T H E  N E T W O R K  O B S E R V E R

  VOLUME 1, NUMBER 8                                   AUGUST 1994


  This month: Liberals and libertarians in cyberspace
              Networks and outsourcing
              Community networking in Canada
              A model for networks in community activism
              Some really smart books


  Welcome to TNO 1(8).

  This issue includes an article by Steve Miller, a CPSR activist
  who has been involved for many years in community activism and
  corporate philanthropy.  He offers a solid vision of how NII
  development can transcend the passive images of consumption and
  manipulation that are implicit in the rhetoric of "500 channels"
  and electronic plebiscites.  Instead, he suggests, computer
  networking can make its most powerful difference in helping
  people to build their own community organizations.  Networking
  assists group activists and organization-building in numerous
  ways.  The important thing is training, both computer training in
  a narrow sense and organizational training -- learning how to use
  technology, and all of the other available resources, to build
  organizations that empower people to take control over their own
  lives, and communities to take control over their own futures.

  This issue of TNO also includes a second article about computing
  and communities, a report by Leslie Regan Shade -- whose article
  on the slow start of the information infrastructure debate in
  Canada in TNO 1(2), six whole months ago, already seems like
  ancient history -- on the Canadian Community Networks Conference
  and founding meeting of Telecommunities Canada, just finished
  in Ottawa.  Canadians are now building community networks at
  an explosive rate, and Shade provides a helpful list of the
  organizations and their movers.

  Also included are a couple of brief articles by the editor.  The
  first discusses the future of US technology activism, in which
  everyone will become much clearer about their basic political
  stances, with the result that people with different political
  views will have to spend more time exploring which issues they
  can agree upon.  The second article takes off from a Wall Street
  Journal article about a networked legal research firm in order to
  explore some ways in which information technology is being used
  to restructure industries and change the nature of jobs.

  Speaking of networks and communities, I'm the program chair
  for the 1994 Annual Meeting of Computer Professionals for Social
  Responsibility, which will be held the weekend of October 8th and
  9th at UC San Diego.  It'll be a terrific meeting and everyone
  is invited to attend, whether you're a computer professional
  or not.  We'll have speakers from a wide variety of professions
  (education, librarianship, public health, social work, law,
  journalism, and museum curatorship, as well as computer people)
  talking about the problems of getting information to people
  and protecting the rights of privacy and intellectual freedom.
  We'll also have a special emphasis on providing you with the
  skills, connections, and tools that you'll need to do good deeds
  and become an activist for democratic uses of technology on
  Monday morning.

  The Annual Meeting Web pages are now ready to go.  Just aim
  your Web client at http://www.cpsr.org/dox/am/program.html and
  look around.  Or, if you prefer, you can get the program and
  registration information from an autoresponder by sending a
  message that looks like this:

    To: listserv@cpsr.org
    Subject: anything

    get cpsr/conferences cpsr-94.program

  If all else fails, you can contact CPSR at cpsr@cpsr.org.


  The new politics of technology in the US.

  It's time for people engaged in technology activism on the net,
  at least within the United States, to realize that they're really
  a coalition of two groups with different underlying philosophies,
  progressives and libertarians.  These two groups are not
  homogenous or precisely defined, of course, but the growing
  depth of ideological commitments among a variety of people
  on the right has introduced a lot of frictions that should be
  openly discussed.  For example, at the most recent Conference on
  Computers, Freedom, and Privacy in Chicago, I saw several liberal
  speakers unnecessarily piss off the libertarians in the audience
  by presupposing that everyone in the audience agreed with their
  own agenda, vocabulary, and values.  The point isn't that the
  two sides should agree about everything, since that won't happen.
  The point is that they should work together when they can through
  a conscious coalition, and then only disagree when they can't.

  Both groups, as I say, embrace a fair amount of diversity.  The
  term "progressive" has enjoyed a new life in American politics
  in the last few years, both because the right has thrown such
  scorn upon "liberals" and as a reflection of the diversity of
  the American left which was masked during the period of liberal
  ascendancy in Washington.  The progressive movement includes the
  liberals, a largely middle-class movement with largely patrician
  leadership, whose agenda focuses on the redistribution programs
  and consumer and environmental regulations that arose in the
  1960's and 1970's.  It also includes a range of socialist views,
  mostly democratic in nature, and a wide variety of populist
  social movements from the labor movement to the community-based
  environmental justice movement.  It also may or may not include
  the "communitarians", many of whose sentiments are found in the
  community networking movement.  What unites these movements is
  the notion of political empowerment -- the idea that people's
  interests lay in organizing themselves into specifically
  political movements for redress of social grievances, whatever
  their particular grievances might be.  Although it is hard to
  remember this now, the liberal Great Society programs at their
  peak included extensive funding for actual community organizing
  activities, a picture quite at odds with the right's caricature
  of passive victims lining up for handouts.

