Special Double Issue on Local Civic Computer Networks
The CPSR News Letter
Volume 10, Nos. 1-2 COMPUTER PROFESSIONALS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY Winter-Spring 1992
CPSR/Berkeley Hosts DIAC-92
Fen Labalme and Doug Schuler
CPSR's fourth research symposium on Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing (DIAC-92)
was held on May 2nd and 3rd on the UC Berkeley campus several days after the Rodney King verdict and
the subsequent riots. Although those events were discussed only sporadically during the main
conference, they weren't far from our thoughts. Aftershocks were also felt in Berkeley, although not as
strongly as those felt in Los Angeles. An 8 p.m. curfew existed in Berkeley during the conference and
many stores were boarded up. The Los Angeles experience underscored a shared belief that computer
professionals can't be isolated from the rest of humanity nor should they be. In fact, the dominant focus
of the meeting was on using expertise and technology to help address social problems at local, national
and international levels. The DIAC symposium reflected a change in focus similar to changes that CPSR
itself is experiencingÑchanges that adopt the role of advocacy in addition to that of criticism. Virtual
A strong theme that emerged from the conference and one that owes its very existence to computers is
that of on-line or "virtual" communities. John Coate's opening presentation on "Innkeeping in
Cyberspace" provided a good introduction to this topic. John offered a wide range of thoughts based on
his experience as a sysop on the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link (The Well). His talk focused primarily on
the "virtual village''Ñwhat one is, who goes there and why, what are the laws and social mores, and how
to create a pleasant and sustainable culture within this virtual community. John likened his work at
The Well to an innkeeper whose job it is to keep all the lodgers residing at the inn relatively happy. Of
course the inn referred to here is electronic, the cohabitation is only "virtual," and the communication
("talking by writing") is limited to whatever the ASCII character set can support.
Talking about the future, John warned that "humanity must dominate technology and never the other
way around." He feels that networks could become just another "technopacifier," but that we should
instead "build into these networks a pervasive community spirit that invigorates our society at every
level, from local to global, with a new democratic awareness."
A panel discussion convened by Michael Travers of the M IT Media Lab on "Virtual Societies and Virtual
Communities" also addressed this theme. This panel included several people who have been involved
with electronic communities for years. Sandy Stone has studied the relationship between technology and
social relations in systems from telephone sex to electronic networks to MUDs. The communities
discussed included the purely social like Pavel Curtis's LambdaMOO MUD (Multi-User Dungeon or
Multi-User Dimension) at Xerox PARC as well as the more utilitarian Media-Space project presented
by Susan Irwin, also from PARC. The Media Space project supports remote video presence for
distributed collaborative research teams. John Barlow pointed out that while social interactions
(using, for example, the shared-video media-space environment) do occur, they were not anywhere
near as "normal" as face-to-face interactions. He quoted Bruce Sterling as saying, "It isn't exactly an
Amish barn-raising in there!" Far from being a pep rally on these technologies, the panelists talked at
length about alienation and "addiction" that some users experience in addition to more positive
There were also several workshops and presentations devoted to variations on the virtual community
theme. Andrew Blau of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) presented issues on the use and
ownership of the communication infrastructure which are reflected in EFF's "Open Platform" proposal.
Richard Civille of the CPSR Washington office presented an exciting view of what a civic/ community
multi-media bulletin board could look like and what it would provide to a community. In another
workshop convened by Carl Farrington, spokespersons from a number of on-line services, including
Community Memory, 101 On-Line, Cruzio, and SF Net traded viewpoints on community access. Pros
and cons, for example, of non-text-based interfaces such as the telephone were also discussed.
Telephones offer ubiquitous access to anybody with a quarter. In a pilot program in Seattle, voice mail
was provided to homeless and/or phoneless people who were looking for work, and 85% of the
participants found work through this service. Carl Farrington and Evelyn Pine gave a presentation on
the Community Memory Project. Community Memory places terminal kiosks in libraries,
laundromats, and other public locations, and encourages "drop-ins" by not requiring registration and
supporting anonymity and complete freedom of speech. A goal of the project is to reach the homeless and
at-risk youth. Additionally, DIAC featured demos of several electronic communities including The Well,
LambdaMOO, and Community Memory.
At the same time as we see lots of promise and activity in this area there are reasons to suspect that old
patterns may die hard. Linda Parry and Robert Wharton of the University of Minnesota presented the
results of current research that show that, while males tend to use computers more in every setting, it
appears that the trend is toward greater homogeneity, and thus computer training should be available to
Where Do We Think We're Going?
Another important theme that emerged could be characterized as "where are we going versus where
should we be going." The panel discussion on computer science research and development funding
organized by Barbara Simons and moderated by Mike Ubell introduced the theme.
Joel Yudken of the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at Rutgers showed that computer
science research and development has enjoyed the fastest growth in federal funding over the last sixteen
years, and that the High Performance Computing and Communications Program is slated to get the lion's
share in the near future. Mike Harrison, a computer science professor at UC Berkeley, presented what
he called an "unauthorized Department of Defense viewpoint." He stated that the Pentagon wants to
answer the questions, "who is the enemy?"; "What type of conflict will we engage in?"; and "How are
we to prepare?" Another way of asking this is "What strategic advantage does the U.S. enjoy?" and the
answer was ``information technology." Gary Chapman, coordinator of CPSR's 21st Century Project,
took an opposing view. Gary suggested that our priorities are badly skewedÑthat our resources are
being dedicated in areas that do not help society in general. The expensive, high-tech, weapons-oriented
approach of the Department of Defense was cited as a waste of increasingly scarce resources and talent.
The theme of "where do we go next" was also taken up by the CPSR/Berkeley Peace and Justice Working
Group and the final panel discussion, entitled "Is the Party Over? The State of Work in the Computer
Industry." The Peace and Justice Working Group is developing an Information Policy Platform that they
hope will be introduced into the political debate at the local and national levels. In their workshop they
went through their draft and solicited thoughts from attendees. Jim Davis of CPSR/Berkeley introduced
the conference's last panel discussion with a rather long list of recent layoffs in the computer industry.
He also desribed other trends that suggest a downgrading of the status and security of computer industry
workers. John Markoff of The New York Times said that the computer industry is one in which parents
routinely "eat their young" and that dominance by one company is generally short-lived. Denise Caruso,
editor of Digital Media, outlined many ways in which the computer industry is not responsive to
workers. Trade unions were discussed as a possible approach. This was met with a mixture of cautious
agreement and skepticism.
The problems expressed during the symposium weren't limited to the social and economic. Hal Sackman
of California State University at Los Angeles discussed some of the occupational hazards of computer
workstations, primarily concentrating on musculoskeletal disorders, visual complications, EMF
radiation, and psycho-neuroimmunological (PNI) stress. Hal suggested that problems like these have
been pushed under the covers in the last decade due to the paucity of funding for their study.
Unfortunately, the lucid presentations of current problems were often accompanied by statements
expressing a profound lack of faith in existing government and business institutions that are nominally
supposed to address the problems. Citizen and organizational initiatives such as the 21st Century
Project and the Information Policy Platform may well help address these problems.
There was a conscious effort this year on the part of the program committee to sponsor an "action-
oriented" symposium. This meant developing usable knowledge that could help shape action for social
change and social responsibility. This goal was addressed most directly through the workshops that
were held on the second day. This approach was used to present ideas informally while getting valuable
feedback from participants. Debate over an idea or issue in a workshop was a good way to develop a
group consensus which could be used to help build a CPSR working group, a CPSR national project, or
other projects. To further promote follow-on activity, the workshop titles, convertors, and electronic
mail addresses are listed below. Please contact the convertors if you're interested in the topics.
Electronic distribution lists were established for some of the groups and reports are available from
Toward a Truly Global Network Larry Press, Ipress@venera.isi.edu
Integration of an Ethics MetaFramework into the New CS Curriculum Dianne Martin,
A Computer & Information Technologies Platform The Peace and Justice Working Group, CPSR/
Hacking in the 90's: Toward a Hacker's League Steve Sawyer and Lee Felsenstein, email@example.com
Community Access to Telecommunications Systems Carl Farrington, firstname.lastname@example.org
Third World Computing: Appropriate Technology for the Developed World? Philip Machanick,
Where the Wire Things Are: The Politics of Infrastructure on the Electronic Frontier Andrew Blau
Can We Talk? Engineers, Machinists, and the Barriers to a Skill-Based Approach to Production Sarah
Defining the Community Computing Movement: Some projects in and around Boston Peter Miller
Future Directions in Developing Social Virtual Realities Pavel Curtis, email@example.com
Work Power, and Computers Kim Viborg Andersen firstname.lastname@example.org
Designing Local Civic Networks: Principles and Policies Richard Civille, email@example.com
Privacy vs. Freedom: Striking a Balance Bruce Koball, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Next Best Thing to Being There
In the context of the conference it makes a lot of sense to talk about ways to be there virtually. There
are several ways in which one can begin to participate in the ongoing work discussed at DIAC-92. The
conference proceedings available from CPSR ($20 postpaid, which includes shipping, from the Palo
Alto office: CPSR, P.O. Box 717, Palo Alto, CA 94302) provide a textual approach to "being there."
Some of these papers will also be available as CPSR publications. Of course, one guaranteed way to "be
there" next time is to help make it happen.
DIAC-94 Postscript from Doug Schuler
I've been involved in all four DIAC symposiums so far and it has been a wonderful experience working
with all the organizers and participants (unfortunately too numerous to list!) in Seattle, Minneapolis-
St. Paul, Boston, and Berkeley. The conferences have been rich in information, insight, interaction, and
impact. My hope is that the DIAC conferences will continue far into the future. They have all been
grassroots efforts and will probably continue to be.
I am planning to play a minimal role in DIAC-94 and I'm hoping to identify people who will help shape
the next forum. Most (if not all) of the major responsibilities are still available for DIAC-94 as is the
time and place. The theme and format will also teethe responsibility of the new organizers. I'll be very
happy to help in any way and to offer whatever insights or knowledge that I may have learned. Call me at
(206) 865-3832 (work) or (206) 632-1659 (home)) or send me e-mail at
email@example.comÑI promise to convey a completely lopsided, optimistic view of the whole
Finally, of course, l urge you to participate in CPSR working groups, chapter activities or in any of a
thousand ways that social responsibility topics can be brought into the everyday consciousness of our
DIAC-92 was co-sponsored by the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, the IEEE Society for
Social Implications of Technology, and the Boston Computer Society Social Impact Group, in cooperation
with ACM SIGCHI and ACM SIGCAS. Additionally we were very fortunate to have support from the
National Science Foundation under Grant No. DIR-9112572, Ethics and Values Studies Office. . Patti
Schank, Judy Stern, Judi Clark and all the others in CPSR/ Berkeley (and elsewhere) did an
CPSR Hosts Roundtable on Local Civic Networks Richard Civill--CPSR Program Director
Over the past two years, nearly three hundred technical experts, activists, business leaders, educators,
librarians, and policy makers from around the country have attended CPSR policy roundtables in
Washington, D.C. These meetings have addressed constitutional, governance, public access, and
participatory issues of "cyberspace." CPSR has an exciting opportunity to help develop a public
interest telecommunication policy agenda for the 21st Century by influencing state and local
telecommunication policies in such a way as to later have an effect on communication policy at the
federal level. These meetings have served as a launching pad for such an effort. This "bottom-up"
approach to creating policy has been called "progressive federalism" by public interest activists.
CPSR's most recent roundtable, "Cyberspace CitizenshipÑDesigning Local Civic Networks," held on
February 20-21 in Washington, D.C., began this process. Co-sponsored by the Electronic Frontier
Foundation and The 21st Century Project, 53 people were invited to "explore new modes of democratic
participation, various civic computer network projects, and multimedia innovations that could promote
local civic networks."
The diverse group assembled at the roundtable represented interests ranging from telephone companies
to librarians to multimedia artists to network operators. Organizations represented included Apple
Computer; the American Library Association; Community Memory in Berkeley, California; Electronic
Cafe International of Santa Monica, California; the Federal Communications Commission; Prodigy
Services, Inc.; Pacific Bell; IBM; Performance Systems International (PSI); Consumers Union; the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Big Sky Telegraph in Montana; American Indian Telecommunications;
the Center for Human Interface Technology at the University of Washington in Seattle; Town Meeting
Television of Burlington, Vermont; Davis Community Television in Davis, California; Metasystems
Design Group; the Taxpayer Assets Project; and a variety of writers, consultants and thinktank
researchers from the Washington, D.C., area.
Discussions during the first day centered on democratic participation, multimedia design, and existing
civic network projects around the country. The second day participants looked at the requirements of
various types of communities and addressed different approaches to public education about the use of
telecommunications for civic affairs.
Democracy and Networks
The first panel addressed technology's role in enhancing or inhibiting the ability of small groups to
effectively work in the political process. The thesis was that today's fragmented society makes small
group meetings difficult to organize. This places representative governance at risk by limiting direct
governance at the local level.
Charles Firestone, of the Aspen Institute opened the panel by noting that "cyberspace is the horse and
citizenship the cart." He said that local civic networks should be designed to maintain balance among
three forms of democratic rule: the direct vote, communitarian work towards the common good, and,
most important, pluralistic debate leading to consensus. A local civic computer network should help
people gather and analyze information from averse sources, organize political efforts at the grassroots
and coalition levels, and directly influence decision making. Firestone observed that electronic media is
a means to these ends, but cautioned that technology is only the means and not the end itself.
Dave Hughes, a self-styled "computer-populist" from Colorado, disagreed. Hughes pointed out that any
method of communicating is in itself a political act. He said it is time to update the famous phrase "the
media is the message" to "technology is the politics." Hughes stated that information access and voting
issues are largely resolved but what has atrophied is discussion, "the debate leading to consensus." He
noted that in the mass media "the network anchors have become the debaters, not the public." Hughes
closed by saying that "None of these technologies can do it all. Online, debates are insufficient. Debates
must be based in action, which takes place off-line. This must be done in conjunction with media. Media
is good for mass distribution. Bulletin board systems (BBSs) are good for quality discussion. Neither is
sufficient, both must be used to the end of action."
