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

  VOLUME 1, NUMBER 6                                     JUNE 1994


  This month: Turning privacy on its head
              Wireless consumer information
              Investigative journalism on the net
              The network community of Vietnam vets
              Middleware for global networking


  Welcome to TNO 1(6).

  This issue includes an article by Kali Tal about the VWAR-L
  mailing list, where Vietnam veterans and others have gotten
  together for mutual support and to debate the meaning of the
  Vietnam war.  This is obviously a highly charged subject, and
  many of the list's dynamics concern the relationship between
  the possibilities of e-mail and the possibilities of physical
  violence.  The net is part of reality after all.

  Also featured in this issue is Marsha Woodbury's article on
  the impending changes in journalism and its relationship to
  librarianship in the age of networking.  Photographers are
  worried, journalistic education is changing, and we may even
  see a renaissance of investigative reporting.

  Also included are two brief articles by the editor.  The first is
  a brief case study in corporate attempts to redefine the concept
  of "privacy" so that collecting huge databases of personal
  information about you and sending you vast amounts of unsolicited
  correspondence can be viewed as protecting your privacy and
  not as violating it.  Clearly it's time to remind ourselves
  what privacy is.  The second article is a not-entirely-original
  speculation about the day, supposedly soon to come, when large
  amounts of information are available in the wireless ether.  Some
  of the possibilities are scary, no doubt about it, but others are
  at least intriguing.  For example, maybe we will be spared some of
  the manipulations of sales people.

  Plus all the usual TNO departments: this month's recommendations,
  company of the month, and follow-up, which this month includes
  several recommendations of new gopher and WWW services to try.


  Orwellian privacy.

  In a fascinating interview in Upside magazine (June 1994 issue,
  pages 36-55), George Gilder is asked about the privacy issues
  associated with emerging computer network technology.  He makes
  two points which are worth quoting at length because they reflect
  an increasingly widespread corporate "line" about privacy.  His
  first point is:

    Some of the fear of invasion of privacy is misplaced.  What is
    really an invasion of privacy is a telemarketer who gets you
    out of bed or the shower.  They don't have any idea who you
    are, no notion of what you want.  That's what really offends
    you.  Ignorant intrusions, not intrusions from companies that
    really do understand your needs and know when you like to be
    called and the kinds of things you buy and don't buy.  They
    might even be conscious, through your entry into some bulletin
    board, that you want to purchase a new car or house.  They
    call you and try to solve your problem.  That is much less of
    an invasion than an intrusion by a company that doesn't know
    anything about you.

  In other words, your privacy is best respected when companies
  know just about everything there is to know about you.  Why does
  this seem backwards?  Because it is.  Gilder -- and the numerous
  other industry types who promote this argument -- are trying to
  drain all content from the word "privacy" by putting the emphasis
  on the "invasion", and then pointing out that some invasions are
  more annoying than others.  But it's important not to let such
  arguments go unchallenged.  Privacy has a much larger meaning
  than that.  Privacy includes a broad right to control the uses
  to which one's personal information is put.  It includes, in
  particular, to know *who* has such information and *what* they're
  doing with it.  This is quite the opposite of Gilder's picture,
  in which the only real problems are the ones that are solved by
  accumulating ever greater amounts of information.

  Gilder's argument works by blurring the argument between calls
  that are solicited and calls that are, in some vaguer sense,
  wanted.  One of the ways he does this is sneaky: tossing in the
  notion of a "bulletin board" on which I post the fact that I am
  looking to buy a certain item, which may or may not constitute
  a solicitation for sales calls.  But mostly he tries to identify
  the theme of "privacy invasion" with unsuccessful calls, ignoring
  altogether the question of whether the calls have been solicited
  or not.  The idea is that, by accumulating information about
  me, sellers can tailor their pitches more specifically to my
  situation, thereby making more likely that their calls will be
  wanted, in the sense of being usefully relevant to my situation.

  The problem here is that nobody can read my mind.  It's always
  going to be a probabilistic matter, and it will profit a company
  to call me just so long as the expected return-on-investment
  of their phone pitch is positive.  Telemarketing is cheap: the
  call is usually local, the job pays $6 or so per hour, the calls
  can be made from a low-rent district, and an unsuccessful pitch
  takes less than a minute.  If a successful sale brings in a
  hundred dollars in profit, it's worth calling anybody for whom
  the statistical likelihood of a sale is greater than roughly
  1/500.  That means that I will get 500 calls for each call that
  offers something that I actually want to buy.  [This isn't quite
  right.  See the July 1994 "follow-up".  -PA]  This result is
  independent of how much information about me is stored in the
  companies' computers, so long as that information cannot make
  perfect predictions about who will buy what.  Pretty much the
  opposite of the picture Gilder paints.

