If you have any comments or answers to these questions, please
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!
Article 3140 of alt.amateur-comp:
From: email@example.com (Michael Hauben)
Subject: What is the Political Impact of the Net?
Date: 4 Oct 1994 12:53:16 -0400
I am college senior working on a senior project/thesis. I am
interested in what broad and wide reaching changes the Net has made
In a previous paper, "The Net and the Netizens", I surveyed and
compiled the effect of the Net on people's personal and
individual life. I am now looking into the broader effects of the
Net on society as a whole. I would like to hear from people both
how broad-reaching effects of the Net has affected their personal
life and organizations they are involved in, and how it has
affected others that you might know about. I am interested in
hearing the role the Net has played in giving people more power
over their lives than they had prior to their online access. It
would be good to hear about changes around the world, such as the
role the Net has played in relation to the changes in Eastern
Europe and other parts of the World. (Such as the fall of the
Berlin Wall, the failure of the Coup against Gorbachev, the
chinese students pro-democracy movement). I am especially
interested in any grass-roots movements which formed because of
the Net. (e.g.: French Students use of Minitel to organize
against university tuition raises.) I would like to hear of
similar occurrences facilitated by the Net.
This might belong in a second post, but I am also interested in
hearing what peoples thoughts and theories about the potential
future political and broad reaching impact of the Net might be.
When I say "the Net", I am referring to much more than just the
Internet. I am referring to all possible components of the global
computer communications network, whether it be the Internet, all
the Networks which comprise the Internet, FidoNet, Bitnet and
other physical networks, Usenet and other logical networks,
News/Netnews, mailing lists, other communications mediums (irc,
talk, online communities, Mudd/mush/muck/moos, etc), other
information storage and retrievial applications (gopher, ftp, WWW,
Veronica, archie, WWWW & other web robots and spiders), and so on.
I would also be interested in any references to theoretical texts
which provide a useful founding from which to compare the Net. I
am considering reading books by Paine, Rousseau and de Tocqeville.
Either send me email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or reply publicly to
this message. I will post my resulting paper to the Net in
response to the help.
I. What kind of political impact has the Net already had or is having?
In terms of
a. Broad Social Changes
b. Greater availability of information
c. Defeating coups and tearing down walls.
II. What kind of political impact might the Net help make possible in
Helpful notes from an article about connection of revolt in
Eastern Europe with Information Technologies.
"The Information Technologies and East European Societies" in
_East European Politics and Societies_ by Gary L. Geiepl [TYPE IN
REST] (394-438) Vol 5, No. 3 Fall '91
394 - "The perception of serious technological backwardness, and
the desire to end it, lie at the heart of Eastern Europe's
economic, political, and social upheaval...The computer and its
related technologies have contributed most to the industrial
world's rapid economic restructuring and have highlighted Eastern
Europe's economic deficiencies most clearly."
406 - "[italicized: General Information Flow] The attitude of a
government on the flow of information is of vital importance to
the success of computing initiatives for at least three reasons.
First, access to a wide variety of technical information, from
international sources, is crucial to the development of the
scientific and educational base necessary to support the
widespread use of IT. Second, without guarantees of free
expression and information flow, it is unlikely that the
widespread popular use of computing will be encouraged,
complicating efforts to automate planning and industry. Finally,
leadership paranoia about the transmission of opposing ideas also
may hinder widespread data communications, both within individual
countries and with the outside world. East European officials
responded in several different ways to these issues."
407 [MORE THIS PAGE TO TYPE in LATER]
- "A direct correlation could be seen in Eastern Europe
between a country's tolerance of dissent and the availability of
computing for private use. In Hungary and Poland, the home use of
PCs has been quite common, for some time, even for desktop
publishing and data communications."