Judith Perrolle, a sociologist from Northeastern University, proposed that multimedia technologies
may be a way to bring emotional cues and a sense of intimacy to on-line small-group discussions. She
said that much of democratic practice is not merely voting but rather a process of exchanging views and
feelings, which are imparted, for example, by raised eyebrows, not long strings of text. She noted that
people can correctly interpret about a thousand facial gestures, "most of which can't be captured very
well by low resolution graphics." Although we should not "ask technologies to fix our biases," she
pointed out that people are often discriminated against based on visual or auditory cues that are missing
over text-based communication systems. Such bias might well return in a multimedia environment.
However, she said, "Until we can get this subtle kind of flexibility that people use in real small groups
to reach decision-makers, to make them feel a part of something together, we'll have trouble getting
people organized on computer networks to go out and change the world."
Richard Sclove, a democratic theorist and activist from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, made six
points about the use of technology in democratic action. First, he said, if there is no opposition to a
proposal one should wonder what's wrong with it. No innovation should be implemented without the
participation of the people who will be affected, particularly the most disadvantaged among them.
People should be wary of technical solutions casting about for a problem, and there may be non-
technical ways to solve a given problem. The disadvantaged need power more than they need
information, said ScloveÑorganizational tools are needed most. He argued that "teledemocratic"
initiatives should not displace face-to-face encounters. And, finally, he advocated that all initiatives be
organized on a local, trial basis. Pilot projects should include a participatory process for evaluating
successes and failures.
Jim Warren, chair of CPSR's first Conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy, described his use of
voter records to begin a grassroots campaign against policies that affected the unincorporated
community where he lives. He has also been posting important bills from the California State
legislature on The Well and taking the feedback to the appropriate legislative staff in Sacramento. Some
of these staffers have now joined these on-line discussions and have even implemented some suggested
changes in the wording of bills.
Networks Serving Communities
Gary Chapman of CPSR's 21st Century Project then facilitated a second panel discussion, "Community
Overviews: Suburban, Inner-City, Rural, and Indian." This panel addressed obstacles facing developers
of local civic networks and the special needs and concerns of particular communities. Chapman
cautioned that electronic democracy may be a distraction from the problems of a weakened democracy in
the U.S. He said, "We could have a libertarian vision that says if you don't want to be part of the
political process you don't have to be, but that's not a democratic vision."
George Baldwin, a sociologist at Henderson State University in Arkansas, discussed the communication
needs and styles of American Indian communities. He said that there needs to be a more
multidisciplinary understanding of what happens when minority groups go on-line: "There are
constitutional issues related to access, freedom of speech, the right to assemble, and education embedded
in this topic that can be generalized for minority people; not just American Indians, but all lower class
people in the United States." Baldwin said that no one knows how many Indian homes have computers, or
if the phone lines serving these homes are of adequate quality for data transactions. Only the
Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian has asked what kind of information services
could benefit Indian people given the lack of connectivity and the difference in values about the
presentation of information. The issue is a classic one of colonialism, according to Baldwin. Most
information about Indians is for entertainment purposes . This erodes traditional tribal values. In an
information economy, Baldwin said, "control of and access to information is the modern day equivalent
of owning the means of production." He noted that none of the 26 Indian colleges are connected to the
Internet. "On the highway of the information age, Indians have not even been served by an off ramp."
Frank Burns of Metasystems Design Group described the Santa Monica Public Electronic Network
(PEN) project, which was heavily supported by Hewlett Packard with much of the development work
performed by Burns' group. The public access computer conferencing system has remained very open
(i.e., no censorship of postings) but it has restricted use to City of Santa Monica residents and property
owners. The proximity of the city to Los Angeles prompted the planners to prevent the system from
hooking up with other cities, or with the Internet, in order to keep the load of communication traffic
manageable. They are experimenting with links to a sister city in Japan, however. Everyone in the city,
including the homeless, is encouraged to use the system.
Carol Henderson of the American Library Association described what local civic networks could do in
terms of public obligations and providing public access to government services. She underscored the
importance of making telecommunication policy issues compelling and understandable. "Any transaction
with government involving exchange of data or funds could be done on a network. You would get a fair
amount of citizen interest if they could see that some of their most troublesome and frustrating
transactions with government could be improved and services received more efficiently. The possibility
of more efficient, less labor-intensive, less transportation-dependent provision of government
services would be a powerful inducement for participation by both government officials and ordinary
citizens in exploring issues and solutions in the public interest. Once you get their interest, you go on
to discuss possibilities for broadening participation in democratic decisions and address some of the
problems raised with privacy."
Michael Strait of the Annenberg CPB Project said that local civic networks are the "most important
infrastructural issue" in developing national communications policy: "We need to do a better job with
local diversity while maintaining coherence in a national infrastructure." He stressed a design
approach that would work with the particular strengths of each community: "In one community that
might include the public schools, city administration, local cable company, small private college. In
another, it might include the public television station, a museum, a public library and a large
corporation. Whatever configuration is best for establishing a structure in a local community, does not
remain static. Other resources can be brought in as needed or desired or as available."
The first afternoon session was called "The Community Network Drop: Access, Services, Costs, and
Benefits." John McMullen, a writer for Newsbytes, commented on the difficulty in getting his peers to
understand why these network services are important to the average person. Tony Lewis of the National
Federation of Local Cable Programmers said that those pushing for public access have to be more
proactive at a time when the country seemed to be moving away from a democratic participation. He
urged technologists to explore the implications of the products they develop, and to remove as many
barriers to use as possible.
Public Transactions on Networks
Mehl Simmons of the National Association of Social Workers described the Tulare Touch Project in
Tulare County, California, which has set up 31 kiosks to electronically process welfare recipients. Of
the 300,000 people receiving Aid For Dependent Children, 20% use the touchscreen system, and most
seem to like it, said Simmons. Aid is delivered in six days instead of 45 days, error rates have been
dramatically reduced and personnel costs have declined.
Evelyn Pine, director of Berkeley's Community Memory Project before joining the staff of CPSR, said
that she feels it is as important to be able to discuss welfare as to get welfare checks through the use of
a computer network. In a time of across-the-board cutbacks in welfare all over the United States, a
system such as Tulare Touch could be viewed as a powerful cost containment opportunity. Such a system
combined with something like Santa Monica PEN's or Community Memory's ability to open discussion
among the homeless and needy might create new awareness, activity, and job opportunity as well.
However, Michelle Meier from The Consumers Union said that the cost savings may not as great as some
had hoped. Benefit recipients also need protection when converting from paper-based to electronic
benefit systems. She described the Food Stamp program's push to transform Food Stamp benefits from
paper scrip to debit cards. One concern had to do with the transaction costs of using a private financial
data carrier such as the Star Network to handle millions of daily Food Stamp debit card transactions for
the government at standard, commercial ATM rates. She said that she fears the commercial networks
have viewed Food Stamp transaction processing as a "cash-cow" for their underutilized services.
In the discussions, there appeared to be a fuzzy dividing line between those who saw the networks as
part of an infrastructure to cut costs, make transactions faster and more efficient, or get structured
information from an on-line source, and those who use computer networks for discourse,
entertainment, social organization, and political collaboration. Both uses represent a lot of local, civic
activity on a day-to-day basis.
Steve Miller, from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office of Strategic Planning (and now a CPSR
Board member) made three points. In the commercialization cycle, an on-line service enters the
market as an experiment, perhaps in a playful way. Those who really get into it start developing a new
vision. Then there is a destabilized phase in which both the vision and the service are partly accepted
and partly rejected, said Miller. After this phase, the status quo is restructured, and at some point
people will realize that the service will only be universalized when it becomes commercial. At this
point the service becomes useful for many different groups. Miller said that technology should help
people get something done, that it should be graduated and extensible, and keep in mind the users'
desires and abilities. "Unless we do top-down policies carefully, we can squelch grassroots efforts."
David Reed of the Federal Communications Commission discussed his graduate school thesis, the
engineering, economic and policy analysis of optical fiber-based carrier technology in a theoretical
neighborhood. There are not a lot of applications, he said. Reed started with POTS, "plain old telephone
service," and then added distributed or switched video service. For the foreseeable future, Reed said,
there are no economies of scope, so it's better to have separate networks, fiber optic for video and
copper wire for voice. He also suggested that it is cheaper to build separate networks and interconnect
them. Universities and corporations have been operating their own telecommunication networks for
years. Perhaps cities and towns are not far behind.
The last afternoon session was titled "Designing Network Products and Services for Citizen
Participation." Andrew Blau summarized the underlying dilemma for many of the participants: "It is
hard to make the case for democracy in the market economy." Many seemed to accept the fact that the
market economy is the guiding principle for many managers, planners, and developers. At the same
time many roundtable participants felt that democratic values should be paramount. As Richard Sclove
put it, "Economics should not be democracy's sovereign."
Kit Galloway of Electronic Cafe International in Santa Monica uses slow-scan, or "freeze-frame,"
videophones and the public, switched telephone network to link up artists, poets, politicians, and
citizens all around the world.
The Electronic Cafe has 60 affiliates worldwide. He showed a video of links between Nicaragua and the
Electronic Cafe in Santa Monica. It was clear that inexpensive videophones could contribute to a sense of
shared community for parties that were thousands of miles apart. Gailoway said he realizes that some of
his ideas are not yet commercial and he refers to himself as an "avantpreneur."
The second day of the policy roundtable began with a panel discussion on state and federal policy
initiatives. Jamie Cooper of the Center for Policy Alternatives described her organization's efforts to
find innovative policy models at the state level which can be mapped to other states through public
education and work with elected officials. This approach is based on the principle she called progressive
federalism: "policy models can be spread like wildfireÑ duplicated community to community and state
to stateÑ then become federal legislation to bring everyone up to standard." The classic example is the
Community "Right to Know" Act. Introduced in Philadelphia in 1981 as a campaign to make information
about hazardous waste public, the concept became law in a number of states over the following few
years. The toxic release incident in Bhopal, India, in 1986, drove the passage of a federal law based
entirely on existing statutes in New Jersey and California.
Pru Adler of the Association of Research Libraries discussed the library's role in motivating people to
use computer networks. A librarian's definition of connectivity is somewhat broader than the
engineer's, having much to do with the work of acquiring, organizing and preserving information as
well as being a "cultural and social part of the community." Adler described several state initiatives,
notably the Penn Pages in Pennsylvania, a computer-based full-text system open 24 hours a day-to
anyone, intended for use by "farmers, consumers, researchers, agriculture extension agents, anybody
who wants to use it to access information on consumer education, food safety, forest resources,
nutrition, pesticides education, or commodities prices." This service is based on federal, state and local
data which is all in the public domain, with much collected from 37 of the 50 state land-grant
institutions. Adler offered advice on designing state policy for the information age: "There must be
flexibility built in on the state level because we don't know where we're heading. However, the laws
must be flexible enough to accommodate whatever direction we want to go."
Jamie Love of the Taxpayer's Assets Project described how new federal legislation now pending could
broaden public access to information. He said: "Put good, low-cost information products through the
net, and you'll have more people that want to be connected." He described the Security and Exchange
Commission's EDGAR, the Justice Departments JURIS, and the House of Representative's LEGIS systems,
which are largely contracted to private vendors to manage, preventing general public access. He then
described the GPO WINDO and Owen's bills as new efforts to provide such public access. For example,
the Justice Department's JURIS is over ten years old, providing an on-line system with access to
full-text court decisions, down to the district court level, the full text of all executive orders since
1945, and many foreign treaties, international law, Indian treaties, and legislative histories. Fifteen
thousand government employees have access to JURIS. Data used to be entered by Air Force employees,
but now the system is managed by Westlaw. Westlaw inserts its own copyright, licensing back the
information to the government, which is then prevented from providing access to citizens. Westlaw in
effect exercises copyright control over decisions by Federal judges paid for by tax dollars, while
receiving much of the original data through the court's own dissemination systems, and adding no value
to the data. The GPO WINDO and Owens Bill will be helpful in opening access to these databases. On the
state level, Alaska provides the full text of laws and regulations. This service is free through 90
legislative information offices throughout the state, or $10 per hour through remote dial-in.
Jeff Chester, of the Center for Media Education, said that in an era of converging technologies,
"organizations involved in computer and information technology policy must build into their strategies
and policy developments what the role of television should be in the 21st Century." Telephone
companies have targeted the $30 billion a year TV advertising market. There is now only a handful of
media conglomerates making programming decisions. The debate over the future of TV is now framed as
a battle between two giants, telephone companies and newspapers, but this implies that American
information needs can be taken care of only by one or the other. There is no public interest discussionÑ
we must provide it within the next year or two, said Chester.
Randy Ross of American Indian Telecommunications runs a Fido BBS and has worked on the repatriation
of Indian artifacts by the Smithsonian Institution. He believes that
technology and cultural integrity of native peoples can coexist. As part of an Indian leader thinktank
interested in rural telecommunication policy he is looking at the strategic agenda for lndian nations for
the next 500 years to see how are they going to exist in a pluralistic society.
Frank Odasz of Big Sky Telegraph described what rural communities could do with almost no budgets.
"Tiny Sky'' bulletin board systems and "info-scouts" who disseminate information to small
communities are having positive effects in Montana. Odasz is also interested in a rural thinktank for
The diversity of the lessons learned and the observations made was really quite astounding. Some saw
the event as seditious; others thought it was a bit too tame. Some felt more useful acting rather than
talking. Lee Felsenstein of Community Memory described his involvement the Homebrew Computer Club
in the 1 970's in Silicon Valley. They accomplished things by doing, not by meetings with long
discussions, he said.