  Libertarians are also diverse.  Many of them are part of the
  still dominant wing of the Republican party.  But many others
  think of themselves as a third force in American politics,
  distinct from both the established parties.  (A handful of them,
  having taken etiquette lessons from Rush Limbaugh, have engaged
  in nasty and unscrupulous on-line red-baiting of organizations
  such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  But I'm talking
  about the majority of decent, honorable ones.)  The central
  concept of libertarianism (and, again, I am referring to the
  American usage of the term, which differs from that in most
  other countries) is, of course, liberty -- a "liberty" conceived
  in relation to the government.  Libertarians tend to be strong
  individualists who insist on their right to be left alone,
  although libertarian intellectuals are starting to emphasize
  voluntary associations whose role in society, they believe, was
  displaced by the rise of the welfare state.

  The technological issue upon which progressives and libertarians
  have worked together most harmoniously has been privacy.  Each
  movement has its own pictures of oppressive invasions of personal
  space that might be facilitated by technology.  This alliance is
  particularly natural when the possible invasions of privacy come
  from the government, given progressives' collective memories of
  government-sponsored pogroms against the left and libertarians'
  generalized opposition to state power.  The Clipper chip has
  been a tremendously productive issue in this regard, since it
  provides an extremely unusual alliance of everybody from the
  ACLU to the captains of industry.  It is not normal for industry
  to be so clearly aligned against the preferences of the national
  security state, and privacy activists should enjoy this while it

  What is surprising is how well the libertarian and progressive
  sections of the privacy movement get along when it comes to
  invasions of privacy by private organizations such as marketing
  firms.  After all, a thoroughgoing libertarian should oppose
  government regulation of private entities and should not be
  disposed to regret invasions of privacy by such entities,
  except insofar as these invasions result from government actions
  such as the sale of public records.  Yet many libertarians, in
  my experience, are really driven by an intuitive desire to be
  left alone and by an intuitive opposition to large, established
  authority, whether or not that authority is part of the state.

  Although such views may seem contradictory, they are more natural
  in the context of a larger view of technology and its place in
  society that has been growing among the constituency of things
  like Wired magazine.  The focus here is on decentralization
  and markets.  Computer networks, it is held, are instruments
  of liberty that allow people to communicate laterally, thereby
  breaking down the hierarchies of governments and corporations
  alike.  The resulting vision is actually similar to that of Adam
  Smith, who thought of the market as a vast network of artisans
  and entrepreneurs and who had little or no inkling of the large,
  bureaucratic corporation.  Highly exaggerated tales about the
  role of computer networks in the democracy movements in Russia
  and China have become part of the folklore of this movement, and
  a pervasive confusion has arisen between decentralized forms of
  organization and decentralized distribution of power.  The actual
  evidence, such as it is, points largely in the other direction:
  computer networks decentralize organization (in the sense of
  operational decision-making) while simultaneously increasing the
  power of corporate central management.

  Be this as it may, little purpose is served by ignoring the
  considerable philosophical differences that underlie coalitions
  about issues like the Clipper chip.  Indeed, exploration of these
  differences will be important in extending political cooperation
  to new realms, for example in building the community networking
  movement, which will someday become big enough to have political
  enemies who seek to stifle or digest it through regulation,
  most likely under the guise of deregulation.  On the other
  hand, new conflict will most likely arise as each side explores
  and develops its particular model for organizing people around
  technology issues.  Whereas each side has its own concept of
  self-help and cooperative work, they have different ideas of the
  purpose of such activities.  For libertarians they are ends in
  themselves, understood as ordinary expressions of liberty within
  a framework of markets.  For progressives, by contrast, they are
  a prelude to political organizing; in particular, they provide
  the experience in successful joint action and the skills of
  organizing that are required to get a political movement going.

  In this regard, I think it is valuable to investigate the often
  tacit politics of a wide variety of emergent movements around
  technology.  I have mentioned the community networking movement,
  which has extraordinary potential as both a political movement
  in its own right and as an infrastructure for democratic activity
  more generally.  Another movement is the world of discourse
  in MUD's and IRC and the like, in which individual and group
  identities are explored and reconfigured on a daily basis in
  incorporeal "places" and "spaces" whose construction routinely
  encodes elaborate commentaries upon the places and spaces of the
  rest of social life.  Yet another is the explosion of affinity
  groups organized around mailing lists, from people living with
  a common illness to people sharing a particular professional

  What, in political terms, are these people doing?  They often
  do not conceive of themselves as engaging in a specifically
  political movement, but that's alright.  As emergent forms
  of group activity and social imagination, they are inherently
  political at some level, in some way.  Most likely they are
  internally diverse, in which case we can set about articulating
  points of agreement and disagreement, shaping agendas that afford
  shared action, and get about the hard work of building democracy.