  Here, now is Gilder's second point:

    So a lot of the so-called invasions of privacy will be a
    positive experience for most people.  Computer communications
    can be sorted through, and you can keep what you want and
    kill what you don't.  Increasingly, as your communication is
    channeled through computers, you will increase your control
    over it.  It's the dumb terminal, the phone, with is the model
    of the violation.  It violates your time and attention because
    it's dumb.  If you have a really smart terminal that can sort
    through the communications and identify them, you can reject
    anything you don't want.

  Once again he has found a way of side-stepping the issue of
  whether a sales pitch is solicited: the pitch is a phenomenon of
  nature that simply exists.  The privacy violation is not caused
  by these "communications" but by your telephone!  In other words,
  it's your job to secure the technology to sort through the piles
  of unsolicited sales pitches that companies send you.  The word
  "smart" makes such a development sound natural and inevitable,
  even though advertisers will have a great incentive to circumvent
  such screening.  At a minimum, advertisements would have to be
  labeled and organized in standardized ways to allow these smart
  terminals to parse them and inspect their contents.  As a matter
  of architecture, Gilder's proposal is not far different from
  having a passive store of advertising material that individuals'
  software "agents" can actively search through for desired
  materials; the difference is that it is now the responsibility
  of individuals to *prevent* the receipt of materials they do not
  wish to receive, rather than actively *soliciting* the receipt of
  materials they do wish to receive.

  As computer and network technology changes, lots of words and
  concepts will change their meanings.  This is both inevitable and
  reasonable.  But it also means that we will have conflicts about
  what words ought to mean.  "Privacy" is one of those words, and
  we should be vigilant in defining and defending an expansive
  understanding of it.


  The wireless consumers' movement.

  The computer industry is certain that we will all someday soon
  carry around a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) such as the Apple
  Newton.  The problem is, what will we do with it?  Let me propose
  one answer.  Let's found the wireless consumers' movement.  We'll
  need a bar-code scanner and cheap wireless packet communications
  that we can plug into the PDA.  Then when we're shopping, we need
  only point the scanner at the UPC bar-code on a given product to
  retrieve the information about it from Consumer Reports, the Wine
  Spectator, the New York Review of Books, or whatever.  Reviews
  of the products would pop up on your screen, hypercard-style,
  with buttons you can press with your pen to get further details,
  comparisons with other products, and so forth.  You'd subscribe
  to these various services, paying per month or per screenful.

  This idea can be extended considerably.  Merchants can choose to
  make their prices and other information available on servers for
  these products, so that when you scan a certain bottle of wine at
  one shop, another shop can automatically tell you that they have
  it for a few dollars less.  Obviously you wouldn't receive this
  information unless you wanted it.

  But it works best after you've already bought the product.
  Press the "evaluation" button and scan the barcode on the bottle
  of wine you just drank (book you just read, etc), and a page pops
  up with various buttons on it.  (And of course you can customize
  this for each product class if you like.)  Maybe you can tap
  a number for how much you liked it.  Maybe you can call back
  up what the critics said, and press a button to make note of
  whether you agreed or not.  After a while each critic will have
  a "scorecard", so you can develop a sense of which critics share
  your tastes.

  Another mechanism could automatically correlate the judgements
  made by everybody using the service, and then statistically
  predict which products you might like, given what others with a
  history of similar tastes have liked.

  Several people think that information like this might become
  a commodity.  Your judgements and preferences are valuable
  information to producers.  Your PDA could offer you certain
  amounts of money to sell this information, with one price to
  sell it without any demographic information about you attached,
  another price to sell it anonymously but with your vital stats
  included, yet another price (maybe much higher, depending on
  the market) to sell it with your name and address, and so forth.
  But this might not work: someone could just go down a grocery
  store aisle, entering bogus preference information for every
  product just to collect the cash.  It's probably just as well.

