Abstract - The Information Society 13(2)

Old Freedom and New Technologies: The Evolution of Community Networking

Jay Weston

Unparalleled experience, the Internet, or simply the Net, is the code word for the technosocial accident that gives large numbers of people the means by which they can speak of themselves in public. This is an ironical reversal of the historical social patterning of asymmetrical, centralizing communicating technologies that have molded all of the social relations of modern society. The problematic for this distributed communication capability will be manifest in struggles around the legitimacy of self-expression, assembly, and privacy, in all of their forms. However, unlike the mass mediated discourse where, as the "audience" object, we observed these externalized struggles by a narrow other, encounters with distributed media are palpable and subjective, and will be increasingly played out on the common terrain of local community. IN initiating unconditional public access to the Net, community networks, or FreeNets, began the long process of blurring the distinction between the public and private terrain, of undoing that dichotomy that mass media technologies in this century have systematically rebuilt and fortified. Nudging along the process of democratic self-representation is the central issue for the Net, and the epochal project for community networks.

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