[Air-L] Air-L Digest, Vol 130, Issue 13

Jay Hauben hauben at columbia.edu
Wed May 13 10:30:44 PDT 2015

Michael Hauben once wrote:
                    What the Net Means to Me

   The Net means personal power in a world of little or no
personal power for those other than on the top. (Those on top are
called powerful because of money, but not because of thoughts or
ideas.) The essence of the Net is Communication: personal commun-
ication both between individual people, and between individuals
and those in society who care (and do not care) to listen. The
closest parallels I can think of are:

- Samizdat Literature in Eastern Europe.
- People's Presses
- The Searchlight, Appeal to Reason, Penny Press, etc.
- Citizen's Band Radio
- Amateur or Ham radio.

   However the Net seems to have grown farther and to be more
accessible than the above. The audience is larger, and continues
to grow. Plus communication via the Net allows easier control
over the information -- as it is digitized and can be stored,
sorted, searched, replied to, and easily adapted to another
   The Net is the vehicle for distribution of people's ideas,
thoughts and yearnings. No commercial service deals with the
presentation of peoples' ideas. I do not need a computer to order
flowers from FTD or clothes from the Gap. I need the Net to be
able to voice my thoughts, artistic impressions, and opinions to
the rest of the world. The world will then be a judge as to if
they are worthy by either responding or ignoring my contribution.
   Throughout history (at least in the USA), there has been a
phenomenon of the streetcorner soapbox. People would "stand up"
and make a presentation of some beliefs or thoughts they have.
There are very few soapboxes in our society today. The '70s and
'80s wiped out public expression. The financial crisis substitued
a growing sentiment of make your money or shut up. In the late
'80s and early '90s, the Net has emerged as a forum for public
expression and discussion. The Net is partially a development
from those who were involved with the Civil Rights movement,
anti-war struggles and free speech movements in the '60s. The
personal computer was also a development by some of these same
   Somehow the social advances rise from the fact that people are
communicating with other people to help them undermine the upper
hand other institutions have. An example is people in California
keeping tabs on gas station prices around the state using Netnews
and exposing gougers. Another example is people publically
reviewing music themselves -- rather than telling others," you
should really go buy the latest issue of magazine 'X' (Rolling
Stone, etc) as it has a great review." This is what I mean by
people power -- people individually communicating to present their
view on something rather than saying go get commercial entity
X's view from place 'Y'. This is people contributing to other
people to make a difference in people's lives. In addition,
people have debated commercial companies' opposition to the
selling of used CDs. This conversation is done in a grassroots
way -- people are questioning the music industry's profit making
grasp on the music out there. The industry definitely puts profit
ahead of artistic merit, and people are not interested in the
industry's profit making motive, but rather great music.
   The Net is allowing two new avenues not available to the
average person before:

     1) A way of having one's voice heard.

     2) A way of organizing and questioning other people's
     experiences so as to have a better grip on a question or

Thus in some ways there is a regaining control of one's life from
   These are all reasons why I feel so passionately about 1)
keeping the Net open to everyone, and having such connections
being available publicly, and 2) Keeping the Net uncommercialized
and unprivatized. Commercialism will lead to a growing emphasis
on OTHER uses for the Net. As I said before, it is NOT important
for me to be able to custom order my next outfit from the Gap or
any other clothing store. Companies should develop their own
networks if they wish to provide another avenue to sell their
products. In addition, commercial companies will not have it in
their interest to allow people to use the Net to realize their
political self. Again let me reemphasize, when I say politics, I
mean power over one's own life and surroundings. And this type of
politics I would call democracy.

Take care.


Daniel Jung wrote:

. . .personal assessment of what the internet means to him. . . .

  Thanks for any pointers!

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