  Another consumer application of wireless computing would be ways
  to reveal the costs of consumption.  Markets put real work into
  telling you the price of things, but they also put real work into
  hiding the true costs of consuming them.  A superstore might have
  the best prices, but you probably have little idea how much extra
  it costs to drive there.  So maybe your car should have a running
  meter on it, like an odometer only measured in money instead of
  miles, telling you how much you've spent driving it lately.  I'll
  bet that the sight of this meter ticking away the dollars will be
  enough to send lots of people back to their nearby neighborhood
  shopping districts and away from the superstores, not to mention
  back to living in the city and not in the suburbs.  The same idea
  could be applied to thermostats and electrical devices.

  The problem is actually computing the costs.  You could program
  the thing with a rule of thumb, like $0.25 a mile to drive.
  But it would be a lot more compelling if the computer behind
  the meter could be kept up-to-date on the actual costs.  This
  should be relatively easy for thermostats and electric sockets,
  since the utility company can easily broadcast its current rates
  (if it's somehow motivated to do so).  Cars are harder since so
  many costs must be included.  "Blue Book" used-car values could
  be available on-line for calculating depreciation.  Approximate
  prevailing gasoline prices could be broadcast as well.  Insurance
  companies or home bookkeeping systems could tell your computer
  how much you've paid in premiums.  Maintenance costs could be
  approximated as well.  And so forth.  All of this information
  would reside in various databases -- some private, some public,
  some that are free, some that you have to subscribe to.  The
  result, perhaps, could be substantial decreases in all of the
  ills associated with driving: highway deaths, pollution, wasted
  time, emotional stress, and so forth.

  Now, all of these thought experiments carry an obvious dark side:
  they all presuppose a tremendous amount of infrastructure which
  they do not in themselves justify.  So what else will all of
  this infrastructure be doing at the same time?  What's appealing
  about these scenarios, of course, is that they are all voluntary;
  they do not require you to identify yourself to anybody else's
  computer.  But if your car is keeping track of this information,
  maybe your insurance company wants to be automatically told how
  you use your car, lest you be classified a high risk.


  The net gives new life to journalism.

  Marsha Woodbury
  Director at Large, CPSR
  Doctoral Student
  College of Education
  University Of Illinois

  When people talk about the NII journalism, they think in
  terms of our daily paper being delivered on a screen.  But the
  metamorphosis is deeper than that.  We journalists are scrambling
  to keep up with today's changes, as we can link to resources
  that we used to dream about.  We can reach out to each other and
  our readership in wonderful ways.  As a journalist trying to ride
  this wave, I am constantly thrilled with what we can do now, yet
  overwhelmed with keeping up.

  The good news is that this growth in the boundaries of journalism
  bodes well for freedom and democracy.  And the transformation
  goes far deeper than the outsider might realize.

  First let's look at the transformation in roles and
  responsibilities.  For example, "print" and "broadcast" used
  to be the two divisions in journalism schools.  Soon the NII, or
  Infobahn, will allow video clips to be part of the story, and all
  journalists will need to be conversant with good writing and good
  broadcasting.  Multimedia delivery is here.  The division of the
  future will be between advertising and public relations on one
  hand, and news reporting using multimedia on the other.

  Computer-Assisted Reporting

  For the past few years, journalists have been using databases and
  spreadsheets to generate their work.  The Investigative Reporters
  and Editors (IRE) recently published a compilation of 101 stories
  about exploring digitally stored information, often off 9-track
  tape.  Up until the Net began mushrooming, computer-aided
  reporting (CAR) involved combining multiple databases to reveal
  government or business misconduct.

  A classic example is running a database of all school bus drivers
  in a state against all drivers with drunk-driving citations.
  Sure enough, some bus drivers have had multiple drinking
  violations.  Reporters used to pry many data bases out of the
  government.  However, more and more are available on-line, and
  that should increase.


  Editors and photographers feel they are losing control over
  their products.  Computers have been used for the composition of
  newspapers far more than for CAR.  Programs like QuarkXPress (TM)
  and Pagemaker (TM) are used to design pages, a process called
  "pagination."  As page make-up is done on computers, designers
  have the added ability to be "creative" with headlines and
  other text traditionally left to copy editors, which causes some

  Photographers are struggling with the implications of digital
  photography, and the easy manipulation of pictures.  Anyone in
  the pagination process can alter a digital photo, for example,
  removing an unsightly beer can--an alteration that once could
  only be done in the darkroom.  Frankly, photographers are

  News Librarians

  Another change involves news librarians, who used to be mainly
  responsible for the paper's or TV station's archives.  Today,
  these information professionals are out in the newsroom, their
  names in by-lines.  They are working shoulder-to-shoulder
  with staff writers, and they are recognized for their skilled
  contribution.  Computer-aided stories are now daily fare.

