At 07:38 PM 12/18/99 -0600, Douglas wrote, in answer maybe to Chuck:
>The problem is cultural, and the culture is cultivated by the vested
Correct, as far as it goes. But a whole lot of us have vested interests in
>The Internet is a powerful tool capable of reverting that,
>but this too is now being made bland by commercial interests.
The capacity for grass-roots communication by internet is phenomenal, as
> In short, I can't share your optimism.
I'm optimistic, or maybe I am just hopeful.
But what seems lacking to me is a way to transfer this terrific global
conversation into our various local communities. Take Morgantown, WV for
example. We have West Virginia University and lots of high-level thinkers
all engaged in world-wide conversations about their special interests. But
given our busy lives we rarely see and talk to each other. Internet isn't
helping as much as it could in the local community. At the level of campus
systems there is an "intranet" and increasing efforts to use email for
traditional top-down communication, for posting announcements, and precious
little discussion. There are a couple or three local listservs with
special focus, created ostensibly for discussion. There is AGROECOL, our
agroecology bag lunch list, of which I am the listowner, and to which I
post occasional items from SANET-MG. There is WVUGLOBE, out of the office
of international programs, to which I also post occasional items. There is
a Greenspace Coalition that uses email to communicate, and I post
ag-related items to them from time to time. (We are currently working on
preservation of our WVU farmland from college-town development.) In these
local forums, there is a hesitance to engage in very much substantive
exchange of views. People tend to want to reply privately, they say they
don't want to burden the lists, but the lists just don't have much traffic
in ideas. Folks are maybe shy or timid, perhaps remembering the
flame-warfare of a few years back.
(Personally, I am very impressed with how cyberculture has evolved a
standard of civility.)
In the private sector, early on there was a website (sunspot.com) focused
on Morgantown, but it went belly up. I've been heartened and hopeful for
efforts such as smallfarms.com, which ultimately can only succeed if they
hook up with real farmers and a viable local cybercommunity.
What seems to be missing is this local cybercommunity. Colleagues and
other fellow citizens, all busy in their specialties, don't take the time
to communicate with neighbors across their specialties. This is what I
think is needed.
While I am thinking of it, I wonder about the widely bruited statistics on
the growth of e-commerce. I wonder how much of that is going to the
integrators (Amazon, etc.) and how much of the growth is going to small and
more local e-commerce. If I were a gambler, my bet would be that
small-e-commerce is growing faster than big-e-commerce, or if it isn't that
it offers greater growth potential.
It had better offer greater growth-potential, if local communities are to
Like I said, I am optimistic, or maybe just hopeful.
John Lozier, harper for harmony
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