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The CPSR Newsletter

Fall 1994

Scenarios of People
Using the NII 3

Not a Highway, but
a Place 7

CPSR's Annual
Meeting I I

Chapter Contacts 12

Using Today's

The Future History
of PepNet

Design Conference
1 994 22

What Consumers
Want from the
Infrastructure 23

Visions of the National Information Infrastructure
by Jeff Johnson CPSR/Palo Alto

The National Information Infrastructure (NII) is a hot topic
these days. One can hardly open a
newspaper or tune in a news broadcast without encountering
predictions of what the "information
superhighway" or "infobahn"Ñto use two of the NII's popular
namesÑwill bring us, or a press release
announcing the formation (or dissolution) of a corporate
partnership that will supposedly help bring
about the predictions.

In addition to receiving coverage in the mainstream media, the
NII is a hot topic in policy circles.
Policy journals and opinion magazines are full of articles
presenting views about how the NII should or
should not be structured, funded, designed, regulated, and so on.
Washington D.C. and many state capitals
are awash with policy papers and lobbyists peddling this or that
industry, special-interest, or
public-interest position on what the goals for the NII should be.
The majority of these position
statements, however, are abstract: they describe technology,
espouse principles, provide policy
guidelines, present goals, or warn of generalized dangers and
problems. As a result, they are boring to
most people except dedicated policy "works." Most members of the
public and even policymakers simply
won't read them. Even those whose eyes don't glaze over may have
trouble envisioning an NII that
follows the abstract recommendations. As a result, we are, to a
greater extent than is desirable,
stumbling blindly toward the unknown, rather than building an
infrastructure that advances us toward
a set of goals.

In an attempt to improve our foresight, this issue of The CPSR
Newsletter focuses on concrete scenarios
and visions of the NII. One of the articles included is a piece
that I began writing last yearÑwhile
CPSR's NII policy statement, Serving the Community. A Public-
Interest Vision of the NII, was being
preparedÑ with the intent that it might serve as a companion to
the policy document. I thought that an
expression of CPSR's proposed NII principles in terms of concrete
scenarios would be more readable
and clearer to many readersÑme, for instance.

The article "Not a Highway, but a Place" appears in this issue
because of a conversation I had with CPSR
member Pavel Curtis after he read a draft of my article. Pavel is
the creator of LambdaMoo, a very
popular Internet "meeting place." He and his colleagues in the
Jupiter Project at Xerox Palo Alto
Research Center have a somewhat different vision of what the NII
should be like, as their article's title
suggests. These two contrasting collections of scenarios formed
the kernel idea for this issue of The
CPSR Newsletter

The issue is rounded out with three other articles that present
or discuss concrete visions of the NII:

¥ Using Today's In formation Infrastructure The Federation of
American Research Networks (FARNET)
has been collecting, for the past few years, stories describing
people's actual use of the Internet. Last
year, FARNET published some of them in a book called 51 Reasons.
To illustrate how the InternetÑa
precursor of the NIIÑis being used today, we included a few of
those stories.

¥ The Future History of PepNet Last year, someone identified only
as "The Salt Merchant" posted an
article to several Internet newsgroups that presents a
pessimistic view of the Internet's future. We
reprint it here, with permission from the author. Readers who
doubt this prophecy should consider the
following developments, all of which occurred since the article
was posted: Pizza Hut, owned by
Pepsico, is testing PizzaNet, a service that allows people to
order pizzas over the Internet; Home
Shopping Network offers a shopping service via the Internet; an
overhaul of the Internet's
infrastructure has prompted businesses to press for a relaxation
of the Internet's strict limits on

¥ What Consumers Want from the Information Infrastructure A
recent issue of MacWorld included an
article presenting the results of a "consumer survey" that asked
what people thought they might use the
NII for. David Bellin, a longtime CPSR activist and former Board
member, has summarized and
critiqued the MacWorld article for this issue.

Jeff Johnson, a former Chair of the CPSR Board of Directors,
works as a user interface designer and
researcher for Sun Microsystems. He can be reached at

Scenarios of People Using the NII

by Jeff Johnson CPSR/Palo Alto

The vision of the NII the media offers is a very narrow one. It
represents the NII mainly as a source of
500 TV channels, home shopping, movies on demand, takeout food
from fast-food chains, and
multimedia game-playing. This is a vision promoted by purveyors
of telephone services, TV and
movies, computers, software, and catalogue merchandise.
Executives in these industries believe that
constucting the NII according to this image will maximize their
profits. They're wrong, but we'll get to
that shortly.

A more serious problem is that this vision drives policy
discussions about the NII. Political
commentators, columnists, policymakers, elected officials, and
even some public-interest advocates
seem to be buying the hype. Policy wonks debate whether the
Clinton administration should mandate
universal access to such services. Or whether public funds should
be spent developing that sort of NII,
rather than whether that vision is the right one.

Although the NII will no doubt provide couch-potato conveniences
policy discussions should not center
around those uses. For one thing, there is ample evidence that
public enthusiasm for such services will
fail to materialize, especially in the hoped-for time-frames. To
quote CPSR's recent policy-paper,
Serving the Community A Public Interest Vision of the NII

Judging from the way information networks are used today, people
value being online primarily
because it gives them new ways to communicate with other
people.... Over the past two decades . . . many
companies have conducted trials of videotext systems focused on
shopping and information retrieval. All
have been dismal failures. Now, as we stand poised to develop the
NII, telephone, cable TV, computer.
and broadcast companies are again focusing on providing systems
to promote electronic consumerism.

All our experienceÑwith centralized commercial online systems
like Prodigy as well as the anarchic
InternetÑsuggests that high-tech consumerism is not the only
thing, probably not even the main thing.
that the public would use an information highway for. Those who
are formulating MI-related policy
shouldn't accept such a limited vision of the NII.

Over the past two decades. . . many companies have conducted
trials of videotext systems focused on
shopping and information retrieval. All have been dismal

The NII will have many uses besides "infotainment" and
merchandising. It will provide access to
governmental information (voting records, court decisions,
regulations) and to government officials
(by email), better ways to deliver government services (voter and
auto registration, tax returns),
ways to make democracy more participatory (online discussion
groups and policy hearings). and
educational tools (access to libraries and encyclopedias,
interstate or international email pen pals,
remote teaching). Most importantly, it will connect people with
each other, one-to-one and one-to-
many, and allow them to communicate in new ways. These are the
uses of the NII that should be central
to its design and that should be driving policy.

Toward these ends, this article presents a broader vision of the
NII than that usually touted in the
media. Through concrete scenarios, it exemplifies guiding
principles that CPSR's policy paper
proposes. This is not the first attempt to provide scenarios of a
future NII. For example, Francis Fisher
[1993] depicts how the NII might affect the lives of a
hypothetical Latino family in the year 2002.
However, previous scenarios have appeared mainly in policy
journals, where they are relatively
inaccessible to the public and the press.

At breakfast one Saturday morning, Sally gazes out at her front
yard. "Amazing," she thinks, "how fast
dandelions grow back. I pulled them all out just a few weeks
ago." She'd like to dig them out soon, before
they go to seed and multiply even further, but realizes that she
has no time this weekend. Thinking that
there must be a kid in the neighborhood who would like to earn
some pocket money for a couple of hours
of weed-pulling, she uses her computer to access the neighborhood
"odd-jobs" bulletin board. (She'd
used a computer for years, so she didn't need an InfoGizmo or a
WorldVision: she just had to get the
Windows to the World software for her computer.) Sally posts a
note on the bulletin board saying that
she'll pay $20 for someone to dig up her weeds. Later in the day,
while reading her email, she sees a
message from the Hawthorne boy saying that he could pull her
weeds tomorrow. She calls him back by
phone to close the deal and tell him where her yard tools are.

It's nearly midnight. Bob and Sue have just arrived home from the
airport. While on vacation. they
missed severalmeetings of their bridge club. They know one is
coming up soon, but are not sure when or
where. It might even be tomorrow. It's too late to call someone
else in the club, so Sue turns on the
WorldVision box that's attached to their TV and brings up the
club's bulletin board. "Yup, it's a good
thing we checked," she says. "The meeting's tomorrow night, at
the Rosenfeld's. It says here it's our
turn to bring dessert." "And look," she adds, pointing to a list
of names with checkmarks next to most of
them, "everybody but the Berardis says they'll be there." She
checks off their own name so the
Rosenfelds will know that they're coming and will bring dessert.
"You've sure taken to that
WorldVision," Bob teases. "Don't I remember your saying you'd
never use it?"

At 4:30 pm on Sunday, Alfredo is installing new kitchen cabinets
in his home. He promised his wife he'd
do it today, but he got started late. He's almost done, but now
he finds that he's out of wallboard screws.
The hardware store in his neighborhood is closed on Sunday. If he
doesn't finish the cabinets today, he
won't have time until next weekend. He needs to find a store that
sells wallboard screws that's open and
near enough to get to before it closes. He sits down at the
InfoGizmo in the kitchen and punches the
Yellow Pages key. He hits the letter H, picks Hardware from the
categories shown under H by pointing
to it, and finds himself staring at a list of all the hardware
stores in the city. He pokes the Search
"button" on the screen and sets the Business-hours field to NOW
on the form that appears. The list of
stores gets shorter, but is still too long to read through
quickly. He presses the Map key, glances at the
displayed city map with hardware stores shown as blinking dots,
pans until his neighborhood is in the
middle, and then zooms until he is looking at about a two-mile
area around his home. There are three
blinking dots. He points to one of them, and it expands to show
the store name, address, and phone
number. He calls the store by poking its phone number. "Sorry, we
don't have wallboard screws," the
woman who answers tells him. Alfredo calls the second store, and
this time hits pay dirt. "Yessssss!" he
exclaims, thinking what a pain this would have been five years

Amy has to drive across town to pick up the microwave oven she
ordered. She could take several
different routes, but rush hour isn't quite over. She goes to the
InfoGizmo in the kitchen and presses the
Traffic key. (Actually, Traffic didn't have its own key when she
got the Gizmo because it wasn't part of
the Basic package. When she first subscribed to Traffic, it was
one of many services under the Other
button, but she assigned it to one of the five user-gettable
function keys because she uses it so often.) A
map appears, showing the large streets of the city in various
colors. The map warns that the freeway is
jammed, but isn't detailed enough to show the surface streets
near her house. (At first she had
subscribed to a competing Traffic service, but they didn't update
their maps often enough, so she
switched.) She zooms in and sees that Harbor Street is completely
blocked. "Must be road construction,"
she thinks. She could find out, but she doesn't really care why
it is blocked. Then she looks at Andover
Street and sees that it looks clear all the way to the mall. Amy
thinks how much time she has saved since
she added this service to her InfoGizmo.