  For example, a San Francisco journalist sought the membership
  of the exclusive Bohemian Club.  The club refused.  A search
  through the on-line version of Who's Who, picking out all entries
  who listed their affiliation with the Bohemian Club, gave the
  reporter an impressive partial list of members.

  News librarians have been instrumental in stories about
  everything from car theft to election fraud.  Their expertise
  in accessing digitally stored information is proving essential
  in keeping up with business and government records now available
  on-line.  On-line databases proved helpful in these two stories.
  Investigative reporter Duncan Campbell used Knowledge Index
  to expose the fraudulent claims of an AIDS researcher, and the
  Brisbane Weekend Independent used the PAPERS file to track down a
  missing Australian businessman, according to Roland Standbridge,
  a journalism educator.

  Keeping Up With Change

  How do I monitor the transformation of my field?  It's not
  easy.  I use the Internet, where there are probably 30-40
  good Listservs.  I subscribe to several: JOURNET, spj-online,
  the Nieman conference list, and newslib.  I get the Visual
  Communication (Viscom) Listserv as well.  The novel element
  in these groups is the intermixing of librarians, reporters,
  editors, free-lancers, lay people, photographers, and educators.
  "Newslib" started as a group for newspaper librarians, and now
  there are untold journalists lurking there.  We all share a
  passionate interest in on-line sources.  The other group that
  intrigues me is INFOPRO, for professional information seekers,
  like private eyes and investigative reporters.  (I'll put a list
  of the group names and their Listserv addresses at the end of
  this article, with instructions for joining).

  When I cruise the Net bulletin boards, I alight on
  "alt.journalism" or "alt.journalism.criticism" groups.
  There are many more which deal with gathering and presenting
  information, not to mention international news provided through
  the "soc.culture" groups such as "soc.culture.new-zealand."  I
  can read about a New Zealand earthquake minutes after the event,
  whereas such minor news would never make the American papers.
  A clever journalist can develop hundreds of stories without ever
  leaving the terminal.  On the other hand, who needs a journalist
  when readers can receive the news directly from the people
  involved?  Questions like that one take up hours of Listserv

  Journalism Education is Changing

  If you teach journalism, your curriculum is changing as are the
  resources.  We journalists must know how to use e-mail, how to
  search with Gopher and Mosaic and Fetch, how to access libraries
  and participate in Listservs.  These skills are as important as
  the AP Style Book.  Our lab here at the University of Illinois
  developed a web tutorial for using the Internet, which you can
  reach at

  The resources for education are blooming, led by John Makulowich,
  Internet Trainer.  He's set up an "Awesome List" on the web, as
  well as exercises for teachers to give their students, and most
  recently the KID (Kids Internet Delight) List,
  http://www.clark.net/pub/journalism/kid.html.  I am is awe--our
  students will be able to put their work up for the whole world to

  Newspapers have made their text available on-line, and many are
  "up" with pictures, too.  My favorite is the University Kansan
  Daily Interactive http://kuhttp.cc.ukans.edu/cwis/UDK/UDKpg1.html

  Old-time reporters still smell the ink and listen for the clank
  of linotype and typewriters.  Modern journalists are accustomed
  to the quiet of computers, the changed workrooms, the blending
  of graphics and print.  It behooves the older generation to add
  computer skills to their wealth of experience, in order to be
  effective mentors to the new generation.

  You, the Searcher

  At the CPSR Annual Meeting, which will be held in San Diego on
  October 8th and 9th of this year, I'll do a workshop on how you
  can use the Net to gather information.  (For more information
  about this meeting, send a message to cpsr@cpsr.org).

  In order to keep up with searching tips, I have to update my own
  records DAILY.

  To give you a brief example of where you might look for
  information on the Internet--and this is only one small
  tool--imagine being able to search for a particular word in the
  thousands of bulletin boards in the Netnews, or Usenet It is
  possible to keyword search the millions of Usenet messages among
  the 6000 or more special interest news groups overnight while you
  sleep.  You basically provide a few keywords via an email message
  and send it to a site.  The results, about 20 lines from each
  match, are forwarded to you by email.