  Outsourcing and you.

  A recent Wall Street Journal article nicely illustrates the
  risks and benefits that come from the use of computer networks
  to create distributed labor markets:

    Amy Stevens, A lean network of researchers poses a threat to
    law firm fat, Wall Street Journal, 8 July 1994, pages B1, B6.

  It's about a new company called Legal Research Network that
  contracts with law firms case-by-case to conduct customized legal
  research.  The law firm sends LRN the facts and questions, and
  LRN passes them along to one of its network of lawyers, who then
  agrees to do the job for a fixed fee.  As an economic matter,
  LRN makes sense because, having a large "stable" of researchers
  available, it can frequently match up incoming jobs with lawyers
  who have specifically relevant backgrounds.  For a firm to do all
  of its research in-house, by contrast, it must frequently assign
  research to lawyers with little relevant background.  LRN can
  thus do the job much more efficiently, which means that they can
  pay more and charge less.

  What makes this scheme work?  One relevant analysis is available
  in this paper:

    Eric K. Clemons, Information technology and the boundary
    of the firm: Who wins, who loses, and who has to change, in
    Stephen P. Bradley, Jerry A. Hausman, and Richard L. Nolan,
    eds, Globalization, Technology, and Competition: The Fusion of
    Computers and Telecommunications in the 1990s, Boston: Harvard
    Business School Press, 1993.

  Clemons argues that this sort of thing works when the service
  in question being provided is complex, scale-intensive, and
  detachable.  Legal research is clearly complex; it would be
  impossible to perform on an assembly line, and it benefits from
  specialization.  It is scale-intensive in that LRN can obtain
  economies of scale by routinizing front-office operations,
  maintaining and exploiting a library of previous research
  products, and having a large roster of specialized workers
  available.  And it is detachable because it is information-work
  whose inputs and outputs can be transmitted across great
  distances over computer networks, provided the facts of the case
  are not too complicated or subtle to communicate reliably to a
  distant and unfamiliar contractor.

  Structures like this are arising for many reasons in addition to
  technology.  The specific role of computer networks is to make
  a nation-wide network of researchers all effectively equidistant
  from headquarters.  These researchers are all working part-time,
  being paid by the job.  They accept the work for the same reasons
  as other part-time workers: they are unemployed, on maternity
  leave, retired, or otherwise unwilling or unable to take
  full-time work.  A system like LRN's is thus genuinely a good
  deal for many people.  Moreover, by making legal work cheaper, it
  may increase ordinary people's access to the courts and decrease
  the burden of litigation costs on the economy.

  The problem arises when such systems become entrenched in the
  structure of the industry.  The reason why employers give people
  full-time, long-term jobs is that it is cheaper than hiring
  people on the spot labor market to perform each separate task.
  Employing people full-time can be cheaper for many reasons,
  including the costs of finding and hiring suitable employees and
  the amount of specific knowledge and training that are required
  to perform that company's tasks.  Many things can change the
  economic balance in favor of temporary labor, including changes
  in the structure of work tasks that make them more detachable
  than before.  Computer networks make legal research tasks
  more detachable by decreasing the costs of communicating those
  tasks to an outside contractor.  Other computer technologies can
  reduce the costs of hiring by automating parts of the interview
  and background-check process and through economies of scale in
  record-keeping; thus the growth in the routine use of temporary
  labor contracted through firms like Manpower:

    Robert L. Rose, Thriving Manpower mixes hiring, hamburger
    wisdom, Wall Street Journal, 24 June 1994, page B4.

  In any case, the shift toward temporary labor has profound
  consequences for people's lives.  A full-time job isn't a
  totally guaranteed meal ticket, but it does provide a measure
  of stability that is important for anybody who has anything else
  going on in their lives, like raising children.  Temp work is
  convenient when it's what you want, but it's a terrible life when
  it isn't.

  More important than that, the creation of efficient labor markets
  pushes down wages.  For example, it's hard to live on what you
  can make through temp-work telemarketing.  The good money will
  go to people with specific skills, but only so long as those
  particular skills are in demand.  The situation is even worse in
  information-work, since the temporary employer can keep a library
  of work products to decrease the amount of work required next
  time.  LRN does this, and promises to pay "residuals" when the
  work is reused.  But there's nothing written in stone about this
  arrangement, which may or may not be demanded by the structure of
  the market.

