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Fascinated by the Future: Interpreting Australian Telecommunications Policy Debates

Joseph, R.A. (1999) Fascinated by the Future: Interpreting Australian Telecommunications Policy Debates. Prometheus, 17 (2). pp. 153-162.

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Rhetoric about the future has been a prominent theme in many areas of discussion about technology and change. As societies enter periods of change and uncertainty there is a growing need to deal with the future. This has been the case in the area of telecommunications policy in Australia but this feature of discourse is often taken for granted or not seen as problematic. This paper has two goals. First, it aims to analyse the significance of discourse about the future. This significance has a long historical precedent but it is intimately tied up with the notion of progress and technology. It has political ramifications since it functions to shore up expectations around specific interests—usually those of powerful corporations and governments. Second, it aims to relate the analysis about the future to recent Australian debates in telecommunications policy. Since many countries have been swept up in the enthusiasm for a telecommunications-based future, lessons from Australia may be very relevant. It is argued that some groups (users and consumer groups) would appear not to have had their expectations met in the areas of competition and universal service. In spite of this, some of Telecom Australia's views expressed in the 1975 planning exercise Telecom 2000 seem remarkably prescient today. This seeming paradox is discussed in terms of discourse on the future. A future based on an over reliance on technological or managerial determinism may well lock the country into a future of limited choice. It will be important that mechanisms are established to ensure that appropriate and timely choices can be made in telecommunications policy.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Business
Publisher: Carfax Publishing Company
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