408 -"In Poland, PCs played an important role in Samizdat
publication for several years, and are used by the Solidarity
trade union to edit and print the most important of its weekly
| Michael Hauben CC '95 | E-mail me for sample copies of |
| email@example.com | The Amateur Computerist Newsletter |
| firstname.lastname@example.org | & read the alt.amateur-comp newsgroup |
Article 3312 of alt.amateur-comp:
Subject: Seeking out info on Net.Contributions
Date: 14 Nov 1994 01:36:45 -0500
In further defining my "question" and obtaining data for a senior
independent study project, I have the following questions:
I would like to hear how people make contributions to the public
good of the Net. I have understood these contributors in a previous
paper to be "Netizens", or Net Citizens (a net.citizen). Examples
of contributions have been people who volunteer their time to
write up FAQs, make code freely available which increase
functionality or efficiency (B-News, C-News, Gopher, Lynx,
Mosaic, etc etc), producing summaries of answers to Usenet posts,
lists or indexes compiling real-life information or net
information.These are just a few examples I can think of. I
would like to hear of
1) Other examples, or occurrences of contributions that fit as
contributions to the Whole of the Net (whether it be for Usenet,
Internet, IRC, WWW, etc etc.)
2) What have you found to be especially valuable contributions?
My basic criteria is looking for how people "give back to the
Net," or nurture the net. I am not as interested in hearing how
people produce something for the net for a profit. Inherently,
what gets produced will be less useful when the prime concern is
profit rather than the purpose.
I am also more interested in the actual deed rather the the name
of the person who did the deed.
I am interested in people's cooperative building of the Net and its
resources. I see this as the actual construction of what the Net
is. This is how the Internet and Usenet, etc are different than
Compuserve or AOL where the commercial provider "defines" what is
available to their "subscribers." I am interested in hearing how
Netizen's "define" the Net they use. I ask to better understand
the affect we all have on the Net, and in turn on the rest of the
world ("In Real Life"). I am also interested in hearing how people
have contributed to the Net for the needs of the job, whether or
not the benefit is immediately apparent.
In addition to the actual contributions on the Net, I am
interested in any recommendations people could make on theoretical
references. I mean books or articles that would be valuable
background in defining "the public good," or "public spaces."
Lastly, I am also interested in how people's efforts online have
made valuable contributions to the world off the Net and to those
not connected to the Net. All contributions to the Net
effectively help the rest of the world via helping those
connecting to the Net, but I am also interested in how elements
in our society which are not directly connected to the Net are affected.
Please reply either publicly in followup, or email me
at email@example.com. I will contribute my resulting paper
to the Net.
Some of my contributions to the Net are available at my WWW home
page at http://www.columbia.edu/~hauben/index.html
Michael Hauben Columbia College'95 Editor of Amateur Computerist Newsletter
by day firstname.lastname@example.org by night
Subject: How has the Net benefitted science?
I am working on an independent study in college, and am
interested in general on the affects of the Net (Usenet,
Internet, mailing lists, and so on) on human society.
In this particular post I am interested in hearing how the Net
helps facilitate the field of science and science research. How
does the Net facilitate scientific collaboration, progress, data
gathering and sharing? I am intersted in these questions in both
a specific fashion and in the general manner of how the Net
affects society in a broad reaching fashion.
I come to my questions after a visit to an open house of the
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.
Scientists who lectured there spoke to some of the positive
uses of the Net to facilitate the sharing of global geological
data and cooperation by scientists around the world. I also come
to these questions observant that the history of the Net (in particular
ARPANET/Internet/NSFNET, and Usenet) has developed as ways of sharing data
among scientific communities around the world. As such, I would
be interested in hearing everyone's observations and ideas about
what the Net is making possible that was less possible ten or
more years ago.