Mrs. Chang wants to find out what homework assignments her son
William has this week. She knows
better than to ask him. Instead, uses the InfoGizmo. She brings
up the school district's information
service, picks Millard Fillmore school from a map of the
district, selects Homework from a list of
bulletin boards, and looks up Mr. Navarro's third-period algebra
class. She sees that there is an
assignment due Friday, and a test on Monday. She makes a mental
note to remind her son, and then
suddenly gets a devilish gleam in her eye. Last week William, who
knows much more about computers
and how to use the Gizmo than she does, sent her an email message
to tease her about nagging him "too
much." When she opened the message, she found a picture of her
face with an animated moving mouth,
coupled with a voice message that repeated "Yakity yak, yakity
yak . . ." until she closed the message.
Mrs. Chang opens her email in-folder and retrieves that message.
She then records a new voice
message: "Yakity yak, don't forget your math homework for Friday.
Yakity yak, no movie Saturday night
until you've written out a study sheet summarizing the chapters
that will be covered on Monday's math
test. Yakity yak!" She attaches the voice message to the picture
and sends it to William. As Mrs. Chang
switches bulletin boards to check the date of the next PTA
meeting, she chuckles at her cleverness.

Perry has some time to kill. He's at the laundromat waiting for
his clothes to dry. He sits down at one of
the public terminals the city recently installed, drops in fifty
centsÑ"Cheaper' n drying my damn
clothes!" he observes wrylyÑand pulls up the job listings. Last
week, he used a terminal at the library
to land a job at an auto shop, but that didn't work out. the
manager expected him to have his own tools.
"Hell," he told the guy, "if I could afford a whole set of tools,
I wouldn't need this job." Now. he scans the
listings for warehouses that are looking for loaders. Finding a
few listings, he prints them out, then
sends a message to the companies saying he's interested. He
explains that his back isn't as strong as it
used to be, but he's a dependable worker and can drive a forklift
like nobody's business. He asks them to
reply to his email address. The chances that they will reply are
minimal, but in case they do, it's better
to give an email address than the phone number at the homeless
shelter where he is staying. Since his
clothes still have a few minutes to go, he decides to look for
the discussion group on homeless issues that
a friend told him about.

Charles and Eliza are big jazz fans. They used to go out often to
jazz clubs, but that mostly ended when
the kids came along. But tonight Charles's morn, who is visiting,
made them an offer they couldn't
refuse: she'll baby-sit the kids while they enjoy a night out on
the town. Charles is really looking
forward to it; he wants to find a club with serious musicians and
good food. He remembers how hit-and-
miss it used to be to find good music: the listings and ads in
the Calendar supplement of the Sunday paper
were neither comprehensive nor well-organized. He usually had to
try two or three clubs in an evening
to find something worth listening to. Now, he gets on the
InfoGizmo and pulls up Live Entertainment and
then Jazz. He scrolls to today's date and starts scanning clubs.
Some of the musicians' and groups' names
are familiar; some aren't. Most of the combos otter descriptions
of the sort of music they play; some
even provide photos and brief audio samples Charles listens to a
few samples, but ends up choosing a
club where Chris Grampp is playing with some other musicians. He
knows Eliza loves Chris's playing.
He pokes the club's phone number to call and make reservations.

When the Spring quarter ended, Warren got home to his parents'
ranch in Montana the usual way: by
finding someone who was driving there and seeking riders to share
expenses, riding with them to
Bozeman, then calling his parents to come into town and get him.
That was no problem: the college
provided bulletin boards for ride-sharing. A few years ago, they
moved the bulletin boards online,
accessible through terminals in the library and elsewhere as well
as through home computers,
InfoGizmos, WorldVisions, and the like.

Getting back to school in September, however, was never as easy.
There was simply no way to find out
who near Bozeman was driving to Philadelphia and wanted riders.
He usually ended up flying back even
though it was too expensive. No more. Online services have
finally arrived in Bozeman, and his parents
now have an InfoVision, a box attached to their TV. He pulls out
the cordless keyboard and sits on the
couch. (His parents apparently don't use the keyboard, preferring
the TV remote control, menus, and
voice messages.) Warren quickly finds the list of Bozeman
bulletin boards. "Hmm. Not many yet.
They'll learn." Spotting one labeled Rides Offered, he opens it
up and begins scanning. "Most of these
are within the state," he grumbles, initiating a search for the
word "Phil." Two postings match the
search. One is a ride to Los Angeles offered by someone named
Phil; the other is the ride to Philadelphia
he is hoping for. He'd like to call the phone number given, but
he thinks it might be too late at night. He
glances at the clock on the VCR. It is flashing 12:00, as it has
been for years. "My parents," he sighs.
Glancing at his watch and finding that it's really i 1:25, he
jots down the number so he can call in the

Earl's father, 79 years old, lives in South Central Los Angeles.
Earl lives in Chicago. His dad no longer
gets around as well as he used to and recently had to give up his
car. He may soon have to give up his
two- story house. But he won't move to Chicago; he wants to stay
in L.A. where his friends are. Earl
would like to know what options are available for his father, but
knows very little about services and
housing for the elderly, and in Los Angeles wouldn't even know
where to start looking. He can't afford to
go there to research elder care. especially since he has no idea
how long it might take. Instead, last
week. he went to the Chicago Public Library and used a public
information terminal to begin his search.
Under Elder Care, he found a wealth of information about services
in the Chicago area, and several
articles on elder care in general, but nothing about the L.A.
area. He printed out the articles to read at
home, and now he is back, knowing that the right level of care
for his father is a senior apartment
complex that provides help with shopping and in emergencies and
that checks up on residents
periodically. However, he has no idea where to look. He asks a
librarian for help. The librarian does a
little online digging and finds a directory of senior apartments
in L.A. Earl takes over and quickly
narrows the list to the South Central area. He scans the list,
using photos of the buildings, rooms, and
grounds, and his knowledge of the neighborhoods in South Central
L.A. to narrow it down to several
likely-looking facilities. He composes an email message
describing his father's situation and asking for
further information. Since he doesn't have an information
terminal at home, he gives his postal address
and phone number for replies, then sends the message to the
places he found.

It's an election year and Vinh Truong is trying to decide whom to
vote for for Congress. He recently
became an American citizen and is looking forward to voting in
his new country, but is a bit bewildered
by all the campaign ads and literature he's seen. The campaigns
seem overly centered on the
personalities of the candidates. He thinks it would be more
helpful if they would talk about what the
candidates have done and plan to do. As a new citizen, he wants
to vote responsibly, so he doesn't want to
rely solely on the TV ads and flyers that jam his mailbox. One
candidate is the incumbent, so Vinh wants
to see how he's voted on issues Vinh cares about, such as the
environment and immigration policy. His
brother and sister-in-law, who live nearby, have an OmniPhone,
which has a touch-display and lets
them connect to information services. They told him that the
voting records of local representatives are
accessible for tree as part of the basic package of services, and
invited him to come over and use their
device. When Vinh arrives, his brother takes his coat and shows
him to the family room, where the
OmniPhone is. Their teenage boy is peering intently at the
screen. "Sammy, Uncle Vinh is here to use
the OmniPhone, so you'll have to do something else for a while."
"Aw, Dad! Things are just getting
interesting!" the boy says, but yields to his father's stern look
and, with a few keystrokes, stops what
he was doing. "Sammy discovered that this thing lets him connect
to an electronic 'diner'Ñ a place
where he can chat with other teenagers who are connected at the
same time. It's been hard to peel him
off this thing ever since. At least it's better than watching
TV." Vinh nods, thinking that just about
anything would be better than TV, but wonders what is so
interesting about talking with others through
a keyboard and a screen instead of in person. His brother sits in
front of the unit and taps keys for a few
seconds. "OK, I've got you into the Congressional voting records,
but I've never used this service, so
you'll have to figure out the rest on your own." Vinh sits down
and looks at the screen. He sees a form
with the fields "Name," "District," "From date," "To date," "Bill
#," and "Keywords." Vinh uses a
database system at work, so he is pretty sure what to do. He
fills in the incumbent's name, a "From
date" of two years ago, and leaves the "To date" blank to
indicate the present. He types "Environment"
into the ''Keywords" field and punches the Search key. After a
few seconds, the database displays the
message "42 bills found" and a list of bills, indicating how the
congressman voted on each. Vinh scans
the list, asking for more detail on some of the bills. He then
changes the "Keywords" field to
"Immigration" and repeats the process. He is pretty sure now that
this congressman is not someone he
wants to vote for, but that of course depends on what the other
candidate, who hasn't held office before,
is like. She might be worse. While he is thinking about how he
might get some useful information about
her, Sammy returns and says "Are you almost done, Uncle Vinh?"
"It's all yours," Vinh says, and gets
up to ask his brother about the other candidate.

While having Thanksgiving dinner in New York with relatives last
week, Jacob and Laura got a lot of
compliments for the pumpkin pie they brought (Laura made the
crust; Jacob, the filling). They
promised several people they'd send them the recipe. Now, Jacob
goes into the kitchen and pulls out the
Recipe Manager. He opens the cookbook-shaped device, taps a few
keys, and peers at the recipe that
appears on the screen. Satisfying himself that it's the one he
wants, he presses the Send key. The Recipe
Manager communicates with the OmniPhone in the next room,
displaying the OmniPhone's familiar
electronic mail screen. Jacob writes a brief note: "Here's the
pumpkin pie recipe you wanted. Enjoy,
Jacob and Laura." Jacob scrolls through the address list,
selecting the names of the people who wanted
the recipe, then sends it off.

Things are finally starting to go better for Pamela Watson. For a
while, life looked pretty bleak. She had
married just out of high school and got pregnant right away, but
then her husband began coming home
drunk and beating her. She had read about women who endure
beatings, afraid to leave the security of
their homes, who end up dead or severely injured, and she did not
want to be one of them. She left, and
went to a women's shelter. Soon afterwards, her baby was born--
boy. With no job, only a high-school
education. and a baby to teed and care for, she wasn't sure what
she was going to do. The social worker
got her into a housing project and signed her up for Aid to
Families with Dependent Children, AFDC.
Pamela remembers thinking, "Oh great, I'm a welfare mother. Now
what'?" She hated the projectÑit
was run-down and unsafe Ñand didn't want to raise her boy there.
She made friends with another
"welfare mother" who lived in the complex, and they worked out a
deal that each would work half-time
while the other watched both children. They found a warehouse
manager who was willing to take on two
half-time office clericals instead of one full-time, and they had
been working there for several months.
Their goal was to save first and last month's rent on a two-
bedroom apartment so they could move out of
the projects. But Pamela's social worker warned her that if she
saved too much money, she would lose
her AFDC check. "So how am I supposed to get out of here? "
Pamela protested. "Without the AFDC
money, everything I make at my job will go for rent and food, and
I'll be living in this project on
welfare forever." The social worker sympathized, but just kept
saying that rules were rules. Pamela
wanted to find out exactly what the rules were, to see if there
was some way she could keep her job and
her AFDC income, but the social worker was too busy with other
clients to go over the details. He
suggested that Pamela use the public-access terminal in the
complex to look up the AFDC regulations.
Pamela had seen the room where the terminals were, but it was
kept locked so they wouldn't be stolen
or vandalized. She got the manager to let her in, but couldn't
figure out how to work the thing. The
manager said she should wait until the next day, when a volunteer
who helped people use the terminals
would be there. The next day, the volunteer showed her how to
find the welfare regulations, and also set
her up with an email account so she could write to the AFDC email
question service and participate in a
"welfare mothers" electronic discussion group. Over the next
couple of weeks, she used the terminal
frequently when she wasn't working. with the babies playing
nearby on the rug. After a few weeks of
looking up regulations, exchanging email with AFDC online
consultants, and swapping experiences and
information with other women, she had a pretty good idea of what
the limits on savings were, and some
ideas about how she and her friend might be able to work their
way out of the projects.