  Or how about using Gopher to bring up the a school newspaper, and
  quickly looking through the archives for articles on hazardous

  Every day more government documents are coming on-line, allowing
  us to "possess" the documents in our offices.  The US Embassy
  Daily Bulletin, produced by the United States Information
  Agency (USIA) is a huge full-text 40- to 80-page document which
  is prepared for distribution in Europe.  It covers politics,
  business, economics, and science, and is the best source of
  European news on the Internet.

  Though many people are worried about power being concentrated in
  the hands of those who own and control the methods of delivery,
  there is a tremendous freedom for us all to explore the Net.
  With the amazing proliferation of materials available to us all
  on-line, we can become more active watchdogs of the government
  *and* the press, and the chances will increase for us to
  participate in areas where we once felt powerless.

  Here's a case in point.  Our local freenet in Champaign-Urbana,
  Illinois, is PrairieNet, which has a bulletin board devoted
  solely to the local paper.  People can write in about each and
  every issue, and corrections and additions are far easier for the
  newspaper to glean.

  Look out for e-mail interviewing, more journalism Listservs
  and bulletin boards, more on-line papers and magazines, more
  opportunities to e-mail to the press, and more information to
  keep up with.  It's all happening on the Net.

  JOURNET   send your message to LISTSERV@QUCDN.QUEENSU.CA

  spj-online   send your message to listserv@netcom.com

  Nieman    send your message to Nieman-request@nando.net

  newslib    send your message to listserv@gibbs.oit.unc.edu

  Viscom    send your message to listserv@templevm.bitnet

  INFOPRO    write jcook@netcom.com

  For computer-aided reporting with A LOT of traffic:

  carr-l         send your message to listserv@ulkyvm.louisville.edu
  For first-timers: to join a Listserv group, you send your message
  to the Listserv:

  For example, to join JOURNET, I would send a message to

  I would put nothing in the Subject line, and the message would
  simply say:

  Subscribe JOURNET Marsha Woodbury

  as in:  Subscribe (list name) (my first name) (my last name)

  and I'd leave off my signature--the message would look like this:

  Date:   Thu, 3 Mar 94 16:08 EST
  From: marsha-w@uiuc.edu
  Subscribe JOURNET Marsha Woodbury


  VWAR-L as a network community.

  Kali Tal
  Editor, Viet Nam Generation
  18 Center Rd., Woodbridge, CT 06525
  fax: 203/389-6104

  VWAR-L is a discussion list for those interested in the Vietnam
  War.  It attracts many veterans.  I do not know what percentage
  of list members are veterans, but well over 50% of the regular
  posters define themselves as vets.  I studied the VWAR-L for
  over two years, and I will make the argument that the email
  environment both fosters the creation of a "community" and shapes
  the development of that community in very specific ways.  (Though
  I focus on the VWAR-L "community," I have a colleague who engages
  a transsexual bitnet community in a similar way.  She and I have
  shared many discussions about our work and observations, and have
  come to some similar conclusions.)

  Communities of trauma survivors (in which category I would
  include, for example, Viet Nam combat veterans and post-operative
  transsexuals) are not homogenous, though they are formed around
  a "common" traumatic experience.  There is a great deal of
  stratification in any community of trauma survivors, as evidenced
  by the "hierarchy of authenticity" which, in groups of Holocaust
  survivors privileges the Auschwitz survivor as somehow more
  authentic ("real") than the person who spent the war hiding in
  some peasant's potato cellar, or, in groups of Viet Nam veterans,
  privileges the "boonierat" (bush combat vet) over the REMF
  (Rear-Echelon Motherfucker who spent the war typing memos in the
  Inspector General's office in Saigon).  Furthermore, survivors
  have different agendas--there is a battle in any survivor
  "community" over *which* trauma narrative becomes "normative".
  In order to "belong" to the group, there is a great deal of
  pressure on the survivor to revise his or her story so that it
  conforms to the normative formula.  (This is most apparent in
  the so-called 12-step programs, where "testimony" necessarily
  takes a particular shape: "My name is Nancy Smith and I am an