CPSR will be taking this advice by moving forward with plans for the creation of a public interest
agenda for telecommunications policy in the 1990s and beyond. Integrating the work of the Washington,
D.C., office on public access to information resources, privacy, freedom of expression, and civil
liberties, with the aims of The 21st Century Project, public access computing can address many of the
most pressing issues of our time: political participation, alienation: economic productivity, the
environmental impact of post-industrial society, and social justice. CPSR is planning the development
of a "citizen's toolkit," a package of educational materials about computer networks, applications for
participatory politics and social services, and telecommunications policy. Using the model of
"progressive federalism," CPSR can help promote grassroots civic network activities that can provide
laboratory experience for federal policymaking. And the computer profession can be encouraged to help
with such efforts by providing research and development into new interfaces, standards, and
technologies that support broad public participation.
For more information on these activities, or to offer suggestions or help, contact Richard Civille in the
CPSR Washington, D.C., office, at (202) 544-9240, or at the Internet address
A Glimpse of a New Media Environment A Public Interest Vision for the Future of U.S.
Telecommunications Kathryn C. Montgomery and Jeffrey Chester Center for Media Education
A full-scale battle is underway which will radically transform the American media system. The
country's giant communication industriesÑbroadcasting, cable, telephone, and newspaperÑare
competing for control of telecommunications in the 21st century. The way this conflict is ultimately
resolved will determine the shape of the telecommunications infrastructure, how it will be used, and
who will have access to it. Because we now live in an "Information Age," decisions made in the next two
to three years will have a profound impact on every aspect of our societyÑfrom education to work to
culture. The transformation of our nation's communication system will have even greater consequences
for the health of our democracyÑfrom how well informed we are as citizens to whether and how we
Though the American media system has been undergoing major changes for the last two decades, the
current restructuring is the most significant in its history. It has been precipitated by several major
Technological innovation: Driving this transformation are a number of new technologies now being put
into place: fiber optics, channel compression, high definition television, direct broadcast satellites, and
digital imagery and sound. Various combinations of these innovations will produce new forms of
production, distribution, and reception. The next generation of television will be a combination of
telephone, personal computer, compact disc, and TV.
Struggle for control: This wave of technological development has disrupted the traditional balance of
power among the communication industries. It has generated a flurry of turf battles, with some players
jockeying for new and more powerful positions, as others fight to protect their eroding markets. This
intense power struggle was triggered when the regional telephone companies launched aggressive
campaigns to enter the television and information delivery business, promising to build a sophisticated
advanced fiber optic network that could eventually supplant both cable and broadcast television.
Consolidation of media industries: Ironically, even as public battles are waged in the press and in
Congress, there is an underlying movement toward further consolidation both within and among the
communications industries. Some of the largest cable, telephone, newspaper, and broadcast companies
have already begun launching a series of joint ventures and "strategic alliances." To cite only a few
examples: the nation's biggest cable company, Telecommunications, Inc. (TCI), is now allied with Fox
Television; Dow Jones has formed a joint venture with BellSouth; and IBM is discussing links with both
TCI and Time Warner. Experts are predicting that it will only be a matter of a few years before these
kinds of cross-country alliances will resolve the current conflicts between competing industries. The
result will be a small group of vertically and horizontally integrated conglomerates dominating the
These development have resulted in an unprecedented number of media policy initiatives at the Federal
level. For example, within the last year:
the Federal Communications Commission accelerated its efforts to deregulate the electronic media,
launching a wave of "attic to basement" rule changes which would create unprecedented consolidation of
ownership (including mergers between broadcast and cable companies);
competing bills were introduced in Congress over the hotly debated issue of telephone company entry
into the information and television delivery business;
the White House Competitiveness Council announced plans to release a major policy plan on the future
of U.S. telecommunications.
Promise and Threat
The changes taking place in our telecommunications system could create opportunities to make it more
vibrant and diverse, and to achieve much of its long unfulfilled potential for education, culture, and
politics. In addition to spawning a new generation of consumer services, the combination of expanded
channels, affordable production, and interactive capability could:
create an infrastructure for valuable community services;
provide new outlets for cultural expression; stimulate local and national economic development; open
the media to a wider range of voices; and offer citizens new opportunities for participating in
However, in the absence of public interest policies, these potential benefits may never be fully
realized. More disturbing is the possibility/hat certain fundamental features of our current media
systemÑwhich we now take for grantedÑ will be lost:
Free over-the-air broadcast television will most likely disappear as cable and fiber optic systems
become the primary means of distribution. While certain basic services may be available for a flat
monthly fee, most programming in the futureÑincluding news, sports, public affairs, and
documentariesÑmay only be available on a pay-per-view, or even "pay-per-minute," basis.
Local news, public affairs, and cultural programming couId ultimately be supplanted by national
programs, as ownership of media properties is increasingly concentrated in the hands of large,
multinational conglomerates and the public service obligations to communities are eliminated by
Public television could be drastically cut back or even eliminated in the next telecommunication
system. Current political developments do not bode well for publicly-supported media. As the policies
for the next system are being written, right-wing groups have launched an aggressive attack on public
television, arguing that it is a misuse of tax dollars and no longer necessary because of program
duplication on cable channels.
The Missing Public Interest Movement
It is ironic and unfortunate that the policy development for the new television system is taking place at
a time when the public interest media movement has virtually disappeared. Deregulation of the
broadcast and cable industries, along with diminished foundation support, have left only a handful of
beleaguered organizations who have been preoccupied with protecting the few remaining regulations
governing the current system.
As a consequence, the vision for American telecommunications in the 21st century is being shaped
entirely by corporate interests. Given present trends, the media system of the next century, instead of
correcting the current inadequacies of broadcast and cable TV, could exacerbate some of their worst
features. Within the next two decades, we are likely to see the following:
¥ a "vaster wasteland" dominated by hundreds of pay-per-view channels offering sports,
entertainment, and interactive games;
¥ prohibitive rates that will make it extremely difficult for nonprofits and small independent
producers to gain access to the system;
¥ more and more advertiser-created programming, where the lines between commercials and program
content are nearly indistinguishable;
¥ high monthly fees which will make essential services and information unaffordable to a large
percentage of Americans.
Public Interest Vision
The current stalemate among the major corporate interests has created a unique opportunityÑa narrow
"window of necessity"Ñfor the public interest to be asserted, for the debate to be reframed in terms of
the larger democratic and social consequences, and for legislators and the public to become centrally
involved and ultimately decide the key questions of public policy.
In order to ensure that the needs of our pluralistic and democratic society are well-served, we need a
public interest vision for telecommunications in the 21st century. Such a vision should include a
comprehensive policy framework and a range of policies. At the very least, we should call for:
Universal serviceÑfree or affordable access for all citizens to basic services, including news, public
affairs, health, education, and electoral information;
National public networksÑwhich could carry a range of noncommercial programming, including
independent documentaries, news, public affairs, and children's programming;
Local and state information networksÑto serve educational, governmental, health, and social service
institutions (including local and state versions of C-SPAN);
Non-profit rates to ensure access to the system for alternative information and program providers;
New national networksÑcommercial and noncommercial programming services for education, the arts,
the environment, children, and senior citizens;
Multicultural programming--new initiatives that would allow all Americans to experience the
richness of ethnic and cultural diversity in our society;
New funding streams and mechanismsÑto guarantee the production and distribution of the widest range
of programming and information.
Call to Action
If any of these features are to become part of the future telecommunications system, a number of steps
will need to be taken during the next two to three years. The following are the most immediate and
Research and policy development Experts from a variety of fields, including education, civil rights,
information technology, and the law, need to be brought together to develop and implement a public
interest research agenda for telecommunications in the 21st century. This research should be focused
on fully exploring the potential of the new communications technologies and creating specific policy
Organizational support Efforts need to be made to build support for the public interest agenda within
the non-profit and public interest communities. A series of workshops, briefings, and position papers
should be developed to educate leaders and members of key organizations representing a wide range of
issues and constituencies, including health, education, labor, the environment, and social services.
Press and public education: A major public education effort needs to be launched which can reframe the
debate around telecommunications policy, moving press coverage beyond the business pages and raising
the larger social, cultural, and political issues.
The Center for Media Education is directed by Kathryn C. Montgomery, Ph. D., and Jeffrey Chester.
Contact them at The Future of Television Project, 1012 Heather Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912.
Evelyn Pine Joins CPSR As Managing Director
_ Evelyn Pine is the new Managing Director of CPSR, having joined the staff in April. Evelyn, who is
located in Palo Alto and reports to the organization's Board of Directors, is responsible for the overall
administration of the national organization, including coordination with its offices in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. In addition, she will be responsible for the design and
implementation of a long-range organizational development plan.
For ten years, Evelyn has worked to ensure that a broad range of individuals and groups have an
opportunity to make meaningful use of electronic technology. She comes to CPSR from a stint as the
Executive Director of The Community Memory Project, the first participatory, public access computer
network. While there, she encouraged seniors, low income families and at-risk youth to use the
network located in Berkeley, California, to share information and discuss crucial issues. As Deputy
Director of the Foundation for Community Service Cable TV, she worked with local governments,
schools, and social service organizations to create local programming to enhance community
communications. She is co-author of two books, including Community Channels, Free Speech and the
Members and friends of CPSR can contact Evelyn at the CPSR National Office at (415) 322-3778.
Community Memory Project Serves Berkeley Evelyn PineÑCPSR Managing Director
The Community Memory Project is a small, nonprofit corporation in Berkeley, California, whose
purpose is to enhance and encourage full participation and free expression in society by providing and
promoting tools through which individuals and groups can share knowledge, opinions, resources, and
One of the ways the organization meets its mandate is through projects demonstrating that easy-to-use
local telecommunications networks can encourage participation by the entire community.
Telecommunications technology has been explored extensively in business and academic settings, but
applications to community settings are only beginning to be tested.
The group was founded by Lee Felsenstein and Efrem Lipkin in the early seventies, when they created a
number of experiments as simple as taking computers into the streets so anyone could use them. After a
number of small experiments, they decided in the late seventies to incorporate as a nonprofit and
develop their own public access community computer network.
The Project's first major test system ran from July 1984 until November 1988, and supported four
public terminals. CM's experience with that system as well as significant changes in the price and
performance of desktop computers prompted a significant revision in the system's design. This revised
system was deployed beginning in July of 1989, growing to ten terminals by February of 1990.
Although the 1980s were marked by a an enormous increase in the number of people who had access to
computers and the type of information resources they can supply, the Community Memory Project was
concerned that in part this change simply reinforced the split between the information rich and poor.
To encourage those with little access to the technology, the Project worked to make the Community
Memory network non-intimidating.
Community Memory sites are located at the main public library and three branches in Berkeley, at a
senior center, a neighborhood development corporation, an office building which houses nonprofit
groups, a university dormitory and meeting center, and two laundromats. Because over half of the
terminals are situated in institutions that serve
the economically disadvantaged, participants include homeless people, seniors, low income families,
and minority youth--constituencies who might otherwise be barred from participating in community
dialogue and decision-making.
Messages are the basic units of information on the network, and are grouped by topic in "forums." A
message can be included in more than one forum. Since anyone may start a new forum, there are no
restrictions on what subjects or topics people discuss. Anyone who starts a new forum becomes that
forum's host, and gains the authority to purge messages from her forum, thus keeping it topical and
pertinent. Forum hosts also establish recommended index words, although message authors may specify
their own index words for the messages they write.
Messages may be added directly to any forum(s) or attached to a specific message as a direct response to
that message. The opportunity to "talk back" to any message gives rise to conversational interaction. A
response gains a response and long branches of messages grow from a single root message. Within two
years the number of forums exploded from an initial twenty to more than ninety. Some forums are
ongoing. Others are timeboundÑsuch as a forum about the war with IraqÑand eventually fade.
The appearance of the computer was downplayed by enclosing the hardware in blonde wood cabinets that
serve as free-standing kiosks. Modified keyboards featured color-coded basic keys: yellow, red, green,
lilac and blue. Easy-to-read documentation totaling only 150 words, colored to match the appropriate
key, is mounted above the keyboard for quick reference.
Participants can also access a user tutorial which reviews the basic keys and the system's structure. An
on-line help system is also available. The Community Memory system operator also responds to
questions and suggestions and provides technical help to confused users.
The kiosk includes a coin slot similar to ones found on pay phones. Reading messages on line is free.
However, writing a message costs a quarter. All messages are password protected. Moreover, if a
participant writes four messages he gets his fifth for free. The coinbox serves a an effective "nonsense"
No registration is required and "drop-in" use is encouraged. All participants can remain anonymous and
the system operators encourage complete freedom of speech; only the rare messagess which might
encourage harassment are discouraged.
Low cost, durable and easy-to-use, the network currently facilitates dialogue, information-sharing,
and constituency-building. Two thousand people each month use Community Memory to share ideas and
inspirations, exchange goods and services, meet, talk, gossip, debate, and support each other. Over 200
small businesses and community groups use Community Memory to announce meetings, publicize
events, promote services, recruit new members, find volunteers, advertise for staff, and assist in
community organizing. Still the primary users of Community Memory are individuals, who as a rule do
not have computers at home, do not make their living from the manipulation of language, use public
transit, and generally are an atypical group of computer networkers.
A lot of participants use Community Memory as a bulletin board--to post messages about needing a
roommate or selling a bicycle, finding a new employee or promoting child care, gardening, or towing
services. Others use Community memory to track down information from local institutionsÑe.g., to
scan the Berkeley City Council agenda, or to find social service information for seniors or homeless
Participants develop other uses. Berkeley's cable TV consultant answered queries from cable
subscribers as part of her community needs assessment. An Ecology Center board member fielded
questions about recycling. A senior citizen decided that rather than listing local poetry readings
(information easily available elsewhere), he would encourage local poets to publish their work on-
line. In response to the troop build-up before the war with Iraq, Country Joe MacDonald pulled together
a group of veterans to create an interactive War Memorial. An out-of work musician created a
Musician's Exchange to share information about professional opportunities.
