Siva Vaidhyanathan, who is entertaining as he is informative, is a cultural historian and media scholar (a rare combination these days), and teaches Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia. His ideas and concepts are multidisciplinary -- Vaidhyanathan has even coined the field of studies, “Critical Information Studies” which synthesizes key aspects of both Cultural Studies and Political Economy by interrogating the “structures, functions, habits, norms, and practices” of particular aspects of information culture.
One of the preeminent historians of American copyright, Vaidhyanathan's arguments often examines how these issues go beyond simple arguments about digital “rights” to include consideration of the more subtle impacts of cost and access that have the potential for chilling effects on a “semiotic democracy” that is situated in “global flows of information.”
In many ways, Vaidhyanathan counters the utopian web which Henry Jenkins calls "participatory culture." Rather than accept utopian enthusiasms about "Web 2.0" uncritically, critical information studies exposes the potential vulnerabilities in democratic institutions posed by such issues as Digital Rights Management, tampering with electronic voting, and otherwise trusting private corporations with public information infrastructure. CIS looks at 'semiotic democracy' -- a big picture examination on just how digital and social media are affected by corporate producers.
CIS is an intellectual antidote to the the Web 2.0 social media phenomena, and offers the tools to analyze the Web more thoughtfully and carefully. But CIS is an exciting field, just as it is beginning to take shape and gain its own sense of identity. Afterward: Critical Information Studies - A Bibliographic Manifesto is required reading for those interested in CIS as it provides a detailed "taxonomy" of disparate disciplines which comprises the CIS. These disciplines include American Studies, Anthropology, Communication, Computer Science, Cultural Studies, Ethnic Studies, Legal Studies, Library and Information Science, Literary Studies, Media Studies, Musicology, Political Science, and Sociology. Interestingly, since Critical Information Studies cuts across these and other more traditional academic domains, Vaidhyanathan describes this as being a "transfield."