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The Information Highway: Just Because We’re On It Doesn’t Mean We Know Where We’re Going

UCD-ITS-RP-96-39

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Suggested Citation:
Mokhtarian, Patricia L. (1996) The Information Highway: Just Because We’re On It Doesn’t Mean We Know Where We’re Going. Journal of World Transport Policy & Practice 2 (1-2), 24 - 28

The potential of technology to solve human problems is often oversold, resulting in faulty "conventional wisdom" that comes to be accepted as truth. Several attributes that are characteristic of conventional wisdom are described. These attributes are then illustrated through questioning three commonly-held beliefs regarding the impacts of telecommunications on urban society: that telecom will reduce congestion and improve air quality, that it will make location irrelevant, and that it will stimulate economic development. Some research and policy issues relating to these beliefs are sketched.

From published report: Looks beyond the hype surrounding telecommunications and suggests that the physical aspects of the information highway are currently short of the ideal and further, that when eventually in place, it may not be ideal. Examines some commonly held beliefs about the transportation, geographic and economic impacts of telecommunications. Suggests numerous further research and policy issues. Concludes by reminding us that telecom technology is inherently neutral. It can facilitate travel reductions and geographic decentralisation and economic development, but not alone – we, as policy makers and consumers must have some control over the outcome; the compact city made obsolete and settlements dispersed throughout the countryside should only happen if people decide that is what they want to happen.