"Say cheese!" Raymond points the electronic still camera at his
two kids, who are digging in a mudhole.
"Cheeeeeeese," they yell, their faces and clothes covered with
splattered mud. Raymond takes a few
more shots, then goes inside to connect the camera up to the
printer. He prints the pictures, then takes
them into the living room to show his wife, who is reading. "Oh
gosh, look at those little rascals. We've
got to send these to Grandma and Grandpa," she says. "Good idea,"
says Raymond. He takes the memory
card out of the camera and sticks it into the slot on the
WorldVision. On the TV screen, the WorldVision
displays a stylized roll of film representing the photos. He
pokes the film to "open" it and displays the
pictures, one by one, on the TV screen. "Cute." He closes the
roll and makes a copy of it, then writes a
short note to Grandma and Grandpa: "We thought you'd enjoy these
pictures of your grandkids in their
Sunday best." He attaches the "film roll" to the note and sends
it off. He remembers how his parents
used to complain that they never got any pictures of their
grandchildren. Of course, that was when
cameras used chemical film that was expensive to develop and make
prints of. "I wonder where my old
Nikon is," he muses.

It's late in the evening. The kids have gone to bed and their
father is watching TV. For several days,
Carmella has been meaning to join an ongoing neighborhood
discussion about a proposal to install traffic
barriers on some streets. Until now, she's been too busy with
family matters. Some people say closing
selected streets will make the neighborhood safer and quieter;
others, that the barriers will be an
inconvenience and make other streets worse. To resolve the issue,
the neighborhood association assigned
a committee to gather comments and counterproposals and then
propose a solution for a neighborhood
vote. To gather comments the committee held meetings and also set
up an online discussion group.
Carmella prefers presenting her thoughts through the

InfoGizmo, partly because she is better at writing English than
speaking it, and partly because, as a
woman, she feels that the men pay more attention to her ideas
when they read them as disembodied text
than when she speaks at a meeting. Besides, it's hard to attend
the meetings because of her kids. She
brings up the discussion group and scans the messages that have
been posted recently. "There he goes
again," she mutters, spotting another message from Mr. Lubars,
infamous for his hot-headed postings.
She reads some of the messages, skipping the one from Lubars.
Carmella then composes one of her own,
describing the idea that occurred to her yesterday. As she shuts
down the Gizmo, she makes a mental
note to check in a few days for responses to her idea.

The city Ombudsman reviews his Todo list on his office computer
to see what needs attention next. "Ah,
yesÑ Check status of Excelsior dumping problem." The neighbors of
Excelsior Park are upset about
people dumping rubbish there. The illegal dumpingÑby gardeners
and rubbish haulers avoiding the city
dump's feesÑhas been a problem for years, but has recently gotten
worse as a result of an increase in
the dump's fees. In response to complaints, the Ombudsman set up
a discussion group a few months ago
between representatives of the neighborhood surrounding the park.
the police department, the Mayor's
office, and the Chamber of Commerce. Reviewing the discussion, he
is satisfied that it seems to be doing
what he'd hoped it would do: making clear to the authorities that
the problem is serious and needs better
enforcement, getting the word out in the business community that
offenders better clean up their act,
and convincing$ the neighbors that there aren't easy solutions
.short of closing the park to everyone.
Convincing the neighbors, that is, except old man Lubars. "Who
got that guy a Gizmo?" he thinks.

Julia is an amateur guitarist. She subscribes to a nationwide
online bulletin-board where guitarists
share musical arrangements. Today, Julie is excited as she sits
down at her OmniPhone. She recently
worked out a jazzy version of "Georgia on My Mind." Yesterday,
someone posted to the Wanted area of
the board a request for an arrangement of that tune. Great
timing! She brings up the bulletin board,
quickly scans to see if anyone else has posted a reply. So far,
no one has. "Maybe mine will be the first,"
she thinks, realizing that by next week, dozens of arrangements
of "Georgia" will have appeared. She
invokes the Post function, and is presented with tour ways to
submit an arrangement: 1) enter it in
music notation or guitar tablature using an online music editor,
2) send synthesizer data in MIDI
format, 3) tax either sheet music or tablature, or 4) play a
recording of the tune into the telephone.
The bulletin board system can convert submission forms I and 2 to
any of the other forms, but can't
convert forms 3 or 4. Julia doesn't read or write music notation
and doesn't have the equipment needed
to submit MIDI, but she wants people who do to try her
arrangement, so she copies it from her
handwritten tablature into the tablature editor. She also
connects her cassette recorder to the
OmniPhone and submits a recording she made of the tune so that
subscribers who don't have MIDI can
hear what her arrangement sounds like. She posts the arrangement,
then checks back through the
recent postings to see if anything interests her. Julia is amazed
at how many new tunes she has learned
since her husband signed her up for this service as a birthday

Vince has volunteered to organize his church's annual pot-luck
picnic. Until a few years ago, he never
volunteered for this, because it was a nightmare of meetings and
telephone tag. Trying to get 250 people
to agree on a date and place, arranging who would bring what
dishes, getting picnic supplies, finding out
who needed rides and who had extra car space, and forming a
volunteer clean-up crew was more work
than he had time for. But ever since the church information
system went online in the town network
(and the congregation bought InfoGizmos for members who couldn't
afford them), the picnic organizing
job had become easy. Vince first used the voting software the
church had purchased to send everyone in
the congregation an electronic ballot listing plausible picnic
dates and asking them to mark all dates
that worked for them. After checking the tally and noting that
the minister couldn't attend the most
popular date, Vince chose the second most popular. He posted a
message announcing the date, suggesting
some places, and requesting other ideas. After looking through
the suggestions and eliminating some, he
submitted the list for a vote, then chose the most popular
location. Last week, to ensure a variety of
dishes, solicit volunteers to buy the drinks and other supplies,
and arrange carpooling, Vince had posted
sign-up "sheets" (the same ones last year's organizer had used).
Now, with the picnic a week away,
Vince sits down at the church's computer to check the sign-up
sheets. It looks as if most everything is
covered, but a few key people haven't yet signed up. He sends
email to Mrs. Arnold, who has a large van,
saying that it would be helpful if she could give rides to some
of the elderly members. He reminds the
church teen group to bring sports equipment. He reminds Mr.
Boghossian that without his famous
baklava, the event won't live up to previous years. He tells Mrs.
Hsieh that he's looking forward to her
pot stickers. Now he remembers why he likes the picnic so much.

After a decade of working as a bank manager, Clarence has had
enough of working for a big company. He
wants to start his own business. His wife Shirley, who runs her
own income tax filing service, has
urged him to try to turn his hobby, coin collecting, into a
business. "You have a great collection, coins
you'd like to sell, and you're an expert at what coins are
worth," she told him. "People are always
asking you for advice. Sell your coins and your expertise." He
was skeptical about there being enough
coin collectors in the Houston area to provide much business.
"Houston, schmouston! Go online!"
Shirley said. "Use the information superhighway! People are
starting hundreds of little businesses
every day on it. Antique dealers, worm growers' newsletters,
geneology services, you name it. There's a
whole world of coin collectors out there. A lot of them have
computers or into gadgets." "InfoGizmos," he
corrected her. "Whatever! Show pictures of your coins, let 'em
show you theirs, tell 'em what's good
and what isn't. I'd put my tax business online, but I have more
clients than I can handle already." It
actually wasn't a bad idea, assuming that there weren't already
too many coin catalogue and appraisal
services on the network. Clarence used his computer to look up
all the nationwide services that had to do
with rare coins. He found nine. He then went to the Chamber of
Commerce to find out what he needed to
do to start a small online business. They told him he needed
software to allow his computer to present
information for others to access. Several different packages were
available, all priced low enough to
entice small entrepreneurs onto the network. Also, he needed
electronic-funds-transter software so his
customers could use encoded IDs in transactions, allowing him to
do business with them but not share
their identities with others. He bought a digital close-up camera
for taking pictures of coins, and hired
a software consultant for a month to set up his online catalogues
and into bulletin board. The rest, he set
up with Shirley's help. At this point, all he needs is a name for
his business for the state application.
"This whole thing was Shirley's idea." he thinks. "Maybe she can
come up with a good name." "Use your
name: coin collectors know that you know your stuff," she says.
"How about C. Fowler, Rare Coins'?"

The variety of uses that an NII designed mainly for communication
and information access would have is
nearly limitless. Ideas for additional uses include: Posting an
opinion to a nationwide discussion group.
Writing to an elected representative. Submitting testimony to a
state government hearing from across
the state. Reporting items to an online Lost and Found bulletin
board. As a volunteer "Big Brother,"
using email to communicate with your assigned young friend.
Finding a charitable organization to
receive a donated item (computer, desk, surplus fruit from a
backyard tree). Finding an auto mechanic
in an unfamiliar city. Sharing recipes with other chefs. Seeking
a support group for parents of Down's
Syndrome children or women with breast cancer. Looking for a
doctor, dentist, places to meet people,
and so on in the new town you've just moved to. Looking up the
side-effects of a medicine. Registering to
vote. Registering your car. Voting from home.

The point of these scenarios is not to suggest that using the NII
will always be positive and wonderful.
Even if the NII is designed as the foregoing scenarios suggest,
it will not be problem-tree. Some
services will be poorly designed and difficult to use. It won't
always be easy to find the ones you want.
Access equipment won't always work. Some people will be
overwhelmed with electronic mail, much of it
unwantedd. People will send aggressive and insulting messages to
each other over the network. People
will post pornographic pictures and racist statements on bulletin
boards. Unscrupulous people will try
to use the NII to cheat others or gain unauthorized access to
information. Network operators may read
or censor private email between users. Handicapped people will
find some of the network's services
inaccessible. Companies and government agencies may use it to
gather information about people or
misuse information users give them. Effective policy and design
can minimize some of these problems,
but even a well-intentioned NII will not bring about Utopia.

The point of these scenarios is, rather, is to avoid a dystopia.
an NII designed by big business mainly for
mass-marketing, that treats us as targeted consumers rather than
interconnected citizens, that shuts
out small businesses and individual entrepreneurs, and that is
evaluated solely in terms of corporate
gain. As CPSR's policy paper says:

An imaginative view of the risks of an NII designed without
sufficient attention to public-interest needs
can be found in the modern genre of dystopian fiction known as
"cyberpunk." Cyberpunk novelists
depict a world in which a handful of multinational corporations
have seized control, not only of the
physical world, but of the virtual world of cyberspace. The
middle class in these stories is sedated by a
constant stream of mass-market entertainment that distracts them
from the drudgery and
powerlessness of their lives.

Such an outcome would very bad, both for the quality of our lives
and for the future of our democracy.
The foregoing scenarios aim to stimulate our imaginations to show
that the NII can and should serve
many goals besides those of "infotainment" and shopping.

I encourage readers to write their own scenarios, both positive
and negative, of people using the NII. I
invite you to take some of the brief ideas described above and
flesh them out. Then inject your
scenariosÑthrough letters to editors, articles, net-postings, and
in-person discussionsÑinto the
debate on what the NII can and should be.


Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Serving the
Community A Public-Interest Vision of
the National Information Infrastructure Fall 1993, Palo Alto, CA.