Please reply to me either publicly or privately at email@example.com
I am working on a senior thesis/project in college and I am
interested in studying what if any broad effect the Net has on
society as whole. One way of exploring this issue is in
researching how if at all the increased amount of available
information affects people's views and understandings of the
world. And in turn if this easier accessible information leads to
any change in the amount of participation an individual (and thus
groups of individual in turn) contributes to the running of his
or her life in particular and to the society as a whole in
I am interested in this question from a multi-sided prespective:
1) Domestic US government use of Information Technologies (in
particular the Net) to make information available to the American
populace as a whole, 2) Any similar use of technologies to make
information available in other countries' perspective populations
on their governments, and 3) People's efforts to have their
experiences and information be considered by governments via
online public discussion or other forms. In addition to this
general quest on how governments use the available technologies
to make information available and how others try to make their
views better known to government, I am interested in how people
are using these new technologies to 1) Online attempts to
influence governments, 2) Using Online to just plain 'get
something done' themselves rather than attempting to influence
the government to do it for them (and the rest of society.), or
3) The forming of grassroots movements either online or using
online as a resource.
In any case, I am interested in the following things:
- References to WWW, gopher, ftp, and telnet sites and indexes of
such sites related to governmental information or grassroots movements
- Newsgroups and Mailing lists talking about these issues, or
involved with the actual running and installation of such servers
- Any personal anecdotes / stories / descriptions on attempts to
organize online or distribute information, and details on
successes *and* failures.
- Any analysis of such attempts that have already been produced
by those operating these servers or by other scholars studying
the affects of information distribution or grassroots movements.
- Whatever else you might feel would be interesting or worthwhile
I will post my paper to Usenet after its completion, and will
probably also make it available via ftp and/or WWW.
Please respond publically and/or to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
>Subject: Impact of the Net on Society
>Date: 20 Feb 1995 21:53:30 -0500
I am working on a senior thesis about the Net* with Professor
Brad Garton at Columbia University.
I am particularly interested in the effect of the Net
on society (i.e.: as opposed to the effect on a particular
individual). One way to look at this is to look at similar
occurances in the history of communication. I have found the
history of the printing press to have significant
parallels. Following are some points raised by Elizabeth
Eisenstein in her book _The Printing Revolution in Early Modern
Europe._ Cambridge University Press (Cambridge: 1993).
I am interested in if anyone feels the Net has played a similarly
significant effect on society, and how... Here are the quotes,
and I would be interested in your comments and observations on
them. (The quotes are taken from the context as part of the work
I did on a previous paper. I will post my paper in a separate
message from this inquiry.)
1. Differing ideas were for the first time set against one
another. The theories of Arabists were set against the theories
of Galenists and those of Aristotelians against
Ptolemaists. Eisenstein writes
Not only was confidence in old theories weakened, but an en-
riched reading matter also encouraged the development of new
intellectual combinations and permutations. Combinatory
intellectual activity, as Arthur Koestler has suggested,
inspires many creative acts. (p. 44)
2. The new availability of different theories or opinions about
the same topics led Eisenstein to conclude that the contribution
a scientist like Copernicus was able to make was not that he
produced a new theory, but rather he was "confronting the next
generation with a problem to be solved rather than a solution to
be learned." (p. 223)
3. Part of the magic of the ability to mass produce copies of
books cheaply, is that the author's words could be spread around
the world. This proved to be powerful. Maurice Gravier commented
on the power the press presented to the Protestant reformers:
"The theses... were said to be known throughout German in a
fortnight and throughout Europe in a month . . . Printing
was recognized as a new power and publicity came into its
own. In doing for Luther what copyists had done for
Wycliffe, the printing press transformed the field of commu-
nications and fathered an international revolt. It was a
revolution. The advent of printing was an important precon-
dition for the Protestant Reformation taken as a whole; for
without it one could not implement "a priesthood of all
believers." At the same time, however, the new medium also
acted as a precipitant. It provided the "stroke of magic" by
which an obscure theologian in Wittenberg managed to shake
Saint Peter's throne." (p. 154)
This idea is repeated by Daniel Defoe when he wrote "The preach-
ing of sermons is speaking to a few of mankind, printing books is
talking to the whole world."
