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

  VOLUME 2, NUMBER 9                                SEPTEMBER 1995


     "You have to organize, organize, organize, and build and
      build, and train and train, so that there is a permanent,
      vibrant structure of which people can be part."

          -- Ralph Reed, Christian Coalition


  This month: A historical perspective on cyberspace
              Sundry concepts and practices of democracy


  Welcome to TNO 2(9).

  This month's issue features an article by Langdon Winner about
  the historical precedents for the United States' current public
  debate about the future of telecommunications technology.  He
  observes that decisions about technology aren't just about the
  machinery; they're about the whole way of life -- both the daily
  practices and the conceptions of ourselves as individuals and
  as a country -- with which the machinery is deeply intertwined.

  And there's more.  The recommendations this month range from pop
  music to hard-core economics to Rambo studies, and this month's
  wish list tries to imagine how the Web might become part of our
  lives in ways that really matter.

  My commentary on Ralph Reed's quote is long enough this month
  that I've formatted it as a separate article (the first one).

  A footnote.  Conservative legal scholars and radio rhetors have
  convinced many Americans that a liberal cabal has effected a sort
  of coup d'etat by interpreting the Constitution in an overbroad
  fashion that does not accord with its letter or original intent
  (two different ideas frequently blurred together), and it has
  become common to hear people growling dismissively that "I can't
  find that in the Constitution".  So it's an interesting exercise
  to find all of those passages of the Constitution that have been
  interpreted overbroadly in order to protect property rights.
  Take, for example, Article I, section 8, clause 8, the Patent
  and Copyright clause, which states: "The Congress shall have
  Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by
  securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive
  Right to their Respective Writings and Discoveries."  Note what
  is not included here.  As Miller and Davis point out in their
  summary of intellectual property law,

    Pursuant to the constitutional clause, Congress adopted a
    copyright statute in 1790 and ... has substantially revised or
    rewritten the copyright law four times -- in 1831, 1870, 1909,
    and 1976.  As new forms of expression became commercially
    important, the copyright law was revised or rewritten to
    protect the exploitation of those technologies.  In 1802
    Congress added prints to the works subject to protection.  The
    1831 law added musical compositions to protected subject matter
    and the 1870 revision added such things as paintings, statues,
    and other fine arts to the list of copyrightable works (Miller
    and Davis, "Intellectual Property", pages 283-284).

  What gives Congress the power to pass such laws?  The answer, of
  course, is that emerging technological changes required that the
  underlying motivation of the relevant Constitutional language
  be extrapolated to fit the new conditions.  But that whole
  theory of Constitutional jurisprudence is now going out of style.
  Justices Scalia and Thomas, if they are true to their philosophy,
  will vote to strike down copyright protections for paintings
  at their first opportunity.  (Heck -- the framers knew all about
  paintings.  If they meant to include them they'd have mentioned
  them explicitly.  While we're at it, where does Congress get
  off permitting copyright of fictional works?  They clearly bear
  no relationship to the framers' stated intent to "promote the
  Progress of Science and useful Arts".)  If they have any guts
  then they'll also vote to strike down copyright protection for
  literary works that are only realized in electronic form, which
  are only "Writings" in a modern, figuratively elaborated sense
  of the term that differs radically from the meaning that the
  word "Writings" had for the guys who wrote the Constitution.


  Ralph Reed on the skills of democracy.

  In his capsule guide to democracy, Ralph Reed mentions the
  necessity of training.  He thinks it is important to conduct
  actual formal lessons in democratic practice: organizing events,
  listening to people's concerns and issues, running meetings,
  framing issues, building coalitions, writing opinion pieces,
  working with the press, speaking in public, resolving conflicts,
  and so forth.  Of course, many amazing people have improvised
  their own perfectly workable -- even brilliantly innovative --
  ways of doing these things.  But nobody is born with such skills
  and most of us will never invent them from scratch.  Therefore,
  if you want to build a coherent political movement then you need
  to provide people with training.

  In Reed's world training is often spoken of in terms of
  "leadership", and organizations such as his invest real effort
  and resources in the whole process of leadership training:
  identifying promising activists, getting them hooked up with
  networks of movement supporters, involving them in internships
  and other sorts of apprenticeships in the concrete activities
  of political work, sending them to training schools, placing
  them with suitable positions (whether paid or volunteer) in the
  movement's network of organizations, connecting them to steady
  sources of information (especially the facts to help support
  current movement arguments and case studies of effective tactics
  by other movement activists), and keeping in touch with them for
  the long haul.  The money that goes into these activities could
  otherwise have gone into more immediately urgent issue-driven
  work, but these organizations have made a conscious choice
  to invest in the future by devoting significant resources to
  training even if that means losing some fights in the short term.

