Introduction to Presentation
It can be argued that man's greatest achievements have come through the development of technology - These achievements created revolutions in the way the human race thinks and acts. Each technological development had its downsides but always changed mankind for the better - Revolution created Evolution - We are about to enter a digital revolution. Today in 1994 we don't know whether it will be for the better.
I did not want to produce this presentation as a dissertation in written form, yet it holds exactly the same conceptual information structure of a booklet format. It also has 99% of the same qualities as a 2D piece of paper, yet it has more. It is called multimedia which means mixing digital images, digital sound, computer assisted animation, imported video and three dimensional imagery. The most significant change in this revolutionary medium is allowing these elements to be linked together via scripts or mini programs which can react to a user's input, unlike a booklet. It is the vehicle that most information will be seen through, when the internet is finally ready for all to use in the future.
What must be understood is that multimedia doesn't mean the death of the book or any other art or "craft" (craft itself is merely a description of an outdated form of art making). Radio didn't kill books, television didn't kill radio: what it did do was to alter their function. Where would the art world be (still in realism?) if the camera hadn't been invented and forced the use of the concept and communication techniques in art?
"Internet or not?" Begins with a description and explanation of what the internet is:- a kind of "whirlwind tour" of facts and figures to set up your understanding of what it actually is, how it works, where it comes from, who uses it and who owns it.
Once you have grasped the basics of this imminent digital revolution and how important the internet is to you then the bulk of the presentation will split into two main sections. I will be comparing this digital revolution with print revolution of the 15th century. The two main sections will be Social Issues and Social Effects. Inside these two sections we will explore the ideas and concepts within the seven core questions relating to; the world changing, the internet's qualities, our children's role, the effects to the human relationships, knowledge, health and livelihood.
Within the presentation at certain points, I will also aid your understanding by calling 'internet fashion' around the world for the opinion of our three protagonists. When I say 'internet fashion', I mean we can call them from our screen and they will answer within seconds from any part of the planet.
I have called upon a Technologist, a Sociologist and a Psychologist who all use the internet today as an important part of their lives, so they are accomplished enough to give genuine, valuable opinions throughout our journey. The Technologist who is yellow will be in Canada, the Sociologist who is green, will be in New Zealand and the Psychologist who is red will be in Poland. On screen our windows that we see them through are not represented as being part of our planet. They are in space - Not outer space but "Cyberspace" - The space inside the screen you are looking at now, the screen that is in London, England or where ever you are sitting!.What you will see on screen is not what the internet looks like if you use it. This is only a conceptual representation.
The last guideline in this abstract is about the presentation. It will run from beginning to end without interference. However, if you wish to interfere and watch parts again then use your mouse to break the linear format and jump around the sections using button clicks as your controls. You can only break the format when one of our three protagonists has been dialled and called up. The buttons are part of their window. All buttons have a name and a certain use - They should describe themselves as you get to them.
Explanation / Introduction
John Keats didn't know anything about computers, and he wasn't much on history either. He evidently thought Cortez discovered the Pacific Ocean, when in fact it was Balboa. But in a poem written one hundred and eighty years ago, Keats captured the essence of what the newcomer experiences when confronted with the Internet. Listen to him as he compares a translation of Homer by George Chapman to that first glimpse of the Pacific:
Much have I travelled in the realms of Gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific - and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise -
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
A wild surmise indeed. Realising after the revelation of the Pacific that there was still another huge ocean to cross. Today, in the late 20th Century, the internet newcomer realises that The Earth is not as vast (geographically) as they once thought yet at the same time struggle with their perception at the vast amount of people living on it! Geographic distances count for nothing on the internet. To end any confusion early I will explain in metaphors what the basics of the internet are. Paper cups and string can be a method of transmitting information at a very basic level. Telephones are a developed version of that concept. Think about the number of telephones there must be on this planet - Now if we could replace the receivers of all those telephones with computer terminals (screens and boards) then that would be the future of the internet. You should now have a slight idea of how big the internet is and is going to be. Not only is it big but is growing very fast. There are more than eleven thousand networks, 18 million users and a growth rate that makes attempts to quantify it in print necessarily obsolete, inspires that sense awe.
The internet is a development (Keyword - Development) from a 1969 American military cold war experiment to link four university computers to the Pentagon through a wire network called Arpanet that would be impervious to nuclear war. In 1973 an unofficial link between the University College London and Arpanet was established. In 1983 Arpanet split into Arpanet and Milnet. The National Science Foundation. The nearest thing to the owners of the internet. They took over the responsibility for funding Arpanet - 'the link of sixty universities in the USA one in Norway and two in the UK.' Milnet was then integrated with the original defence data network which was the archetype idea back in 1969.
In 1989, twenty years after Arpanet began, EUnet in Europe joined the network. Aussienet from Australia was also born and Arpanet then became only part of what we now call "The Internet". A global network of computers that can all talk and send things to each other. The UK obviously, as do all countries, now has it's own network called Janet (Joint academic Network). In 1994 Al Gore drafted a bill to enshrine free competition, at the same time as trying to ensure that the internet will link every home in the world, even the poorest. He calls the new technology "The Information Superhighway" and that medicine, education and science will be it's beneficiaries. This technology requires billions of dollars for digging up roads and laying optical fibres. B.T. and Cable Television began digging up the UK in 1988.
This thing that has developed could be looked upon as "an American military cold war experiment that is out of control" or "Am I being Watched" but is that the right way to think of the Internet?. It is an evolving thing that is not governed,ruled or owned by anyone. It's owned and created by all of us so it can be thought of as organic, a part of the human race. The extraordinary freedom of expression and accessibility of information on the internet suggests that it may well represent a whole new revolution in human communications. And because the internet is a self-governing cooperative network, it demonstrates to perfection a political principle known as "The tyranny of the majority". On the Net this means you have to follow the policies and practices which have developed over the years and are now endorsed by the Internet as a whole. Although there are already a million and one things to visit on the networks, what's on offer now is nothing to what is coming. At present, most of the information you get is just plain old text.