  Not all survivor communities depend on high-tech, of course.
  But I believe that access to high-tech (email) affects the
  development of particular survivor communities in important ways.
  There are currently many Viet Nam vet support groups that meet in
  person.  We tended to get three types of vets on the VWAR-L list.
  One type had never joined any veteran support group; one type
  used to belong to a veterans organization (usually Vietnam Vets
  Against the War) but did not join another veteran's group when
  that group effectively dissolved (some 10-15 years ago); one type
  currently is involved in one or more veterans' support groups but
  finds additional support from VWAR-L.  If one examines shifting
  trends in the Viet Nam veterans movement, one finds a shift from
  veteran's groups based on common political beliefs and shared
  trauma (GI Forum, Viet Nam Veterans Against the War, Veterans
  for Peace, etc.) in the late 1960s through the 1970s, to the
  post-political "healing"-oriented VVA, Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  Fund, Khe Sanh Veterans, etc. which blossomed (not at all
  coincidentally) during a period coincident with the construction
  and dedication of the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial Wall in the
  early 1980s.  The shift in Viet vet group orientation--which
  started in the late 1970s (marked by the effective demise of
  Vietnam Veterans Against the War as a working organization)
  and which was, for all intents and purposes, complete by
  the mid-1980s--was accompanied by a flood of popular culture
  productions emphasizing a "normative" Viet Nam vet combat
  experience (from Cimino to Coppola to Stone, etc.).  These
  productions gave us the story of a "senseless" war which was
  useful only in that it provided a personal growth experience for
  the combatant protagonist.  They also helped depoliticize and
  then medicalize the image of the traumatized Viet Nam veteran.
  The result of this trend was that left-wing Viet Nam veterans
  began to feel as if they were not accorded room in the "veterans"
  community, particularly since the "normative" vet was absorbed
  in the "religion" of POW/MIA worship (culturally signalled by the
  slew of Rambo and Chuck Norris films... Bruce Franklin says you
  can get into a bar fight quicker by claiming there are no POWs
  than by claiming that there is no God).  These leftwing vets
  were displaced survivors, far outnumbered by their apolitical or
  decidedly right wing peers.

  VWAR-L in its first years provided a meeting place for
  disfranchised vets, a place where the myth of the normative Viet
  Nam vet was not only regularly shattered, but where bonds of
  community were forged between vets and nonvets.  Membership in
  the VWAR-L community is determined by who shows up--folks "vote
  with their keyboards".  The latter fact is quite important, and
  it is due, I believe, to the difficulty of engaging in physically
  threatening behavior over the net.  I have witnessed first-hand
  the physical intimidation tactics used by, for example, POW/MIA
  supporters to silence opposition, and by rightwing vets to expel
  left wing vets from gatherings.  We who live our lives mostly
  outside of the realm of physical threat tend to forget that a
  threat-free environment can be quite liberating for folks who are
  used to being afraid of having the shit kicked out of them.  Such
  strongarm tactics were apparently not possible on the VWAR-L.
  Left wing vets were vocal, and might have outnumbered right wing
  vets.  They often came to the support of nonveterans who posted
  favorable descriptions of the antiwar movement, and contradicted
  right wing vets who attacked the antiwar movement as being
  "anti-vet."  A situation in which a civilian antiwar activist
  could stand up to a group of right wing combat veterans while
  being cheered on by a bunch of equally tough combat vets who
  worked with Vietnam Vets Against the War is simply a situation
  impossible to envision in a face-to-face community.  Such an
  interaction would either never have taken place, or certainly
  ended in physical violence.