  I emphasize all of this so strongly because the world of Internet
  and telecommunications activism places so little emphasis on
  training.  Wowed by the technology, impressed by our new power
  to communicate instantly and cheaply with like-minded folks
  throughout the world, we often neglect to build the larger and
  more complex skills within which any given technology is simply
  one piece, one tool, one resource.  In short, there's a big
  difference between forwarding e-mail and building a political
  movement around your values.  This talk about politics can seem
  old-fashioned in the libertarian environment of the net, but my
  concern is that it will stop seeming old-fashioned once the half-
  a-dozen seriously authoritarian bills now steaming through the
  US Congress become law and suddenly the wolves are at the door.

  We don't have to let things get that far.  Some extraordinary
  schools, like the Highlander School, the Midwest Academy, and the
  Organizing Institute, are keeping alive the skills of democracy
  that promote liberty and justice for all.  At the CPSR Annual
  Meeting last year we had some two-hour workshops on political
  skills.  And such workshops are frequently run at Computers,
  Freedom, and Privacy conferences as well.  What's the next step?


  Who will we be in cyberspace?

  Langdon Winner
  Department of Science and Technology Studies
  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

  [Adapted from an address given to the Conference on Society
  and the Future of Computing in Durango, Colorado, June 1995.
  A longer version will be published in The Information Society's
  special issue about the conference (volume 12, number 1).]

  Viewed at a distance, Americans must sometimes seem
  compulsively restless as we continually reinvent ourselves.
  The propensity to personal and social reinvention goes back to
  our earliest days.  The colonists' successful war against King
  George III was also a revolution in political culture, one that
  overthrew monarchy as a tightly woven fabric of human relations.

  The leaders of the uprising, the founding fathers, built
  political, legal, and economic institutions based on models
  adapted from the ancient republics.  Individual liberty and
  consent of the governed were now the guiding principles, but
  political institutions were to depend upon the guidance of a
  small group of enlightened, virtuous men.  It did not take long
  for this republican conception to itself be challenged by rules,
  roles and relations far more democratic in character.  By the
  early nineteenth century, Americans were busily affirming that
  the promise of the country was for the mass of common working
  people to achieve material prosperity and genuine self-government

  In sum, a lifetime that stretched from 1750 to 1820 would
  have undergone three radically different ways of defining
  who a person was in the larger order of things.  Times of rapid
  transformation, then, are not new to us.  Today's zealots for
  the information age and cyberspace often insist that we are
  confronted with totally unprecedented circumstances that require
  rapid transformation of society.  Perhaps so, but we Americans
  are past masters in reinventing ourselves and sometimes proceed
  thoughtfully to good effect.

  Since the middle nineteenth century, episodes of social
  transformation have focused as much upon people's relationship
  to technological systems as they have to political institutions.
  To invent a new technology requires society to invent the kinds
  of people who will use it, with new practices, relationships and
  identities supplanting the old.  We who care about the future of
  society, therefore, need to go beyond questions about the utility
  of new devices and systems, beyond even questions about economic
  consequences.  One must also ask:

  1.  Around these instruments, what kinds of bonds, attachments
      and obligations are in the making?

  2.  To whom or to what are people connected or dependent upon?

  3.  Do ordinary people see themselves as having a crucial role
      in what is taking shape?

  4.  Do people see themselves as competent to make decisions?

  5.  Do they feel that their voices matter in making decisions
      that will affect family, workplace, community, nation?

  These issues about selfhood and civic culture should always be
  addressed as technological innovations emerge.  If we limit our
  attention to their uses and market prospects, we ignore their
  most consequential feature, the conditions that affect people's
  sense of identity and community.

  These questions arise forcefully with the digital transformation
  of a wide range of material artifacts interwoven with social
  practices.  People are saying in effect: Let us take what
  exists now -- bank tellers, music recordings, teachers -- and
  restructure or replace it in digital format.  Many preexisting
  cultural forms have suddenly gone liquid, losing their former
  shape as they are retailored for computerized expression and
  opening the way for new patterns to solidify.  This is vast,
  ongoing experiment whose ramifications no one fully comprehends.