Today in 1995 the internet is still in it's infancy, but some day soon the Net will be an unavoidable central part of everyone's lives. Navigating the network will become something you do to find a job, to contact friends, to plot your life. We are doing it now. How many times a day do we use the phone? How many businesses would survive without the fax machine? Television has also been sent through cables since the seventies.
It's now that everything seems to be converging:- towards one form of communication, one form of media - multimedia and the Internet is the vehicle to drive it all. Or is it?
How does it work?
To aid your understanding as a beginner, I will offer analogies and metaphors of physical human communication to help explain how the internet works. The beauty of the internet is how it can help us communicate to each other. Not only that but it offers humans better access to information. It can be seen almost like an extension of a human brain.
Humans can use their mouth and voice to shout, whisper or mime. They can use their brain to record, play back information, to think and decide. Using their brain and mouth together they can tell the truth, lie, manipulate or help other humans. Using their hands they can communicate even better, through drawing, miming, producing or destroying etc. By using your computer terminal (screen and keyboard) as an extension of yourself (a human) you can do many of the things you do in the real world (our space). We can also do alot more in the area inside our screens (Cyberspace) that we use on the Internet.
To begin with, one form or function of the Internet is E-Mail (Electronic mail). Today in business, letters are typed on word processors and then printed out onto paper, then posted in a letterbox. It takes at least fifteen hours (and that is very quick for the postal service) to get to it's destination, even if you post it to your next door neighbour. With E-mail you begin at the same place (on the word processor) but instead of printing out, you save the paper and money. To send E-mail it costs six pence, whether it is sent to Tottenham or Tokyo. By sending the letter through the internet it can arrive in ten seconds anywhere on this planet. You could get a reply in two minutes, not two weeks!. Now, in the same way that people have different letter boxes for the letters, different Internet users have different computers. So, how do they manage to understand each different computer language? A protocol is a rule of behaviour and the internet requires all computers to stick to that code or shared set of understandings so that the system works. The internet uses two types of standard communication protocols (Rules) - Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP). So if you use an Amstrad computer on the internet and you send E-mail to an IBM computer then both computers need the software to change their language to either of the two standard protocols. It's like putting your E-mail in an electronic envelope to send it from your Amstrad to the IBM. When the IBM receives your letter, then it needs to convert it back to it's own language. Simple! The only downside to E-mail is you obviously cannot send Birthday cards or presents. Physical things will always be sent by what Internet users call "Snail Mail". The traditional postal service.
There are many types of connection companies that you pay to get you hooked up to the Net. One of them is called Compulink. These companies are similar types of companies to B.T. and Mercury. When a new user pays Compulink to be added to the Internet through a local connection, (like paying B.T. for a phone line) they need a 'Hostname'. A hostname is your e-mail address and like a geographical address it tells people where you are. It is similar to a telephone number but it uses alpha numericals, not just numbers.
Because the internet at its current development, is purely text based then people can pretend to be someone they are not. You may think you are communicating to a single mother interested in Tennis but it could be a married man who likes football and pretending to be single mothers. Personally I feel until technology can provide visual link ups to other users then the internet will remain the non-regulated anarchy that it is today.
Now, as reassurance, after the last statement - Your 'Hostname' is not telling anyone where you live, it is your 'site', it is only a virtual window where people using the internet see you communicate through. However, it does give them some idea, however misleading, of your alias or 'self'.
(FredBlog@cix.compulink.co.uk.) The symbol @ means at. It is always at the centre of the hostname. Everything to the right of the @ symbol relates to the domain or "The computer where the account is held." UK is obviously the United Kingdom. Everything to the left of the @ relates to the user at that address, our users name is Fred Bloggs. There are no spaces and as few characters/letters as possible must be used. That is why hostnames look very foreign to a non internet literate user.
So, Fred Bloggs has an account at Cix and Compulink which are companies in England so .CO.UK. stands for "Company in the UK."
Other Definitions are:
ac - academic organisation
com - commercial
edu - educational facility
gov - non military government body
mil - military concern
net - network resource
org - other organisation
There are many others but they need to be learned. E-mail is and will become one of the best functions the internet will bring for the human race. An internet newcomer is faced with many different functions and forms within the internet as it has not got a universal identity yet. The internet will never be seen by any of us as it cannot be visualised, because as a single object it just doesn't exist. However, it's 'Cyberspace' can and, in my opinion, will be represented on screen in various forms when designers eventually have an input on how the internet will work rather that just scientists and computer programmers.
At the moment through a function called World Wide Web you can use another Protocol called file Transfer Protocol (FTP). FTP sites are littered around this planet on the internet and inside these sites you can get things you are interested in and download them back to your computer terminal to watch, listen or interact with Games, pictures, video's and music can all be sent over the internet through FTP on the World Wide Web function.
The procedure involved when using World Wide Web is similar to E-mail and it's 'hostnames' but the software has been developed to look a certain way and at first can throw a newcomer. It is, however very easy to use once learned. The World Wide Web software is based on a simple G.U.I. (Graphic User Interface) of icons and pointers, like Windows on P.C.s or the Desktop interface on the Macintosh. It simplifies the functions of the internet and incorporates "Hypermedia" links to navigate the user through. These look like a series of text and boxes. So once inside, by clicking on highlighted text and highlighted boxes, you move around The Earth (geographically) without realising. These highlighted boxes and text called "Hypermedia" are a convention that can be used in any software or designed "Thing" for a computer. Whatever is red is considered "Hot" i.e. "Hot text" or "Hypertext." See a word in red, click on it and you visit a place that has information about that word or paragraph. The same goes for pictures inside the boxes. That is the simplicity and ease of use that the World Wide Web software creates.
