Virtual vs. Real in Williams and M&S
As best I can, I am going to take on virtual vs. real in Miller and Slater and in Williams. In the end of chapter 5, M&S come to the conclusion that interpersonal relationships are "real" on the Internet, while the political economy of the Internet is "virtual." As I read Television, Williams would come to different conclusion: viewers make virtual connections with on-screen personalities in the highly planned flow; however, the advertising on television reflects the reality of American commerce. Whereas Trinis see free-market ideals waiting to be exploited in the Internet, the commerce of television accurately reflects real American life. Admittedly, that's not the clearest thing I've ever written; and, admittedly, the connection is loose, but it's there.
I see the difference in conclusions as a result of methodology, mostly. Williams, however flawed, looked back on television after 20 years of its use in America. M&S, on the other hand, took an ethnographic approach set in the early days of the web. I think they would come to different conclusions now. I hear the same ecommerce themes expressed in M&S that I heard expressed in America around the same time: How will businesses make money using the Internet? Is it worth the cost? What will distribution look like? (Remember the days when many people questioned whether Amazon.com would ever get into the black?) I suspect that the same changes we see today in the US with regard to ecommerce, we would observe in Trinidad. And, in that case, the Internet may have actually enabled the free-market ideals that Trinis aspired to.