  The process has generated waves of enthusiasm from entrepreneurs,
  organizational innovators, artists, and others.  The old bromides
  of Alvin Toffler's simplistic wave theory of history, almost
  forgotten until recently, have been revived by the right wing
  manifesto, "Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for
  the Knowledge Age".  (Dyson, et al) Such millennial expectations,
  often arise during times of technological and social change,
  and they are accompanied by all kinds of "mythinformation" --
  for example the assumption that information machines is somehow
  inherently democratic (Winner, 1986).

  Along with the excitement come misgivings.  Digital liquification
  is also liquifying economic structures, educational institutions,
  and communities.  Whole vocations -- secretaries, phone
  operators, bank tellers, postal clerks -- have been abolished
  or drastically reduced.  The level of real wages for much of
  the population has declined -- including the wages of technical
  professionals (Bell) as firms lay off high salaried managers and
  technical staff and hire younger, cheaper workers right out of
  college.  Informated knowledge bases permit firms to experiment
  with audacious programs in restructuring and reengineering.

  Business gurus -- Tom Peters, Daniel Burrus, Michael Hammar,
  James Champy, and the like -- prefer to see these upheavals
  as an exhilarating challenge.  Thus, Peters advises people in
  the throes of career change to embrace "perpetual adolescence"
  (Peters, 301).  Other observers describe these developments as
  potentially a disastrous "end of work" and "end of career" for
  much of the population (Bridges, Rifkin, Glassner).  Whatever
  the case, basic conditions of human identity and association
  are being redefined.  Who will we become as such developments
  run their course?  What kind of society and political order will

  Perhaps we should consider historical chapters in which
  technological transformation involved profound alterations and
  momentous choices for self and society.  Several recent studies
  have explored what is distinctive about human selfhood in modern,
  industrial society.  Diverse scholars -- David Hounshell, Terry
  Smith, Jeffrey Meikel, David Noble, Adrian Forty, Ruth Schwarz
  Cowan, Dolores Hayden, Roland Marchand, David Nye, David Harvey,
  and others -- have looked at the first half of twentieth century
  America, noticing such developments as the Ford assembly line,
  scientific management, and infrastructures for electricity,
  water, transit, telephone, radio, and television, and asking
  how they achieved the form they did, how the populace received
  them, how the consumer economy came to be equated with the good
  life, and how advertising, industrial design, public relations,
  and education helped shape public opinion and channel social

  These authors have found that power to decide how technologies
  were introduced was far from evenly distributed.  Those
  who had the wherewithal to implement new technologies often
  molded society to match the needs of emerging technologies and

  Social control was most overt in workplaces, where employees were
  often seen as malleable, subject to the routines and disciplines
  of work.  This attitude was clearly displayed in the paternalism
  of F.W. Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management.  "In the
  past the man has been first"; Taylor explained, "in the future
  the system must be first" (Taylor, 7).  As the industrial
  workplaces were organized, people were mobilized not only
  for productive tasks, but for fairly stable, predictable,
  reproducible identities as well.  Virtues appropriate to the
  development of machines -- productive order, efficiency, control,
  forward looking dynamism -- became prevailing social virtues as
  well (Smith).

  Industrial leaders like Henry Ford, Henry Luce and Alfred Sloan
  tried to mobilize people not merely as producers, as consumers
  as well.  By the 1920s corporate planners offered images and
  slogans that depicted identities, attitudes and lifestyles that
  could guide people home life and leisure.  Industrial design,
  advertising, and corporate sponsored journalism and public
  education combined with industrial planning to promote a series
  of social role identities in photos, newspaper and magazine
  articles, and school text books (Marchand).  In Michael
  Schudson's apt summary, "Where buying replaced making, then
  looking replaced doing as a key social action, reading signs
  replaced following orders as a crucial modern skill" (Schudson,

  Historians Roland Marchand and Terry Smith note the widely
  displayed tableaux vivants of modern life, combinations of
  advertising text and photography that from the 1920s to 1950s

  the executive in the office tower;
  the worker in the clean, well-organized factory;
  the housewife in her appliance filled kitchen;
  children surrounded with goods for the little ones;
  the automobile driver speeding along a wide open highway.