  Another potential difficulty is the effect of piecework-based
  outsourcing on career ladders.  The "fat" spoken of in the title
  of the WSJ article on LRN consists of junior attorneys.  Doing
  legal research for the senior attorneys' cases is a prime example
  of apprenticeship, the way an apprentice carpenter might start
  out by sweeping the floor and sharpening tools.  Research gives a
  new attorney some exposure to a wide variety of legal issues and
  cases, as well as occasions for informal interactions with senior
  attorneys and clients.  If legal research is heavily outsourced
  then it will become much harder for junior attorneys to rise
  without special background and connections.  This snapping of
  the middle links in the vocational hierarchy is found virtually
  anywhere high technology is used to differentiate and specialize
  work tasks, and it is probably one important contributor to the
  growing divergence (at least in the United States) between the
  prosperous and the left-behind.

  In short, as I said in a review of Bradley et al in Wired, we
  might be looking at a future in which everyone on the planet
  is competing with everyone else in real time.  Is this a happy
  planet?  Is it really an efficient planet despite its ceaseless
  upheaval, given that people will still be trying to raise kids?


  Conference Report: Canadian Community Networks Conference and
  founding meeting of Telecommunities Canada, August 15-17, 1994
  Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario.

  Leslie Regan Shade
  McGill University
  Graduate Program in Communications
  shade@ice.cc.mcgill.ca or shade@well.com

  The second annual Community Networking Conference switched
  its focus from international perspectives to those affecting
  the Canadian arena.  It's wonderful to realize how mobilized
  community networks and various public interest groups have become
  in the last twelve months. Last year, there were two free-nets
  operational in Canada (the Victoria Freenet and the NCF-National
  Capital Free-Net in Ottawa) and approximately a dozen in the
  planning stages; this year, two more free-nets (CIAO in Trail,
  B.C., and the Chebucto Free-Net in Halifax, N.S.) have started
  up, at least two are due to become operational in 1994 (including
  Vancouver and Toronto), and over 40 are in the planning
  stages.  Last summer there weren't any organizations devoted
  to exploring issues surrounding the public interest in the
  information infrastructure; this year (perhaps inspired by the
  formation of the federal Information Highway Advisory Council,
  and "Information Super-Hypeway" conferences that have stressed
  business and industry concerns over public interest concerns),
  at least two groups have started up.  These include the Coalition
  for Public Information-CPI-and the Public Advisory Council on
  Information Highway Policy, founded by Marita Moll and Sean Yerxa
  of Ottawa.

  Conference presenters and informal chats focused on getting the
  needs of the public out to the policymakers.  Keynote speaker
  Mark Surman in his talk "Social activism and the electronic
  commons: from community television to freenets" set much of the
  tone of the conference by challenging participants to set the
  agenda for principles that will inevitably define electronic
  public spaces, including: 1) free and open access; 2) a two way
  flow of information; 3) access to computer and technological
  literacy; 4) non-commercial spaces; and 5) funded by the people
  who own the network system.

  The conference's goals were also to share the experiences of
  those involved in setting up free-nets; raise awareness about
  the purposes and possibilities of free-nets; provide for the
  founding meeting of Telecommunities Canada; and prepare an issues
  agenda about the role of community based free-nets in Canada's
  information infrastructure.

  Working/Discussion Groups centred on these and other issues,
  including the definition and role of free-nets, fundraising
  practices, future directions in community network technologies,
  francophones and free-nets, and the role of Telecommunities

  Panels included free-net research on use and demographics with
  Al Black talking about the CRC survey of NCF freenet users; Kees
  Schalken of Tilburg University on Amsterdam's "Digital City"; and
  my talk on the E-Connections project, whose goal is to examine
  the possibility of setting up networking services for non-profit
  and labour groups in Ontario.

  The panel, "Partnerships in Public Access" included Rory McGreal
  of TeleEducation, New Brunswick, on the Information Highway
  Advisory Council's Subcommittee on Learning and Training; Karen
  Kostaszek on the relationship between SchoolNet and the freenets;
  and Lynda Williams on the relationship between rural access,
  public libraries, and free-nets.

  The Community Nets Software panel examined the various directions
  free-net software is heading, and included demonstrations
  by David Trueman of Chebucto Free-Net; Greg Searle of the
  Telecommunity Development Group in Guelph on FreeSpace, and Ian
  Duncan on technical choices for networked community activities.

  The fourth day of the conference was devoted to electing the
  board of directors for Telecommunities Canada, the national group
  to represent Canada's free-nets.  The new board includes:

  Michael Gillespie - Vice President of Blue Sky Freenet

  Roger Hart - Senior Consultant, Teleconsult Limited, Victoria BC

  Andre Laurendeau - Le Reseau Electronique du Montreal

  Kevin Nugent - Chebucto Freenet, Halifax

  Gareth Shearman - President of BC Freenet Association

  David Sutherland - President of National Capital Freenet Inc.