Fisher, Francis D. "What the Coming Telecommunications
Infrastructure Could Mean to Our Family,"
Aspen Institute Quarterly Winter 1993, Vol 5, No. 1, pp. 121-141

Not a Highway, but a Place: Joint Activity on the Net

by the Jupiter Project Team
Xerox Palo Alto Research Center

Most descriptions of the National Information Infrastructure fall
into two broad categories; let's call
them the "cable TV" model and the "telephone" model. In the cable
model, the network is full of
information and entertainment resources that the user browses or
retrieves, such as home shopping,
"movies on demand," and digital libraries. In the telephone
model, the network is just a communications
channel that allows users to talk to one another directly,
through media like audio/ video conferencing,
electronic mail, and voice mail.

While each of these views of the future Net is probably accurate
to a certain extent, and while each also
contains much that is good and useful, they are both
unnecessarily sterile. In the cable TV model, the
user is relatively isolated; the services have a one-to-one
style, provider-to-user. In the telephone
model, users have as much company as they like, but no coherent
notion of a context for the
communication it takes place, in a sense, outside any
environment, without a shared situation. Here
again, even though the point is communication, the lack of an
apparent context isolates the participants
from one another. We propose an alternative model for the Net:
one that enables those who use it to do so
together, jointly and in close contact.

In the real world, people who do things together do so in the
same place; the very act of sharing a
location enables joint activity, whether it's playing, teaching,
collaborating, or just meeting each
other. A joint participant may be someone you know or someone
you've never met; you may not even
meet them as part of the activity. For example, if I wanted to
learn how to roller skate, I might go to a
nearby rink and just try it in the presence of those who can
already do it, watching and learning and
jointly participating without necessarily meeting anyone.

We would like to see the richness of "place" conceptually
embedded in the network, such an intrinsic
part of the infrastructure that it is taken for granted. We would
like the network designers to realize
that users needn't be forced to choose between being with others
and using a service. If the network
were a place, not a highway, this apparent dichotomy might
resolve itself easily, intuitively, and with
great synergy.

The rest of this article offers stories about users of the Net we
envision, about the network places they
go to and the other people they meet there, on purpose or by
chance. We hope that these few concrete
visions will help others to see the potential we see, and
encourage them not to settle for isolation on the

We propose an alternative model for the Net: one that enables
those who use it to do so together, jointly
and in close contact.

"Another Wednesday night," Mayumi sighed, as she arrived home
from work. This was always the low
point of her week. Wednesday had usually been bridge night for
her, back in San Jose, but she hadn't
found a Portland-based group to play with yet in the three months
since she'd moved. Determined not to
get depressed, she logged onto the new "community computer
network" someone from work had told her
about. She wasn't sure if it was some type of information
service, home shopping, or just a bunch of
games, but she figured it had to be better than another night of

On connecting, she found herself in something called "the
community courtyard," with small live video
images of several people, including herself, arranged around the
floor-plan of a courtyard. The voices
of the people "nearest" her came out of her computer's speaker:

"I really think we should organize a committee to see if we can
convince the city to put a stoplight on
17th Street."

"No, they'd never go for it; too expensive. Besides, a stoplight
would just cause mondo traffic jams.
What we need is a pedestrian bridge ...."

Mayumi was bored already. Who cares about stoplights? She was
just beginning to think that maybe
sitcoms wouldn't be so bad when a new voice piped in: "Excuse me,
but does anybody know where I might
find a local restaurant guide?"

Mayumi perked up immediately; she'd been looking for a good sushi
place, preferably in her

Someone suggested scanning the yellow pages, but a couple of
others pointed the newcomer, whose image
was labelled "Lucia," toward the "online coffee shop." A nicely
labelled door to it was visible at the edge
of the courtyard. "There's a good one in there, with reviews and
an index, on the bookshelf. It even has
up-to-date menus."

Lucia thanked them, and her video image slid over to the coffee
shop door and disappeared. Taking a
guess, Mayumi clicked on the door, and was pleased to see her own
image follow Lucia's into the shop.

Mashoud had been saving from his after-school job for two years,
and now it looked as if he could
finally prepare the gift for his mother. He knew that she would
be both surprised and pleased with the
pendant he'd designed, but first he had to find two small rubies
that would fit into the centers of the two

There weren't any good gem dealers near the small Pakistani town
where he lived, so he planned instead
to use the PC that Mohan rented out of the back room of his
coffee house. It was just an old 386 machine,
and couldn't run anything really fancy, but it did have a modem
connection to the Net, so it'd be just fine
for what Mashoud needed.

He knew the qualities he was looking for in the gems; now it
remained only to find the right kind of
seller. He didn't want to go to one of the major dealers; their
Net storefronts were so impersonal, really
just a listing of what they offered and the prices. Mashoud would
feel more comfortable with a smaller
place like the shops he had grown up around, run by a shopkeeper
he could talk to about his options.

He started his search by visiting the electronic "Village Square"
hosted by Mohan's network service
provider. It was an active place, frequented mostly by Net users
from Pakistan and northern India.
Mashoud had been there many times, "talking" to others by typing
back and forth. Unlike the users of
most similar social places on the Net, almost none of these
people had connections or machines capable
of supporting easy audio and video communication. The
conversations in the Square were just as lively,
though, the hand-typed equivalent of the noisy half-arguments
Mashoud could hear coming from the
front room of Mohan's coffee house

One advantage of typing instead of talking, Mashoud thought, is
that you don't have to interrupt to ask a
question. He smiled to himself as he asked the people in the
Square about good Net places to check for the
kind of gem shop he sought. He resisted the urge to get caught up
in an on-going discussion of the U.N.
mission in Afghanistan while he waited for a response to his
question; he didn't want to get distracted
just now. Nobody seemed to know about gem shops in particular,
but several people "handed" him
pointers to Net malls they'd been to that brought together
entrances to smaller, family-run businesses.
He thanked those who'd helped, watched a bit wistfully as more of
the Afghan discussion scrolled by, and
then started following up the pointers he'd received.

Kate fairly shook with glee as she ran into the main hall of the
science museum. She had loved being at
the Exploratorium on weekends with her parents, and now her whole
class had come on a field trip. She
stopped in front of something called the "voice spectrum exhibit"
and looked it over, considering
whether it was interesting enough to play with. Just then,
another kid's voice, coming from the
computer monitor in the background of the exhibit, called out her
name and said hello. Kate looked up in
surprise to see a TV picture of another girl, about her age, next
to a smaller image of Kate herself. Hah!
thought Kate, she must be looking at me through the exhibit
camera. She smiled, waved, and yelled, "Hi,
Jenny! Where are you?", reading the label on the girl's image
just as Jenny had read the name-tag on
Kate's shirt. Jenny said she was in Tennessee, and that her
third-grade class was also on a field trip
today, using the Net to visit the San Francisco museum.

Kate and Jenny quickly agreed to explore the place together,
starting with this exhibit. They ignored the
carefully written instructions and tried singing different notes,
giggling at the funny pictures their
voices made. Other voices started coming in after a while, and
they noticed that more kids had joined
them, both in person at the museum and from across the Net. They
decided to find a less crowded
exhibit, and Jenny, consulting the map she saw on her computer
screen, said that nobody was using the
"gravity tray" right then. "That's my favorite!" exclaimed Kate.
"I'll race you there!" Jenny shouted.

Mashoud jumped to the first mall he'd had recommended and
searched the directory for gem stores.
There was a listing for a jewelry store, but the description on
the "front door" of the shop made it sound
as if they only sold completed pieces, not loose stones. He
noticed another person there, also perusing
the mall directory, and struck up a conversation. He was never
this forward face-to-face, but somehow
it was easier to talk to new people on the Net. Rochelle, the
other person, was connected from
Chambery, France, and judging from the short paragraph and small
bitmap photo she used as her self-
description on the Net, she was somewhat older than Mashoud's
seventeen years.

After exchanging the customary Net pleasantries, Mashoud
described his quest to her in his best school
English (her Urdu and his French being equally nonexistent). Much
to his surprise and delight,
Rochelle said she knew of "just the place," a small shop run by a
family somewhere in South Africa;
she'd come across it in her Net travels only a week before. While
Rochelle hadn't been interested in
buying anything for herself, she'd saved a pointer to leave for
her husband to come across, as a hint for
their upcoming wedding anniversary. Rochelle gave Mashoud a copy
of the pointer and, after thanking
his chance benefactress, he followed the pointer into the shop.

The sounds of the courtyard disappeared, to be replaced by the
soft background murmur of the coffee
shop. It was nearly empty just then, with only a few clusters of
people in booths; the sounds Mayumi
heard seemed like hushed conversations, but she couldn't actually
make out any words. "Hmm," she
thought, "l guess this is one coffee shop where you don't have to
worry about eavesdroppers. "

Then she noticed Lucia's image over in a corner of the room, next
to the icon of a bookshelf. She moved
over to join her and tried clicking on the icon; a list of the
"books" appeared. The restaurant guide was
easy to spot, being highlighted on the list, so she clicked there
too and found herself looking at the
"French" section. Several entries flipped by on her screen, but
then the other woman seemed to pause
on one of them.

"Oh, dear, don't go to that one," Mayumi blurted out. "I just
tried it last week and the service was really

Lucia's image looked up suddenly, and then smiled. "Oh, hello. I
didn't notice you come up. Thanks for the
tip! Um, I'm Lucia, but I don't see any name on your video."

Mayumi introduced herself, explaining that this was all new to
her. Lucia smiled again, nodded, and said
she remembered how overwhelming it had all felt to her, too, when
she'd first used the Net. She showed
Mayumi how to put her name on her image, and then they turned
back to the guide together, Lucia
pointing out a few of the less obvious features of the browser.
After a short while, Lucia had made
reservations for next Sunday at what looked like a good French
restaurant, and Mayumi had gotten a list
of new sushi places to try.

Their conversation eventually came around to Mayumi's nostalgia
for her old bridge nights, and Lucia
offered to direct her to one of the local gaming lobbies. "I
don't play bridge myself,'' she said, "but
maybe you can find some other players there." Mayumi quickly
agreed and, after being shown how, let
Lucia "take her hand" and lead her along the way. They passed
through a number of interesting-looking
places before they got there, and Mayumi Jotted down a couple of
notes to herself, meaning to come back
and explore more later.

Jackie was bummed. She'd actually had a ticket for the World Cup
final, and all of the travel
arrangements set, and now she couldn't go! What a rotten time to
break her leg, she thought. Well, at
least she could attend the game across the Net. She hobbled over
to her computer and slowly eased
herself down into the chair. Once connected, she made her way
first to her favorite online sports bar,
and then found the game in a list of pointers maintained there
for the convenience of the habitues. She
noted with some disgust that she was the only one in the bar
right then. "The bums," she grumbled,
"they probably all got to use their tickets ...."

When she arrived at the virtual stadium for the game, Jackie
faced a choice. On the one hand, she could
buy her own copy of the game feed, so that she could either watch
it by herself or try to set up a private
party to watch together. Alternatively, she could just join the
crowd of people sharing the public feed
inside the virtual stadium. Jackie didn't feel like watching the
game alone, and she didn't have any close
friends who'd caught the soccer bug the way she had, so she
decided to try out the stadium crowd. She
clicked on the stadium entrance and was presented with a diagram
that showed where the rest of the
people were "sitting." "One place seems just as good as another,"
she thought, letting the system
randomly choose a spot for her near the other fans.