  These images projected novel possibilities for living in modern
  society.  They told a story in which people's orderly role
  in production was to be rewarded with an equally orderly role
  in consumption.  Of course these efforts did not completely
  determine people's lives.  But the experience of societies
  such as those of contemporary Europe where consumerism does not
  yet dominate understandings of self, family and society helps
  us appreciate the artificiality of these strategies of social
  control.  The advertisements and tableaux vivants always depicted
  the future as something whole and inevitable.  People were to be
  propelled forward by larger forces into a world that rational,
  dynamic, prosperous, and harmonious.

  Those making choices about social priorities and investments had
  no desire to make the planning of sociotechnical innovations more
  inclusive.  The broad umbrella of "progress" enabled economic and
  political elites to defuse public criticism.  During the 1920s
  through the 1950s there were almost no popular forums in print or
  elsewhere in which the meaning of the new technologies and their
  consequences could be discussed, criticized, or debated.

  The ultimate promise of modern society was held to be individual,
  material satisfaction.  Missing from the picture was any
  attention to collective goods and problems.  Thus, buying and
  driving this automobile would give the driver and family members
  a sense of thrill and belonging.  The automobile was always
  shown on highways miraculously free of other vehicles, well-paved
  roads that seemed to extend infinitely.  As a 1930s ad for ethyl
  gasoline proclaimed: "There's always room out front" (Marchand,

  Another key finding concerns the design of artifacts.  Looking
  at the novelties that bombarded them, everyday folks were apt
  to find the transformations complex and confusing.  Design thus
  often concealed the complexity of devices, systems and social
  arrangements, making them appear simple and manageable -- thereby
  rendering them less intelligible.  In advertising as well,
  extremely simple solutions were proposed for complicated, real
  world problems.  Eventually some of those problems -- congestion,
  pollution, urban and environmental decay -- emerged as difficult
  issues, made even more vexing by having been ignored for decades.

  As we ponder horizons of computing and society today, it seems
  likely that American society will reproduce some of the basic
  tendencies of modernism.

    -- unequal power over key decisions about what is built and
    -- concerted attempts to enframe and direct people's lives
       in both work and consumption;
    -- the presentation of the future society as something
    -- the stress on individual gratification rather than
       collective problems and responsibilities;
    -- design strategies that conceal and obfuscate important
       realms of social complexity.

  Such patterns kind persist because the institutions of planning,
  finance, management, advertising, education, and design that
  originally shaped modernity are still powerful.  Occasional
  calls for resistance and reform have mostly been neutralized or
  absorbed: the push for ecological limits is repackaged as "Green
  consumerism" and demands for participation in workplace decisions
  rechanneled to become "empowerment" through the use of personal
  computers.  Possibilities for self-conscious social choice
  and deliberate social action are often sidetracked to become
  obsessions with the purchasing and possessing of commodities.

  It is doubtful, however, that today's information systems
  will simply reproduce the terms of previous decades.  Many of
  the "modern" forms of selfhood and social organization seem
  ill-suited for conditions that increasingly confront Americans in
  the workplace and elsewhere.  For example, the focus of personal
  identity upon holding an job seems a relic of the industrial past
  (Glassner).  Much blue collar and clerical work is now temporary.
  Even well educated technical professionals must now define
  themselves as contractors able to move from project to project
  among many organizations.  The assumption in computer-centered
  enterprises is no longer that of belonging to any enduring
  framework of social relations.  How people will recreate selfhood
  when everyone is expendable, could become a more serious issue
  than even the decline of real wages.

  Another crisis concerns where and how people will experience
  membership.  For modernism the prescribed frame for social
  relations was that of city and suburb.  But today, for
  significant parts of society, attachment is no longer defined
  geographically at all.  Many activities of work and leisure take
  place in global, electronic settings.  The symbolic analysts
  of today's global webs of enterprise are shedding traditional
  loyalties, leaving everyone else to suffer in decaying cities
  (Reich).  Such attitudes are found in 1990s cyberlibertarianism
  as represented, for example, in "Cyberspace and the American
  Dream" and in much of the hyperventilated prose of Wired
  magazine.  These authors fiercely desire market freedom and
  unfettered self-expression with no sense of owing anything
  to geographically situated others.  Valued now are protean
  flexibility, restless entrepreneurialism and a willingness
  to dissolve social bonds in the pursuit of material gain.  Of
  course, this breast-thumping individualism conceals many social
  conflicts.  Many of those enthralled with globalization as
  the wellspring of economic vitality also bemoan "the weakened
  family", "collapse of community", and "chaos of the inner
  cities", failing to notice any connection.

