Article: 52786 of comp.dcom.telecom
From: TELECOM Digest Editor 
Newsgroups: comp.dcom.telecom
Subject: The Need For a Netizens Association
Date: Tue, 05 Mar 1996 04:00:00 GMT
Organization: TELECOM Digest, PO Box 4621, Skokie, IL 60076

An interesting message reached me today that I thought several of
you might be interested in. If you do wish to continue the 
discussion, please send your comments direct to the author as
shown below and not to the Digest itself. Perhaps at some future
point the author will be so kind as to summarize responses for
the Digest and submit them to me for publication.


  From: (Michael Hauben)
  Newsgroups: comp.dcom.telecom
  Subject: The need for a Netizens Association
  Date: 4 Mar 1996 03:57:45 GMT
  Organization: Columbia University

The recent passing of the telecommunications bill in the USA
demonstrates the lack of understanding by Congress and the government
about the value of the Net and what it really is. In light of this,
there seems a need for people to organize and form a Netizens
Association. The following summary of a trip I made to Japan in
November 1995 describes the genesis for this idea.  Please e-mail me
or respond publicly if you have suggestions or can help.

Hiroyuki Takahashi is the co-proposer for Netizens Associations.

Towards a Netizens Association,

/Michael Hauben 

      A little under one year ago, I received a letter sent through
the Internet, via electronic mail. The letter was sent by a professor
from Japan, and concerned studies we were both interested in. This
communication between people concerned common interests despite
differences in age, language, and culture. While Professor Shumpei
Kumon knew English and was studying global communication, there were
still real barriers of distance and time. I hope to show how the new
technologies are helping to alleviate these barriers and help bring us
into a new age of communications where the old rules and ways are no
longer the guiding rules and ways.

      What brought Professor Kumon and me together was our shared
interest in the globalization of culture and society through the
emerging communications technologies. The specific concern was about
the emergence of Netizens, or people who use computer networks who
consider themselves to be part of a global identity. The Netizen is
part of a developing global cooperative community. I first used the
term "Netizen" in 1993 after researching people's uses for the
Internet and Usenet. Professor Kumon's first communication to me

      Date: Tue, 28 Feb 1995 12:30:23 +0900
      From: (Shumpei Kumon)
      Subject: Netizen
     I am a social scientist in Japan writing on information
revolution and information-oriented civilization.  Since I came
across the tern "netizen" about a year ago. I have been fascinated by
this idea.  It seems that the age of not only technological-industrial
but also political-social revolution is coming, comparable to the
"citizen's revolution" in the past. I would very much like to do a
book on that theme.

Yesterday, I was delighted to find your Netizen's Cyberstop. You are
doing a great job.

shumpei kumon


     Professor Kumon also asked if I was the first to use the term
Netizen.  Part of his studies are socio-linguistics, so he is
interested in the development and use of language over time. Netizen
had come to replace the term netter or networker in Japan to describe
people who use computer networks.

      In response to my return message, Professor Kumon offered his
understanding of Netizen as "people who abide in networks and are
engaged in collaborative propagation of information and knowledge just
as citizens abide in cities and are engaged in commerce and industry."
He continued, "In this sense we can perhaps find the origin of
netizens in Europe of 13-15th centuries, just as first citizens in
modern civilization appeared in Europe of 12th century as commerce
revived there." Professor Kumon concluded the message by asking if I
was interested in visiting Japan. He said he could make this possible.

      At the time I did not know where this would lead, but I
responded that I would be very much interested in visiting. Japan was
an unfamiliar country for me. Previously in my education I did do some
research into the secondary education system, and found it to be a
very stressful environment. Otherwise I had some general interest in
the culture. However, I was unfamiliar with Professor Kumon, and the
institutions he was connected to, the Global Communications
Institute (GLOCOM) of which he was the director and the Internation-
al University of Japan. However, this contact with him, and soon with
his colleagues brought me to Japan. One of the planning directors of
GLOCOM, Izumi Aizu, wrote me shortly after Professor Kumon, and
mentioned a conference in November to which they might invite me.
Before the real invitation actually arrived, several other events took

      Izumi Aizu arrived in New York City in late April, and we spoke
of many things.  Most interesting was how he saw the Internet being a
direct challenge to traditional Japanese culture. While people
normally go by their last names in Japan, the Usenet and Internet
culture encourages first-name familiarity. Professor Kumon's e-mail
address was made up of his first name, not his last. The style of
writing in e-mail is usually informal. The ease of use encourages
people to use the medium as if it were in between writing a letter and
making a phone call. E-mail, Usenet and the world wide web (WWW)
encourage people to share their original thoughts and creations with
the world. I have been told that Japanese culture encourages people to
represent the larger grouping they are part of. The concept and
history of Netizen strikes a good mid-point between being
individualistic or having a group identity. Netizens represent
themselves, but as part of the larger group. The many-to-many
technology gives people the chance to represent themselves, but in the
context of contributing to the whole on-line community. During Izumi's
visit, we also briefly spoke of some of the barriers to the spread of
the Internet in Japan and the United States. A big concern of Izumi's
was who could or should pay to spread the Internet in Japan. There are
other social and technical hurdles to overcome in order to spread the
Internet throughout Japan.