Computers work through Binary codes or zeros and ones. This is basically on or off. To ask a computer to draw a line on a screen without software takes programming. This enables the computer to understand what the user wants. One form of programming is called Unix commands and is text based but can be very complicated and is like a symbolic language. In 1969 when internet started, computer programming was obviously not at the stage it is now i.e. software for ease of use, so it had to be designed using programming like Unix commands. The computer software designed today can still seem complex to learn but software gives the user more control over computers without ever having to learn the complex programming involved or understand how Binary codes work. A hostname "FredBlog@cix.compulink.co.uk." is a form of Unix commands.
Deskilling is a term used by seventies sociologists to describe the process where the micro decisions that programming involve are adopted by the machine. In software terms this is a good thing for the non computer literate. It removes the long time the programmer has spent coming to terms with the details of the medium and leaves the user free to do more things through the software. Users are given more control with software but they don't have total control. A better word to describe what is happening through software is automation, automation also absolves or frees the user from low level tasks like the programming side.
New software is always being designed as the human race attempts to better itself by making life always easier. Scientists, programmers and software designers work together to make software that everyone can use. The easiest way to access World Wide Web function of the internet on your computer terminal is through software.
Telnet is another important function of the internet. It allows you to connect directly to any other computer on the net. Again it is similar to E-mail and you use your 'hostname' to use it. You can log onto another computer, but you cannot alter or modify its hard drive and no one can 'Hack' into yours.
By connecting through Telnet you only pay for a local call through your modem and not a "long distance" one. This is because you will pay a connection fee to a router in London and your computer link is then sent from your router to the connection you have asked for. This is very helpful if your single mother tennis player lives in Los Angeles. You can also play chess and text based games through Telnet but connection time is very slow at the moment.
I have only mentioned three functions of the internet - There are many others with rules and regulations to learn when you get connected. There is a basic interactive dictionary with Buzzwords and other function names at the end of this presentation.
Introducing the three Protagonists
Ivan Pope is a director/owner of Web Media in London, one of the first internet publishing companies in the UK.
Nina Wakeford is a senior lecturer of sociology at Sheffield University.
Eva Pascoe is the owner and proprietor of Cyberia in London, Britain's first Cyber Cafe designed for public access to the internet. She is also a senior lecturer of Cognitive Psychology at City University, London.
Ivan is representing a Technologist viewpoint and his 'site' is situated in Canada - When we require his opinion we will dial firstname.lastname@example.org. Nina is representing a Sociologist viewpoint and her 'site' is situated in New Zealand. When we require her opinion we will dial email@example.com. Eva is representing a Psychologist viewpoint and her 'site' is situated in Poland. When we require her opinion we will dial firstname.lastname@example.org.
After Al Gore coined the phrase and concept of the information superhighway in the US, `big media companies tried to merge with each other overnight. Cable companies wanted film companies, publishers wanted telecomms, telecomms wanted everything. No-one knew what was happening, so they opened their corporate cheque books and waded in. The internet community had years to come to terms with co-operative effort, helpful environments and concepts such as 'Internet Culture', so the experienced user was gearing up for the new internet multimedia environment made possible by the World Wide Web and other 'Browser' software. Yet the moment World Wide Web arrived and the big corporates jumped on the bandwagon, seeing the Web as the start of an extension of their current activities, it was obvious nothing would be the same again. The Web seemed to be made for buying and selling. So while thought had shaped the technology, technology began to shape the thought. This could be illustated by the record label Polygram's purchase of the ITC Entertainment Group, founded by Lord Grade and owners of 10,000 hours of back catalogue films and T.V. series like Thunderbirds and The Prisoner.
Could these be downloadable on internet in the future like their music is being downloaded now?
Through Web sites you can find not only music but every possible piece of information that you may be interested in. You may find a site on football that you really enjoy and keep going back to it and never going anywhere else. It's like entering the video shop and always going to the horror section. This can be looked on as fragmentation. It may be a condition of living at the end of the 20th century but fragmentation can work both ways. The workings of the Net may inevitably question the authority of the text, and indeed the individuality of the author but this kind of fragmentation does not, in itself, do away with the authority of multi-national capital. It isn't that no one owns anything anymore, it is rather, as we have seen with the case of George Michael, that the person who creates something no longer automatically owns it themselves. George Michael may not own his own songs but it doesn't mean that the rest of us do. Sony owns them and the reason fragmentation works both ways is because what we are witnessing in the communication and media industries is a greater centralisation of power than ever before. Look what is already happening in the music industry. Bands no longer just make music and performances, they make videos, dance pieces and now, with people like The Residents - Peter Gabriel, David Bowie and Prince - they too are constructing multimedia. Computer games have already experienced this, as when games like Batman and Alien gross more than the film, it's hard to fix what is the original and what is the merchandising. Some 40% of the U.K.s population own a computer game, but not an original painting.
In this presentation The Gutenberg revolution of 1450 has been singled out as the start of a similar paradigm shift, powered by technology. Just as the spoken word had given way to writing in the 6th century BC, the handwritten word gave way to print. Within the space of 50 years the goldsmith, Gutenberg, from Mainz, the inventor of moveable type, had turned Europe upside down. The printing industry dropped like a bombshell into Western culture. The hand copyists were out and the production text was put into the hands of wealthy entrepreneurs. It was they, like today's communication and media industries, who used capital to invest in printing machines to drive a whole new cycle of literacy creation and distribution.
Today were are about to enter a new digital age. The generations born post 1970 are surrounded with computers and all of us will die surrounded by them. Computers control the washing machine, the toaster, the typewriter, even the wristwatch.
How will we look back at the end of the 20th century?
William Gibson, author of the novel Neuromancer and the short story Burning Chrome could claim to be the creator of the word 'Cyberspace'. He describes it in those works as 'a consensual hallucination', it comprises the collected networked computer systems of the world, accessed via direct sensory input and presented as a three-dimensional matrix of objects through which people and data move. It would almost be a similar concept to what Benjamin Woolly refers to as 'Hyperreality', the reality in our heads.