There were about a dozen people in Jackie's "row," some with
video images and most with audio. She was
seated between a Colombian woman, Eva, and Armondo, a fan from
Italy, and had apparently arrived in
the middle of a heated discussion of the relative merits of the
finalist teams. Her neighbors broke off the
conversation as she arrived, though, and greeted her
enthusiastically in two quite different varieties of
English. Eva, it turned out, coached an amateur soccer team in
her regional league. Jackie took the
opportunity to ask some pretty detailed rules questions she'd
been considering, Armondo kibitzing with
great solemnity about Eva's answers. "Football is a very serious
matter," he intoned, and all three

During the game, Jackie mentioned where she lived, whereupon both
Eva and Armondo pressed her for
stories of the Brazilian team and fans, who'd been hosted in
Jackie's town. In the middle of her account,
though, one of the game officials made a particularly bad call,
which brought all three fans to their feet
yelling, Armondo in heartfelt Italian. "The next best thing to
being there," Jackie winced as she
carefully settled back into her chair.

"A nice, family dinner," Izak thought, sitting down with his
children to wait for his wife Anna to bring
in the roast she'd been cooking all morning. "All of us together
in the middle of the day to break brÑ"
Izak's complacencies were interrupted by the sound of a bell
tinkling, coming from the computer in his
den. As his wife appeared at the door with a great steaming
platter, Izak sighed and rose from the table.
They exchanged a resigned look, and he moved toward the den; they
couldn't afford to ignore potential
customers. "For a shopkeeper's family, some things never change,"
thought Anna.

Jenny won the race, of course, since Kate had to run all the way
across the room while Jenny could
simply click on the exhibit on her map. She was just panning the
exhibit camera across the apparatus
when Kate got there, all out of breath. Jenny couldn't actually
manipulate the wheels and rings and
blocks to race them down the ramp, but she enthusiastically
offered suggestions for Kate to try while
they both watched the numbers change on the exhibit's various
timers and sensors. "Hey!" Jenny
shouted after a bit, "there's a pointer here to a bunch of
animations in Chicago of gravity stuff like this!
Oh, cool! " "No fair!" Kate wailed, "I can't see it from here!"

Just then, Kate could see Jenny turn away from her computer,
apparently listening to someone back in
Tennessee. After a moment, she turned back and said with
disappointment that it was time for her to
leave; the school day was already over there. Kate was confused
for a moment until she remembered how
time zones worked, but then she brightened. "Maybe we could both
go look at those animations after I get
home from school! You'll be done with dinner by then, right?"
Jenny was all for it. They agreed on a
place to meet on the Net later, each from her home computer.

As Jenny's image winked out on the monitor, Kate ran away to try
making an arch out of some big
funny- shaped blocks.

When she and Mayumi reached the gaming lobby, Lucia said, "I
don't play games much myself, but I've
gotten good at finding this particular place; my boyfriend is a
chess maniac. He just loves the portal
they have here to the Net-wide player rankings. I'll look for him
in the chess room later, but first let's
find you the bridge room."

When they consulted the map in the lobby, Mayumi was just amazed
at the size of the complex; there
seemed to be a separate space for nearly every game she could
think of, and several others besides.
Lucia explained that each room was heavily customized by its
aficionados, with pointers to Net-wide
resources, tournament ladders, reference works, and so on. "It's
really impressive how much they've
built for some kinds of games," she said.

They found the bridge room in the index and had the map walk them
along the halls to the right place.
Lucia then said it was time she went to find her boyfriend, but
invited Mayumi to meet them later in the
coffee shop. Mayumi thanked her for her help and they agreed on a
time to meet. As Lucia waved and her
image slid off down the hallway, Mayumi entered the bridge room.

"Welcome, welcome!" boomed Izak as he sat down at the computer.
But then he noticed that the person in
his Net "shop" was using only plain text, not the audio and video
he was used to from most of his
customers. "So this 'Mashoud' fellow has money for gemstones and
not for his computer?" he mused
skeptically as he typed out his customary greeting instead. As
they talked, though, Izak began to warm to
Mashoud, who described what he was looking for with great
precision. Izak was impressed; it was
always a pleasure to deal with a knowledgeable customer, and this
Pakistani youngster had certainly
done his homework.

After a time, Izak said that he thought he could acquire a
matched pair of rubies meeting Mashoud's
requirements, but that it might take as much as a few weeks.
Before going to such trouble, though, Izak
explained that it was usual to have some proof of the customer's
ability to pay. "Just a formality, you
understand," he typed.

Mashoud said that he had been led to expect something of this
nature. He opened a user interface to his
local bank, acquired a signed certificate giving a suitable lower
bound on his current balance, and
handed that to Izak. Izak then had his own software check both
the validity of the signature and the
reputation ratings for Mashoud's bank. The chain of
recommendations, extending from Lloyd's of London
through the Pakistani national banking authority, was a bit
unusual in Izak's experience, but otherwise
seemed solid. Izak thanked Mashoud for his indulgence.

After assuring Mashoud that he would send him email as soon as he
found appropriate stones, Izak stayed
at the computer barely long enough to watch him leave the shop.
He then left his den for the dining room
and the roast whose aroma had tantalized him throughout the

Mayumi was a bit taken aback. The bridge room was all Lucia had
said it would be, with all kinds of
useful bridge-related paraphernalia practically littering the
space. She looked at something called the
"Events Board" on which she discovered an announcement for an
amateur duplicate tournament two
months later, right in downtown Portland. "Great," she sighed
aloud, "now all I need is a partner ...."

"Well, you've certainly come to the right place, haven't you?" a
male voice broke in. Mayumi jumped a
bit. She hadn't even noticed, among the clutter, that there was
someone else in the room.

"Oh! Hello, um, Rich," she said. reading the label on his image.
"I'm new here. Are you looking for a
partner, then?" Rich laughed and said no. but he directed her to
the "Players Seeking Partners" rolodex
in one corner of the room. Clicking on the icon brought up a
simple database interface, and Mayumi soon
had the name and email address of another woman who was new to
Portland and in need of a partner. At
Rich's suggestion, she wrote a quick note to the woman, inviting
her to join Mayumi for an evening of
bridge on the Net. "That way, you can see if you're compatible
before committing to play a whole
tournament together," Rich explained.

Mayumi thanked him and then logged out of the system, sighing
once more as she leaned back in her
chair. Only now, it was because Wednesday night was over, so soon

The Jupiter Project at Xerox PARC is researching ways to make
these and other visions a reality on the
Net in the near future. If you have any questions, comments, or
suggestions about our research
directions, please feel *free to contact Pavel Curtis, co-leader
of the project. His phone number is
(415) 812-4455, and his email address is Pavel@PARC.Xerox.Com.


October 8 - 9,1994 Warren Lecture Halls, University of
California, San Diego Organizing for Access: A
National Forum on Computer Networking, Community Action, and

In the few short years since the first proposals for a National
Information Infrastructure (NII), a
broad social movement has arisen to ensure that the NII meets the
needs of communities across the
country. A remarkable range of peopleÑeducators, librarians,
community activists, computer people,
government agencies, advocates for people with disabilities, and
othersÑhave been using computer
networks to deliver services and to organize themselves behind an
emerging agenda for computing and
networking in the public interest. CPSR is convening this meeting
for all people interested in the place
of computer technology in society, with the goal of bringing
together a wide range of voices to discuss
the ways in which the NII might serve the needs of society and to
empower one another to pursue shared
goals in the new technological world. Our meeting this year will
place particular emphasis on providing
would-be activists with the skills and connections they need to
put the vision of democratic technology
into practice.


Keynote Address "Staking Claims to the Network"
Francois Bar, Dept. of Communication, UCSD
Panel Discussions "The Meanings of Access"
"Privacy and Intellectual Freedom"
"Community Networking in San Diego"

CPSR Banquet* Presentation of the 1993 Norbert Wiener Award
to Antonia Stone
Banquet Speaker Patricia Glass Schuman, Neal-Schuman Publishers
'Safeguarding the Right to Know"
Featured Speaker Sonia Jarvis, National Coalition on Black Voter
"The Public-Interest Aspects of the Information Superhighway"
¥ Building Community Networks: Promise and Pitfalls
¥ Legal Issues for BBS Operators
¥ Network-Based Organizing
¥ Helping People and Organizations Get Started with Networking
¥ Investigative Reporting on the Internet
¥ Privacy Activism
¥ Public-Interest Activism and the NII Policy Process

CPSR Organizational Discussion in parallel with informal
discussion groups

Please preregister as soon as possible to ensure a space at this
exciting meeting. Registrations at the
door will be accepted as space allows.

CPSR member $55, Nonmember $75, New CPSR membership &
registration $95, Low-income $25,
Banquet tickets $40. If postmarked after September 20th, add $10
to all registration tees. and $5 to
the banquet price. *Note that the Saturday night banquet is not
included in the cost of the meeting.

For more information, contact CPSR at (415) 322-3778 or cpsr-


Jim Grant 806 Martin Luther King Drive Abbeville, LA 70510 318-
231 -5226

We are looking for volunteers. If you are interested, please
contact the office at 415-322-3778 or

Dave Kadlecek PO Box 28562 Oakland, CA 94604 510-272-7042

Tom Thornton 2 Newland Road Arlington, MA 02174 617-621 -0060

Don Goldhamer 528 S. Humphrey Oak Park, IL 60304 312-702-7166 d-

David Black 3121 Seventh Street Boulder, CO 80304 3()3-440-4462

Rodney Hoffman PO Box 66039 Los Angeles, CA 90066 213-222-6618

Judith Wester 6041-B Laurel Street New Orleans, LA 70118 504-895-

Sam Bates 1406 Drake Street #1 Madison, WI 53711 608-244-71222

E. Kent Gordon 46 High Bluff Road Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107 207-

Dave Rasmussen 2015 E. Kenwood Boulevard Milwaukee, WI 53211 -
3310 414-229-5133

Clyde Cutting 2314 31st Ave. S. Apt. 2 Minneapolis, MN 55406 612-

Larry Wright I Brook Hill Road Hamden, CT 06514 203 -248-7664

David Friedlander 1781 Riverside Drive New York, NY 10034 212-

Al Whaley PO Box 60 Palo Alto, CA 94302 415-322-5411 al@sunny

Dale Larsen 828 Ormond Ave. Drexel Hill, PA 19026-2604 610-853-

Susan Finger Civil Engineering, CMU 5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 412-268-8828

Steve Biederman 8086 S.W. 66th Avenue Portland, OR 97223 503-293-

David Noelle PO Box 948436 La Jolla, CA 92037-9402 619-272-7719

Alan Schlenger 419 Rigg Street Santa Cruz, CA 95060 408-459-4641

Eric Rehm 7306 19th Ave. NW Seattle, WA 98117 206-865-8904

Larry Hunter 2921 Terrace Drive Chevy Chase, MD 20815 301 -496-

Using Today's Information Infrastructure: Examples of People
Using the Internet

Excerpts from 51 Reasons: How We Use the Internet and What It
Says About the Information
Superhighway, edited by Martha Stone-Martin and Laura Breeden,

In February 1992, President Clinton and Vice-President Gore went
to California's Silicon Valley to
announce a national plan for technology investment. Along with
programs in manufacturing technology,
energy efficiency, and basic scientific and engineering research,
the new plan called for the creation of
"information superhighways," paths for moving all kinds of data
rapidly among the nation's information
consumers and producers: its businesses, universities, research
institutes, schools, and others. Like
the great railroads of the late 19th century and the interstate
highway system of the 1950's and 60's,
the data highways were to create new opportunities and stimulate
economic growth.