  Lynda Williams - President of Prince George Freenet Association

  Issues that TC will investigate include: promoting and fostering
  the Canadian free-net movement; representing freenets on national
  and international levels, including drafting a response to the
  Advisory Council; creation of a mission statement; working on
  establishing freenets as charities; obtaining lower Internet
  access from providers; and promoting on-line public literacy.

  As David Johnston, head of the Advisory Council said to
  delegates at Monday's dinner, "Canada needs your enthusiasm,
  your understanding of the issues, your expertise and your
  participation to make the Information Highway a reality and
  ensure that it benefits all Canadians".  The challenge is now
  ours; and judging from the enthusiasm and vitality at this
  year's conference, the public interest in Canada's information
  infrastructure is strong!

  For those of you who couldn't make it to Ottawa this month,
  an extensive archive of conference material exists on the NCF
  Conference Submenu.gopher (menu item 17: Canadian Community
  Networks Conference, 1994...).  This includes the excellent
  Realtime Online Professional Conference Reporting Team (headed
  up by Rosaleen Dickson); several conference papers (including
  the following: _From VTR to Cyberspace:...The Electronic
  Commons_ (Mark Surman); _Technical Choices for Networked
  Community Activities_ (Ian Duncan): _The Digital City _(Kees
  Schalken/Pieter Tops); and _E-Connections: Investigating E-Mail
  for Ontario Non- Profits_ (L. Shade); conference agendas;
  Telecommunities Canada Issues and Proposed By-Laws; Canadian
  Community Nets status reports; and access to the Usenet newsgroup

  Canadian Community Networks Conference, 1994 (menu)

    1 About the Conference
    2 Discussion >>>
    3 Draft Conference Agenda
    4 Directory of Canadian Community Networks (long)
    5 Telecommunities Canada Issues...
    6 Proposed By-laws for Telecommunities Canada
    7 Community Nets Status Reports...
    8 Access to Usenet Newsgroup : culist.can-freenet >>>
    9 Conference Papers...
   10 Realtime Online (Reports/Working/Discussion Groups)...
   11 En direct - d'heure en heure...

  The views in this conference report are inevitably mine...

  Here is a message from Garth Graham <aa127@freenet.carleton.ca>
  about the conference gopher:

  The site established on National Capital FreeNet (NCF) to report
  this conference is building rapidly.  A team of conference
  recorders are posting summary descriptions (both English and
  French) of each session within a short time after it finishes,
  and the texts of most conference papers are following.  For
  registered members of NCF, this site is at the bottom of the
  main menu as "Canadian Community Networks Conference, 1994."
  For nonmember, NCf can be reached via freenet.carleton.ca.
  (login: guest). It's also accessible via gopher and WWW.

  The URL for the WWW server is http://www.ncf.carleton.ca/

  The FreePort based menu is at:

  The Gopher URL is: gopher://freenet.carleton.ca/11/ncf/conference2

  By gopher directly, follow to:

      Carleton University Gopher
         |National Capital FreeNet Gopher
              |National Capital FreeNet (NCF) info by gopher
                 |Canadian Community Networks Conference, 1994

  The site also contains background policy documents related to
  the founding meeting of Telecommunities Canada, status reports
  from community network and Free-Net associations, and a detailed
  directory of Free-Nets and community network organizations in


  Building the NII from the bottom up:
  A strategy for working through local organizations.

  Steven E. Miller
  CPSR National Board

  By definition, an infrastructure is something that lays the
  foundation for something else.  The coming National Information
  Infrastructure (NII) will lay the foundation for -- and thereby
  help shape -- new forms of production, consumption, culture,
  social interaction, and citizenship.  The kind of future the NII
  helps shape depends, in part, on the visions it is intended to
  achieve and the strategies used to implement those goals.

  Industry spokespeople describe the NII as a vehicle for movies
  on demand, home shopping, and sit-com reruns, with the "serious"
  content provided by endless infomercials.  Clinton Administration
  liberals stress the NII's educational importance of allowing
  access to endless information, as well as its potential to spur
  private sector economic development.  Many cybernauts are most
  enthused about the creation of virtual communities and the coming
  together of the global village.

  But for those of us whose pleasure in the technology is matched
  by a growing concern about the tendency of the NII to further
  divide our society (and the world) into "haves" and "have
  nots," these visions -- and the NII implementation strategies
  they imply -- are woefully inadequate.  To those of us who see
  the NII as a critical tool for the revitalization of democracy,
  the strengthening of neighborhoods, the release of grass-roots
  cultural creativity, and the revival of mutual aid, these visions
  are a painful warning of opportunities we hope are not yet lost.