      Izumi described more of the work of the HyperNetwork Society
which was connected to a network community in Oita Prefecture and
described some about the conference I was being invited to speak at in
November. He also asked if I was willing to be interviewed for a
television special that would be created for Japanese TV introducing
Netizens and describing the Internet.

     Two days after my graduation from Columbia College in May, the
two film-makers arrived to conduct their interview and to film me and
Columbia. They explained that their film would be aired on TV Tokyo, a
NHK television channel on an educational TV show in July, 1995.

      The airing of the TV program about the Internet, communications
and multimedia was very important to my later trip to Japan. My
connection to Japan would broaden out from the initial contact by the
members of GLOCOM.  After July 2, I received several e-mail messages
from other people in Japan.

      A student in his final year of undergraduate study at Saitama
University wrote on the very day the TV show was on in Japan. In his
e-mail, Hiroyuki Takahashi explained that "I discovered your idea --
Netizen ... I feel attracted to your concept. I would like to talk with
you about netizen and so on. I want to spread netizen among networker
in JAPAN." (email of July 2). He asked if he could copy to his public
computer server in Japan the documents about Netizens that I have
publicly available through my Columbia University web pages.

    I responded yes, and wrote, " I am glad to hear you are trying to
spread Internet access to the public. We thus have a common goal. :-)"
(email 7/2/95)

     Hiroyuki wrote back "Yes we can collaborate on that purpose."

     He had apologized saying that his English was not very good. I
responded that "unfortunately, I speak no Japanese, but appreciate
that we can communicate." Hiro wrote back saying "Nationality has no
longer senses on the network. Everybody stands on same starting points

     He wrote that there were many problems in trying to spread the
Internet in Japan as computer networking had grown a lot in the past
two years. He explained: "[In the] Last 2 years [the] computer network
environment in Japan grew up marvelously so most of japanese included
mass media, market and ordinary men cannot catch up with the growth
and they are expecting too much." Hiroyuki explained "So now I am
seeking how to spread network environments." (e-mail July 4, 1995)

      The connection to GLOCOM similarly flourished, and I was asked
to contribute a chapter to Professor Kumon's planned book about
Netizens tentatively titled "The Netizen Revolution." In addition, I
submitted a paper for inclusion in a newspaper special supplement
whose theme was "The Media Revolution."

      More people sent me e-mail, and I posted publicly to public
newsgroups like soc.culture.japan and This
connection with people from across the globe whose native language was
different was occurring because the computer and communications
technology had developed to 1) break down the geographic and time
barriers, and 2) break down the social barriers which exist in all
cultures, but which are traditionally strong in Japanese culture.
These changes are helping all cultures and societies to become more
global, in both making their contribution to the larger world and to
receive back from the world.

      I heard from Izumi several times after July concerning the
conference, and the final invitation arrived in August. Izumi invited
me to make a presentation on "Netizen concept and issues." Izumi
also mentioned that there would be two other Internet conferences in
Kobe that it might be possible to attend.

     In November, plans for my visit to Japan were worked out. I was
asked to prepare a 20 minute talk and to submit a description of my
talk for the conference program.

     I wrote Hiro telling him I would be visiting Japan and asked if
it would be possible to meet him. I also posted on some Japanese
Usenet newsgroups asking if there were suggestions about my visit.

     Hiro wrote back that he would be very happy to meet me. He said
that "We can discuss or talk about many things; netizen, internet,
computing and so on. I am very happy to see you :-)" (email Nov 16)

     When I was in Japan, we met and had dinner. We spoke of many
things including the lack of professors at his University who
understand the computer technology. I learned that he and other
students managed the campus computers and networks. Hiro also worked
towards introducing the Internet and spreading its use in Japan. When
I asked how I could help, he mentioned that he wanted help to
translate some of the netizens writings into Japanese. I said I would
be helpful if he had any questions. Then I left Tokyo and went to the
HyperNetwork conference in Oita. Similar to what took place in Tokyo,
I received an extremely warm and friendly welcoming from many of the
People from COARA and the BBC '95 conference. My presentation in Beppu
concentrated on describing the emergence of Netizens and analyzing the
development of the public communications medium know as the Net.
Following is a definition of Netizens presented in the speech,

"Netizens are the people who actively contribute on-line towards the
development of the Net. These people understand the value of
collective work and the communal aspects of public communications.
These are the people who actively discuss and debate topics in a
constructive manner, who e-mail answers to people and provide help to
new-comers, who maintain FAQ files and other public information
repositories, who maintain mailing lists, and so on.  These are people
who discuss the nature and role of this new communications medium.
However, these are not all people. Netizens are not just anyone who
comes on-line, and they are especially not people who come on-line for
isolated gain or profit.  They are not people who come to the Net
thinking it is a service. Rather they are people who understand it
takes effort and action on each and everyone's part to make the Net a
regenerative and vibrant community and resource. Netizens are people
who decide to devote time and effort into making the Net, this new
part of our world, a better place."

When I got back to Tokyo, Hiro came to visit again, and he brought
several members of his computer club with him. The computer club was
the Advanced Computer and Communication Engineering Studying Society
(aka ACCESS).

     I had also received email from Mieko Nagano in November before my
visit to Japan who said she was housewife active in the community
network COARA which sponsored the Hyper network conference. Her e-mail
was an invitation to the conference from someone outside of GLOCOM. In
a later email she wrote that she was moved by my concept of Netizen
which she shared in my understanding would "help further the growth of
the Net by connecting a diversity of people who have various opinions,
specialties and interests. This worldwide connection of people and
other information resources of different sorts will help the world
move forward in solving different societal problems."  (email Oct. 29,

      She wrote that she was not able to "comprehend high-class
discussions in the past conferences." "I only enjoy," she continued,
"as a ordinary housewife, communication with good-willed and
good-sensed people through COARA and/or E-mail on real name basis."

      "What is great for me," she noted, "is that I can talk to the
people all over the world instantaneously and look around various
sites full of information including images and sounds." (Oct. 29)

     When I arrived at the hypernetwork conference, there were
stickers and hats declaring "Netizen in COARA." After the conference,
Mieko explained:

     "Naming after NETIZEN, as Mr. Hauben advocated, COARA members
prepared in advance 'Netizen sticker' appealing to be COARA
constituent by attaching the logo on their chests of clothes and
welcomed our guests."(email Dec 12, 1995)

      After our visit, I wrote Hiro that I was very happy to have met
him and his friends from their computer club at his University. In his
email when I returned home he asked if there was a Netizens
Association. He wrote in a P.S.  in an email of Dec. 6 "Netizen
association is available? If not in Japan, I want to make it." I told
him I did not know of any and asked him what he had in mind for a
Netizens association to do. He responded:

     "I think [a] Netizen Association is a guide into tomorrow's
     Internet world. Internet and other network[s] have a flood 
     of electrical informations. So people cannot swim very good 
     in Internet. So Netizen Association tell or advise how to 
     swin or get selected information. The association act as 
     guide. Oh, and we have to spread information about concept 
     of netizen. But making association process has many 
     difficult points, I think. So we have to give careful 
     consideration to the matter."

"Please let me know your idea," he added. (email Dec 12, 1995)

     Hiro also wrote that he and his classmates had a "translation
team" that was "now reading carefully" through the Netizens article.
"And next Thursday and Friday," he wrote, "our club has big
presentation about Internet in my university, so we are very hard [at
work] this week." (from Dec. 9, 1995 email)

      Others wrote to explain their interest in the concept of
Netizen. The response was important because as I found out while in
Japan, the word 'netizen' meaning 'network citizen' would have a
different meaning in the Japanese culture. The term or concept of
citizen differs from the American meaning as the individual finds
meaning in the group organizational setting and not separately. This
means the meaning of the concept rather than the surface of the term
was understood.

      While in Japan, I met many people interested in spreading the
Internet.  Those involved, young or old, found it important to try and
connect people to the Internet as a way forward into the future. Young
people were happy to have a new tool to challenge the old conventions
of society. I was more surprised to find others of older generations
still interested in this new technological medium which was
challenging the traditional Japanese social customs. More importantly,
however, was the global connections and broadening of people the
Internet brings. Mieko, Izumi, Professor Kumon and Hiro were all
working towards making it possible for the Japanese people, from any
part of Japan, to be able to communicate with others around the world.

Michael Hauben                 Teachers College Dept. of Communication
Netizens Netbook     
WWW Music Index      

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Thank you for a very fine presentation
to the Digest readers today. I quite agree that a Netizen's Association
would be a marvelous idea. I wonder what other Digest readers think
of this proposal?  I believe we should at this time unanimously appoint
Mr. Hauben as Chairperson or President of the Netizens Association in the
United States and encourage him to work with not only his counterparts
in Japan but to aid in beginning Netizen Association chapters or groups
all over the world. And Michael, you can count me in as a member from
the very beginning.     PAT]

Last modified: Fri Mar 8 20:21:23 1996
Michael Hauben <>