Was this a space age fantasy? Or does this new way of
communicating really have the potential to change
the way we live, study, and work? We can begin to see the answers
by looking at the Internet, where the
beginnings of the information superhighway already exist. Through
the InternetÑa worldwide network
of networksÑmillions of Americans exchange ideas, pictures,
movies, articles, and other forms of data
every day.

The Internet stories project was conceived at FARNET, the
Federation of American Research Networks,
in the fall of 1992. We felt that the increasing popularity of
the Internet across many sectors, from
education to libraries to health care, should be documented in a
way that made it easy to understand who
is using the network today, and how. We thought that this
information would be especially useful during
the discussions about information infrastructure that were
beginning to take place. Having a more
personal glimpse of the technology and the possibilities it
creates is a helpful foundation for
understanding its significance.

In February 1993, we issued an open "call for stories" over the
Internet. The set of stories reprinted
here is a small subset of those printed in the FARNET book, 51
Reasons: How We Use the Internet and
What It Says About the Information Superhighway, which in turn is
a small subset of the stories we
received in response to our call.

Through the Internet Ña worldwide network of networksÑ millions
of Americans exchange ideas,
pictures, movies, articles, and other forms of data every day.

Growing Tomatoes, Cattle and 4-H Projects with CatLink

Elaine Peterson, Assistant Dean for Technical Services, The
Libraries, Montana State University

Since 1982, Montana State University's Agriculture Extension
Service has produced hundreds of
printed guides for distribution to citizens around the state.
These popular MontGuides cover a wide
variety of topics, from watering yards to handling crop pests and
pesticides to managing a ranch.
Montana State University (MSU) also produces a series called the
Beef Cattle Handbook, which focuses
on topics such as nutrition, diseases, breeding, and cattle

In 1992, thousands of the MontGuides and Beef Cattle Handbooks
were made available to MSU Libraries
in machine-readable form, so they could be loaded on the
Libraries' online system, CatLink. Catlink is
now available on campus, but students and others can also access
it through dial-up and the Internet.

Ann Harris is a composite portrait of the kind of person who has
benefited from CatLink access. She is a
rancher who lives miles from the nearest town, Twodot, Montana
(population 95). Twodot itself is over
a hundred miles from a population center with a library that
might have current agricultural
information. But because Ann has a modem and a computer for her
ranch records, she is able to dial into
the CatLink system and find information on a variety of topics.
One day in late June, she locates several
articles on alfalfa and several more on beef cattle. One article
in particular seems useful to her,
because it contains a nutrient table that she can manipulate to
fit her ranching operation. She downloads
the information into her personal computer and starts
experimenting with the files.

Later, while scrolling through CatLink's MontGuides, she
discovers an article "Growing Tomatoes in
Montana" written by an MSU professor of horticulture science. Ann
has never raised tomatoes because
they have such a short growing season, but she has been
interested in trying. On the screen she is able
to browse the seventy-five pages of information. She finds
practical information about the local
growing season, the proven varieties for her area, and problems
she might encounter.

Transforming the Earth into a Telescope

Greg Bothun, Associate Professor, University of Oregon

There is currently a crisis in cosmology. This is because the
apparent distribution of matter in the
universe is a lot more "clumpy" or clustered than simple Big Bang
models predict. For the last decade,
Greg Bothun, an astronomer at the University of Oregon, has been
involved with a large scale program
to determine what the distribution of mass in the nearby universe
actually is. Most of this work has
been done in Chile, because the foothills of the Northern Chilean
Andes are the best place on earth for
making astronomical observations.

In the pre-Internet era, it took approximately thirty hours to
travel from Oregon to the telescope in
Chile. With a NASA maintained satellite up-link, however, the
data from the telescope can now come
directly to Eugene where it can be displayed and analyzed. In
addition, hourly satellite photo retrieval
can be used to assess the weather conditions within a hundred
mile radius of the telescope. The end
result makes for a much more efficient way to acquire relevant

As more and more telescopes get on the Internet, the opportunity
for performing coordinated worldwide
observations increases. Moreover, as telescopes move to a unified
control environment, it will be
possible to have a central Internet site control the movements of
a vast array of telescopes.

For now though, Greg Bothun is happy he can operate and retrieve
data from a telescope which is located
ten thousand miles away. And he's happy that the Internet has
been able to provide him with more than
just image transfer. In 198X, Bothun was observing in Chile when
his wife, back in Oregon, went into
premature labor. With the Internet, Bothun could communicate with
the hospital where his wife was
staying. He could get reliable information and he wasn't, he
says, as panicked as he might otherwise
have been. So, for his professional and his personal life, the
Internet has been an enormous asset.

Technology Makes Multi-cultural Education Come Alive Bonnie
Blagojevic, Orono, Maine

Last year, children from Bonnie Blagojevic's family daycare home
were "word travelers, going around
the world" through picture books. As Blagojevic was reading books
from Russia and Iceland, among
other places, to the children in her care, she started to wonder
about the authenticity of what she was
reading. There was no shortage of multicultural books, but they
were all written or illustrated from an
American perspective. What, Blagojevic wondered, did picture
books from around the world look like?
What were the favorite books of youngsters in Italy, Norway, or

With these questions in mind, she was able to get an Internet
connection through the University of
Maine. Then, with her daycare groupÑwhich included children ages
three to nineÑshe used the
computer to get to know children around the world. She says that
the "richest online relationship" was
with a five-year-old boy in Russia who lived outside Moscow.
Blagojevic's group grew so attached to
this friend that they decided to send him a book about Maine.
They listed things they wanted him to know
about Maine. Then, each child picked one item on the list and
drew a picture to illustrate that aspect of
Maine. These pictures, and photographs of the participating
children, were collected and bound. The
children named the result The Maine Tour, and they sent the book
along with some of their favorite
picture books to Russia. They also sent The Maine Tour and some
of their favorite picture books to
online friends in Iceland. The children in Iceland responded by
sending back some of their favoritesÑ
half written in English and half in Icelandic. Luckily, a local
man spoke Icelandic. When he came to
daycare to read the books to the children, they insisted he read
them ALL. Without the Internet, this
project would not have had the sense of reality that it did for
the children. It's not that the children
needed the Internet to get the basic benefits of the book
exchange; they found the books interesting, and
they were exposed to diverse cultures. It wasn't, however, until
the children "knew" youngsters around
the globe that they had a genuine sense of real people living
other lives. What's more, Blagojevic notes,
the Internet quickly became something the children felt they
could look to for answers. One afternoon,
the group was making a Puerto Rican rice dish that called for
pigeon peas. Nobody knew what pigeon
peas were. Then one of the students suggested asking the
computer. In the end, Blagojevic says, when one
uses the Internet in early childhood education, one is using it
for two reasons: to connect educators and
help them to support one another, and to teach children from an
early age that the Internet is a way of
connecting to others. The goal at this stage in education, she
says, is not ''academic knowledge but (to
make children) aware that they are part of a global society."

Paleontology at the Speed of Light

Les Snaveley, Librarian, Bowman Public Schools

"Out here in the Southwest corner of North Dakota," says Les
Snavely, librarian at Bowman High
School, "it's really no exaggeration to say that SENDIT is our
link with the world." SENDIT, he explains,
is his library's computer access to databases around the region,
the nation, and the world. Through a
modem, SENDIT connects to libraries, to NASA, to, in short,
almost every public computer database.
Such a wealth of information might seem unnecessary for a high
school library, but in Snavely's
remote community the public library is only open an hour a day,
three days a week, and its collection of
three thousand books contains mostly fiction. So, Bowman High
School's libraryÑwith its 30,000
booksÑis the largest in the region. As a result, Snavely is
responsible for serving the community as
well as the five hundred students at Bowman.

It is in this latter capacity, as librarian for the region, that
Snavely has made some of his most unusual
finds. For a while, he says, he was getting constant requests
from the paleontology department at the
Pioneer Trails Regional Museum. They were requesting unusual and
obscure titles dealing with their
fossil specialties. The scientists were surprised by how quickly
Snavely could find articles like
"Molluscan Paleontology of the Pierre Shale Formations ...," a
master's thesis in geology written in
1970, and "Foraminiferids of the Cannonball Formation ...,"
written in 1974. They sent requests for
more articles, realizing that if they were going to "stump
SENDIT," they'd have to request something
old. Thus, they were stunned when Snavely produced the hard-to-
find 1938 manuscript "Fossil Snakes
of North America." And they were so amazed they had to stop their
own workÑthe process of assembling
a dinosaur fossilÑwhen Snavely produced an old hand-typed, 4x8
page volume of the 1908 "Fossil
Turtles of North America."

Snavely himself is pleased by his ability to scan current data
but most impressed by the fact that he can
search through old, dust-laden archives to find the material his
patrons need. Now, he wonders if he can
find the original 1883 field notes of the Smithsonian Expeditions
out in the untamed West. If they are
available, he's confident SENDIT can locate them.

Salt Lake to Siena: Debating Politics and Culture

Maurizio Oliva, Teaching Fellow University of Utah

Maurizio Oliva taught a fourth-year course at the University of
Utah called "Topics in Italian Culture:
Contemporary Issues". It was the last in a series of three
courses about the contemporary history,
literature and society of Italy. The goals of the course were to
increase students' knowledge of Italian
society and to engage them in producing authentic text for the
purpose of communicating with native
speakers about contemporary issues. All aspects of the course
were taught in Italian.

Since students were to be communicating with native speakers,
they needed background knowledge about
their topics and basic information about the political and social
structures of modern Italy. To this end,
the teacher assigned readings about Italy's constitution,
political parties, government institutions, and
demographics. Students also read newspaper and journal articles
relevant to their individual topics of

During the first two weeks, Oliva discussed the assigned readings
and helped students learn to use the
computers. They began by obtaining accounts on the Novell network
from the University of Utah
Computer Center, which enabled them to link up with worldwide
news networks. Oliva then reviewed
basic word processing skills and taught students how to use the
Program Editor (PE) and how to access
and use the news reader and email.

Beginning in the third week, students were required to send three
postings per week to a network news
group, soc.culture.italian. These messages were written at home
so that class time could be spent
sending text to the network, checking mail and discussing other
students' postings. (Students read each
other's work either before or after it was sent to the network.)
Those who wished to receive comments
from the teacher prior to posting their texts were able to do so.
The teacher checked the news group to
make sure students were completing the required amount of writing
as well as to monitor the overall
quality of the texts. Oliva could review students' work at home
by connecting to the campus network by

Students received an average of three responses for each article
they posted and were required to reply
to each posting with a follow-up comment. Students also received
responses to their news texts through
email and were encouraged to reply to those as well. Since email
accounts are private, however, Oliva
was only able to monitor the frequency with which the students
replied to these responses.

