Information Policies and Strategies by Ian Cornelius
This is a book with many fine qualities and few, if any, weaknesses. Ian Cornelius is a noted scholar (with a deserved international reputation) whose work is always thorough and entirely accessible to any reader. He states at the very outset: “This is an introductory book about information policy. It takes the form of a discussion of the issues that affect the determination of what policy should be, and a discussion of which mechanisms give effect to the intended policy” (p. xi). He is true to his claim. This is not a deep treatise on any particular policy or initiative but succeeds as a critical introduction to what policy is, what topics are important fodder for policy considerations, and how policy is shaped.
In the course of the book Cornelius addresses eight issues: globalization and information societies; information policy and the public sphere; information rights and information policy; censorship, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression; arguments for protecting speech; privacy and data protection; form of information; and intellectual property. Some readers may be tempted to criticize him for what is not included, but it can be argued that he includes some of the most pressing national and international matters facing everyone interested in, and working with, policy today. His examples are, in fact, international, but he draws most heavily from the United Kingdom and the United States. It may be surmised that limitations exist so that the introductory nature of the book can succeed (which it does).
While the book is introductory, it is decidedly not superficial. In the introduction Cornelius offers a sophisticated analysis of how policy arises and what factors influence those who are charged with formulating policy. He speaks at some length on how governments create policies—including regulations and laws—as part of the most fundamental purposes and workings of their existence. [End Page R3] He addresses the messy issues of the contexts within which and for which policies are generated and recognizes that “this also raises a question about who information policy is for” (p. 11). Policy has a variety of needs, and Cornelius recognizes and describes many of those needs through his treatment of the various kinds and purposes of policy.
In fact, each chapter and section of the book flows into the next, so that there is a relatively seamless treatment of policy needs that relates one to the next. For example, his discourse on the public sphere is necessary for the discussion of censorship and other topics. What constitutes a public sphere contributes to (if it does not determine) what constitutes freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Those freedoms rely on rights—individual and government—that precede freedoms. In the real world, Cornelius says, “we must consider what actually happens as well as what we intend” (p. 88). If information is seen as a marketplace, then it must be accepted that governments do much to regulate markets for information, just as they regulate all types of markets. Cornelius does, though, present thoroughly considered arguments for free speech, particularly those articulated by Joshua Cohen.
Cornelius’s book is no polemic, which is refreshing in itself. It is intended to be, and succeeds as, a careful beginning, well argued and presented, for those who would delve more deeply into information policy. This work would be a splendid introduction to anyone who yearns to know more about the fundamental nature and principles of information policy. Perhaps especially, this work would make an excellent textbook for any course on the subject.