This article introduces the idea of 'risk societies' to highlight how conventional views of the information economy are confounded by the productivity paradox, uncertain demand for new information and communication technologies (ICTs), and the heterogenous qualities of information. Confronting these realities, the communication industries are using monopolization strategies, surveillance, and technological design in their, often elusive, attempts to manage risk and turn the scarce resources of the media economy – time, money and attention – into economic value. These strategies erode the 'soft factors' of trust, confidence, social networks and privacy that are vital to people's willingness to embrace new ICTs and the legitimacy of the information society. Although these trends have created space for new privacy enhancing technologies and trust-brokers, the translation of socio-cultural norms into technology and market-based solutions renders communicative spaces more opaque than ever.
New Media & Society, February 2002 vol. 4 no. 1 93-122