My college application process carried with it an understanding of change going on around the world following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the student struggle in China preceding the Tiananmen Square massacre. People and students in Eastern Europe and other countries around the world were challenging their social structures to be more democratic. It was frustrating to be continuing my education in a country where this did not seem to be the case, or so I thought.
Computer facilitated communications provided the public space where such democratic strivings could find room in America. My first introductions to this space came during my search for intellectualism absent in junior high school. Local computer bbses were fertile grounds for differences, discussions and debates between hungry minds, and places where people could communicate and find community.
In pursuit of this dissent, my question at Columbia during the undergraduate years were to better understand what the Internet was and why people spent their time on-line. The Internet, Usenet, mailing lists and other online communication forums proved to be the worldwide continuation of what had its beginnings in hobbyist computer bbses that I experienced in Michigan during my youth.
By discovering the challenge of traditional political structures online, I found the source of people's uses of this media. It is a forum where all viewpoints are aired. My pioneering research on-line let those who use the Net describe how it improved their lives and how it helped democratize some of their interaction with society around them. These net.citizens or netizens put time and effort into the Net because of the value they received back. They were part of the larger world community which used the Net and made it what it is today. Being active and on-line enables one to have more control over the piece of the world which surrounds him or her. The power to communicate with others in a wide fashion is very democratizing. Here is a medium which is essentially controlled by all who use it, rather than one or two media giants.
So the early influences of democratic thinking of people like Floyd and my parents, along with the understanding of the role of history and the worldly influences of global communication facilitated by computers helps define my career desire. I want to spread use and understanding of technology because of its power to improve people's lives and spread democracy. After gaining my Ph.D. in studying this phenomena, I plan to communicate the result of my studies. I plan to help spread the technology by writing, teaching, and conducting more research about the nature and significance of this important new medium. I plan to get my Ph.D. in communications and then to become professor and writer, and perhaps most importantly play a role in setting public policy about the future of this new communications medium.
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