People often interact with each other on-line who otherwise would rarely interact. A forum about the
war in the Persian Gulf included comments from both peace activists and Marines. A forum about
University development of Berkeley's controversial People's Park engaged both University of
California students and homeless people.
Some of the most compelling messages are extremely intimate, encouraged by the network's policy of
allowing anonymity. One man who needed a reason to go on living was inundated with suggestions.
Another man who said he'd been avoiding relationships for years, claimed to have fallen in love as a
result of the confidence he gained using the net. A sex worker described her ambivalence about her job
and eventually found other work.
Since the Community Memory Project began testing the potential of community communications
networks, there has been a growing interest in local networks. A few major institutions that can
provide ongoing support and attract outside funds have fronted such systems: The City of Santa Monica's
Public Electronic Network (PEN), Case Western Reserve's FreeNet, as well as less participatory
systems designed as municipal information systems such as the Public Technology Institute's 24 Hour
City Hall are all built on Community Memory's initial experiments.
Community Memory maintains a commitment to an open, participatory, public access network so the
broadest range of people and institutions can create an on-line neighborhood. Community memory
demonstrates that easy-to-use telecommunications can put diverse people in touch with their
communities in ways that revitalize links with neighbors and local institutions. The Community
Memory Project proves that computer technology can enhance community life by providing pertinent,
user-friendly tools which go far beyond word processing, Nintendo or ATM machines.
To contact the Community Memory Project, write The Community Memory Project, 1442A Walnut
Street, Suite 311, Berkeley, CA 94709; telephone (510) 841-1114; or send electronic mail on the
Internet or The Well to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The 1992 CPSR Annual Meeting will be held the weekend of October 17th and 18th at Stanford
University in Palo Alto, California. Please make plans to attend this annual event, at which there will
be speakers and workshops on all of the work CPSR does on socially responsible computing. Detailed
information will be mailed to all CPSR members. If you need more information, contact CPSR National
Office Manager Nikki Draper at (415) 322-3778, or on the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NativeNet Computer Network For and About Native Peoples
Peter d'Errico, Daniel Medina, Gabrielle Tayac, and Gary Trujillo
A Menominee social worker at a shelter for Native American women in Minneapolis, an Ojibway
craftsman running a cooperative in Toronto, a Choctaw activist in Oklahoma dedicated to the release of
Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier, and a Narraganset elder holding to his nation's
traditions in Rhode Island: Last year these individuals met in Washington, D.C., to formulate a project
aimed at achieving sovereignty for their peoples. They could not meet again for another year. How would
they work together in the interim toward the goals they had determined?
Grassroots efforts are vital for Native communities, yet limited financial resources and remote
geographical locations make ongoing interactions difficult. Community activists seldom have resources
for conference calls or travel to planning meetings.
A set of strategically-placed communications nodes, created from inexpensive hardware, user-friendly
software and a reliable maintenance program would permit Native activists to share information and
resources, develop and distribute documents, plan meetings, and conduct discussions. Such a network
could also act as a clearinghouse for information regarding funding opportunities, employment,
scholarships and internships, news of pending legislation and agency information. This vision of
practical computer networking for Native groups and individuals working at the grassroots level
represents one of the most exciting projects now being conceived and developed by members of a global
communication network known as NativeNet.
NativeNet focuses exclusively on American Indians and other indigenous peoples around the world. The
network presently operates by means of several computer-based moderated teleconferences accessed
via Internet mailing lists and by means of bulletin-board systems operated by member organizations of
the global Association for Progressive Communications. (The U.S. affiliate of APC is the Institute for
Global Communications, which operates PeaceNet and EcoNet.) The main NativeNet teleconference has
several hundred subscribers, Native and non-Native, who use it to answer questions, broadcast urgent
action bulletins, publish announcements of conferences, inform one another about new books, films,
and videos, and carry on discussions on historical and contemporary subjects relating to indigenous
peoples. During its nearly three-year history, NativeNet has proved its value and potential for
coordinating communication and disseminating information by and about indigenous peoples of the
The catalyst for NativeNet was a 1989 conference, "From the Arctic to Amazonia: Industrial Nations'
Exploitation of Indigenous Peoples' Land,'' held at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, which
brought together people from every continent to discuss Native land claims and related issues. This
conference demonstrated how much indigenous peoples of the world have in common with one another,
and require better mechanisms for global communication. The conference also inspired an awareness of
the potential for a system of computer communications for Native peopleÑone which does not impose
alien values and processes, and which is designed and implemented primarily by Native people.
NativeNet is currently undergoing crucially important changes, as we seek to sharpen its focus and to
implement a number of projects currently in development. One of these projects involves establishing
separate channels for internal communication among indigenous peoples' organizations. This project
raises important matters of network security, since many issues facing Native communities, such as
land claims and hunting and fishing rights guaranteed under treaties, involve delicate political
questions. Other projects would set up channels for community social service agencies, Native press
organizations, and teachers who are constructing curricula and programs appropriate for use in Native
schools. A long-term goal of a Native schools project now being conceived by means of the education
channel is to provide on-line courses and to link school programs with community needs.
Another potential field of action for NativeNet lies in the area of international human rights. For the
past fifteen years, Native Americans in the United States and Canada have been building networks of
solidarity with other indigenous people worldwide, especially at the hemispheric level, and have
brought human rights issues concerning Native peoples to light on a global scale. A huge body of
information and legal developments have accompanied this burgeoning international movement.
NativeNet could aid this movement by conveying information from communiUes where abuses are
occurring and enable fast, reliable and inexpensive communication among indigenous peoples around the
In order for NativeNet to succeed in achieving its goals, two key elements must be developed: (1) an
organization of Native computer professionals, who, in consultation with Native community leaders,
will guide the development of Native telecommunications; and (2) a support system bringing in people
from the wider community who have technical knowledge and skills which can advance project goals.
Needs include software procurement and development, participation in informal feasibility studies,
technical support, and technology transfer.
For more information about NativeNet, contact Gary S. Trujillo, 43 Jackson Road Somerville, MA
02145; telephone: (617) 776-0121; Internet mail address: email@example.com.
Preserving Native Culture in Post-Industrial Society American Indian Telecommunications George
The mission of American Indian Telecommunications is to promote the use of computers and
telecommunication technology by Indian people in a culturally appropriate manner.
This will be done by supporting the development of appropriate government policies which support
growth in the information sector of tribal economies. Furthermore, AIT will provide technical
assistance and leadership training as well as promote values clarification in telecommunication
The goal of AIT is to empower American Indian populations through computer and communications
technologies and develop the base of technologically literate Indians as a political and social force able to
shape the telecommunications and information services that best serve the needs of local Indian
The widespread proliferation of telecommunications and information technologies has fostered
significant changes in how America Indians live and work. These same changes offer tribal educators and
program developers a double edged sword. On the one hand they provide the opportunity for importation
of the information economy to remote rural areas. On the other, they foster further separation from
tribal culture and values. The design of current technology reflects Western culture's linearity of
thought and text-only orientation; it does not support symbolic or visual thinking. By encouraging and
guiding the evolution of computer human factors that support, rather than dissipate, cultural norms
AIT will help strengthen American Indian cultural unity and independence.
Indian people are at a significant disadvantage in two areas. Without computer and telecommunications
services, we are not able to capture and share our historical and cultural information reliably. Not
only are we not publishing material about ourselves, but also we do not have adequate access to reliable
information from the outside world. This is a serious problem since it affects our health, our economic
development, our education, and almost all those aspects of daily lives which we have in common with
all people. We miss out on opportunities to improve our lot by not being connected to electronic
resources. In the old days, before television, telephone, radio, and fax, Indian children took their
examples for behavior from the elders of the community and the stories that were passed to them.
Today Indian people are increasingly becoming "electronically colonized" by a media explosion that has
disconnected them from the reality of their own tribal communities. In a post-industrial society,
American Indians are today in danger of becoming "techno-peasants" in a two-class society: those who
produce information and are rich and those who are consumers of information and poor. Today, the
fastest growing components of the economy generate and consume information rather than raw
materials. Yet Indian people, like the passengers of the Titanic who argued over the deck chairs,
continue to pursue development policies that depend on the exploitation of our land-base, the earth
mother, and therefore our cultural heritage. We are being forced to eat our seed corn. AIT proposes that
Indian people regain control of the information-based economic forces that directly affect the way we
live. Such control is required for tribal and cultural survival amidst the broader society that threatens
to swamp, by carelessness or worse, our existence as a people.
American Indian Telecommunications is a nonprofit, 501 (c)3 organization (in process) that proposes
a three part plan for technological development:
1. Basic research and technology assessment as well as implementation services for reservation and
2. Values clarification to match appropriate technology to the cultural standards of tribal peoples.
3. Extensive federal/state/tribal government and private sector policy analysis to develop tribal
telecommunications policies and strategies that promote equal access to local and national
AIT is composed of tribal members from across the country possessing substantial technical and
leadership skills. Along with others sharing the vision of local control of information resources AIT
will serve as the bridge between national policy issues and implementation realities.
1. To function solely as a charitable organization that provides and promotes economic development,
health and human services, educational and leadership development through telecommunication and
computer services for American Indian and rural populations.
2. To study the formulation of telecommunications and information policy as it impacts on tribal
culture, values and beliefs.
3. To provide technical assistance and training to reservation and rural communities.
4. To link networks and coalitions of Indian and other organizations, agencies, and individuals in order
to increase educational and human services for their populations.
American Indian Telecommunications invites participation from CPSR members who are interested in
helping serve Native American communities.
To find out more about American Indian Telecommunications, contact Dr. George D. Baldwin, Chairman,
Department of Sociology, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, AR 71923; telephone: (501) 246-
551 1 x3292.
Community Networking on
Big Sky Telegraph
DirectorÑBig Sky Telegraph
The shift from the industrial age to the information age threatens to be very costly in human terms. To
succeed in this global transformation without dire transitional consequences will be a monumental task.
At this time in human history when unprecedented cooperation is needed, we actually have the
technology for mass participation in public life. For the first time in human history, nearly everyone
actually can participate, regardless of age, sex, race, religion, location, time available, and handicap.
The opportunity exists for volunteer participation, from each according to their ability, to each
according to their need. The increased rate of change in today's world, simultaneously marked by the
fragmentation of the family and communities, threatens each of us. Personal computer
telecommunications has the potential to defend each of us from being denied the information necessary
to succeed individually, and to collectively protect our lifestyles and cultures. Community networking
is an idea whose time has come.
During the 1980s, half of the Rocky Mountain ranchers and farmers lost their ranches and farms, in
an age in which a modem-generated, second income might have saved their families' homesteads. Lack of
knowledge of what economic options exist, being an information "have-not," threatens to propel a
person into a class of electronically colonized, "info-poor," techno-peasants. Rural Americans need the
broadest possible "tele-literacy" to know their available options. The technology is already available.
Low-cost notebook microcomputers with modems offer the most affordable, accessible
telecommunications option. But few have yet learned of the capabilities made possible by computer
networking. Personal computer communications is the most versatile telecommunications technology
available for connecting existing resources with human needs. We can begin today with intelligent,
sensitive practical use of microcomputers and common phone lines to realize the potential of
computer-based communication without waiting for expensive "overkill" technologies. The opportunity
is for each community to mobilize resident knowledge, experience, and talent into a proactive
"community knowledge trust." Pro-active librarians are needed to help inform community members on
what information they will most probably need to survive.
Community information systems need to be created to fill in the missing gaps in the "vital" information
currently available in rural communities. Each community has a right to know about shareable
solutions and to act on this knowledge. Edwin Parker's book, Rural America in the Information Age,
states flatly, "The decline in rural America will continue...until rural Americans learn to use
telecommunications technology to be competitive with urban centers."
Citizens of Montana have already established a working model of telecommunications "appropriate
technology" transfer for empowering grassroots efforts through Western Montana College's Big Sky
Telegraph project in Dillon, Montana. High speed personal computer telecommunications and classic
American individualism have brought exciting new low-cost options for i individual involvement on the
global economic and educational frontiers.
Our top-down government and corporate institutions need to be made aware of successful
telecommunications-mediated funding models that have leveraged the ingenuity of rural citizens to
generate a variety of bottom-up initiatives and innovations such as Big Sky Telegraph and other civic/
Bottom-up, on-line microcomputer networks, with global networking capabilities, are now defining
how telecommunications technology best fits the needs of individuals and communities. Despite billions
of dollars invested in telecommunications infrastructure, few dollars are spent teaching citizens their
available options for purposeful use of telecommunications. Nowhere is there a more glaring omission
than with microcomputer telecommunications.
Inexpensive modem communications, using existing personal computers, with access to free local
school-based community bulletin board systems, can dramatically raise the "tale-literacy" of an entire
community. A local bulletin board system with global Internet e-mail exchange capabilities can
prepare a community for the day when ISDN, direct Internet protocol nodes, and/or multimedia
fiberoptic systems become available. There is a very real need to prepare our communities for
emerging information technologies.
Third-graders in Hobson, Montana, (population 200) learn about telecommunications by typing
network messages to new friends in Japan and Australia. Hobson's high school students discuss global
entrepreneurship with their peers in Kamchatka, Russia. A sister community project with the Guangxi
Province in China is under discussion, via e-mail. The Hobson school spends under $50 per month for
There appears to be emerging within the educational technology reform movement an unmistakable
trend toward community outreach, lifelong learning, and integration of the school and community
through the convenience of modem communications. There is a growing emphasis on teaching using real
world problems, and on show casing the community-wide relevance of ongoing K-100 science/ math
learning, particularly as it relates to competitiveness in the global economy.
The challenge is no less than the teaching of a new information-based sociology, changing our culture of
group interaction through the teaching of new communication mediums and behavioral patterns. This
"info-cultural" reeducation must have at its heart mentorship between all levels of community
members, as well as a spirit of motivated community learning, grouped by shared interests.
Learning by modem is something that must be experienced to be understood. Teaching by modem is a
skill anyone can exercise to share their knowledge and expertise on any subject. Could an information
society evolve in any direction other than maximal knowledge sharing? The challenge is how to
comprehensively and effectively teach the creation of, and active participation within, fruitful, virtual
learning communities, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
Big Sky Telegraph has been offering free on-line lessons for four and a half years. Dissemination of
modems and training has been accelerated by Montanans serving as traveling "circuit riders" hosting
community demonstrations; by resident "community telegraphers" sharing their skills locally and
regionally; and by on-line "tele-tutors" offering "high touch" hand-holding for the newly initiated.
We're all kindergartners in the information age, but we must learn the same as kindergartners, with
direct hands-on experience and warm encouragement from those around us.
Every one of us must learn to become an electronic citizen of the information age. We cannot afford the
human costs of letting a percentage of our community members miss out on the survival skills they
need. Master learning and learning partnerships become vitally necessary, and are conveniently
Big Sky Telegraph encourages anyone, anytime, from anywhere, to call in to receive free on-line
lessons, interact with resource persons and librarians, and literally to take ownership of the
opportunity for sharing this technology. With a theme of good-naturedness and common sense, Big Sky
Telegraph is a "friends of friends" network where Montanans jointly explore how to manage
information overload and how to most effectively help one another. Big Sky Telegraph users are
pioneering new ways to rebuild and rehumanize our deteriorating communities through an economy of
caring. "Net-rovers" and "info-scouts" glean quality information from national and international
sources to share with friends at home.
Action is the watchword, marked by the proliferation of low-cost community networks (BBSSs) which
can be installed on PCs, Macs, or Apple iie's located in homes, schools, libraries and businesses. This
approach offers local choices for customization, cultural orientation, and free access to community
discussion forums and information selected for dissemination. The smaller the on-line discussion
group, the more frequent and higher quality the interaction, making community networks the logical
seedbed for innovation, and inevitably branching out to other networks for more expertise and
information as initiatives develop.
The global race for economic leadership will depend on which nations can most quickly and thoroughly
empower their citizens with the equipment, training and vision to fulfill their maximum potential in a
rich info-marketplace. Collections of specific information and services can quickly find a global
market, distributed among widely scattered individuals linked conveniently by asynchronous
Though the potentially huge mass market for information services is still emerging, logic suggests that
fun and friendship would be the most sought out information services; interaction with others in the
uniquely mind-to-mind intimate communications medium. The joy of sharing the reaming experience
is heightened with a sense of united purpose. Growing self-esteem through acquisition of new skills
creates the desire to teach others and a self-perpetuating cycle begins.
Relevant ongoing telecommunicated science and math education must begin to include all community
members and highlight global economics, small scale computerized manufacturing methods, and new
materials and "telepreneurship." Mini-grants to support individuals pursuing innovations in
telecommunications and entrepreneurship could begin a Johnny Appleseed-like reflowering of
American entrepreneurship and "techno-individualism."
The odds are great that five billion individual imaginations, connected and empowered by inexpensive
notebook computers and free public, global telecommunications through local community networks,
could bring forth the liberating collaborations and the promise of educational freedom that electronic
connectivity holds for all humankind. Electronic citizenship in the global community would mean that
everyone would be armed with the facts, and begin each day with the best solutions available through
maximum connectivity at minimum cost.
Here are the working models, in simple terms:
The regional model: Big Sky Telegraph is a 386 microcomputer running UNIX with eight incoming
phone lines. Anyone can call in and learn the economies of long distance interaction. Prime time rates of
25 cents per minute translate to a nickel per page transmission rates at 1200 baud.
Skills emphasized to minimize the costs of on-line time are1) capturing text for off-line reading and
2) uploading prewritten messages and documents. A five dollar weekly phone budget can mean over 80
pages of quality text routinely sent and received in a twenty minute session. A 9600 baud modem drops
costs to under a penny a page at prime time rates. Any group or organization can request an on-line
public conference and/or files area. Individual innovations are actively encouraged. As information
condenses to knowledge, which condenses to wisdom, Big Sky Telegraph's goal is to provide the highest
quality information possible. Most people would far rather have five pages per minute of quality
information than the 500 pages per second of far more expensive technologies.
The local model: A "Tiny Sky" Community network running on a 286 PC, Macintosh or IIe (with hard
disk) can provide an entire community with the option for free local access to whatever information
and discussion conferences The community desires. Automated single, nightly phone calls can exchange
whole conferences and single messages with other community systems and the Internet. Such a system
can be used for proprietary, encrypted, global trade communications with individuals using a similar
local community network. This type of "seed" system is only the first stepin the evolution of more
sophisticated networks and technologies, the pace of which will be dictated by economics.
A community system is as changeable as a document on an individual's word processor. A community
system canbecome a living electronic journal of a community's struggle for identity and success,
co-authored daily by the citizens themselves.
The off-line reader: A class of students can line up at their school-based BBS and individually insert
their disks to quickly receive all new messages in their selected conferences. Students can then go to
their microcomputer workstations to read incoming messages and write responses. At the end of the
period students can reinsert their disks and the BBS can hold their outgoing correspondence until
midnight when it would make the single nightly phone call to exchange information globally, a system
that should cost under $50 per month. This model could serve an entire community, until residential
PCs are acquired, through a public library or office.
The individual model: Not everyone wants to be a computer telecommunications whiz, but many people
aspire to be writers, teachers, or at least to have their opinions known. A ``point disk" can simply be
inserted in a PC and a single command given. The disk would initiate an on-line call, pickup all new
messages in selected conferences and send any messages held on the disk. Upon completion of the
automated call, the user would read new messages, and respond off-line, directly onto the disk, using
the disk word processor. Then the initial command would be repeated and messages would be
automatically sent. "Writing for Social Responsibility" (WiSeR) software programs using such "point
disks" could enlist the talents of any community member with almost no training.
The global Internet is expected to be open to commercial traffic by October, 1992. All the above models
will be compatible with Internet e-mail exchange.
Somewhere, someday, the following `'next step idea" will flower: the need exists for a comprehensive
community networking research project to implement the above and evaluate the effectiveness.
A hometown example: Two hundred laptops distributed across the town of Dillon, Montana (Population:
4,000) seeding the health, economic development, educational, and public service communities, with
the necessary tools, connections, and an abundance of friendly one-on-one mentorship over a two-year
period, could be an opportunity to "make-the-case" about the real benefits Internet access might bring
to a community.
With the help of Western Montana College, an innovative, technologically-equipped four-year teachers
college, (and home of Big Sky Telegraph,) Dillon could be the first community-wide, purposeful
implementation of global Internet information, showcasing whether or not such connectivity can truly
translate to community benefit. I believe the hardscrabble practicality of Montanans has much to teach.
For more information you may request the following files via poor man's FTP (send me a message
telling me what you want, and I'll e-mail it to you. Send requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
BST's Fall 1991-Spring 1992 update BST's Final Report for US West
Cynthia Denton's Russell Country BBSÑA community BBS case study.
A Technical Summary of Big Sky Telegraph's systems.
Big Sky Telegraph is accessible by 1200 baud modem at (406) 683-7680.
Reinventing Government Through Multimedia
In their best-selling book, Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming
the Public Sector, David Osborne and Ted Gaebler suggest that the centralized bureaucracies that
developed during the industrial age do not work well in the society and economy of the 1990s. "Today's
environment demands institutions that are flexible and adaptable. It demands institutions that deliver
high quality goods and services, that are responsible to their customers, offering choices of non-
standard services; that lead by persuasion and incentives rather than commands; that give their
employees a sense of meaning and control, even ownership. It demands institutions that empower
citizens rather than simply serve them."
In this book, Osborne and Gaebler use many examples of governmental pioneers who are beginning to
shape a new form of government through technology, creative partnerships, and entrepreneurial
efforts. The authors could have easily added California to their list of pioneers. California is
reinventing and revitalizing government through a number of projects focused on new and innovative
approaches to service delivery in the 1990s.
On April 29, 1992, the impact of the Los Angeles riots was felt throughout the world. By May 26th,
residents of the riot-torn community were given fast, easy access to an important component of Los
Angeles' recovery effort, a program called the L.A. Project. This is a special multimedia program
designed to assist Los Angeles residents affected by the riots. Through public information computer
kiosks donated by an ad hoc group of business and government leaders, residents now have ready access
to government and community services delivered efficiently and with a minimum of red-tape.
The L.A. Project, working in cooperation with state, county, and city officials, placed a number of
computer terminal kiosks throughout the riot-affected community to advise residents in English and
Spanish about where to find food, clothing, shelter, counseling, job placement and training, small
business assistance, and other services. These user-friendly systems also provide potential volunteers
and donors with information on how they can contribute to the L.A. rebuilding effort.
The L.A. Project is an innovative example of government using technology to respond to the needs of a
community. There are thousands of people in Los Angeles who need assistance and thousands of concerned
citizens and volunteers who would like to assist those in need. The L.A. Project provides a unique
opportunity to bring these people together through the use of information technology. The L.A. Project
is a natural continuation of the State of California's recent efforts to provide new ways of bringing
government information and services to communities through the Info/California Advanced Technology
Info/California represents an effort by the State of California to help contain the escalating costs of
government services and to direct government resources more productively. In the past, governments
added staff or built remote offices to meet the growing needs of a community. Due to the current
economic climate and the state's fiscal difficulties, this traditional approach is no longer an acceptable
solution. Info/California is an alternative approach to traditional service delivery. It uses advanced
touchscreen computer technology to make it easier for citizens to deal with the government and to make
government services less expensive to administer.
Info/CaliforniaÑa multi-lingual, "intelligent" systemÑcan be placed anywhere. It is a multimedia,
transaction based, "ATM-Iike" computer terminal kiosk designed specifically for government services.
Through an Info/California terminal, the public has access to a variety of services, such as employment
referral through "Job Match." "Job Match" allows users to match their qualifications with available
jobs free of charge. An application can be completed at the kiosk, and the service registers the applicant
for an interview at the nearest Employment Development Department. Users can also order birth
certificates and pay for the service using a credit or debit card. Future plans include transactions for
renewal of automobile registration.
During the first two months of operation, 36,445 people used one of the fifteen Info/California kiosks.
Most of the use, 57%, occurred outside of regular state government office hours. From 44,660 job
match searches, 10,007 job match pre-applications were issued. Of the users asked to evaluate the
system's services, 82% of those responding found the system easy to use, and 49% said it saved them a
telephone call, a letter, or a trip to a government office.
Info/California is one of the most comprehensive endeavors of its kind in the nation, and it is being
closely monitored by other state and local officials, and the federal government. It is an excellent
example of government responsiveness and foresight in the delivery of services.
Info/California was developed in partnership with the State of California, IBM and North
Communications (an IBM business partner). IBM and North have developed a number of multimedia
solutions for government made possible by the IBM/North "Info/Media" platform. "Info/ Media" kiosks
are popular with both the public and government officials. Users like the one-stop shopping
convenience for government transactions, along with the confidentiality and a choice of languages.
Government officials like the way Info/Media terminals save time and money and stretch tight budgets.
With "Info/Media," governments can take a first step, among many, towards reinventing government
for the 1990s.
Shirley Matthews is a manager in the Public Sector Industry Marketing division of IBM, and she is one
of the principal architects of Info/California and the L.A. Project. She can be reached at (301) 571-
Audiotext System Leverages Telephone Ubiquity
Touch-tone telephones are the most widely available, best-networked computer terminals. They don't
have screens and their keyboards have only twelve buttons, but they can be surprisingly useful for
remote access to information. Any civic networking project would do well to at least consider ways to
leverage this resource. the Boston Peace and Justice Events Hotline [(617) 787-6809] is one simple
but effective phone-based community information service is. Callers can listen to announcements of
upcoming events and can add new announcements over the phone. Each announcement has a headline and
callers can always interrupt and skip over announcements, in effect scanning for events that interest
them. The service runs on a PC-AT compatible with a hardware card from Natural Microsystems and
software that I developed as part of Ph.D. research.
The events hotline was most heavily used during the Gulf War. The MIT Initiative for Peace passed out
leaflets advertising the service at public rallies. Usage quickly built to more than seventy calls per day
and the emcee at one large city-wide rally billed the service as the best source of up-to-date
information about anti-war activities. It was even featured in a National Public Radio story about how
the student anti-war movement was well-organized if not popular. After the Gulf War, usage declined to
about eight calls per days. A local activist, Charlie Welch, took over administration and publicity for
the service and broadened its scope beyond anti-war activities. Since then, usage has slowly climbed to
about fifteen calls per day. Typically, there are ten to fifteen announcements of upcoming events (fewer
in the summer) and there are now more than twenty recordings about regular meetings and other
information sources, such as how to listen to Radio Free Maine. People often comment that they like the
non-professional quality of the voices they hear. Censorship policies were a major concern when we
initiated the service, but turned out to be less important than we expected. After Lyndon Larouche front
organizations posted a couple of event announcements and other people posted warnings about those
organizations, we set an official policy: any group could post a recording, as long as it announced an
event that was open to the public, it clearly stated the sponsoring organizations, and it gave a phone
number that people could call for more information. We have almost never had to remove a message.
Events calendars give just a hint of the potential value of telephone-based bulletin boards.