At the end of the course, students submitted a summary and
analysis of the materials they had posted and
of the reactions they had received, and participated in a course
evaluation session. All the students
believed their writing had improved as a result of having
communicated through the network. One
student felt she had overcome grammar problems, while the others
reported feeling more at ease with
writing in Italian.

Information Haves and Have-nots

Bill Mitchell. Director, Missouri Research and Education Network,
University of Missouri, Columbia

"One of the great times as a librarian," says an employee at
Daniel Boone Regional Library in Missouri,
"is when you give a student exactly what she wants." Librarians
at Daniel Boone Regional Library are
able to do this because they are part of the Colombia Online
Information Network (COIN). COIN is a
community computer service that provides open access to online
information for Columbia and the
surrounding area. It started as a collaboration among the City of
Columbia, the Columbia Public
Schools, the Daniel Boone Regional Library, and the University of
Missouri-Columbia. COIN's goals are
twofold: to prepare the public and private sectors for an
information age by providing tree and open
access to online information, and to develop a prototype for
implementation in other Missouri

Through a development grant from the Higher Education program of
the Eisenhower Science and
Mathematics Act, work began on the system in September of 1992.
The initial focus was the
development of an online curriculum library for K-12 science
education. The library currently
contains over two hundred lesson plans. Many other types of
information are also available, including
1990 census data, horticulture guides, constitutional documents,
and a directory of social service
agencies. Other features of the system include email, bulletin
boards, discussion lists, and full Internet

COIN opened for public access in May, 1992. At present, the
system averages over eight hundred
sessions a day. These might be from the schools or from any one
of the 2200 users in the community.
One user is a senior citizen with Parkinson's disease. This
retired gentleman has an ancient computer
and was not, prior to becoming a user of COIN, particularly
computer literate. He uses his computer
daily now, to communicate with people in the community and around
the world.

COIN has provided other communitiesÑas well as state
governmentÑwith a concrete example of a
minimally expensive, largely volunteer effort that makes use of
public domain software. Four
communities around Columbia are interested in joining COIN as
soon as possible, and two other
communities in rural Missouri are using COIN as a model for the
implementation of their own systems.
Staff from the University of Missouri and the Columbia Public
Schools have demonstrated the system at
conferences and community meetings around the state and have been
met with great enthusiasm.

A community information system has the potential for creating a
partnership with organizationsÑ
universities, public libraries, K-12 schools and local
governmentÑthat historically do not cooperate,
at least with respect to technology. The global economy has
created an urgent need to create the global
classroom. Project COIN has allowed the rural Missouri classroom
to be an active participant in the
worldwide information revolution. Without this access, we would
be have-nots in a society of
information haves and have-nots.

Quality Information for Family Daycare Providers

Laura DiChiappari, Project Director, Chelsea IBM High Technology
Home Learning Centers Project,
Boston University

Family daycare is the most popular form of childcare in the
United States; four times as many children
are cared for in family daycare homes as in childcare centers.
Yet, until recently, neither the public
nor the private sector had done much to improve the educational
component of family daycare.

In 1991, Dr. Carole Greenes, Associate Dean of the Boston
University School of Education, and Kathleen
Kilgore, a writer and former childcare administrator, started the
Home Learning Centers Project
(with funds and equipment from IBM) to expand the Chelsea Early
Learning Program and to keep good
providers working in childcare. The Home Learning Program had
three components:

1. A computer network linking twelve family childcare providers
to all childcare organizations in

2. Early childhood education training for academic credit (open
to all childcare workers and parents in

3. Computer training and home visits by Director Laura
DiChiappari to the twelve family childcare
providers in the Project.

Now in its third year, the Home Learning Centers project is part
of the overall Boston
University/Chelsea Partnership, a ten-year program under which
Boston University manages the
public school system of the nearby city of ChelseaÑthe poorest
municipality in Massachusetts.

Before the Home Learning Centers Project established a computer
network, many family daycare
providers left the profession due to isolation and lack of
support. At the start of the Project, experts
warned that the family daycare providers would ignore the
computers placed in their homes, that they
would be "frightened" of them. But this didn't turn out to be
true. Instead, the providers loved them.
They used them to "talk," share childcare information, arrange
field trips and get updates from the
health center and the School of Education. They used the network
to plan formal outingsÑto pick apples,
to go to the beach. They extended informal invitationsÑto gather
with the children at the park, to meet
for a cup of coffeeÑover the network. The Home Learning Center
Project also used the network to
sponsor its own activities: children's art exhibits, park clean-
ups, English language classes and other
community activities.

An added benefit of the network in Chelsea has been the effect
the network has had on the self-esteem of
childcare workers. People who previously thought of themselves as
"mere" baby-sitters now think of
themselves as professionals. What's more, the network has had an
equalizing effect on participants. On
the network, everyone talks: professors, doctors, childcare
workers, administrators.

Education and class don't matter. This has been particularly
apparent in Chelsea, a small place where
residents are nonetheless isolated within ethnic communities. The
network allows friendshipsÑ
friendships that otherwise might not have happenedÑto form across
ethnic, class and educational lines.

Working (Literally) Through a Family Crisis

Ann Dixon, Assistant Director, Academic Computing, Bryn Mawr

It was an ordinary Saturday morning in March, and I had tickets
to see Kathleen Turner in Cat on a Hot
Tin Roof that night in Philadelphia. But, by noon, it would turn
out to be a most unordinary day. My
mother had called to tell me that her doctor thought she had lung
cancer. Stunned, I booked a flight to
New Orleans, wound up a few projects at the office, and packed,
not knowing how long I would be gone or
what to expect when I got there. As it turned out, I stayed for
seventeen months, and the Internet allowed
me to keep my job in Pennsylvania while caring for my mother in
New Orleans.

I am the Assistant Director of Academic Computing at Bryn Mawr
College, a Seven Sisters college of
about two thousand undergraduate and graduate students located on
the Main Line in suburban
Philadelphia. In the winter of 1989-90, Bryn Mawr joined PREPnet,
the Pennsylvania regional

After I had been in New Orleans for a week, one of my co-workers
mailed me a computer and a modem so
that I could set up an office on the kitchen table. I sought (he
assistance of a colleague at the University
of New Orleans, who gave me an account on a university computer.

At the time, Bryn Mawr did not have a formal family leave policy,
so I used up all of my vacation time,
and then negotiated a part-time arrangement. I would work twenty
hours per week, and the balance of
my salary would be used to employ additional student labor at
Bryn Mawr. The reduced time would allow
me to spend time with my mother: running errands, cooking, taking
her places, visiting her when she
was hospitalized. Retaining my job helped me "get away" from the
responsibilities of my caregiving
role, and the income helped me pay my six- month-old mortgage.

Everyone was surprised by how much I could do long distance. From
my kitchen "office" in New
Orleans, I used troubleshooting software to diagnose hardware
failures on the mainframe. I performed
everyday maintenance tasks like adding accounts, changing
passwords, evaluating system performance,
and programming. I consulted with the library staff by electronic
mail about the local area network
which was being installed. I wrote training materials for the
Computing Center's student staff and
articles for the newsletter. I advised the biology department in
the selection of equipment and software
for a new computer lab. I evaluated new software for faculty.
Each afternoon while Mom was napping, I
answered questions by electronic mail. I had, in effect, "office
hours" during which people could find me
online for an interactive chat. And finally, I gave students
specific instructions for a variety of tasks
that needed to be done on site.

The loyalty of the student staff and the close relationships that
I had developed with faculty over the
yearsÑ first as a student, and later as a staff member were
important to the success of this
arrangement. The personnel department's willingness to try a
flexible, unorthodox arrangement was
important too, as was the support of my supervisor. The Internet
provided a reliable, cost-effective
means for cross-country communication. I was able to keep my job
while caring for my mother, and
my employer was able to retain me while I was 1500 miles away.
The bottom line is that networking
technology made it all possible.

All of the stories FARNET received are available on the Internet
for online retrieval using the
BPS/SEARCH retrieval tool managed by the Coalition for Networked
Information (CNI). To use the tool,
telnet to, and login as brsuser. For additional access
methods, please contact Craig
Summerhil1 at CNI To contact FARNET, either call
(617) 860-9445 or send email to

The Future History of PepNet, or The Imminent Drowning of the Net
in Sticky Brown Liquid

by The Salt Merchant.

Reprinted from an article posted to Internet newsgroups in late


July 1994:

Pepsico Inc., makers of Pepsi-Cola, announces the creation of
PepNet. PepNet will be a public-access
network of BBS's, with nodes in most major cities, providing low-
cost access to images, sounds, and
text files. The press release states that Pepsico will purchase
files on a lump-sum basis for public
domain distribution, and that Pepsico believes the cost to it of
the network will be offset by the positive
publicity generated.

December 1994.

PepNet is up and running, with approximately 500 subscribers
North America-wide. The most popular
download items are it-rated images purchased from Playboy, images
and sounds from popular
Paramount TV shows and movies, and the library of public-domain
classics schnorred from The fact that all of these are available freely
elsewhere does not seem to faze the PepNet

Pepsico announces the expansion of PepNet services to include
Internet services, in particular the
Usenet newsgroups, on some sites.

1995 March 1995.

PepNet is a standing joke on the Internet/Usenet, but its success
proves that it will at least not be an
embarrassment to Pepsico. Pepsico starts heavily promoting PepNet
in computer circles.

Pepsi releases a general-broadcast TV ad' which features two l/2-
second shots of young people laughing
while looking at a computer screen and drinking Pepsi.

August 1995:

In a major joint press release, Pepsico, Microsoft, and Apple
announce the CyberSurfBoard, a low-cost
computer specialized for connecting to nets such as PepNet. Along
with the low price for hardware and
software, users get I month of free access and I hour of free
download time on PepNet.

December 1995:

CyberSurfBoard sales are brisk. There are now approximately
20,000 subscribers to PepNet, and
nodes in every major city. Magazines such as Time, Newsweek,
Sports Illustrated, and Wired, and the
tour major US TV networks, have now jumped on the bandwagon and
are releasing images and sounds.
Various copycat services are starting up or in development by
Philip Morris, GE, and Mitsubishi.

The success of PepNet baffles longtime Internet users, since all
the services it provides are provided
better elsewhere. This point of view does not get much coverage
in the established media.

PepNet begins providing very low-cost Usenet feeds to other

1996 March /996.

Coke releases an ad featuring young people talking and laughing
while looking at a computer screen and
drinking Coke.

June 1996:

Pepsico and an unnamed Chicago BBS operator reach a quiet out-of-
court settlement. The sysop was
sued for allegedly harboring and encouraging people who took
images from PepNet and distributed them
free on the Internet. The sysop agrees to pay Pepsico $35O,000
and to desist from operating a BBS for
five years.

September 1996.

PepNet subscribers are in the high hundreds of thousands.

20% of all Usenet articles now flow through the sites uh- and/ or
(which are really virtual sites made up of dozens of machines
each). 3% of all non-technical articles
on Usenet come from PepNet sites.

A flame war breaks out on several technical and non-technical
newsgroups about whether the presence
of things like "uh-huh.pepnet" and the line Organization: PepNet
(The Net for a New Generation) in the
headers of Usenet messages constitutes advertising, and if so
whether it subverts NSF Internet use

October 1996

Pepsico announces "The PepNet Eloquence Awards". The 10 people
who write the most eloquent Usenet
articles of the year (in PepNet's opinion) will receive 1 year of
free access and unlimited download
time on PepNet.

