Communities, the Internet, Openness and Freedom
A presentation for the Voices of Community: Choir or Cacophony?
symposium, Teachers As Scholars, by Neal McBurnett, 2002-03-08.
This presentation is available, with links to more info,
via the Boulder Community Network at
Some notes on preserving the freedom and openness that nurture
community and democracy. Not "choir", not "cacaphony", but
somewhere in-between. The "growing edge" between order and chaos,
unimpeeded by monopolies.
- Example of a grassroots virtual community: the
Boulder Community Network (BCN)
- Other Virtual Communities
- Benefits of Openness and Freedom
- The shift from openness to control
Boulder Community Network (BCN)
Big success getting community on-line very early on:
- Lots of savvy volunteers; lots of help from CU and the community
- 1994: City council agendas & associated full-text memos
- United Way's "Red Book" of information on human services organizations,
- One Stop Career Network
- Web sites for hundreds of other local organizations
- Community Center
- Local environmental information based on EPA grant:
Boulder Area Sustainability Information Network (BASIN)
Now much easier to get inexpensive web space. BCN is now evolving to
leaner operation focussed on indexing where to go for local
information, helping educate non-profits and citizens, promoting
the benefits of free software, and technical assistance for
Other Virtual Communities
Benefits of Openness and Freedom
My lessons over the years: openness is the key to citizen involvement
and associated community benefits. E.g. from this symposium:
1st amendment freedom of speech, of the press
- letters to the editor - open to all
- open government: democracy - voting extended to more and more people
open city administration: Open Meetings/Sunshine laws;
input and/or authority extended to
community members: Boulder's city boards & commissions
- value of open space, public lands devoted to habitat
- business success in boulder aided enormously by university with its
committment to open inquiry
- existance and success of Internet based on openness, lack of central control
- Linux: a free, open operating system made by volunteers, hugely
successful. Used for most web sites.
Open, cheap, robust, educational, standards-compliant.
Not yet as many applications as some home users want.
Of great interest internationally. Used by Mexican schools.
See the Linux Terminal Server Project
for info on Linux in the Schools.
- Non-profit communities
- Public radio
The shift from openness to control
Abuse and commercialization of community
- Spamming of newsgroups, email - huge, costly problem
- Missing, bad, or changable corporate on-line privacy policies
- Privacy intrusions, e.g. tracking of people across sites by doubleclick.com et.al., tracking people's email with web bugs.
Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Stanford, writes in "The Future
of Ideas" about the importance of this openness in creating the
Internet, the opportunities for greater openness and innovation, and
the threats to the future from forces that want to assert control so
they can hold on to their power.
- Monopolization of the software, like Windows and MS Office
- Monopolization of the networks, like cable and radio/tv/wireless.
- Legal attacks on people for what used to be "fair use" of
copyrighted material, etc. Search for CPHack, DeCSS, iCraveTV,
Eldred vs Ashcroft, etc.
Legal constraints on Netizens: DeCSS, Clue.com, etc. for more info
- As always Get Involved - you can make a difference!
For more relevant links, see my
Last modified: Fri Mar 8 13:56:04 MST 2002
Copyright (c) 2002 Neal McBurnett.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation