DIAC '94 Report
Developing an Equitable and Open Information Infrastructure
Coralee Whitcomb, Conference Co-chairAt some point in any project one hopes that there will be an especially meaningful moment that wraps up the essence of what you've tried to do. In the organizing of this year's DIAC, my moment came just days before the conference when I received a post saying:
Dear Sirs: Let me express that I approve the very idea of your forthcoming 2-day forum. I can neither enter the CPSR nor be present at any meetings (due to poor financing in my country). But I'm happy that rather a number of professionals are gathering to discuss the problem in full. I lecture on the Psychology of Information Technologies usage and I am to show my students both the disasters and benefits of new technologies advent. Wish you full success, Faithfully, Alexander Voiskounsky, Moscow UniversityWe had received inquiries from all over the world, but somehow this one drove home the sheer power this new form of communication holds. This event, much of it planned and put into place from my living room, in pajamas at 2 in the morning, had reached beyond the old iron curtain to a compatriot in Russia.
This was the fifth DIAC (Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing). Doug Schuler, of Seattle and our new board chairman, is the "father" of DIAC. He both created the event and has served as the main organizer at each one. Over the years, DIAC has developed an extremely respectable reputation throughout the professional and academic communities. A funding base has been developed, and this year we received over $3000 in unsolicited contributions from Apple Libaries and the Morino Foundation. An additional $10,000 was granted by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through the efforts of the Washington Office.
We organized this year's DIAC with specific objectives in mind. We wanted to produce a high visiblity conference that would solidify the identity CPSR is developing within the NII arena. We also wanted to be sure that our conference was as inclusive as our NII principles claim, so we attempted major outreach to non-technical communities that have much at stake in the final shape of our information infrastructure. To that end we wanted to produce a conference that was both instructive and grounded in the public interest point of view.
April 23 dawned sunny and warm In fact, that weekend was the nicest the Northeast had had. The blossoms were out in full force - it was a sign of things to come.
Saturday's program opened with Beverly Hunter of Bolt, Beranek, and Newmann giving one of the best overviews of the NII that I've ever heard. It clearly described both the mechanical and philosophical issues involved in the design of the NII. She was followed by a panel on policy that included Patrice McDermott, a policy analyst of OMB Watch, Stan Kugel, General Manager of Pilgrim Telephone, and Jamie Love, Director of the Taxpayers Assets Project. Herbert Schiller followed with a critical and extremely entertaining viewpoint on all the hype that we're dealing with. There many comments afterward using the word "refreshing". After lunch we heard about the changing nature and role of citizenship from Benjamin Barber, who was followed by panel on the media and its role in providing the content of the future. The panelists included Lauren-Glen Davitian of Deep Dish TV, Walther Bender, Director of Information Technology at the MIT Media Lab, and Jeff Chester, co-director of the Center for Media Education. The last panel of the day focussed on the role of grassroot efforts at bringing the NII into local reality. This panel consisted of Tom Grundner of the National Public Telecomputing Network and founder of the Free-Net Movement, Antonia Stone, founder of Playing to Win, and Joyce Freeling, founder of the Legacy Project.
As is the typical organizer's plight, I was not able to see much of the program. The little I did see was well presented with new twists and turns to the issues and approaches we have come to expect in this area. Fortunately, we have produced a two-hour video of the highlights from that day.
The second day consisted of a panel of representatives from the educational, disabled, and labor movements discussing the realities of NII in their respective worlds. In addition to the panel, there were 32 workshops presented throughout the day. They were organized into 8 streams; nonprofits, access/outreach, policy, cyberspace, rhetoric and metaphor, culture, free speech, and constituencies. Again, the reports coming from the workshops were raves. There were fascinating topics and presenters included Rachelle Hollander of the NSF, Anne Levinson Penway of the American Library Association, and Thomas Kalil of the White House Economic Council. The only drawback to this cornucopia of choice was that no one could see everything. Again, we did our best to record as much as possible and we now have a number of the workshops available on video.
This year's DIAC attracted over 300 people on a beautiful spring weekend. We produced many educational materials that will continue to serve CPSR's program goals. And we were able, I believe, to fulfill our mission of raising the level of interest and understanding of NII issues to a broader public than is usually involved. I know that if Alexander Voiskounsky had been able to make it, he would have been pleased. Hopefully, he'll find the conference materials useful.
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Created before October 2004