  These visions fail because they won't lead to the achievement of
  universal service in a meaningful way.  While an estimated third
  of American homes have a computer, only about 3% are regularly
  online.  In fact, as a result of price increases caused by
  deregulation, a growing number of Americans -- up to 20% of some
  low-income communities -- don't even have home telephones.  Even
  if the "NII access device" of the future is built into TV sets,
  cable set-top boxes, video game controllers, or other "everyday"
  devices, and even if they eventually drop in price, it will be
  a long time before the entire population will be able to afford
  them -- if ever.  In addition, no matter how friendly computers
  get, they will still require some level of skill and expertise.
  In a nation which has a 40% high school drop out rate, a 20%
  adult illiteracy rate, a permanently unemployed underclass, and
  a segmented labor market that tracks a significant proportion of
  the working population into dead-end, unskilled, and short-term
  jobs -- it is likely that many people will never get taught the
  skills needed to do more than the most basic types of (probably
  consumption oriented) activities.  Social transformation requires
  social participation, and a totally market-driven NII is not
  likely to achieve it.

  Second, these visions fail because they are too focused on
  individuals.  For all the importance of individual responsibility
  and effort, societal power (political, economic, and cultural)
  overwhelmingly operates through institutions.  Individual
  empowerment can lead to upward mobility.  But the "trickling up"
  of particular people doesn't change the structural hierarchies
  and inequalities of our society.  Social justice, the provision
  of the basic necessities of life for everyone, the inclusion of
  all groups in a democratic governing process -- all these require
  the poor and powerless to aggregate their individual efforts into
  organizations and collective campaigns.


  These criticisms of the most common visions of NII implementation
  imply another approach: combining NII deployment with local
  organizational development.  And not just any organizations,
  but specifically those that serve, advocate for, and are run
  by people from the parts of our society that are least likely
  to be able to buy their way into a market-driven NII that
  rations access according to personal income.  In this context,
  people who are creating civic networks as a way of anchoring NII
  development in the needs and realities of local communities must
  go beyond making their facilities available to large numbers of
  individuals, even if those individuals are low-income, non-white,
  non-English speaking, or any of the other politically correct
  categories.  We need to adopt a strategy of working through and
  with grassroots organizations.

  An organizational strategy has many advantages.  Organizations
  usually have greater financial resources than individuals,
  particularly low-income people.  Non-profit organizations are
  much more capable than individuals of soliciting donations
  or applying for grants to pay for a couple of computers and
  modems.  In fact, most Internet users already get supplied with
  equipment and access through organizations -- universities and
  corporations.  To include other populations, we need to work
  through the organizations that impact their lives.

  But simply having the equipment is not enough.  Few of us
  learned all we know by ourselves.  When we go to a library, we
  start by asking the librarian for help.  In terms of computers,
  most of us learned from others at our schools or workplaces.  We
  all need intermediaries to get us started and support us through
  the inevitable problems of learning to enter and wander through
  cyberspace.  Local organizations can provide the vital connection
  between ordinary people and the on-line universe.

  Organizations are multipliers.  Training individuals helps
  individuals.  Training people in an organization means that
  the skills are likely to be passed on to others, and that
  the community will retain an institutional capability even as
  individuals pass in and out of activity.

  Working through local organizations also makes it easier to
  connect to people.  Instead of trying to convince people to come
  to the network, the network goes to where the people are already
  being gathered together to serve their own needs.  These are the
  groups that are already fighting to empower their members, it
  will be no small accomplishment if we can help them finds ways to
  use telecommunications to increase their chances of success.  The
  strengthening and success of local citizen's groups, self-help
  neighborhood associations, locally run service agencies, and
  other community-based organizations is crucial to any larger
  strategy for increased equality and justice in our world, of
  which preventing the creation of "information haves and have
  nots" is just one aspect.

  Rooting cyberspace in the social realities of neighborhood
  organizations increases the odds that the needs and priorities
  of those "have not" areas will be effectively aggregated and
  expressed.  If we want to impact NII policy, we have to build
  a grassroots base as well as advocate at the federal level.
  Washington-based public interest advocacy is vitally important.
  But it is only one part of the picture.  Local understanding of
  the issues based on concrete efforts to use telecommunications
  for community improvement is just as important, perhaps in some
  ways even more important.  This is another way that organizations
  multiply individual impact.


  People support or join groups because membership brings some
  amount of personal benefits such as learning new skills, access
  to resources, exposure to a broader world, getting useful
  services, etc.; because the group provides a way to be connected
  with other people who share similar interests; and because they
  see the group as an effective vehicle for dealing with personal
  or societal problems.