  Many, of course, expect that people will use the Internet to
  forge new social relationships and identities, including ones
  that might bolster local community life.  But right now it's
  anyone's guess what sorts of personalities, styles of discourse,
  and social norms will ultimately flourish in these new settings.
  Will digital media sustain healthy attachments to persons
  both near and far away?  Or will distance foster insouciance,
  resentment and mutual contempt?  Mid-1990s Internet news groups,
  for example, certainly do not resemble the kinds of interpersonal
  respect, civility and friendship that traditional, geographically
  based communities require (Winner, 1995).

  We can predict, though, that American society will continue to
  exclude ordinary citizens from key choices about the design and
  development of new technologies, including information systems.
  Industrial leaders present as faits accomplis what otherwise
  might have been choices open for diverse public imaginings,
  investigations and debates.  In magazine cover stories, corporate
  advertising campaigns and political speeches, announcements of
  the arrival of the Information Superhighway and similar metaphors
  are still pitched in the language of inevitability.  Here it
  comes: the set-top box!

  People doing research on computing and the future could have a
  positive influence in these matters.  If we're asking people to
  change their lives to adapt to new information systems, it seems
  responsible to solicit broad participation in deliberation,
  planning, decisionmaking, prototyping, testing, evaluation
  and the like.  Some of the best models, in my view, come from
  the Scandinavian social democracies where social and political
  circumstances make consultation with ordinary workers and
  citizens a much more common practice than it is in the United
  States (Sandberg et al).  Such models have been seldom tried in
  the United States.

  Yet even the modest forms of citizen response found in the
  tightly controlled contexts of market testing are revealing.  The
  American public never warmed to the enormous push for HDTV in the
  1980s, for example.  More recently, companies hyping interactive
  TV have found that "consumers yawned in the face of its most
  hotly promoted applications -- movies-on-demand and interactive
  home shopping" (Caruso).  What seems to excite people -- as
  socially concerned computer professionals have long anticipated
  -- are open architecture networks of many-to-many communication
  in which people can produce information products with a
  distinctive personal stamp.  Corporate designers have gone back
  to the drawing boards, setting aside the push for set-top boxes,
  and are now perfecting cable modems (Caruso).

  Yet many leaders in the computing and telecommunications industry
  still seem intent on enforcing corporate closure on information
  systems, capturing those markets, and placing their distinctive
  brand on people's lives.  As Caruso observes: "the telephone
  companies..., preparing [their own] networks and services, agree
  that fiber co-ax is the right design".  How reassuring; evidently
  the "right design" is headed our way and again we have not had to
  lift a finger.

  But why should we settle for effrontery so blatant?  Research
  developments in computing ought to involve the public in
  activities of inquiry, exploration, dialogue, and debate.  Here
  computer professionals could exercise much-needed leadership.
  We can pretend to follow "where the technology is taking us",
  to social outcomes "determined by market forces", but the
  fact is that deliberate choices about the relationship between
  people and new technology are made by someone, somehow, every
  day.  Professionals with insight into the choices that matter
  must express their knowledge and judgments to a broad public.
  Otherwise they may find themselves employed as mere ranch hands,
  helping fit the citizenry with digital brass rings.

  As the twentieth century draws to a close, it is evident that,
  for better or worse, the future of computing and the future
  of human relations -- indeed, of human being itself -- are
  now thoroughly intertwined.  We need to seek alternatives,
  social policies that might undo the dreary legacy of modernism:
  pervasive systems of one-way communication, preemption of
  democratic social choice corporate manipulation, and the
  presentation of sweeping changes in living conditions as
  something justified by a univocal, irresistible "progress".
  True, the habits of technological somnambulism cultivated over
  many decades will not be easily overcome.  But as waves of
  over-hyped innovation confront increasingly obvious signs of
  social disorder, opportunities for lively conversation sometimes
  fall into our laps.  Choices about computer technology involve
  not only obvious questions about "what to do", but also less
  obvious ones about "who to be".  By virtue of their vocation,
  computer professionals are well-situated to initiate public
  debates on this matter, helping a democratic populace explore
  new identities and the horizons of a good society.


  Trudy E. Bell, Surviving in the Reengineered Corporate
  Environment: the Freelance Engineer, IEEE Power Engineering
  Review, May 1995, pages 7-11.

  William Bridges, Jobshift: How to Prosper in a Workplace Without
  Jobs, Addison-Wesley, 1994.

  Denise Caruso, Digital commerce: On-line browsing got you down?
  Don't get mad, get cable, The New York Times, 5 June 1995, page

  Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of
  Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave, Basic
  Books, 1983.