I have recently set up an issue discussion system, which is a cross between computer conferencing and
a radio talk show. You can call (617) 25U-TALK to hear how MIT students are reacting to it. A number
of commercial vendors have introduced homework hotline products to increase parent-teacher
communication. My original impetus for working on these technologies was a plan, developed with Mel
King, a well-known Boston black community activist and politician, for a telephone-accessible
community information center, called the Rainbow Pages, complete with classified ads and a community
scoreboard. Other ambitious projects are also in the works, such as a Davis, California, civic network
planned by Kari Peterson that will utilize computer and telephone-based conferencing and community
access cable TV. Text-based computer conferencing has evolved slowly over the past fifteen years.
Voice- based computer conferencing is newer. Both users and designers of these systems will need time
to adapt to the possibilities of the medium. While most computer professionals are very proficient with
text, we should keep open minds about the opportunities that voice-based systems present, especially
given the ubiquity of telephones.
Paul Resnick is a member of CPSR/Boston. The audiotext service described in this article can be
accessed through the telephone number (617) 787-6809.
FBI Endangering Privacy for All Marc Rotenberg CPSR Washington Office Director
If the FBI has its way, all communications vendors will soon be special agents, and nothing traveling
across phone lines will be safe. Contending that new telecommunications technology will make
wiretapping -more difficult, the FBI would like to ensure that all communications equipment sold in
the U.S. can be wiretapped. Yes, seriously. It has proposed an elaborate licensing scheme that would be
administered by the FCC. Companies that fail to comply with the FBl's rules would face stiff fines. Non-
complying equipment would be prohibited by law. This is the heavy hand of government at its most
leaden. The FBI's proposal is poorly conceived and should be rejected.
Putting Last Things First
First, by law, wire surveillance is considered "an investigative method of last resort." The 1968 law
that permits the government to intercept electronic communications sets out elaborate procedures to
restrict the scope of surveillance. Law enforcement agents seeking warrants for a wiretap are first
required to demonstrate that all other investigative methods have been exhausted or could be expected to
fail. Agents are then required to indicate the duration of the surveillance, the materials sought and the
methods they will employ to minimize scope of the surveillance. The reason for these precautions is
simple. Wire surveillance is far more intrusive than other types of criminal investigations and more
prone to abuse. To treat an investigative method of last resort as a design goal of first consideration is to
stand wiretap law in this country on its head.
Honesty Not Only Policy
Beyond that, the risk to network reliability is extraordinary. The FBI proposal works only if the
bureau can ensure that no one but agents acting pursuant to lawful warrants will use the technologyÑ
and this is a pipe dream. FBI employees were recently arrested for selling confidential information in
the bureau's National Crime Information Center. But the FBI's problems with computer security go way
beyond the sale of confidential records. A recent audit report prepared by the Office of Inspector
General at the U.S. Department of Justice found major internal control weaknesses with the FBI's
computer systems. According to the report, the FBI cannot account for more than 2,000 pieces of
automatic data processing equipment, some of which may contain sensitive data and that cost
approximately $14 million. Another problem is that the FBI's proposal will almost certainly lead to
more wire surveillance in the U.S. While the FBI claims that it merely wants to maintain the "status
quo," it's clear that the goal is to facilitate remote wiretapping, a type of one-stop shopping for
electronic surveillance. This is pretty much what the Stasi (secret police) had going in East Germany.
Finally, the FBI proposal may raise difficult ethical issues for individuals in the computer profession.
The Association for Computing Machinery code is very clear on the responsibility of professionals in
the computer industry to protect the privacy of the public in the design of information systems. The FBI
contends that, if it is not given this new authority, it will fall behind on the technology front. This is
hard to fathom. For the past decade, the FBI has spent lavishly on new technologies, even as other
agencies were cutting budgets. The Automated Fingerprint Identification System will cost taxpayers
more than $600 million. The genetic database project, which the National Research
Council recently blasted, will cost more than $100 million. We're not talking about leaving the bureau
with paper cups and a ball of twine.
No Back-Room Deals
One solution now under consideration in Washington is to encourage the FBI and the telecommunication
companies to work out an agreement to "accommodate" the bureau's needs. But this is not the way to
make public policy. Public oversight of communications policy remains crucial, particularly in this
area, and back-room deals create their own problems. Credit Congressman Jack Brooks (D-Texas) for
holding hearings this past week to look at the FBI's proposal. Good communications infrastructure
requires privacy protection. Without a secure infrastructure, every message that moves access the
public network is vulnerable.
This article appeared in the May 11, 1992 issue of Computerworld. CPSR Washington Office Director
Marc Rotenberg then debated FBI Director William Sessions on the May 22 edition of the ABC News
program Nightline. Transcripts of the Nightline program are available for $4 from Nightline
Transcripts, Journal Graphics, 1535 Grant St., Denver CO 80203; (303) 831-9000. A video of the
Nightline program is available for $ 14.98 plus $3.95 shipping and handling from MPI Home Video.
Cyberspace and Everyday Life Book Review
Steven E. MillerÑCPSR/Boston
Cyberspace: First Steps, edited by Michael Benedikt, The MIT Press, 1992.
Once, when she was about two, my daughter got trapped inside a tempertantrum. In enormous misery
she sat on the floor yearningly holding out her arms for her mother while saying "Leave me alone.
Leave me alone."
I feel the same way about cyberspace. It both beckons and repels. My flesh quivers and my stomach gets
queasy. Is this Shangri-La or a siren song?
Cyberspace: First Steps is a collection of 15 essaysÑmost from 1990's First Conference on Cyberspace
in Austin, Texas, in 1990Ñexploring the construction, logic, mean cyberspace. I particularly liked the
anecdote about how a severely handicapped person was able to connect with someone else through the
shift of perspective that computers allow. But the writers are generally more excited by the existential
issues of cyberspace's never-never land than with such mundane specifics. Flying with Pan must seem
more exciting than Special Education.
What Is Real?
Still, the book raises fundamental questions. In cyberspace, "virtual appearances are completely
arbitrary" so that identity is a matter of choice. Perhaps we will finally confront the Platonic ideals,
the Jungian archetypes, and the cultural essences buried beneath our fleshy distortions. The book
contains a story about a man who adopted a network persona of a recluse woman, established numerous
relationships with other people, and (like Dustin Hoffman's "Tootsie") provoked much outrage when his
true identity was discovered. Here is a glimmer of another kind of transcendence: perhaps this
"cross-dressing" capability can be also used to break through the racial, cultural, age, economic and
other boundaries that have separated us from each other.
On the other hand, the advertising and entertainment industries already act as if perception is
synonymous with reality. And their actions have helped make it true; as if truth is to be found in the
images reflected back at us from the glossy surfaces of their products. In recent years, the
Reagan/Bush administrations have made perceptual manipulation a defining aspect of political life.
Cyberspace promises to carry this much further because, points out Meredith Bricken, "in cyberspace,
appearance is reality." Perhaps Andy Warhol was the true prophet of cyberspace. But can virtual soup
cans feed the hungry? And what if cyberspace is just another step in capitalism's continuing efforts to
turn more and more of our existence into marketable commodities?
Living in the Material World
Allucquere Stone points out that human existence, even in cyberspace, "originates in, and must return
to, the physical....life is lived through bodies." No matter how far our minds may roam, we are children
of the earth. Cyberspace visionaries claim that the mind-body split will be overcoming by giving
virtual attributes to information, by letting the mind think it is interacting with physical objects.
Their vision is a radical departure from all previous approaches, substituting the integration of body
into mind for the more traditional effort to integrate the mind into the body. For myself, I know that
my back hurts when I'm tense. Running makes me calm. Sex contributes to intimacy. I'm not quite ready
to take a long leap from the solidity of what is known to the uncertain safety of a virtual landing
Even if I trusted the transition, I'm not sure that its a desirable move. Perhaps I'm just an evolutionary
conservative, tied down by my body meat into old forms of being. But I agree with Tim McFadden in
"Notes On The Structure Of Cyberspace and the Ballistic Actors Model" that it may not be possible to
"completely describe...the mindbody as information and algorithms...[meaning that] life is a
machine...[So we are capable of] creating 'consciousness' equivalent to that of ordinary world
bodyminds...[and that] everything, including mind, is information...." We exist as "beings in the
world," and its not clear that it will ever be possible to create an information system capable of
capturing the totality of that experience.
The Golden Rule: He Who Owns the Gold Makes the Rules
Even more worrisome is the extent to which human reality is already being confined to rule-bound
system limits. Nature, as we are just beginning to understand, is the realm of indeterminacy and chaos.
However, in the narrower confines of human social existence there is a constant battle over who makes
the rules. It is a battle waged on all fronts and all levels in individuals, families, groups, and countries.
Ultimately, the struggle is about controlling the context within which we interpret the past, live in the
present, and lay a foundation for the future. If you control the context, you control the range of
possibilities within it. You control not only what is, but what can be even what can be imagined. Truly
hegemonic control makes the status quo invisible by transforming it from a human creation into the
natural order, from a social choice into an unchangeable inevitability. There are no alternative visions,
no alternative dreams, no chance to change the rules.
In this light, cyberspace is a tool for totalitarians. Cyberspace visionaries see it becoming an open-
ended, mutually created, participatory environment. But I think their optimism is clouding their
judgment. Exactly because it is "virtual," someone, somehow, has to create and maintain the
environment. Chip Morningstar and Randall Farmer have had more experience than most of the book's
contributors in actually creating publicly accessible virtual environments. In "The Lessons of
Lucasfilm's Habitat," they express the book's clearest understanding that "cyberspace is defined more
by the interactions among the actors within it than by the technology with which it is implemented."
But perhaps it is no accident that they are also among the most explicit in acknowledging the
fundamentally defining role of the system developer.
So, for the foreseeable future, perhaps forever, cyberspaces will exist as ruled-based, centrally
controlled systems. In fact, the more flexible and seemingly open ended it appears to participants the
more dangerously hidden will be the "invisible hand,, of the sysop. As Ms. Stone points out,
~cyberspace can be viewed as a toolkit for reconfiguring consciousness in order to permit things to
goon in much the same way."
How do our concepts of free will survive in this environment? Privacy is the least of what we risk
when we turn all of existence into information; a scary thought in this era of declining tolerance. And
the risks grow higher because of the commercialization process that is shaping the new technologies.
The Commercialization Cycle
Many new technologies go through a series of developmental stages that shape their usefulness as
instruments of progressive social change.
1) When a technology is first invented there is a period of experimentation. There is a certain amount
of diffusion through professional networks. But this is typically a relatively quiet stage.
2) If the technology meets a real need it starts to spread. Various pioneers start applying it to new
tasks. It is at this stage that some people begin seeing the potential implications of the new tool. Visions
of how the technology might transform social, economic, emotional, international, and other
relationships begin circulating. It is an exciting and somewhat utopian stage that supports the technical
community's need to feel that they are contributing to human progress and also serves to make a
broader audience aware of the new invention. Those of us who lived through the earliest years of the PC
remember those heady days.
3) At this point, the technology starts attracting capital investors. Their interest is, quite properly, in
maximizing their return. So the aspects of the technology that move from research to development to
production are those that are most quickly and non-disruptively profitable. In this context, the daily
series of decisions needed to bring something to market serves to slowly narrow the subversive
possibilities of the technology. This is not to say that the new product won't catalyze change, just that
those changes won't change any fundamental power relationships in the surrounding society.
Ironically, this is also the stage when the media starts giving wider play to the "exciting potential" of
the technology at the same time that real-word implementation begins to narrow the focus.
4) The successful and widespread introduction of a new technology may require some serious
restructuring and disruption of particular special interests. For example, the growth of PCs has pulled
the bottom out of the minicomputer market and undercut the authority of corporate MIS departments.
But, in general, the process of successful commercialization requires that the technology be
institutionalized and incorporated into established hierarchies. PCs were brought into offices exactly
because they were personal and freed workers from the confines of central systems. However, for many
office workers the introduction of electronic workstations has primarily meant a reduction in job
flexibility, obsolescence of traditional skills, constant monitoring, and reduced opportunity for upward
mobility. By this stage of the commercialization cycle most of a new technology's democratic potential
has been engineered out, actively repressed, or marginalized to inconsequential aspects of life.
5) Occasionally, a technology goes through the process and becomes so integrated into every day life
that opportunity arises on the other side. For example, telephones are now ubiquitous. Because of this,
there are ways to use telephone lines for grassroots communications. Similarly, for the minority of
cable systems that allow community access, TV is another potential vehicle for horizontal
The Cutting Edge: Guns, Sex, and Speculation The cynics rule is "he who has the power makes the rules."
So it shouldn't be surprising that the primary patron of cyberspace development is the Pentagon. But
the cynic's corollary is "follow the money," so neither is it surprising that the high rolling
entertainment industry is the second most important source of funding. And I will not be surprised if
the area of entertainment that eventually takes the lead has some connection with sex. The home VCR
phenomena got its first major boost from the market for porn movies. The application that gave the
French Minitel system its first mass audience was prostitution. Just as the illegality of drugs is exactly
what makes it such an attractive market, the illicit status of professional titillation keeps profit
margins high and provides the money (and the motivation) to finance expensive new distribution
But the really big money is in financial speculation, otherwise known as international banking. They
have the most sophisticated international networks, the most powerful applications. They, and their
retainers in the legal profession, will find the useful (to them) aspects of cyberspace and bring those
aspects to full flower.
I look forward to playing cyberspace games in the video parlors, or even in my home. I'm sure that
future teams of high tech professionals will be more productive as a result of their augmented virtual
meetings. But I doubt that cyberspace applications will be developed in order to help disenfranchised
people gain collective power.
Plan B: Attack of the Smart Objects
In fact, CPUs have already crept into our lives; not through virtual realities but through smarter
everyday appliances. In "Making Reality A Cyberspace," Wendy Kellogg, John Carroll, and John
Richards predict that "augmenting [every day] reality" rather than creating "enclosed, simulated
reality" is the preferable road to cyberspace. As if to confirm their predictions, Popular Science
magazine recently published an article describing three new systems designed to connect the currently
dispersed appliances of our homes into a programmable network. Kellogg's group goes further,
proposing the creation of Al-augmented intelligent assistants that would work in the background to
support our daily activities.