  The definition of "community" is debatable.  For the first
  three years of its existence, VWAR-L members signed on and did
  not leave.  During that period VWAR-L lost between five and ten
  major players--a very low attrition rate.  (In fact, at least two
  VWAR-L members departed the list in a huff, directly attributing
  their decision to leave to my vocal presence on the list.  These
  two right-wing listmembers claimed that my criticisms of what I
  considered to be racist and sexist language amounted to a sort of
  censorship of their words.  Since then I have noticed that there
  is a strong tendency for people who find themselves addressed
  critically because of their choice of language to claim that
  their rights of "free speech" are being infringed upon, as if
  "free speech" means that one's speech is entitled to be "free"
  from the threat of criticism.)  The volume of messages often
  exceeded 100 a day.  Out of 300 listmembers, over 50 were regular
  posters (at least one post a week).  Listmembers informed the
  community when their children were born, when they were going
  on vacation, when they got married, when they got divorced,
  when they were ill, when they had fallen off the wagon, when
  they needed medical, legal or personal assistance.  Several
  listmembers gave day-to-day progress reports of their attempts
  to get sober.  Others posted their nightmares.  They met in small
  groups (for example, there was a VWAR-L Northwest [God's Country
  Division]) which met a couple of times a year.  All meetings
  between Vwarriors were described in posts to the list.  GIFF
  files of photographs of VWAR-L members, taken at parties and
  gatherings, were available by ftp.  Backchannel and public
  communications wove in and out to create a fabric more dense than
  any casual reader could understand.  List-members have met each
  other and married.  They have left "real" relationships with
  "real" people for equally real relationships with previously
  "electronic" people.  Folks up late at night signed on and
  checked in to find out who else was awake.  Scholarly papers
  were traded around, librarians (we had at least ten on the
  list) regularly answered questions and provided references.  The
  spontaneously developed metaphors of the bar and the village were
  bandied about by Vwarriors a dozen times a day.  If this is not
  a virtual "community" I am not sure what is.  One of our resident
  anthropologists asked Vwarriors if they they thought VWAR-L
  comprised a community.  The unanimous answer was "yes."  In my
  book a community is constituted by its members.  And the members
  of this community were more diverse than would have been possible
  in a face-to-face community because the low population density of
  leftwing vets and the tactics of physical intimidation would have
  precluded it.  Email allows for an immediate and often intimate
  form of contact which *reminds* people of "real-life" encounters.

  There are all kinds of interesting questions raised by what I
  call the "performative" aspect of email (in every post you write
  yourself into existence for a particular audience) and lots of
  questions about the nature of identity politics in a disembodied/
  textual space, but I think they complicate, rather than
  invalidate, the notion that virtual communities exist.  When a
  Viet Nam vet spills his guts on screen for the *first* time in 20
  years, when a man with 100% psych disability from the VA uses the
  list to keep himself from committing suicide, when people trust
  each other with secrets and truths they wouldn't share except
  among friends, when the *belief* that VWAR-L is a community is
  strong enough to move folks to do exactly the sorts of things
  that they would do within a community, doesn't that qualify?

  The character of the VWAR-L has changed greatly in the last year.
  Membership has fallen from over three hundred to less than 150.
  This drastic exodus was caused in part by an acrimonious and
  extended argument which developed between left and right-wing
  listmembers, in which the listowner clearly sided with the
  right wing.  It was also brought about by the strenuous attempt
  of right wing veterans to "police" the list and to attack (often
  viciously) listmembers (particularly newcomers) who questioned
  the normative conservative image of the "veteran".  The argument,
  which took place primarily on the VWAR-L, often transcended
  the virtual arena, and had an effect on the "real" lives of
  participants, destroying face-to-face friendships of many years,
  and resulting in real damage to the lives of some participants--a
  fact to which I can attest since my own life was damaged in this
  way.  In my tenure on the list I was subject to (in addition to
  public verbal abuse) circulation of my private email, threats of
  blackmail, harassing private and public email, and even physical
  threats to my person which were blatant enough to move the
  police to take action.  I also made good friends and professional
  acquaintances who supported me in "real life" when the virtual
  world was causing me a great deal of stress and unhappiness.
  In short, the "virtual community" was indistinguishable from the
  "real world community" (and the latter did, in fact, exist in the
  form of public, personal, and professional face-to-face networks
  which had been--if not created by--at least shaped by the
  "virtual community").

  I am not trying to hype the virtual environment.  VWAR-L is not
  an ideal community by any means.  It's no utopia.  It's more like
  (as one listmember wrote) a self-cleaning aquarium.  Some people
  say that network community is an illusion.  But it is precisely
  the shared illusions which create community, both in the real
  and the virtual world.  As Helen Keller once said, "Security is
  mostly superstition".


  This month's recommendations.

  Mike Parker, Inside the Circle: A Union Guide to QWL, Boston:
  South End Press, 1985.  A brilliant analysis of "quality"
  programs in manufacturing, including both an inspired literary
  analysis of some training materials for "quality circles" and
  several detailed case studies of quality systems in practice at
  various types of plants.  A valuable corrective to the hype of
  management consultants.

  Daniel C. Hallin, We Keep America On Top of the World: Television
  Journalism and the Public Sphere, London: Routledge, 1994.  A
  set of lucid and intellectually serious essays about TV news that
  avoids several simplistic extremes while offering well-supported
  criticisms and pointing out some worrying trends.  Topics include
  war coverage in Vietnam and Nicaragua, coverage of the President,
  and sound bites.

