Networks, including the Internet, company intranets, personal home networks, community nets, and more, are quickly becoming the lifeblood of society. Broad and varied methods of communications help educate, coordinate, and give voice to people in many forms: political dialogue, event coordination, collaboration with others, information gathering, and personal empowerment.
But pressure is on to control our publicly accessible networks, and with it, to control our speech, preferences, and interactions with the networked world. With our networks in the control of a few private companies and individuals, we also lose our privacyour right to be free from unwarranted public exposure and scrutiny. There is a market for the many details of our lives, many of which are discovered through our use and searches on the net. We understand the blatant monetary interests that are at stake. We read the news with a critical eye, and see the pressures building.
Toward understanding the networks of the future, NetAction offers two scenarios of future networking. These are not fully developed, but rather sketch out the horizons of two worlds: one largely dominated and controlled by Microsoft (the most powerful of the large corporations that dominate the technology industry), the other largely open to development and use.
Why would we consider such a dichotomy of possibilities? They are strikingly dissimilar in their effects on the public interestincluding individual consumers and the nonprofit sector. While we recognize that some element of control has positive effects (as demonstrated by standards of interoperability which largely made the PC revolution and the Internet possible), we are alarmed by the strong possibility of extreme controls in the hands of a very few.
"This is not a matter for polite presumptions;
we must look the facts in the face."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
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Judi Clark is currently a law student and President of ManyMedia, a Graphics Communication and Information Services Consultancy. She is also the force behind WomensWork.org, and a member of the NetAction Advisory Board. She has been an instructor in the University of California, Santa Cruz's corporate training department, past treasurer and member of the Board of Directors of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), and served on the Steering Committee for several annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy (CPF) conferences. She has been involved with many professional and businesswomen's conferences and web sites, and is creator of the Role Model Project for Girls.