Like a virus, microchips have already spread from computers to cars, from TVs to refrigerators, from
microwaves to thermostats and everything else. In this case, the Pentagon's sponsorship of
miniaturization has had commercial dividends. But will this go all the way to cyberspace? It's not clear
if anyone needs it enough to cover the development costs. Therefore, unless it arrives as a spinoff of
some other initiative, I doubt that "home as cyberspace" will get beyond the science fiction stage. On the
other hand, this is the most likely cyberspace infiltration route into every day reality.
Seize the Time
While the commercialization process sets limits on what can be accomplished under our present system
of predatory capitalism, there are ways to push out the realm of the possible. The stronger the
democratic forces in a society, the more they've become attached to the positive visions of the
technology's potential, the more those progressive visions will be realized.
Technical professionals, such as the members of CPSR, cannot create such a democratic movement. But
they can provide expertise. They can translate technology into English. New technologies open new
possibilities, which open the door to new visions. So one role for professionals is to help paint visions
that are engaging enough to attract the attention and commitment of larger numbers of people.
In this sense, visionsÑmythsÑdo shape the world. Mao Tse Tung, who knew a thing or two about power,
called ideology a material force. Our assumptions shape our perceptions, which affect our actions,
which change the worldÑeven if the results are seldom what we originally intended, and even if the
context doesn't allow us to fully realize our desires.
Right now, in the formative stages of cyberspace technology, there is an opportunity to inject a
different vision. And this is where the book is least helpful. It has lots of warnings about potential
dangers. Meredith Brackin summarizes many of them by saying, "There is no doubt that cyberspace is
empowering; but exactly who is being empowered [and] for what purpose?"
But we need much more than warnings of dangers and anecdotes of possibilities. Now, before the
technology has already been shaped to fit oppression's hierarchies, we need full blown visions that can
guide and motivate us in a more humanistic direction. Visions based on the wisdom of the women's
movement that we are all shaped by the caring we provide for others and ourselves. Visions based on the
environmental movement's insight that we are part of nature rather than outside it. Visions based on
community organizers' insights that human beings are fundamentally social and it is only our
connection with each other that keeps us from destroying ourselves.
For all the book's talk about magic, there is little about morality, much less religion. At least Timothy
Leary understood that LSD unlocked spiritual dimensions as well as chemical ones. Who will be our
guides to the spiritual challenges we face in this new environment? We need visions based on religion's
understanding that we need to see ourselves as embodying meanings bigger than ourselves.
Where are the visions describing how cyberspace can empower neighborhoods, help workers control
production, help a diverse world achieve mutual respect, keep consumers from becoming commodity
slaves? Is there any way that cyberspace can help create a better balance between the market-driven
and the human-need driven parts of our existence?
Chip Morningstar and Randall Farmer call for using "the computational medium to augment the
communication channels between real people." Isn't it ironic, and sad, that their article describes an
entertainment industry project!
In Gibson's stories, cyberspace is an extension of "real" existence. No one lives there; it is merely one
of the "back rooms,' for the functioning of a society that Gibson portrays as brutal, oppressive,
hierarchical, and prejudiced. It's very starkness is a critique of where Gibson believes our current
society is heading and a cry to help in creating better alternatives. If we can't even envision it, we will
never find our way there.
Back to the Future
At this point, my son comes into the room and hugs me, wanting attention. I have no doubts about what is
more important, more satisfying, more real: the space I'm playing with inside the computer or the
person in front of me whose love has helped make my life worthwhile. I reach for the power switch....
Steve Miller is a new At-Large Member of the CPSR Board Of Directors and he lives in Cambridge,
"Inside CPSR" is a recent addition to The CPSR Newsletter. Its purpose is to supplement the main body
of the newsletter, informing members about what is going on in the national organization and in the
chapters. For content, especially on chapter and regional activities, we rely on our members. Send
news items for future issues to email@example.com. "Inside CPSR" is edited by a rotating staff
of editors: Doug Schuler, Jeff Johnson, Paul Hyland, and Ivan Milman. This issue was edited by Paul
Hyland, and features contributions from Sam Bates, Judi Clark, Nikki Draper, Ed Frankenberry,
Rodney Hoffman, Jeff Johnson, Lesley Kalmin, Michael Merritt, Erik Nilsson, Amy Pearl, Armin
Roeseler, and Doug Schuler.
Recent Foundation Grants
CPSR received a $5,000 grant from the Stern Family Fund to help organize the first meeting of
Privacy International, a new international human rights organization, based in Sydney, Australia. The
meeting was held on March 17 in Washington, D.C., just before the Second Conference on Computers,
Freedom, and Privacy. More than forty privacy advocates and human rights activists came from as far
as the Philippines, Spain, and Australia.
On a related and much sadder note, Philip Stern, a longtime supporter of CPSR and head of the Stern
Family Fund, passed away in June. Phil Stern gave CPSR about $50,000 over the last seven years. He
was a noted philanthropist, social activist, critic, journalist, and author who lived in Washington, D.C.
He will be sorely missed; he was a great inspiration to several generations of public interest activists.
CPSR Scheduled Events
Upcoming CPSR events for 1992:
October 17-18: CPSR Annual Meeting; Palo Alto, CA
November 6-8: Second conference on Participatory Design of Computer Systems (PD.C. '92);
For additional information on any of these events, contact CPSR (415) 322-3778,
CPSR Board of Directors elections were concluded in late May. Steve Miller of CPSR/Boston was elected
Director-At-Large, replacing Ronni Rosenberg, also of Boston. Aki Namioka was elected Northwest
Regional Representative, replacing Doug Schuler. Aki has been a longtime activist in the Seattle chapter
of CPSR. Jim Davis was elected as Western Regional Representative. Jim will replace Lesley Kalmin,
who will remain on the Board as CPSR Treasurer. The next Board meeting will be in October, after the
Annual Meeting, in Palo Alto, California.
CPSR Makes a Big Impression at CHI'92
Every year, the Association of Computing Machinery holds a conference on Computer-Human
Interaction (CHI). This is the largest annual gathering of people who work on making computers easier
to use. This year, the CHI'92 conference was held from May 4-7 in Monterey. CPSR was represented at
the CHI'92 conference by having an information table there.
The week before the conference, information science professor and CPSR member Christine Borgman of
UCLA, who lives just outside of South Central Los Angeles, sent an e-mail message to several colleagues
around the country describing the situation there. Her letter prompted Professor Ben Shneiderman, a
well-known CHI researcher and author and also a CPSR member, to approach CHI'92 co-Chair Jim
Miller (another CPSR member), with the idea that
the conference should not nun its course without at least acknowledging the distressing external events.
Even though the King beating, trial, and subsequent riots weren't particularly computer-related,
Shneiderman felt that ignoring them would constitute heads in the sand, and that this would be not only
morally wrong, but unwise in the long run. He thus suggested a special discussion session at CHI. Jim
Miller suggested that Jeff Johnson (CPSR Chair) help organize it, so Ben and Jeff met to decide how lo
orient and structure the session. They decided to make it into an opportunity for people to share ideas
about how individuals and companies can get involved in social issues and help address social inequities.
Their premise was that many people are angry, upset, concerned, scared, etc. about what is happening
in society, but they don't know what to do other than to vote for or against this or that politician. They
wanted to provide a "ciearinghouse" for ideas about what to do: volunteer work, support for charitable
organizations, political activism, donations of computers or computer training time, etc. In addition to
asking people to share ideas verbally at the session, they decided to pass out a suggestion form that
CPSR would collect; the responses would then be assembled into a report, which would be distributed to
everyone who attended. Jeff created the form and ran off a few copies to cover the expected audience of
The next morning, at the conference's opening plenary session, Jim Miller announced the special
session, saying that it would be held at noon that same day. Despite the short notice, conflict with lunch,
and lack of direct relevance to the conference, approximately 300 people showed up. Professors
Shneiderman and Borgman opened the session by reading her message and describing their reactions.
Jeff followed up by talking about growing up in South Central L.A., experiencing the Watts riots, being
stopped by police, and he described how the quality of life there has not improved in 25 years, but
rather has gotten much worse. Jeff also talked about the some of the work CPSR is doing.
Ben and Jeff then asked people to get up and talk about what they do, have done, or plan to do to address
social ills. They also asked people to talk about what companies can do. At first, people were shy about
speaking before the crowd, but by the end of the hour, more people were lined up to speak than there
was time for. Some of what they talked about were ideas on how people can use their technical skills to
address social problems and some were just ideas about how to be of service to the community.
About 110 suggestion forms were collected. CPSR is currently preparing a report based upon the
After the session, the CPSR booth was jammed, most of the informational materials brought along were
cleaned out. Fortunately, new supplies arrived that day from the Palo Alto office. During the rest of the
conference, traffic at the table was noticeably greater than is usual at conferences, and several CHI'92
attendees said that they really appreciated the discussion session.
CPSR Booth at Conferences
The success of the CPSR booth at CHI'92 shows that having a CPSR table or booth at computer industry
or academic conferences is a good way to let more computer professionals know about the organization.
If you plan to attend a conference, consider volunteering some time at the CPSR table or, if no one else
is doing it, arrange for a CPSR table or CPSR information to be there. If volunteers are available to
staff the table, they can answer questions, collect membership forms, and sell CPSR posters,
publications, and T-shirts; otherwise, just having an unstaffed table containing free information under
a CPSR sign is valuable. Information for distribution at conferences is available on request from the
Palo Alto office, (415) 3223778 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CPSR Washington Office publishes an electronic newsletter called CPSR Alert. The purpose of the
newsletter is to keep CPSR members and other subscribers informed on the activities of CPSR's
Privacy and Civil Liberties program. If you are not receiving CPSR Alert and would like to, send e-mail
Several chapters also have electronic newsletters, for example the excellent CPSR/PDX newsletter
produced by CPSR Portland. Whenever possible, these will be distributed via the listserv or at least
archived there; there will also be sample issues of other online newsletters or digests that might be of
interest to the CPSR community.
CPSR Berkeley has set up an online conference on the electronic conferencing system known as The
Well; the conference is called "CPSR." It contains ongoing discussions on various topics of interest to
the CPSR community, as well as the Freedom, Privacy, and Technology Special Interest Group run by
CPSR/Berkeley and the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group; there are also several files archived there.
For more information, contact Judi Clark at email@example.com.
Internet FTP Archives
There are also several internet File Transfer Protocol (FTP) archives at sites around the country. The
Boston chapter maintains one at the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cambridge office, for which EFF
has been nice enough to provide some support. The address is ftp.eff.org. The Washington, D.C. chapter
also has en FTP archive that can be reached at Ihc.nlm.nih.gov. If you have Internet access, you can
reach either of these via ftp, and then
cd/pub/cpsr (to change to the CPSR directory) Is (to list the files)
get <remote.filename> <local.filename> (to retrieve a file)
Ask your system administrator for assistance with FTP, if necessary.
Other Electronic Initiatives
Several chapters have electronic mail redistribution lists, some of which are not restricted to
members, for discussions and announcements of interest to their community. Other chapters have FTP,
and at least one is experimenting with a UNIX e-mail archive server. Further, we are seeking someone
willing to moderate a Usenet newsgroup that will mirror the Bitnet listserver, and also looking for
on UNIX Listserv software and other potentially useful platforms. Watch this column for updates on
enhancements to our electronic presence, and see the GWU Listserv archive for more extensive
information (soon) about electronic information resources. Contact Paul Hyland at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (301)559-2427 for more information or suggestions regarding this
growing area of communication for CPSR.
The Berkeley chapter, with its small number of leaders, continues to break new ground in offering
guidance and new resources to the public. Early in May, the chapter hosted the Directions and
Implications in Advanced Computing (DIAC) conference (see story on page 1 of this newsletter). During
the two-day event, the chapter sponsored open demonstrations of the WELL bulletin board and a
MUDDING System. (MUD stands for Multi-User Dimensions, among other names. It is a text-based
"place" for human interactions via modem and computer.) The conference, attended by over 100 people
in a beautiful indoor/ outdoor setting, was filled with presentations, education, and interaction.
The Peace and Justice Working Group continues its work on a platform to outline humane and
progressive use of developing information technology. In the second draft stage, the group is planning to
hold a free public hearing on June 29th. Input is welcome before or during the public hearing, and a
draft can be had by e-mailing Jim Davis at email@example.com
The Freedom, Privacy and Technology Special Interest Group celebrates its one-year birthday with a
meeting on June 28th. To celebrate, this group will participate in a debate about current search and
seizure laws, with hosts Mike Godwin, attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Don
Ingraham, head of Alameda County's High Tech Crime Team and Assistant District Attorney for Alameda
County (Don was also a speaker at the first meeting last June).
CPSR/Berkeley is planning a summer picnic/potluck party. For more information contact Judi Clark
or Jim Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
CPSR/Chicago is working on a community education project. The objective is to develop a computer
demonstration or simulation game for exhibition at local museums. The purpose of the game will be to
sensitize and educate people about the ramifications of technology in everyone's life.
The chapter is currently working to identify real-life situations that will be part of the game, and to
explore hardware and software platforms for its implementation.
Marc Rotenberg spoke at UCLA on March 31 about the GPO Wide Information Network Data Online (GPO
WINDO) bill. This was sponsored by the UCLA Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
In April, Paul Eggert of the League for Programming Freedom spoke to CPSR/LA about "Software
Patents and Programming Freedom."
In May, CPSR/LA Secretary Christine Borgman participated in a colloquium on "Censorship and
Information Technology" at UCLA.
In March, CPSR/Madison held a joint meeting with the Data Processing Managers' Association (DPMA)
of Wisconsin and the Madison chapter of the ACM. Marc Rotenberg spoke to a crowd of around 70 people
on "The Ethical Obligations of Information Professionals."