Time-Warner and Pepsico announce a long-term cooperative
agreement on provision of images and
services. Time gives exclusive rights to its electronic version
to PepNet. Paramount bites its lip but
continues to provide images to PepNet, since it's the biggest
thing going.

January 1997.

The "advertising" flame war is being won by Pepsi. Many
university administrators, alerted that
PepNet offers outrageously cheap Usenet feeds, have switched to
PepNet feeds. Now about 35% of Usenet
articles flow through PepNet sites.

April 1997.

The PepNet Eloquence Awards are announced. Five US college
students, including two who argued
vociferously in support of PepNet, are among the winners.

JetStream (Philip Morris's copycat network) and Spectrum
(Mitsubishi's copycat network) now route
about 8% of Usenet articles.

1998 January 1998

The number of articles per day on Usenet is now about 30 times
what it was five years ago.

PepNet, JetStream, and Spectrum now route 80% of Usenet articles.
15% of articles on technical
newsgroups are posted from sites on these three nets. This is
attributed to companies and universities
cutting back on direct Usenet feeds because of good group PepNet

Pepsico announces a modest downturn in profits.

February 1998:

Pepsico announces cuts to its Advertising and PepNet divisions.
Further financial review is undertaken.

PepNet modestly increases its user fees.

April 1998.

Time runs an article on how the three major Usenet providers are
losing money on their networks.

Pepsico makes its full financial report for the fiscal year. It
seems that its profits have dipped more
sharply than it had previously announced.

Pepsico floats a modest proposal on the net. Either:

(a) It can increase its user fees by 50% in order to save PepNet,
or (b) It can drastically reduce the
Usenet feeds it provides, or (c) It can add the header Sponsored-
by: Pepsico, makers of Pepsi-Cola to
all articles it routes, and the header X-Advertising: You got the
right one, baby! on all non-technical
articles it routes, and cut its advertising division instead.

May 1998.

PepNet proponents have the edge in the resultant massive flame
war. Several people claim that the
addition of advertising to Usenet was Pepsi's intention from the
start. They are labelled paranoids, and
their credit records are somehow revealed via an anonymous server
in Venezuela.

August 1998.

Brad Templeton, the Undersecretary of Science and Information
Technology in President Quayle's
administration, announces a major shift in NSF policy.
Advertising on NSF sites, "within acceptable
limits," is explicitly allowed. Cuts to financial support for
university computer networks are made.


March 1999:

Pepsico announces an upturn in profits. Joel Furr, the head of
PepNet since its inception, is credited
with the success.


January 2000:

PepNet has 10 million subscribers worldwide.

95% of Usenet articles have at least 3 lines of "sponsorship" or
advertising messages.

50% of Usenet articles have at least lines of advertising.

10% of the total messages on Usenet, in every newsgroup, are ads
for non-computer-related products
and services.

The ailing Coca-Cola Company is taken over by Philip Morris Inc.


Furr retires from Pepsico at age 45, with a generous pension,
after numerous accolades on his
brilliance. An unauthorized biography of him, written by Moon
Unit Zappa, is released.

The biography gets great attention on the Internet... which is
now generally known as PepNet.

The author posted this dystopian view of the future of the
Internet anonymously, via an anonymous
email name-service, and, though s/he has granted permission for
CPSR to reprint the article, wishes
to be identified only as "The Salt Merchant." The author can be
reached via the anonymous email name
service at an

Volume 12. No. 4 The CPSR Newsletter Fall 1994


Participatory Design Conference October 27-28, 1994 Chapel Hill,
North Carolina

In the last decade, participatory approaches to design have
gained adherents around the world. These
approaches have at their core the involvement of users in the
design and development of new
technologies and work practices. CPSR's Third Conference on
Participatory Design will be attended by
an international community of researchers and practitioners. We
encourage those who are using
participatory approaches and those who may be interested in
trying such approaches to attend.

Program Overview

Opening Keynote by Morten Kyng, Aarhus University, Denmark

Paper Session 1: Scandinavian participatory design: From trade
unions to organizations. Papers on 1)
User participationÑA strategy for work-life democracy; 2)
Creating conditions for participationÑ
conflicts and resources in systems design; 3) Participatory
analysis of flexibility.

Panel Session 1: Does PD have a role in software package

Paper Session 2: Power relations: structures and dynamics. Papers
on 1) Systems as intermediariesÑ
Political frameworks of design and participation; 2)
Organizational and technical effects from designing
with an intervention and ethnographically inspired approach; 3)
Dilemmas in cooperative design.

Panel Session 2: PD Education and curricula.

Paper Session 3: Designers meeting users: Conversations and
representations. Papers on 1) The
dynamics of participatory information system design; 2)
Representations of workÑBringing designers
and users together; 3) Reflections on work-oriented design.

Panel Session 3: PD in complex organizations.

Evening Keynote. Bjorg Aase Sorensen, Oslo Work Research

Artifacts Session: Prototypes. products, and representations of
work practices used with clients or
resulting from PD processes.

Workshops: 1) A work mapping technique; 2) A framework for
participatory work system design; 3)
Promoting user involvement through training and education: An
examination of practice in Norway and
the United States; 4) Velcro-modeling and projective expressions:
Participatory design methods for
product development; 5) The role of representations in
distributed design; the social and technical
organization of design practices; 6) Meeting of the minds: The
challenge of interdisciplinary and inter-
occupational communication; 7) The use of video-based interaction
analysis in the workplace.

Paper Session 4: Lessons from the field: Three case studies.
Papers on 1) HIV and AIDS awareness and
an education poster project: A study in participatory graphic
design; 2) Enabling school teachers to
participate in the design of educational software; 3) Specific
cooperative analysis and design in general
hypermedia development.

Panel Session 4: The limits of PD? Contingent jobs, contingent

Closing Discussion: PD: Politics and prospects.

Registration Information

Early Registration Fees (by 9/23/94)

CPSR Member $120.00 Nonmember $ 170.00 Low-Income $60.00

Late Registration (on or after 9/24/94)

CPSR Member $ 170.00 Nonmember $220.00 Low-income $75.00

For more information contact: PDC c/o Information Foundation, 46
Oakwood Dr., Chapel Hill, NC
27514. Voice: (919) 942-9773 or email:

Conference information is also available via the WorldWide Web at or via
anonymous FTP at in the
/cpsr/conferences/pdc94 directory.

Volume 12, No. 4 The CPSR Newsletter Fall 1994

What Consumers Want from the Information Infrastructure

by David Bellin

Many days I am afraid to open the newspaper, for fear that it
will contain yet another hyperbolic piece
on the information Superhighway. Especially here in North
Carolina, a state that is trying to be the
first to build, such articles seem to assume a great deal about
what the consumer wants from the NII.
Topping the lists, apparently, are home movies on demand. This
service is typically followed with
music on demand, home shopping, and perhaps access to diagnosis
by a doctor at a distant hospital.

MacWorld recently continued in its tradition as one of the
industry magazines willing to examine issues
critically, in the October 1994 issue. They commissioned a public
opinion survey, described in Charles
Piller's article "DreamNet: Consumers want more than TV overload
from the Information Highway." The
results may pleasantly surprise jaded readers of The CPSR

Instead of home shopping, the potential "consumers" surveyed
ranked voting in elections, searching
reference books, distance learning, and obtaining school
information highest. Video on demand does show
up as the tenth among twenty-six items, after participation in
opinion polls and in electronic town
halls. It is even rated lower than obtaining government
information. Gambling and video dating occupy
the bottom two slots.

It is interesting to me that, as Piller points out, the services
most desired require two-way
interactivity, with asymetric bandwith. Moreover, they generally
do not call for fiber, but can
probably be provided by ISDN-based copper service. On the other
hand, the so-called advanced cable
systems envisioned by corporate champions of the NII demand a
sophisticated network infrastructure.

The relevance of the poll has been challenged by some network
activists, who maintain that statistics on
newsgroup popularity contradict the survey's results. However,
this is not necessarily the case. The
most popular is news.announce.newusers, read by 12 percent of
newsreaders. and follow, with readerships of 8.8 and 8.7 percent;
news.answers comes in third, at 7.9 percent.

Most importantly, newsgroups are by nature two-way interactive,
with both topics and content
determined by the user community. Video on demand and home
shopping, the uses of the NII most often
mentioned by corporate promoters, seem to me just the opposite.
They depend on a model of the
consumer as a source of profit, not creativity. This model
represents production by the consumer as a
threat to the system. Actually, CPSR should argue, this threat is
essential to a democracy. The NII
should provide citizens the ability to run their government, not
the other way around.

David Bellin, a former national Board member of CPSR, is
currently Director of Graduate Studies in
Computer Science at North Carolina A&T State University, and can
be reached at


If you move. please notify the CPSR National Office

The CPSR Newsletter is mailed bulk rate, and the postal service
will not forward bulk mail.

415-322-3778 ¥

The CPSR Newsletter is published quarterly by Computer
Professionals for Social Responsibility, PO
Box 717, Palo Alto, CA 94302, voice: 415-322-3778, FAX: 415-322-
4748, email:

Copyright 1994 by CPSR. Articles may be reproduced as long as
the copyright notice is included. The
item should be attributed to The CPSR Newsletter, and contact
information should be listed.

The CPSR Newsletter is guest edited by CPSR members. Newsletter
articles do not necessarily reflect
the official CPSR positions on issues.

Guest Editor Jeff Johnson Executive Editor Kathleen Kells

Layout & Design Judi Clark Editing Lauren Rusk

CPSR Board of Directors Eric Roberts, President Doug Schuler,
Chair Judi Clark, Treasurer Steve
Dever, Secretary

Mary Connors Blaise Liffick
Jim Davis Steven Miller
Jim Grant Aki Namioka
Hans Klein Terry Winograd
David Liddle Marsha Woodbury

CPSR National Office Staff Kathleen Kells, Managing Director
Susan Evoy, Office/Database Manager


. . . to be part of the CPSR Experts List

The National Office keeps a directory of CPSR members who have
expertise in privacy and civil
liberties, the NII, technology policy, computers in the
workplace, ethics, women in computing, and
much more.

The directory is a resource used for referrals to reporters and
others who call for information about
CPSR-related issues.

If you are interested in volunteering your time in this way,
please call Susan Evoy at 415-322-3778
or send email to


CPSR now provides a wide range of electronic services for its
members and the public, including
administrative and informational mailing lists and an extensive
online library. General information on
CPSR and electronic access of all forms is available by sending
email to

The Internet CPSR library houses files on a wide range of
subjects: privacy, networking, conferences,
computer crime, disability, the workplace, and others. Files in
the library are available via email,
gopher, FTP, and the WorldWide Web.

The main announcement mailing list is called cpsr- It disseminates official, short
CPSR-related messages. We encourage you to subscribe and widely
publicize the list. To subscribe,
send email to with the following message:
name> <your last name>

You will get a message that confirms your subscription. If you
have a problem, send email to To find out what other email lists are available
on, send email to with the message: LIST

There are two new USENET newsgroups. The first,, is an echo of the cpsr-
announce mailing list to the netnews system. The other newsgroup
is called It is
open for use by anyone to discuss CPSR-related Issues.

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