Today we talk of 'Cyberspace' but it does not exist as a 'consensual hallucination' is it more a conceptual hallucination because again the internet is at the moment sadly text based. In 1995 it would be better to describe Cyberspace as 'Dataspace'. For example, money has moved from the real world into the dataspace. We all feel that money is something we can touch, manipulate and spend yet how often do we pay by credit card compared with 10 years ago. NatWest and Barclays are currently in the process of joining their cash machine networks so people have more access to physically hold their money.
Now the notion or concept, of Cyberspace can only become real when the human race develops the 'Dataspaces' that we have created. It is important to understand what Cyberspace is. The following point is not a definition but it illustrates how we can move from the printed page and launch ourselves into Cyberspace.
Computers have screens not pages, and rather than turning, they scroll. Alphabetical text may still be read left to right, but on a screen it can roll up from the bottom. More to the point, text on a screen is completely manipulable. It takes only a piece of software to tweak, dissolve, change size, colour, even mutate one word to another. And again, just as photography made obsolete some of the ambitions of paintings, so the dynamic screen will make some of the traditional purposes of writing seem oddly bizarre. Why describe in words, if you can show in pictures? Landscape can leap into life, a character can speak or perhaps be described by an image or a colour. In this analysis, the page become a space where something happens, rather than a moment in which something is fixed.
In the 15th century Printed Books followed manuscripts format. Should internet follow book format?
Let us now, not suggest that we will end up in boxes, closeted with phenomenally powerful computers, groping through Cyberspace. Our channels of communication should spread well beyond the written word. When the internet does eventually power up we will revalue orality, even dialogue (relating to regional accent) and at the same time re-align our approach to writing. And given that what appears on a computer screen is potentially evanescent, we can start to reassess the permanency of writing and the extent to which we need to leave permanent traces of ourselves in the solid world.
Do you think that the spoken word will now become more important than the written word?
A book can be an artifact or treasure. In an Electronic culture no physical artifact remains. How do you then value what you cannot touch? i.e. zeros and ones?
Is Internet a Perfect, Nameless, Raceless, Genderless Anarchy?
What is the Internet's main attraction to you?
Many USA number plates have the name of the state and a slogan framing the number. In Redondo beach, California where 'Baywatch' clad beauties of both sexes parade themselves, a company named DHM Information Management is offering personalised Internet number plates with INTERNET at the top and your Hostname along the bottom. Obviously in America, where everything is at a further stage of development, the internet (community wise) is more accepted and used than here in Britain and DHM describe these number plates as 'a very safe and cool way to meet new people'. The concept is quite safe, considering you only have a 'site' for your hostname, but it opens the flood gates to free information. Obviously people have a choice whether to use these number plates but could it involve the same risks as walking around naked with your name and telephone number tattooed to your body and we already know and understand the problem of anonymous phone calls.
Now harassment by E-mail, while annoying, is, physically, the safest form of harassment - the person harassing you doesn't know your phone number or address or even, if you so choose, your real name. And today harassment or 'flaming', as it can also be known in internet terms can happen to man, woman, child, whoever the user of the hostname is. A course of action can be taken by sending the messages to a system administrator who will deal with it. Recent surveys suggest that 90% of internet users are men and the women that do log on as 'themselves' do complain of sexual harassment.
However, women as users can also explore the Net's potential for identity hacking, and the development of multiple personas. They can then hit back at on-line aggressors who mainly turn out to be male, white teenage friends from Central America who are having what they call, "their idea of fun." Identity hacking can seem threatening or very negative and at times seems to contradict everything good that the internet stands for. Yet changing our whole outlook on technology to a very positive view is very important. Children brought up on computer games are as comfortable with computers as they are with Lego. They have no preconceived ideas about 'being no good with machines', - that is learned helplessness.
There is more danger from walking out of your front door in the morning than there is from using the internet. Although it is an unregulated thing, it is a relatively organised, unregulated thing. Basically, on internet, you walk out of your front door in the morning and instead of just seeing the front pavement you have the whole world stood in front of you, waiting to be accessed. And, equally important, it is a world where women may participate as equals. No one can tell from your postings if you are black or white, hetro- or homosexual, male or female, unless you choose to to tell them. The only requirement is that you are willing to jump in.
Is the internet the perfect world for a nameless, raceless, genderless anarchy?
Have we created this 'safe environment' because the real world is a horrible place? Leaving behind the mess of urban life?
Today when people get very ill and need very special treatment they need to be rushed to the nearest specialist surgeon or doctor. Sometimes they have to raise money to fly themselves to another country where the specialist lives and practices. If before they can raise the money, things become an emergency and it is then impossible to get a patient to a specialist in time, then today, in 1995, the patient could die.
Internet evangelists are predicting many brilliant things to come in the future and one of these is Telepresence. Telepresence is a form of virtual reality but in this case only for one of the users. This form of Telepresence is called virtual medicine and has 2 users - a patient in Britain and a surgeon in America. The surgeon is the only user who sees a virtual reality through the head set and gloves that he/she would be wearing.
Now, the patient in Britain is lying on a bed in a hospital's surgery with various nurses and doctors around the bed keeping an eye on the robotic arms that will perform the operation. These robotic arms are connected to a computer terminal that is logged on, through internet to the American surgeons computer terminal. The surgeons computer terminal is connected to the virtual reality headset and gloves and the operation can now begin. The surgeon in America feels like he or she is actually in the same surgery as the patient and the robotic arms take the place of the surgeon in Britain.
If this happens in the future then it would revolutionise medicine and the idea and concept of the hospital. It could improve mankind for the better. Today there is more research towards the idea of 'Cybersex', which would work on the same idea of the virtual reality of 'Telepresence'. This would allow lovers who are separated geographically to have sex with each other at their computer terminal on either end of an internet connection. Each user would obviously strap on some kind of machine or sex aid as well the virtual reality headset and gloves, thus enabling the act of sex to begin.