  Technology can help organizations attract and keep loyal
  members, a vital ingredient for success.  The value of membership
  increases if organizations are the vehicle for computer skills
  training and for access to the world of on-line resources.
  At the same time, local organizations will be better than some
  central group at recruiting network users from a broad range of
  the population.

  Technology also makes groups more effective.  Internally, groups
  can use word processing to create funding proposals, write
  reports and petitions about important issues, create membership
  letters and other materials, prepare newsletters and flyers,
  and more.  Databases are vital for keeping membership lists and
  addresses, tracking contributions, client tracking, etc.  And
  financial software for bookkeeping and fund accounting helps with
  one of the biggest headaches in the non-profit world.

  Externally, telecomputing allows organizations to gather data
  on funding opportunities, on issues they address, and on the
  population they serve.  It allows them to more easily communicate
  with their peers in other organizations to share experiences
  and build coalitions.  It allows them to gain greater exposure
  and establish increased credibility by participating in national
  forums and acting as "issue experts" for community networks.
  In this sense, local groups act as "information providers"
  rather than as information consumers -- exactly the kind of
  bottom-up activism that will be needed if the NII is more than
  an overwhelming and hegemonic waterfall of top-down data flow.

  Networks augment the ability of those who already know about
  and talk with each other offline to share large amounts of
  information over greater distances with less concern about "real
  time" coordination.  Broad based local and national networks
  help bring together those who share similar interests, or could
  simply be helpful to each other, but whose paths do not otherwise
  cross.  In this way, people and groups can join with others who
  are "like us."


  An organizational strategy has important implications for
  creating community networks.  While most local network organizers
  are already doing some of these activities, the absence of an
  explicit strategy has forced many of them to discover these ideas
  on their own and hindered fully effective sharing of experience.

  First, it implies that the first step in creating a local network
  is talking to local neighborhood leaders and building a coalition
  of local community groups.  These groups should be treated as
  full partners in the design process rather than as clients to be

  Since few of these groups will have enormous resources or
  technical expertise, this process also requires a deep commitment
  to some type of participatory design approach.  A successful
  PD effort needs a combination of talking about general needs
  and opportunities to use and comment upon functional models.
  Here, in fact, is where the technically knowledgeable people in
  the group play a key role, iteratively creating prototypes and
  then incorporating insights from group critiques.  In this way
  technically sophisticated people can help non-techies understand
  the general possibilities of available technology so that the
  newcomers can inject their specific needs and realities into
  the design.  Without working prototypes, group discussions can
  get lost in galactic visions beyond local capabilities.  Without
  group input, technical development can easily forget that it is
  only the vehicle for achieving other goals.

  Local groups should be seen as a primary vehicle for public
  access, equally or even more important than libraries, city hall,
  and shopping malls.  But, more importantly, network organizers
  should welcome, rather than feel unease, about the inevitable
  tendency of local groups to see the network as a vehicle for
  serving their own organizational needs.  The success of the local
  groups is the success of the network, even though it will often
  feel as if there is a tension between the two.


  This month's recommendations.

  David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making
  of the American Working Class, London: Verso, 1991.  A brilliant
  and absorbing history of "whiteness" as a shifting category in
  the nineteenth century United States.  It was not always clear,
  for example, whether the Irish were "white".  As white working
  people lost their autonomy in the emerging industrial system,
  they could console themselves with the thought that at least they
  weren't black, all the while engaged in complicatedly ambivalent
  relationship with black people, from blackface minstrelsy to
  street riots.  Roediger analyzes all of this with great subtlety
  and sophistication.

  Deborah Schiffrin, ed, Meaning, Form, and Use in Context:
  Linguistic Applications, Washington: Georgetown University Press,
  1984.  A relentlessly intelligent set of papers about rethinking
  linguistics as the study of what people *do* with language, not
  just the impersonal structures of language.  Despite being ten
  years old by now, this collection has aged little in its vision.

  Jenny Cook-Gumperz, William A. Corsaro, and Jurgen Streeck, eds,
  Children's Worlds and Children's Language, Berlin: Mouton de
  Gruyter, 1986.  Another relentlessly intelligent set of papers,
  this one about children's acquisition of language.  The idea,
  once again, is that language is something that people *do*, and
  that linguistic practice is inseparable from the rest of what
  goes on in children's lives.  In particular, these articles focus
  on children's worlds, that is, the complicated and interesting
  worlds that children make on their own, independent of grown-ups.

