (viewpoints) provide a refreshing outlook and will appeal to a large audience. Split into 27 chapters, this book is ambitious and the breadth of the study does mean that particular topics feel underdeveloped, serving more as introductions than in-depth analysis. The foreword acknowledges that this book ‘can be no more than a chapter in what must inevitably be an ongoing examination’ (p. xx) and it serves as a well-written and topical series of engaging introductory articles that will, hopefully, encourage the reader to pursue some of the topics in greater detail.