These two ideas are beautiful concepts but, today if teenage American kids can hack into government records and by using different personas, can harass female or male internet users, then surely Telepresence could be as threatening as walking out of your front door in the morning?
Can you see any effects of Cybersex/Cyberrape on internet? Could it happen?
So we now become aware that anything that exists in real life could exist on the internet. At the moment the internet should be developing more positive things than negative. Yet, now that the US government (accidental inventors of this perfect unregulated anarchy) have turned full circle and the current office is putting five hundred million dollars back into this new 'information superhighway' then maybe we (i.e. everybody), should begin to get involved, using our knowledge of real life and all its negative things and try to ensure the internet continues to develop more positive than negatively.
In January 1994, Al Gore laid out his plans for loosening the federal telecom regulations that presently keep telephone, cable TV and entertainment companies carefully separate. This regulation began during the Reagan administration of 1982 when AT&Ts monopoly (America's version of BT) was broken up - AT&T retained most of the long-distance services and the 'Baby Bells' took the local telephone services. Cable TV operators followed, installing their own networks in cities. Under this federal telecom regulation, telephone companies can not broadcast TV, cable companies can not offer phone services. Neither can make equipment. TV companies may own cable broadcasters, but not the physical network that transmits the programmes.
Gore is planning to tear down all these federal telecom regulations, opening a 'free for all' scramble to create competition, improve services and lower costs.
This is like saying that when the car was invented and roads needed to be built,it was great news for the tarmac business. Obviously it was, but with the internet there are far more important effects. This current American government is the same government that provided money to research and create the 'Clipper' microchip. A chip that creates unbreakable codes using a method called 'strong encryption' and involves clever maths that turns the information you send over the internet's networks and phone lines, into unique and undecipherable static. Strong Encryption means that although more and more of our lives are conducted over easily-tapped phone lines and easily hacked computer link ups, we do not have to worry about someone eaves dropping. Or do we?
Such powerful encryption technology is in the reach of private individuals and the US government recognise people's desire to encode and protect their own information traffic, but they do not want to lose the power of listening in. The public, they argue, has long accepted the need for phone-tapping to catch criminals. But with total encryption in play, all a tap would reveal is an undecipherable hiss.
So this became their plan: Allow anyone use Strong Encryption, provided they use methods which we can still decode. They decided to enforce a 'standard technology' called the Clipper Chip. They tried to ensure this was the only kind of encoding people were allowed to use. Their attitude was, 'You can use keys to lock up your information, but make sure you get your keys from us'. Would you buy a set of keys from someone who's main business is breaking locks? They had plans to keep a spare key to everyone's chip. Clipper had a 'back door' made for eavesdropping. The chip would provide amazing security to anyone who used it, however, for every Clipper Chip there was a two-part key held by the government. If they thought you might be, for example, a psychopathic terrorist sending bomb making manuals over the internet then they could get the two halves (2 very long numbers) from their files, join them together and listen in to whatever you were encoding. The politicians argued that Clipper was essential to avoid terrorists and child pornographers using encryption to avoid their detection, so now there are two ways of looking at the internet. Either as a system of global, co-operative communication - or as a system of global surveillance.
However, cryptographers good or bad do exist around the world and cryptography could become a big industry when the internet powers up and money physically disappears into the digital domain of Cyberspace. If zeros and ones become our money then it will travel in trains through tunnels we call networks and we need to avoid any chances of virtual train robbers.
Today there are guardians protecting our rights on the internet but because the internet is un-regulated and not owned by any one organisation then they are not the 'Cyber Police'. The Electronic Frontier Foundation based in Washington D.C. is the worlds foremost organisation, fighting for civil liberties on the internet. Their greatest triumph has been in advising Vice-President Al Gore as he was 'shaping' his 'information superhighway' policy. In the UK CommUnity, the Computer Communicator's Association (previously the UK Cryptoprivacy Association) is a pressure group representing the British online community so again by entering the internet in the future, you will be open to the same risks or protection as you would leaving your front door in the morning.
Who are the dominants and who are the slaves in an internet society? If there are any?
The 'learned helplessness' of some computer non-literates is ignorance in its purest form. Ignorance is bliss and if like media newspapers, that by coincidence are still using the technologies of moveable type invented in the fifteenth century, then you could feel threatened by this current shift in technology because it may alter the importance and authority of old methods, or crafts that you are tied to or used to. Even writers, such as Fay Weldon, who should know better, have attacked science, in Lollard fashion, as harmful to the human soul. Technophobia such as this is doubly disturbing since we seem to have arrived at a moment in time when computer technology is set to affect profoundly the framework of our lives, not just in commerce but in culture too.
The internet requires a certain way of accessing it. This is its nature. Should it not be accessible by every walk of life - rich, poor, educated, uneducated, literate or non literate?
Stephen Rose explains in his book 'The Conscious Brain', how human beings today have the same cranial capacity as the earliest Homosapiens found in fossil records, so there is no sign of further brain development. Further more he says: The changes in human society have been brought about by the utilisation of the brain capacity developed in Homosapiens those many years ago. (Rose 1976) Today it is fact that when we die we have still only used 2% of our brains capacity.
In the Gutenberg Galaxy Marshall McIuhan cites Ashley Montague to reinforce the idea that non-literates in the 15th century were extreme realists and much more in contact with themselves, and could identify themselves with the world: Nothing could be further from the truth than the idea that non-literates are utterly credulous, superstitious and fear-ridden creatures without any capacity or opportunity for independent and original thought. In addition to good horse-sense, the non-literate usually displays a much practiced sense based on an appreciation of the hard realities of life. (Montague 1957)
The original and natural idea of knowledge is that of 'cunning' or the possession of wits. It is a capacity for overcoming the difficulties of life and thus, achieving success in this world. (G.S. Brett 1928) Look at Neandathol man for instance - living in a dangerous world, mankind had to adapt to its environment and it was based on oral communication and cave paintings not a written or printed word. And, the mutation for oral communication to visual communication is at the core of this contextual study. Over centuries, man has evolved through communication via the ear, learning skills by watching, listening and remembering - not by reading.