  Michael E. Porter, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing
  Industries and Competitors, New York: Free Press, 1980.  This
  book about the analysis of competitive situations in particular
  industries has been deeply influential among business people
  in the nearly fifteen years since it was published.  It is
  certainly a more satisfying view of markets than the simple,
  generic view of traditional economists.  Every industry has its
  own barriers to entry, and each firm has (or had better have)
  its own well-defined competitive strategy.  He says that the
  three generic strategies are price leadership, differentiation,
  and focus on specialized markets, although this distinction is
  starting to break down in markets in which rapid change is the
  norm.  He provides a set of concepts for analyzing competitors.
  In large part this is just a matter of assembling every concept
  that might be useful, but the effect in total is more impressive
  than that sounds because one gets a sense of completeness.  One
  can, for example, work up case studies within this vocabulary and
  make comparisons between different industries.  He provides ways
  of predicting the evolution of an industry, based in part on a
  "life cycle" (maturity, etc).


  Company of the month.

  This month's company is:

  Audio Adventures
  1445 Pearl Street
  Boulder, Colorado  80302

  phone: 1 (800) 551-6692 (in the US)

  What a cool idea.  Audio Adventures isn't a computer company, but
  maybe someday it will be.  What it does today is rent out books
  on tape to people traveling on American highways.  They have
  shops in about 150 truck stops coast to coast.  Pick up a tape at
  one truck stop, drive down the road listening to it, and return
  it at another.  And they have real books too, not just formulaic

  Write or call for Audio Adventures' brochure.  But only if you're
  really interested -- don't just harass them.  Thanks a lot.



  Arun Mehta <amehta@doe.ernet.in>, who wrote an article about
  networks and international organizations in TNO 1(5), kindly
  pointed out to me that my article entitled "Privacy and
  computer-mediated activity" in TNO 1(7) referred to the United
  States obliquely as "this country".  Although I had not thought
  about it before, this expression tends to presuppose that the
  author and reader are in the same country, which is obviously
  not a valid presupposition on the Internet.  This set me to
  thinking about the wide variety of ways in which Americans
  (and, for all I know, citizens of other countries as well) tend
  to treat their own country as if it were the whole world.  For
  example, if someone says "50,000 people died in auto accidents
  last year", that means that 50,000 people died in auto accidents
  in the United States, not in the whole world.  If you want your
  statistic to refer to the whole world, you generally have to
  say "in the world" unless the context clearly provides otherwise.
  In writing my article about "The new politics of technology in
  the US" in this issue of TNO, I kept failing to find natural ways
  of saying, "This article is only about the US because that's the
  only country whose technology-politics I know well."  Even the
  title, with its clumsy "in the US" tacked on, doesn't scan very
  well.  Part of the reason for that article being specific to the
  US, of course, is that the political traditions of the United
  States have been historically fairly isolated from those of the
  rest of the world, so that (I am told) words like "libertarian"
  mean very different things elsewhere.  Perhaps this will change
  as political issues globalize along with everything else, or
  perhaps it will change in some other way as the United States
  experiences a new wave of nationalist reaction.  We shall see.

  You can now reach the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse's useful
  gopher directly at gopher.acusd.edu.  You'll find PRC under menu
  item 4, USD Campus-Wide Information System.

  Steve Cisler <sac@apple.com> reports that the proceedings of the
  landmark Ties That Bind conference on community networking are
  available on Apple's Higher Education Gopher (info.hed.apple.com)
  in the Apple Library Users Group/Apple Library of Tomorrow/
  Community Networks Directory.

  The Samaritans, a worldwide network of trained volunteers who are
  willing to talk with anyone who is suicidal or despairing, now has
  an Internet address, jo@samaritans.org.  To contact them through
  an indirect mail forwarder that will protect your anonymity, use

  The British Library now has a gopher server.  You can gopher
  directly to portico.bl.uk, or else telnet to that same address
  and log in as gopher and hit the return key when it asks for a
  password.  Problems to portico@bl.uk.

  Melanie Harper <tcsmhz@aie.lreg.co.uk> has pointed me at one
  of the coolest things on the net, the "Whole Frog Project" at
  Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.  It's a frog dissection system for
  WWW.  You need forms support, inline image support, and color to
  really make it work.  Check it out.  The URL for the system is:

  David Blair, who made the fabulously bizarre computer-processed
  1991 film "WAX or the discovery of television among the bees",
  has a MUD-WWW project going.  You gotta check it out.  The URL
  for it is http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/wax/wax.html

  Phil Agre, editor                                pagre@ucla.edu
  Department of Information Studies
  University of California, Los Angeles         +1 (310) 825-7154
  Los Angeles, California  90095-1520                FAX 206-4460
  Copyright 1994 by the editor.  You may forward this issue of The
  Network Observer electronically to anyone for any non-commercial
  purpose.  Comments and suggestions are always appreciated.

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