In April, the chapter began underwriting The Privacy Project, a 1 3-part radio series created by
Western Public Radio and Pacific Multimedia. The series is being broadcast on WORT-FM in Madison.
The team of Scott Swanson of CPSR/ Madison and a member of the Wisconsin ACLU have been taking
calls on the air after each episode.
In May, the chapter met with Ada Deer, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin- Madison who is
running for the Democratic nomination to Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional district. Ms. Deer had
expressed an interest in hearing about the issues that concern CPSR members.
In July, the chapter will be organizing Lotus training for non-profits in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin
Community Fund, an organization that supports social change groups, gives Lotus software to these
groups as part of their support. CPSR will receive a grant to arrange training in Lotus 1-2-3.
CPSR/New York met on May 6, and elected a new set of chapter officers. They are David Friedlander
(chair), Bob Pesner (treasurer), and Krista Kaminsky (secretary), along with a nine-person
There have been discussions on how to revitalize the chapter. Two activities received a lot of
enthusiasm: participating more substantively in the sponsorship of the Computers for Social Change
Conference this fall (David and Krista have been active in the organizing committee of this conference
in past years); and polishing and more widely disseminating the Members software application,
previously developed by CPSR/New York to enable non-profit organizations to track membership.
Due to migration of Palo Alto chapter steering committee members Todd Newman and Lesley Kalmin into
national board positions (secretary and treasurer, respectively), the chapter is actively seeking new
steering committee members, for all levels of involvement. Anyone in the Bay area who is interested
should contact Amy Pearl, at (415) 3362840, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The chapter has a great
steering committee, and just needs a few more members for fresh ideas and to share the work.
In February, Pavel Curtis of Xerox PARC presented an insightful and provocative talk to the chapter on
"Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities." In March, Richard Stallman of the Free
Software Foundation and League for Programming Freedom talked about why software patents are bad
for your health. He drew a larger-than-average crowd.
At the April meeting chapter members heard a report on California civil liberties efforts by CPSR/Palo
Alto members Chris Hibbert, Jeff Johnson, Dave Redell, and Jim Warren. The chapter's civil liberties
group and chapter individuals have been doing quite a lot of effective legislative and regulatory work,
and the meeting provided much inspiration. Jeff Johnson, CPSR Chairman, has been working on the
state approval process for Calling Number ID (CNID, often referred to as Caller ID) for a year. He
recently testified before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which regulates telephone
and other utilities in exchange for granting monopolies to the operating companies. In February, an
administrative law judge made headlines by recommending there be no CNID at all, saying that it
violates constitutional rights. While he approved several other new services (Call Trace, Call Return,
Priority Ring, Call Block), he told the phone companies that they could, and should, do better than CNID
from the point of view of residential phone users' privacy. This opinion was based on Jeff's testimony.
The phone company, not surprisingly, is upset with the recommendation, and is appealing to the FCC.
Chris Hibbert and Jim Warren then reviewed some activities of the CPSR/Palo Alto's Civil Liberties
working group. The three issues they have been working on fairly recently are California State Senate
Bill 473, which regulates employers' access to employee (and prospective employee) credit records,
the new use in California drivers' licenses of magnetic strips, and automatic vehicle identification
(AVI). They've been most effective on AVI, and they've become more knowledgeable about the legislative
An article on "Privacy in the Computer Age" appeared in the November issue of California Journal
magazine, based pertly on an interview with Chris. It discussed numerous issues, including AVI, the
California driver's license, credit reporting agency oversight, and the collector of Social Security
Numbers by the DMV. Senator Lockyer, a senior senator from southern Alameda county, read the article
and contacted CPSR for December hearings on privacy. Chris, Todd Newman and Jim Warren attended,
and reported having a big impact through a lot of give and take with the senators and department
CPSR/Palo Alto's other working groups are Workplace and Nanotechnology. The Workplace group has
been concentrating on computer monitoring and next fall's PDC '92 conference. The Nanotechnology
group meets semi-monthly. The other significant work of the Palo Alto chapter has been the volunteer
Saturdays in the national office. These were organized by Paul Czyzewski, and they've been an
important part of keeping the office running during the period of staff cutbacks that has thankfully
On May 6, The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) issued an order approving Calling-Number
Identification (CNID) service in Oregon, if privacy features are also provided. CPSR/Portland
participated in the OPUC's investigation of CNID. Several key CPSR recommendations were included in
the final order, as follows:
¥ Blocking services, which restore the privacy of the caller, will be provided free of charge.
Oregonians will not have to ransom their privacy back from the phone company.
¥ Certain proposed services that would have allowed data to "leak" around the blocking services have
been forbidden. Private means private.
¥ Certain services have been modified to be less confusing.
¥ Customers must have an opportunity to specify whether they want blocking.
¥ A new service called Call Trace should be provided quickly and at reasonable cost, as it controls
harassing calls better than CNID, without the privacy implications.
CPSR/Seattle has been busy getting its community network project off the ground. The community
network project has been divided up into functional groups (committees) with each group having a
rough definition of their mission. Seattle is also planning its first major fund-raising presentation for
the end of June. Since other CPSR members around the country are involved or getting involved with
community network projects, Seattle members have felt that some kind of coordinated exchange of ideas
and/or experiences would be beneficial. If anyone else would like to start a dialogue of this kind please
contact Aki Namioka, at email@example.com or (206) 865-3229.
In February, CSPR/Seattle and the local chapter of ASIS held a panel discussion about government
information policy. In April, a follow-up meeting helped define ways CPSR/Seattle could influence
information policy in Washington State. In May, an information-policy special interest group was
formed and plans, goals, and tasks were determined. Basically, the goal of the information policy group
is to maintain a presence in Olympia (the state capital) and in the public eye with respect to
information policy issues in the state. The group plans to work closely with other organizations that
have either a direct or indirect interest in the same issues, for example, Washington-ACLU, ASIS,
Washington UTC, and the newly formed Information Policy Forum (which includes two CPSR
The Second Conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy (CFP-2) was held on March 18-19 in
Washington, and many CPSR/D.C. members were involved with the event (including conference chair,
Lance Hoffman). Unlike last year's event in San Francisco, which was sponsored by CPSR and organized
by Jim Warren, this year's conference was sponsored by the ACM. CPSR was one of a dozen or so
cooperating organizations, but the event certainly had a CPSR flavor to it.
Paul Hyland of CPSR/D.C. and Richard Civille of the Washington Office have been involved in the
organizing process for the National Capital Public Access Network, or "Cap Access"; some people may
have heard of it as Capital Area Freenet. It will be affiliated with the National Public Telecomputing
Network organized by Cleveland
Freenet founder Tom Grunder, but it will also be more than just another Freenet. Paul hopes that this
network will be an additional electronic outlet for CPSR information, and he hopes to use this project to
attract D.C. members interested in a volunteer project; contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The D.C. chapter had meetings this spring concerning ongoing projects of the Washington Office of CPSR
as well as last year's CFP meeting. Chapter activists are in the process of trying to find more people
interested in becoming active members of the chapter and the steering committee, and working on
improving chapter publicity and enhancing relationships with area universities. Toward those ends
there will be a meeting with university representatives in the first week of June, and computer
activists from inside and outside the organization are invited to the annual chapter picnic at Larry
Hunter's house, on July 26. For more information, contact Larry at email@example.com.
CPSR Litigation Update
David Sobel-CPSR General Counsel
CPSR Obtains Federal Computer Security Policy
As a result of our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the National Security Council, CPSR
recently obtained a copy of the Presidential directive titled "National Policy for the Security of National
Security Telecommunications and Information Systems" (NSD-42). The directive replaces the
controversial NSDD-145, which granted broad powers to the super-secret National Security Agency
(NSA) and prompted Congress to enact the Computer Security Act of 1987.
CPSR sought disclosure of the document to assess its compliance with the congressional mandate that
civilian computer systems be free of NSA control. CPSR testified in support of the Computer Security
Act and has advocated open public discussion of federal computer security policy. We have distributed
the newly released directive to several experts and plan to issue an assessment of the document in the
Sundevil Decision Appealed
We have appealed a lower court ruling which upheld the Secret Service's refusal to disclose
information relating to the agency's computer crime investigation code-named Operation Sun Devil.
CPSR seeks the disclosure of search warrant materials prepared by the agency in support of its
nationwide raids in May 1990. Those raids resulted in the seizure of dozens of computers and thousands
of diskettesÑseizures that have been criticized as overly broad by many civil libertarians. To date, no
indictments have been issued in the Sun Devil investigation.
Our appeal challenges the court's finding that release of the requested documents would interfere with
an ongoing law enforcement investigation. Search warrant materials are generally considered to be
public records and are routinely available in court files. We believe that disclosure of the Sun Devil
materialsÑtwo years after the factÑis an essential ingredient of public oversight of government
activities in the electronic realm.
NIST Pressed on Digital Signatures
CPSR has filed suit against the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for disclosure of
information used by the agency in the development of its proposed digital signature standard (DSS). The
proposed standard has been the subject of widespread criticism, much of which has centered on the role
of the National Security Agency in developing the DSS algorithm. The proposal was the subject of recent
congressional hearings, during which House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jack Brooks strongly
criticized the NIST-NSA relationship. The government's response to CPSR's lawsuit is due to be filed in
early June. C]
For more information, contact David Sobel at (202) 5449240, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CPSR Material Now Available On-Line
CPSR has always used electronic networks to facilitate communication within the organization. Its
genesis, after all, was the result of an electronic mail distribution list at Xerox PARC concerned with
the risk of accidental nuclear war, and much of the business of the organization is conducted via e-mail.
However, the organization has avoided relying upon electronic media to communicate with our
membership at large or the general public, because it has been felt that this might disenfranchise those
without easy access to email.
Now, with these communications media becoming so ubiquitous and important, it makes little sense to
continue this policy. Instead, CPSR will start using online information resources more and more, while
trying to ensure that this doesn't leave some members behind. (Of course, this push is intended to
enhance, and not replace, the use of paper and other media to communicate with the membership.)
Public Listserv mailing listÑCPSR@gwuvm.gwu.edu
Paul Hyland has set up a BITNET Listserv mailing list and archive server at the George Washington
University in Washington, D.C. Anyone can subscribe to the mailing lists or obtain files from the
archive by simply sending commands via e-mail (no human intervention is required).
The archive will include items like membership forms, the publications list, announcements and
reports of meetings, electronic newsletters, and information on important governmental initiatives and
CPSR's responses to them. Contributions directly to the mailing list will be restricted to the board and
staff of CPSR; this is both because it is a semi-official voice of the organization and to keep
subscribers' e-mail traffic to a low and manageable level. Any other contribution will be forwarded to
Paul, who will then either forward it to the list, add it to the archive, or discard it.
Users can sign up for this list or request files from the archive by sending commands to
email@example.com (Internet) or listserv@gwuvm (Bitnet); commands should be placed in the
text of an e-mail message, one per line starting with the first line (the subject line is ignored). The
subscribe cpsr <firstname> <last name>
will add the user to the list (a two word name is required); after that will appear a message describing
other commands that are helpful, including how to request files from the archive and how to be removed
from the list. For more information, contact Paul Hyland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
21st Century Project Helps in SEMATECH Campaign Gary ChapmanÑCoordinator
The 21st Century Project and the Campaign for Responsible Technology have helped initiate a major
step in the conversion of Pentagon research and development to environmentally responsible goals. In
February, CPSR and CRT representatives met with staff members from the office of Ron Dellums,
chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Research and Development, and from the House
Space, Science, and Technology Committee, about SEMATECH, the Pentagon's R&D facility for
semiconductor technology. The CPSR/CRT coalition recommended that SEMATECH's mission be amended
to include research and development on making the semiconductor industry environmentally safe, and to
allocate earmarked funds for such research.
In late May, the House Armed Services Committee voted to restore SEMATECH's full $100 million
funding for fiscal year 1993Ñthe Bush administration had proposed a cut of 20% to $80 millionÑand
to dedicate an unprecedented $10 million to research and development on the environmental impact of
semiconductor fabrication. "The congressional action strongly supports the basic premise of our
campaign effort. Government industrial policy should expressly benefit the environment, host
communities and affected workers in any targeted industry," said Ted Smith, the director of the Silicon
Valley Toxics Coalition and chairperson of the Campaign for Responsible Technology. "The $10 million
appropriation for environmentally safe manufacturing methods could be a significant benefit to high
tech communities and people of color," commented Susana Almanza, cochair of People Organized in
Defense of Earth and its Resources (PODER), of Austin, Texas, an organization with a membership that
lives around the SEMATECH facility.
The measures proposed by the Defense Authorization bill must still be approved by the full House, and
win similar funding approval in the Senate.
The House Space, Science, and Technology Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a
hearing on SEMATECH in July. Representatives of CRT and The 21st Century Project have been invited
Passage of the language used in the House Armed Services Committee's reauthorization legislation would
be a major victory for the public interest community. It might even be the first time a public interest
coalition had a major and specific effect on the mission of a Pentagon research facility.
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If you move, please be sure to notify the CPSR National Office in Palo Alto (address in the box at left).
The CPSR Newsletter is mailed at bulk rates, and the postal service does not forward bulk mail. And
because of the expense, CPSR can't resend returned newsletters. So to keep receiving your newsletter,
send us a card with your new address.
The CPSR Newsletter is published quarterly by:
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility P.O. Box 717 Palo Alto, CA 94302-0717 (415)
322-3778 (415) 322-3798 (FAX) Internet address: email@example.com Also located at:
666 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E. 19 Garden Street
Suite 303 Cambridge, MA 02138
Washington, D.C. 20003 (617) 497-7440
This newsletter was produced on an Apple Macintosh 11 using the desktop publishing application
Pagemaker 4.2. The hardware and software were donated by apple Computer and the Aldus Corporation.
Created before October 2004