Has society/internet society placed a shift from people being non-literate to illiterate, rendering the latter devalued and uncomfortable in a society where literacy is a dominating factor?
A doctor teaching contraception in an African village can have an effect on their poverty, welfare and health through educating their minds about birth control. Thus, literates in illiterate societies have power to influence other peoples lives. The African villagers are knowledgeable because basically - they are still alive, if only just. Yet they are not illiterate, they are non literate, they do not need books. So the doctor will explain contraception to them using language and pictures so the villagers can understand and learn by using their eyes and ears together. A balance of interplay of the senses affects man's way of learning. Before print it was the ear. Now the eye dominates. Knowledge in the mind is then visualised on a page rather than memorised in the head. When print was invented it effectively began the decimation of the church by replacing the importance of learned knowledge and putting it in a book called the Bible and this book then replaced the importance of the preacher - the human being! Print has an authority that plays the part of a public address system. If Jesus walked The Earth he could not have preached from a book because they did not exist. This could point out mankind's movement away from religion and his answer to worldly problems through looking to science and technology to enhance the quality of life. Mass knowledge improved after print but perhaps in quantity rather than quality.
What will happen to literacy? What will it mean after the internet? How Will It Affect Our Children?
Today, as we move towards multimedia, we realise the importance of the combined methods of learning - visual and oral. And by using the method of interactivity we are reminded of the famous saying - 'We all learn from our mistakes'. Pilots can not afford to make mistakes when they land a plane so they learn how to do it in a simulator. Babies learn how to talk by watching and listening to their mother's mouth and then simulating how the mouth moves before they realise they have vocal chords that need control as well.
Some of the printed news papers or 'The Media' as we call it today say that "playing computer games rots a child's mind quicker than glue sniffing. With persistent looped music and repetitive screen display, it may be a slower process, but it is just as addictive. Add to that the violent, male-dominated imagery in some games and there seems to be a huge potential for harm. Computer games are a number one demand, even if an already television-eroded attention span looks bound to be reduced to something less than a nanosecond."
The new generation is wired, resistance is useless. Computer games are the nursery slopes of computer literacy, just as hackers are 14-year old computer engineers in waiting. We all learn from our mistakes.
Television is an oral medium as well as visual but the dialogue is one way. Interactive multimedia creates cyberspace interaction. Is that better or worse? i.e. Should our kids join Terminator in all its violence of should they feel removed?
How do you compare violent films to violent video games?
How do you see the female role on/in video games?
Computers represent a rapidly growing cultural phenomenon, breeding their own language and social exchange. They are becoming increasingly cheap and due to the developments in software they are a lot easier to use. And the same computer games that so concern kid's parents are infact the secret recruiting ground for the computer generation. For not only does playing games provide astonishing education in perception and problem-solving, it also leads to an easy familiarity with computers that is entirely lacking in the parents. In particular, accessing information via a screen - something some adults often find difficult, if not intolerable - is second nature. It is this growing ease with basic machinery and concepts of computers that puts children into the front line of change-makers. According to Professor Stephen Heppell, computers have a 3 stage scenario to children. The 1st stage represents the computer as strange novelty. The second employs the computer as surrogate instructor, a point at which computers in education can not deliver the goods. A computer will never be a substitute for a living teacher in the traditional setting of the classroom.
It is when stage 3 opens that radical change begins. The computer stops being a teacher and becomes a tool. In this paradigm, the computer is a kind of 'Cyberspace' for the cultivation of knowledge at a child's own pace and discretion. In particular, computers are ideal for project based learning, which may frighten many traditional teachers who choose not to like or understand computers. Adult teachers with this view may, at the moment, only look in wonderment as children take the computer forwards into a new world, often primed by games-playing. It is at this moment, that computers begin to erode traditional cultural certainties.
How important do you view our children's role to us? Can we learn from them?
What will happen to human relationships?
Arguably, the best thing about the internet is its ability to re-connect people within localities and communities. This concept is called the 'Global Village', and thereby facilitates a return to a kind of pre-Industrial Revolution culture, when most folk did not live in overcrowded roads and infrequent trains, or breath polluted air. This is not some nostalgic desire for a return to the values of pre 15th century man but a practical solution to urgent problems facing the entire developed world.
In August 1993 the first networked campsite was set up for the Hacking at the End of The Universe Congress near Amsterdam. A thousand hackers from all over the world met, train spotter and Trekkie style, to participate in workshops and informal discussions.
This uncanny idea of mixing the wet dew of grass with electronic equipment under canvas and nylon some may say is very strange but it demonstrates the idea of a 'Global Community'. The people that travelled to Amsterdam were meeting other humans for the first time, who were their best friends over the internet but had never met, physically, before. The rest of the world that could not afford the air fair and camping equipment were still there but only through Telnet connections from their homes wherever they were.
Will the internet give us communal colonisation or socially irresponsible escapism, or both?
How do you view the togetherness that the internet creates? Is it different from other 'togethernesses'?
In the 15th century to non-literates, a book was an object they would rarely read but often hear. The fact that reading as generally practiced was itself a social activity or a 'togetherness' was of profound importance.
It was the group of townsmen sitting in the nave of Chelmsford Church, listening to the New Testament, which set William Maldon on the path to English literacy and reform. He heard first, thereafter he came to read. (Aston 1967)
So reading in groups as a social activity gave rise to self motivation and self education.
Does the Internet Group people? Is that good or should individualism be the key?
Are we being driven inward when we lock our doors to people and bury our heads in the newspaper when we travel on public transport?