4. Publishers requests for information led to people starting
their own research and work. "Thus a knowledge explosion was set
off." (p. 75), Eisenstein exclaims.
5. The German historian, Johann Sleidan, backs Eisenstein's
observation by saying in his "Address to the Estates of the
Empire" of 1542,
"[The] art of printing [has] opened German eyes even as it
is now bringing enlightenment to other countries. Each man
became eager for knowledge, not without feeling a sense of
amazement at his former blindness." (p. 150)
Please respond to this message publically or privately to me at
email@example.com. When I have finished my thesis, I will
make it available to the on-line community.
* By the Net, I mean in its capacity to help people communicate
with each other. Various parts of the Net help to facilitate this
communication: Usenet Newsgroups, mailing lists, IRC sessions,
talk sessions, Mudd/Moo/M**, WWW, and so on.
Michael Hauben Columbia College'95 Editor of Amateur Computerist Newsletter
by day firstname.lastname@example.org by night
>Subject: Does Usenet have an effect on the print news media?
>Summary: Will this kill that?
What, if any, effect do Usenet and mailing lists have on the print news media?
I am undertaking a project looking into this question and have some of the
following questions. If any of these interest you, please comment in
the thread or via email. I would like to see a discussion started on
1) Has the press (i.e., the print news media) been influenced by the
on-line critique of the press?
2) Have people on-line been helped through their active critique of the press?
3) Does this critique of the press strengthen Usenet in its role as a
4) Is the print news media capable of being influenced? Is it capable
5) Will this (Usenet) kill that (the print news media)?
It is necesary to get a wide variety of responses to best figure out
how to answer these questions, if they indeed can be answered.
Has the Net influenced the accuracy of the coverage of
the Internet and Usenet in the print news media?
Has the coverage become less sloppy and less sensationalistic because
of people's input and criticism of the print news media?
Any comments or discussions about the above would be good.
Here are also some quotes from two sources that I hope you will find
First, some quotes from Christopher Lasch's article
"Journalism, Publicity, and the Lost Art of Argument" in _Media
Studies Journal_ Winter 1995 Vol 9 No 1.
[All typeo's are mine!]
pg 81 - What democracy requires is public debate, and not
information. Of course, it needs information, too, but the
kind of information it needs can be generated only by
vigorous popular debate. We do not know what we need to know
until we ask the right questions, and we can identify the
right questions only by subjecting our own ideas about the
world to the test of public controversy. . . .
From these considerations it follows the job of the
press is to encourage debate, not to supply the public with
information. But as things now stand the press generates
information in abundence, and nobody pays any attention. It
is no secret that the public knows less about public affairs
than it used to. . . .
pg 89 - Instead of dismissing direct democracy as irrelevant to
modern conditions, we need to recreate it on a large scale.
And from this point of view, the press serves as the
equivalent of the town meeting.
. . . Increasingly, information is generated by
those who wish to promote something or someone - a product,
a cause, a political canidate or officeholder - without
arguing their case on its merits or explicitly advertising
it as self-interested material either. Much of the press, in
its eagerness to inform the public, has become a conduit for
the equivilent of junk mail. Like the post office - another
institution that once served to extend the sphere of
face-to-face discussion and to create "committees of
correspondence" - it now delivers an abundance of useless,
indigestible information that nobody wants, most of which
ends up as unread waste. The most important effect of this
obsession with information, aside from the destruction of
trees and mounting burden of "waste management," is to
undermine the authority of the word. When words are used
merely as instruments of publicity or propaganda, they lose
their power to pursuade.
The second selection is from Victor Hugo's _Notre Dame de Paris_,
otherwise known as _The Hunchback of Notre Dame_. Someone on Usenet
suggested that I read the section titled "This Will Kill That." That
person did me a great service, as this section of the novel proved
insightful for the research I am pursuing. Any comments or thoughts
encouraged by these selections would be interesting to hear! :)
187 - "The archdeacon contemplated the gigantic cathedral for a time in
silence, then he sighed and stretched out his right hand towards the
printed book lying open on his table and his left hand towards Notre-Dame,
and he looked sadly from the book to the church:
'Alas,' he said, 'this will kill that..'