  Esther Dyson et al, Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna
  Carta for the Knowledge Age, Release 1.2, Washington: Progress
  and Freedom Foundation, August 22, 1994.

  Adrian Forty, Objects of Desire, Pantheon Books, 1986.

  Barry Glassner, Career Crash: America's New Crisis and Who
  Survives, Simon & Schuster, 1994.

  David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the
  Origins of Cultural Change, Blackwell, 1989.

  Dolores Hayden, The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of
  Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities,
  MIT Press, 1981.

  David A. Hounshell, From the American System to Mass Production,
  1800-1932: The Development of Manufacturing Technology in the
  United States, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.

  Jeffrey L. Meikle, Twentieth Century Limited: Industrial Design
  in America, 1925-1939, Temple University Press, 1979.

  David F. Noble, America By Design: Science, Technology and the
  Rise of Corporate Capitalism, Knopf, 1977.

  David E. Nye, Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New
  Technology, 1880-1940, MIT Press, 1990.

  Tom Peters, The Pursuit of Wow!: Every Person's Guide to
  Topsy-Turvy Times, Vintage Books, 1994.

  Robert B. Reich, The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for
  21st-Century Capitalism, Knopf, 1991.

  Jeremy Rifkin, The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor
  Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era, G.P. Putnam's Sons,

  Ake Sandberg, et al., Technological Change and Co-Determination
  in Sweden, Temple Univ. Press, 1992.

  Michael Schudson, Advertising: The Uneasy Persuasion, Basic
  Books, 1984.

  Terry Smith, Making the Modern: Industry Art and Design in
  America, University of Chicago Press, 1993.

  Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific
  Management, Harper & Brothers, 1911.

  Langdon Winner, "Mythinformation," in The Whale and the Reactor,
  University of Chicago Press, 1986.

  Langdon Winner, Privileged communications, Technology Review,
  March/April 1995.

  Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, Knopf,


  Wish list.

  I have two wishes this month, one serious and one not.  I find
  that the wish list generates more correspondence than the rest
  of TNO put together, and that the more plausible, near-term
  sorts of wishes generate the most -- often of the form, "here's
  something that already exists that's sort of like what you want".
  I will eventually get around to summarizing this correspondence
  in TNO's follow-up department.  In the meantime, I have resolved
  to make my wishes more speculative.  The point is not necessarily
  to suggest tomorrow's products but to stimulate thinking both
  about the technology and about wishes themselves.

  The union movement is starting to face up in a serious way to
  the global integration of the economy.  Computer networks should
  obviously help with this process, for the same reason that they
  help industry globalize in the first place.  E-mail is the simple
  place to start; it should provide a straightforwardly useful tool
  for making contacts among union people in different countries.
  It hardly solves all of the problems of cultural differences and
  so on, but it does help.  What help could move advanced network
  technologies provide?

  Let me sketch a scenario.  It may not be entirely plausible, but
  perhaps it will help stimulate thinking.  Imagine a WorldWide Web
  application that maps out the global flow of manufacturing parts
  and components.  The system would maintain a database that could
  be edited from anywhere in the world.  (One would need suitable
  version controls and the like to make it open but still resist
  sabotage.)  People who work in a given plant could create entries
  for the parts that their plant takes in, including identification
  of each supplier.  Standard part numbers could be used, building
  on conventions already used in employers' own systems.  When
  a contract negotiation approaches, special effort could be put
  into mapping the upstream and downstream flow of parts.  This
  map could be annotated with useful information, like whether the
  plants providing or using the parts are union shops, in which
  case contact information could be provided for local officers
  and stewards.  When a supplier's shop is non-union, the map could
  provide contact information for knowledgeable union people in the
  same geographic area, or for organizers who have tried or are now
  trying to organize that shop.  This information could obviously
  be useful in establishing relationships up and down the stream
  of production, as well as alerting union members to look out for
  poor quality in parts coming from non-union shops.

  Such a system could have a broad range of uses.  The pages that
  represent particular plants could be annotated with background
  information about history, financial information about the firm,
  pictures of local working conditions, documentation of the lives
  of the employees, contacts for cultural activities and exchanges,
  and so on.  Globally agreed standards for working conditions
  could be established and applied, and suitable measures (perhaps
  from 1 to 10) could be attached to each plant.  A web crawler
  could then continually traverse the map, comparing these numbers
  and calculating various measures of the resulting products.  A
  product that was all-union from start to finish along all supply
  chains might receive a 10; a product made primarily with prison
  labor in China might receive a 1.  The map could also provide
  raw material for excellent multimedia presentations about where
  various products come from and the conditions under which they
  were made.