What Will Happen To Human Knowledge? By the end of the 15th century, when books became knowledge displaying commodities and the aristocracy had filled their libraries with these 'treasures', society began to label people who were not book readers or 'could not read' as stupid. These non literates were tradesmen or craftsmen, as they were known then. They were very knowledgeable and skilled people who worked hard for their trade and did it well, so they were not stupid, they just never needed to learn to read.
Today's current changes in communication, like the internet, affect the definition of knowledge but not man's capacity for learning. This remains the same: knowledge is something we achieve according to our circumstances.
To be knowledgeable is to be literate, do you agree?
Even today, literacy is far from universal. Afghanistan has a general literacy rate of only 29% while China, with a literacy rate of 73%, still has 300 million illiterate people. And of course, the symbolic language-set of the computer world is almost exclusively provided by the Roman alphabet, which is far from generally adopted. It would not be stretching the analogy too far to say that English is the successor to the Latin of the medieval church. Like English today, latin provided a universal language independent of native tongue, yet, like English, latin was accessible only to the educated.
Elizabeth Eisenstein summed up in the words 'Typographical fixity' the way that in similar fashion to latin in the part with English today, people or society, are forced to conform to the rules that are laid down by the generations before. The introduction of print permanently arrested the process of easily corrupted handwritten scripts and improved spelling, syntax and pronunciation.
Do you think the internet will create a standardisation of behaviour like the verbal accuracy that that achieved by the visual image of the printed word?
Human beings have sent coded messages over long distances since the beginning of civilisation. Before the discovery of electricity these took the form of drum, smoke and fire signals. Even those primitive telegraph systems could send messages quicker than a carrier could take them on horseback. This form of signal, although primitive in vocabulary, is understood by any culture or walk of life that is 'visually literate', i.e. they can see! It also crosses the language barriers between countries.
The feeling an illiterate person may get about being excluded by written language is easily demonstrated to a foreigner in Japan. Unable to read the signs, the non-Japanese reader is utterly lost. It is a neat encapsulation of how the primacy of a text-based information system has the unwelcome effect of shutting out a member of another culture. Just as Latin failed, so English may likely recede in the digital age.
Do you think that on internet we should move towards an iconic language?
What Will Happen To Human Health?
One of the White House Sysops (the systems operators who run the forums), is a deaf, blind woman. She uses braille to run the connections from the White House to Compuserves worldwide network.
Again the internet's beauty creates a world where people view her as having no disability because of the concept we have discussed about 'Identity Hacking'. The internet could be a boom to the old and handicapped.
Who is the internet physically suited to?
Is technology pushing us further from nature?
Will we become fat nerds? What will happen to our bodies?
Dave Asprey of the West American T-Shirt Company tried marketing his T-Shirts on UseNet, another internet function. The problem he avoided that he could have come across is that UseNet has a serious anti-commercial bias. He states, 'A newsgroup called "Alt.drugs. caffeine" had a serious base of coffee drinkers, so I created a shirt for them. I posted a message on that newsgroup that an unofficial "Alt.drugs" caffeine shirt was available. I got lots of orders. Enough that I made more from UseNet posts in 2 months than I had made locally in 6.' That is the attraction of ideal audience targeting that the Net creates. If you want to sell footballs, then post a message advertising them on a football newsgroup.
When the piano was made cheap enough to become widespread in the 1920s, it became a cherished assett the household. The home entertainment it brought families, as they sat around the player, could not be matched. Then the radio took over the pianos job and the family behaviour altered to sitting around a wooden box that looked similar to the piano but had more sounds. Then came television sets that looked like radios and the behaviour of families have never been the same since.
Do you think the internet will create a standardisation of recreational behaviour?
What Will Happen To Human Livelihood?
Recently, the rail strike in Britain reminded us all of the tedium of travelling to work, yet few people realise that this resource and time wasting activity is effectively no longer necessary. The assumption that you have to be physically present in The City to be serious about being in business, is based on an increasingly dubious premise that you always need to see (and be seen) by your City peers 'in' on the various inside deals and company politics that drive the economy.
After the internet will we ever need the inferior public transport system we call 'British Rail' again?
What industries can you see the internet aid or destroy?
A recent, though quite obvious development in internet business is the growth of malls and plazas - a sort of on-line TV shopping network. Advantages include the ability to browse through thousands of products at your leisure, doing keyword searches and cross-checking prices. The Mall, for instance, takes on-line orders and offers specials. One of the biggest of these ventures is the Internet Shopping Network, a shopping centre that provides over 20,000 products. Attempting to simply replicate magazine-based or TV-based advertising techniques on the Net may be doomed, maybe more sophisticated techniques will evolve over the next year or so.
Is the traditional 'shop' still necessary? Do we need to travel to get to the shops?
The conformity of the individual tends to be dictated to a very large degree by power relations among the various age and sex groups, class, caste, professions, and so forth. Relations which have endured for centuries and are modified but slightly, if at all, by successive generations. The culture controls behaviour minutely, and … careful and rigid etiquette governs the fundamentally influential sphere of kin relationships. (Reisman 1950)
After Gutenberg's technology had crated an authority of the printed word, communities began to recreate their Town Crier as 'Street Literature' which was probably the first form of tabloid newspaper. It was an extension of the oral communication of hearsay. It was posted on trees and buildings in similar fashion to today's fly posters.
Leslie Shepard, author of 'The history of Street Literature' 1973, sums up in a paragraph how the internet survives. He is not referring to the Internet he speaks of an ancient craft - 'Street Literature'.
This kind of literature is the life blood of popular sentiment and action, for no matter how much policy is planned by politicians and conspirators, or culture directed and exploited by entrepreneurs, it is the incoherent mass of popular feeling with its strange mixture of truth, untruth and sheer banality which is the pulse of history and has shaped the destiny of nations.
Has culture been dematerialised by the internet?
