A Brief Report on CPSR's 1994 Annual Meeting
by Phil Agre
'94 Annual Meeting Chair
CPSR News Volume 13, Number 1: Winter 1995
The 1994 CPSR Annual Meeting was held at the University of California, San Diego on October 8th and 9th. Roughly 200 people attended, including many from the San Diego community. Keynote speaker Francois Bar opened the conference by arguing that grassroots network activists can play a powerful role in shaping the future of the Net through end-user experimentation that demonstrates and popularizes alternatives to top-down, consumption-oriented models of networking. There followed an especially powerful panel about the many meanings of "access" to technology, with opinions from library, community networking, disability, museum, and minority communities. The speakers placed particular emphasis on the "last yard" between the technology and the lives of the people using it. Another panel brought these issues home to San Diego, looking in detail at the initiatives and barriers shaping one city's use of computer networking. And a final panel compared the approaches to issues of privacy and information access by professionals in medicine, librarianship, and consumer education. At the Annual Meeting banquet, the CPSR Norbert Wiener Award was presented to Antonia Stone of the pioneering computer-access organization, Playing to Win; and longtime library activist Patricia Glass Schuman described the diverse needs for information access in American communities. On Sunday morning, Sonia Jarvis led a wide-ranging discussion on the political context of information policymaking in the last Congress and made some predictions about how the new Congress will approach telecommunications reform. Sevcn well-attended workshops taught a range of activist skills, from starting community networks to practicing investigative journalism on the Net. Bill Drake's workshop on public-interest politics offered a particularly useful forum for making connections and comparing strategies among a diverse group of activists. Although fervently acclaimed by its attendees, the conference's organizing process pointed out some of the difficulties in bringing CPSR's message to a broad audience. A challenge for future conferences will be to negotiate the tension between the focus on "professionals" in CPSR's name and history and the strong emphasis on grassroots activism in CPSR's current incarnation.
The broader use of computer and telecommunications technologies holds great promise for individuals and society. These technologies, applied on a larger and wider scale, can fundamentally transform our lives, bringing new meanings to our freedoms to speak, associate, be left alone, learn, and exercise political power.
At the same time larger and wider scale use of these technologies poses threats to the ideals of a just, free, and open society. Personal privacy is increasingly at risk from invasion by high-tech surveillance and eavesdropping. The expanding number of myriad databases containing personal information maintained in the public and private sectors expose private life to constant scrutiny. More than ever before, political, social, and economic fairness may hinge on ensuring equal access to these technologies, but how, at what cost, and who will pay'?
The Fifth Conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy will assemble experts, advocates and interested people from a broad spectrum of disciplines and backgrounds in a balanced public forum to explore and better understand the definition of our rights at this crossroads of the Information Age. Participants will include people from the fields of computer science, law, business, research, information, library science, health, public policy, government, law enforcement, public advocacy, and many others.
CFP '95 will be held at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Hotel on March 28-31 For more information, call 415-548-9673, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or look on the World-Wide Web at URL: http://www-techlaw.stanford.edu/CFP95.html.
© Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
P.O. Box 717 Palo Alto, CA 94302-0717
Tel. (415) 322-3778 Fax (415) 322-3798 email@example.com
Created before October 2004