  My second wish is for a life-expectancy server.  You would call
  up a Web form that asks for a batch of demographic and lifestyle
  information, and it would tell you in statistical terms how
  much longer you have to live (for example, "at the rate you're
  going, you have 17.3 +/ 3.1 years left").  It could even offer
  a commentary about how much the outcome would change if you gave
  up smoking, moved to the country, carried a gun, improved your
  relationships, and so on.  Once all that information was stored,
  you could then have a continual update on your life expectancy
  delivered to the bottom of your computer screen, with the seconds
  ticking off.  Of course, a prediction down to the seconds would
  have to ignore the error bars, but it would be a graphic reminder
  nonetheless.  The seconds might tick at different rates, or
  they might even tick backwards as updated predictive information
  becomes available or as you pass major milestones for various
  types of risks.  When you updated your web page to indicate that
  you've changed a risk factor, the time remaining at the bottom of
  your screen would change accordingly.  (By the way, I've heard of
  novelty clocks that work this way, but they didn't take so much
  information into account, and they didn't automatically benefit
  from advances in actuarial prediction.)  Some technical issues
  do arise; privacy, for example.  You wouldn't want to include
  any personal identifiers on your web page, and you'd want the
  information sent to your screen through a cryptographically
  protected channel that disguised your identity.  It might even be
  a nice demonstration of the power of such methods.


  This month's recommendations.

  Charles T. Clotfelder and Michael Rothschild, eds, Studies of
  Supply and Demand in Higher Education, Chicago: University of
  Chicago Press, 1993.  I think that the professoriat needs to wake
  up and get ready for a political, economic, and technological
  revolution in the way that universities operate.  I plan to write
  about this in future TNO's, but for the moment let me recommend
  that you go off and read this volume, particularly the editors'
  chapters.  The neoclassical emphasis on supply and demand curves
  for human capital hardly begins to reckon with the phenomenon of
  credentialism, whereby the economic value of a diploma depends
  in large part on the reputation of the institution as opposed to
  the direct utility of the learning one acquires there.  But it's
  important to be aware of the development of economic discourse
  about universities -- because economics will be the primary
  legitimate way of talking about education before you know it.

  James William Gibson, Warrior Dreams: Violence and Manhood in
  Post-Vietnam America, New York: Hill and Wang, 1994.  An amazing
  book about the paramilitary culture that erupted in the United
  States after the end of the Vietnam War.  Gibson traces the
  construction of masculine identity through movies about war and
  the actual experience of war, documenting the sudden, extreme
  change in each at the end of Vietnam.  The new cultural forms,
  shaped by Rambo and Chuck Norris and Soldier of Fortune magazine,
  are expressed in everything from "paintball" war games to the
  militia movement to new patterns of mass murder.  Although
  clearly not a member of the new subculture, Gibson is remarkably
  sympathetic to the men whose evil experiences led to it, and he
  is quite unimpressed with the gun control advocates who oppose
  them.  It's too bad he didn't wait another year to finish his
  book so that he could cover the most recent developments; in any
  event it's required reading for anybody with an interest in the
  development of the extreme right and the new politics of guns and
  violence in the United States.