In 1538, Henry VIII took the decisive, revolutionary step of ordering the English Bible to be placed in all churches, thereby answering an ancient Lollard prayer. Then in 1543, he decided that it was too dangerous to allow unlimited Bible reading. An act passed in the spring 'for the advancement of "true" religion and for the abolishment of the contrary.' This restricted the use of the Bible on a social basis. Henry saw education as a force which threatened the equilibrium of his society, and particularly that self education carried potential dynamite. The advance of literacy was a force to be reckoned with in social and political terms.
Vice-President Al Gore said in this 'Information Superhighway' speech on January 11th 1994 'Make no mistake, these changes are going to make up one of the most powerful revolutions in the entire history of humankind'. Let us hope he means to change humankind for the better.
Will internet ever govern or rule?
The Internet is the largest functioning anarchy in the world. Every day hundreds of millions of messages are passed without the benefit of a central authority. Thoughts tend toward the experimental idea, the global perspective, the interdisciplinary syntheseis, and the uninhibited, often emotional, response. Many participants already prefer Internet writing to book writing as it is conversational, frank and communicative, rather than precise and over-written.
The job of readers of printed text was to find the canonical truth in texts. Net distributed text supplies a new role for readers - every reader co-determines the meaning of a text. This relationship is the fundamental idea of post-modern literary criticism, in which there is no canon. The truth of a work changes with each reading. In order to decipher a text it must be viewed as idea-threads, some owned by the author, some by the reader and others by the greater context of the author's time.
It is no coincidence that the post modernists arose as the networks formed. In the last half-century a uniform mass market has collapsed into a network of small niches as a result of the information tide. An aggregation of fragments is the only kind of whole we now have. The fragmentation is business markets, of social mores, of spiritual beliefs, of ethnicity, and of truth itself is the mark of this era. Our society is a working pandemonium of fragments. That is almost the definition of the network many hope the 'information superhighway' will become.
It will rearrange the writing space of the printed book into a new writing space larger and more complex than ink on paper. The instrumentation of our lives can be seen as part of that 'writing space'. As data from weather sensors, demographic surveys, cash registers, all the millions of electronic information generators pour their words onto the Net, they enlarge the writing space of our times. Their information becomes part of what we know, part of our meaning, part of our knowledge. Their digitised bits from the new literary space we think in, which includes not only a rejuvenated interest in letter writing, but also the syntax of MTV (Music Television), the structure of asynchronous conversations, the logic of fragmented ideas.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, it was always assumed that literacy was essential. Countless pre-literate peoples were introduced to reading and writing, usually via the medium of the Bible imposed by missionaries. The written word destroyed oral cultures more effectively than syphilis, resulting in enormous cultural loss. By how much we can never know, but judging by the richness of myth found in surviving pre-literate societies in places such as the Amazon and large areas of Africa, it must be very great.
Orality is like a glue within society. It draws people into groups. It promotes a type of communication that is communal and open. It also encourages a certain way of thinking. Orally generated characters tend to work larger than life, larger also than printed characters.
What an orally composed epic does not have, is a more particularising, individulating tendency that is so crucial in literate society. A written culture favours the interior, the personal, the reflective for instance, unlike our pre-literature ancestors who sat round campfires to share stories, we do not read in groups. The oral human being is caught in a web of timelessness, almost an unconscious state, where the distinction between 'I' and 'You' is not nearly so well delineated. literacy on the other hand, is modernist, productive of an in-built existential loneliness. Without literacy there can be no continued deepening of consciousness, no progress towards individuation. Because of technology the process of industrialisation which took 2 hundred years to happen in the West is happening within a generation in the Pacific Rim. And along with equality, it is liberating the women who work in the Micro-chip sweatshops, because working in a sweatshop is still better than either being stuck in a village as a wife and mother or walking the streets of Thailand selling your body to American sailors.
And, as these eastern, Amazon and African villagers still 'live in the dark ages' then soon they will be brought in from the cold.
It is not an unreasonable claim that the invention of printing saw off the Middle Ages and ushered in the Modern World. When manuscripts became books, the perception of the artefact still remained. A book was a thing to be traded like a sack of grain or a gold bar. But with electronic culture, no artefact remains. So has culture, then, been dematerialised by the internet? It is maybe reassuring to spin around the ideas of an 'ultimate retro renaissance', created by the net. The analogy is in the air, the feel of 'togetherness' and the mixing of technology and art, a symbiosis where both gain.
Again Benjamin Woolley comes screeching to the rescue by inferring a generic similarity between subjects like quantum theory and post-modernism. Multimedia, the fusion of all arts (crafts), can be referred to as the new media collision along the lines of the comet which hit Jupiter last year. What might be dubbed the grand unified similarity.
Finally there is a political point here that involves something of a paradox. As we begin to accept that we are moving into an era of global society where borders are transparent to networked communications, we are also witnessing the rise of the nation state, with all its ugly prejudice and exclusivity. But we know that it was the simple fax machine that made it impossible for the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre to be kept a secret. Long after journalists left, Chinese dissident students continued to feed information about the repression into fax machines and E-mail. Perhaps computers, with their polyvalent language structure, will prove to be the Trojan horse of nationalism.
Al Gores 'Information Superhighway' speech mentioned more about the 'development of America' than of humankind. In 1969 when the Net was born, humankind landed on the moon and planted an American flag. The 'space race' of that decade illustrated the underpinnings of the cold war and began the omen of nuclear war - the biggest threat to mankind in history. This ended when Russia, as a Superpower, broke into tiny pieces. The 'threat' or 'communism' was over, yet there is still the other 'threat' that is called the 'United States of America' and while that country remains a Superpower then we should question Al Gores reasons for having lunch with the boss of AT&T. It is what happens now which will determine how 'Cyberspace' is used or abused in the future, because if we are not careful the most liberating development in the history of mankind could become, instead, the surveillance system that will monitor our grand children's morality.
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