  Upside.  Upside magazine is the source of the worrisome interview
  with George Gilder that I cited above.  It's also a fascinating
  window onto the thinking of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, who
  have developed a distinctive culture of their own: aggressively
  libertarian in their social values, disdainful of government
  without being particularly Republican, and (of course) intensely
  worshipful of individual enterprise.  For a while last year
  they were referring to themselves as "Somali warlords".  Upside
  is the main cheerleader for this culture.  It has promoted the
  electronics industry's recently intensified political organizing
  in Washington.  The magazine is consistently fascinating, with
  detailed articles on the workings of markets, the thinking of
  venture capitalists, the fates of particular companies, and so
  forth.  Monthly, $48/year.  Upside, PO Box 469023, Escondido,
  California 92046-9023, USA.


  Company of the month.

  This month's company is:

  555 DeHaro Street
  San Francisco, California  94107-2348

  +1 (415) 626-4545, fax +1 (415) 626-4710

  The future is here, and every day you use computer networks that
  span the globe.  So why is it so incredibly difficult to write
  globally distributed software applications?  One reasons is the
  heterogeneity of operating systems and network protocols, each
  obscure in itself and just about incommensurable with all the
  others.  In a reasonable world you'd have a layer of software
  that sat on top of those incommensurable systems and provided
  you with a simple, uniform set of abstractions.  The software
  would come in the form of a kernel that was always running in
  the background on every machine in the known world, talking to
  that machine's operating system and hardware, keeping on top
  of all the weird interrupts and contingencies that come up, and
  shielding you and your applications from all of that nonsense,
  with the result that your application doesn't even have to know
  what kind of machine or network it's running on.  Right?  Right.

  Well, that world has arrived, and the software that brings about
  this blessed state of affairs is called Pipes Platform from a
  company called PeerLogic.  Just think what the world will be like
  once any programmer in the world can write a globally distributed
  application and make it available on the net without any concern
  for grungy system calls and incompatible standards.  We'll have
  all kinds of interesting games, communications schemes, bulletin
  boards, databases, and whatever else happens to be widely enough
  adopted to reach a critical mass of users.

  The next step is for someone to write genuinely useable mailer
  software on top of a system like Pipes Platform.  Listserv is
  okay, but it has an appalling interface and you have to be a
  hacker to use it.  In the future, anybody will be able to create
  their own e-mail infrastructures, and we won't be stuck with the
  small number of simple models of e-mail use that we have at the

  The problem with this brave new world is that the new ease of
  writing global applications will be available both to the people
  I like and the people I don't like.  So we can have both global
  democracy and global surveillance, global community and global
  hierarchy, global interaction and global accounting.  Better get
  going and spread around the kinds of applications you'd want the
  world to made out of.

  In short, I recommend that you write to PeerLogic and ask for
  product information.  I do not, however, recommend that you
  harass them.  Only get the literature if you're genuinely
  interested in reading it.  Thanks a lot.



  Nobody had any complaints about TNO 1(5).  I don't know if that's
  a good thing or not, particularly given its robustly avant garde
  criticism of some important ideas about technology.

  Check out "A Grant Getter's Guide to the Internet", available at
  the University of Idaho gopher: gopher.uidaho.edu.  Pick the menu
  entry "Science, Research, & Grant Information" and then "Grant

  Also, check out the ACLU's gopher at aclu.org and the Digital
  Freedom Network at gopher.iia.org.

  The archives from Gleason Sackman's net-happenings list, which
  I've mentioned a number of times in TNO, are available, along
  with a variety of other things, from the Coalition for Networked
  Information.  Telnet to gopher.cni.org, log in as "brsuser", and
  follow the directions.  The interface is pretty terrible, but I
  more or less figured it out after three tries.

  The June issue of the Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine is
  now out; see http://www.rpi.edu/~decemj/cmc/mag/1994/jun/toc.html.
  It includes useful articles by Brock N. Meeks, Bruce Hahne, John
  December, Rob Kling, and Gary Ritzenthaler.

  Virginia Shea's new book "Netiquette" has some nice things to say
  about TNO.  It's a useful guide to Internet etiquette for those
  just starting out.  You can reach the publisher, Seth Ross at
  Albion Books, at seth@albion.com.  (I'm pleased to report that
  they've trademarked the term "netiquette".  Next I hope they
  trademark "newbie", thus helping to take another regrettable
  network neologism out of circulation.)

  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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