  Brad Miner, ed, Good Order: Right Answers to Contemporary
  Questions, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.  According to
  its cover blurb, "Whether you are a conservative gearing up for
  the next election and want the right ammunition, or are undecided
  and want to know where conservatives stand on the key issues of
  our time, _Good Order_ is the right book to discover the Right's
  best ideas."  Get it?  Right:right::left:wrong?  Okay.  Although
  I've read a great deal of conservative literature, I figured that
  this volume, which presents itself as "the agenda for today's
  conservative", might give me a sense of closure -- a sense that
  I can explain what the current American conservative movement
  believes.  Did it?  Well, I can certainly recommend this book
  to liberals who have been in denial, shuddering in horror when
  those talk radio shows come on and instead getting all their news
  about conservatism from Planned Parenthood.  The book is not just
  a philosophical statement, of course, but an instrument for the
  consolidation of a political coalition.  Cultural and economic
  conservatives are both accommodated, with some acknowledgement
  of tension but little attempt at intellectual reconciliation.
  This shows up clearly in the book's deep ambivalence about
  democracy, freedom, orthodoxy, and reason, all of which can be
  found both celebrated and cautioned against in its introduction
  and thirteen chapters.  The book's organizing theme, for example,
  is "order" -- and not, say, "liberty" or "freedom" or "choice".
  An early quote from Evelyn Waugh happily asserts that class
  divisions are inevitable, and the book's front cover consists of
  a strangely cropped picture of a smirking geek in a suit and tie,
  looking quite pleased at the idea of a divinely ordained social
  order in which he's on top.  Quick personal responses to some
  of the individual authors: G. K. Chesterton (writing on religion
  and society) is a fabulous writer of the old school; Richard John
  Neuhaus (religion and the state) is a calculating sophist of the
  new school; James Q. Wilson (community and crime) is sensible
  enough so long as he keeps this "order" thing within bounds,
  which he mostly does; Carol Iannone (feminism) is a maliciously
  unfair hack polemicist; Richard Weaver (private property) is
  downright archaic in his conservative anticapitalism, and I
  congratulate the editor for having the guts to include him;
  George Gilder (economics) is always fun to read precisely because
  of his habit of taking a single simple idea and extrapolating it
  to the moon; Charles Murray (welfare) has a gift for intertwining
  good sense and dangerous nonsense so tightly that one despairs of
  ever separating them; Russell Kirk (Constitutional jurisprudence)
  would have a weak case, except that I've never heard a liberal
  really explain what's wrong with it; George Will (term limits)
  is a smart guy and fights fair; Thomas Sowell (education) never
  fails to make me feel like I've been kicked by a mule; and the
  late Allan Bloom (sex) just seemed to make things up, driven
  by obsessions I can't quite understand.  You may have different
  views.  The important thing, particularly for people who do not
  share conservative values, is to read the stuff and learn how to
  argue with it.  I don't just mean convincing yourself that it's
  confused or rolling your eyes and exchanging of-course-we-know-
  what's-wrong-with-that looks with your friends.  I mean actually
  learning to argue with it in public.  I'll bet you'll find this
  a lot harder than you think -- and that you'll be better for it.



  As you might expect, several computer scientists responded to my
  article in TNO 2(6) announcing the death of their field.  Some
  were upset, even to the point of nastiness, by the "political"
  tone of my list of "imperatives" for the field.  I'll admit that
  I could have framed that article in a way that did not directly
  offend the value-neutral conception that the field of computer
  science has of itself.  But I don't feel bad about this because
  I don't think that computer science is value-neutral, or that it
  ought to be.  Another point of frequent comment was my assertion
  early on that industry not academia drives the research agenda in
  computer science.  Some argued that the customers of the computer
  industry drive the research agenda, since they're the ones making
  choices and spending money after all.  But I think it's important
  to see that this does not follow, in two senses.  The first is
  that customers, individually and as a whole, have varying degrees
  of understanding of what they are buying and the consequences
  of technology for their lives, and many serious chronic problems
  with computers are only now being sorted out because customers
  have learned enough by now to know what they can get.  But even
  if we grant that the market just gives customers what they want,
  there still remains the question of who in practice articulates
  the concepts and strategies for developing the technology.  When
  an industry is organized on a strictly cost-competition basis,
  or when it has limited economies of scale, companies cannot
  afford much R&D and the intellectual initiative will probably
  pass elsewhere, usually to universities.  On the other hand,
  neither of these has never been the case in computing, and I
  was inaccurate in suggesting that the initiative in computer
  research ever lay wholly in universities.  The military, for
  example, has always been an important player as well.  All I
  meant was that the initiative has shifted to industry to a much
  greater degree, except in theoretical areas.

  Web picks:

  The AFL-CIO's successful Organizing Institute is on the Web at

  And LaborNet is on the Web at  http://www.igc.apc.org/labornet/

  Factsheet Five, the magazine of 'zines, is on the Web at

  The EFF net culture pages can be found at

  UCSD's Connect program has an interesting page about its programs
  for local business at  http://darwin1.ucsd.edu:8000/connect/

  AlterNet has a good index of information about the far right on
  the web at  http://www.igc.apc.org/an/

  A good source of racism information is http://www.almanac.bc.ca/

  And Douglas Giles' amusing "GOP In-Fighting Update" can be found
  at  http://www.webcom.com/~albany/infight.html

  Hippest site on the web: http://www.suck.com/suckreviews/

  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 1995 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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