'This will kill that. The book will kill the building.'
'As we see it, this thought had two facets. Firstly, it was the thought
of a priest. It was the alarm felt by the priesthood before a new agent:
the printing press. It was the terror and bewilderment felt by a man of
the sanctuary before the luminous press of Gutenberg.  It was the
pulpit and the manuscript, the spoken and the written word,
taking fright at the the printed word;
. . . It meant : the press will kill the church.
This was the presentiment that as human ideas changed their
form they would change their mode of expression, that the
crucial idea of each generation would no longer be written
in the same material or int he same way, that the book of
stone, so solid and durable, would give way to the book of
paper, which was more solid and durable still. Seen thus,
the archdeacon's vague formula had a second meaning: it
meant one art was going to dethrone another art. It meant:
printing will kill architecture.
If we now sum up what we have so far said all too
hurriedly, omitting many proofs as well as many objections
of detail, it amounts to this: that up until the fifteenth
century architecture was the principal register of mankind,
that during that period all ideas of any complexity which
arose in the world became a building; every popular idea,
just like every religious law, had its monuments; that the
human race, in fact, inscribed in stone every one of its
important thoughts. And why? Because every idea, be it
religious or philosophical, is concerned to perpetuate
itself, because the idea that has moved one generation wants
to move others, and to leave some trace. But how precarious
was the immortality of a manuscript! While a building is an
altogether more solid, lasting and resistant book! It takes
only a torch and a Turk to destroy the written word. To
demolish the word of stone you need a social, terrestrial
revolution. The barbarians passed over the Coliseum, the
flood perhaps the Pyramids.
196 - In the fifteen century, everything changed.
The human mind discovered a means of perpetuating
itself which was not only more lasting and resistant than
architecture, but also simpler and easier. Architecture was
dethroned. The lead characters of Gutenberg succeeded the
stone characters of Orpheus.
*The book was to kill the building.*
The invention of the printing-press is the greatest
event in history. It was the mother of revolutions. It was
the total renewal of man's mode of expression, the human
mind sloughing of one form to put on another, a complete and
definitive change of skin by that symbolic serpent which,
ever since Adam, has represented the intelligence.
197 - Simultaneously with the arts, thought itself was
everywhere being set free. The heresiarchs of the Middle
Ages had already made great inroads into Catholicism. The
sixteenth centery shattered religious unity. Prior to the
press, the Reformation would have been only a schism, the
press turned it into a revolution. Take away the press and
heresy is enervated. Whether it was fate or Providence,
Gutenberg was the precursor of Luther.
What, meanwhile, had become of the printing-press?
all the vitality which went from architecture came to the
press. As architecture warned, the press waxed and grew fat.
The capital sums of energy that the human mind had expended
on buildings, it henceforth expended on books. And so, as
early as the sixteenth century, the press, now the equal of
a declining architecture, fought with it and killed it. In
the seventeenth centery, it was already sufficiently
dominant, sufficiently triumphant, sufficiently secure in
its victory, to treat the world to the banquet of a great
literary age. In the eighteenth centery, after its lengthy
repose at the court of Louis XIV, it took up Luther's old
sword once again, armed Voltaire with it, and ran in tumult
to attack the old Europe, whose architectual expression it
had already killed. When the eighteenth century came to an
end, it had destroyed everything. In the nineteeth century,
it was to rebuild.
200 - And in future, should architecture accidentally
revive, it will no longer be master. It will be subject to
the law of literature, which once received law from it. The
respoective positions of the two arts will be reversed.
Michael Hauben Columbia College'95 Editor of Amateur Computerist Newsletter
by day email@example.com by night