Managing the Information Explosion
January 31, 1997
in this forum:
Should Internet users expect to pay for information in the future? Should the government provide Internet access? With so much information on the Internet, how can one avoid Web Trash? What does the Internet mean for those living in remote places? Can a "common culture" exist in the age of New Media? What skills do children need to learn to be media literate? Viewer comments regarding New Media.
December 30, 1996: Will information traffic jams increase in cyberspace?
December 25, 1996: The NewsHour reviews the Year in Cyberspace.
Browse the Online NewsHour's coverage of cyberspace.
William Butterfield of Chattanooga, TN, asks:
We have a need for people to connect with others who have common interests. With hectic schedules, this is difficult to do. The Internet provides for individual interests. With the general media, you take whatever is offered, often with a particular bias built in. Is it possible now to even have a common culture? If we were to have a common culture, what would it consist of? Who would provide it? Is the legal structure what is holding us together?
Jon Katz responds:
I've written a lot about the common sense of community evolving online, especially what I call a post-political sensibility among the digital young. This involves a passion for freedom -- their motto is "information wants to be free" -- and a resistance to the narrow choices we are offered in contemporary politics, choices like liberalism and conservatism. They share a love of liberty that is sometimes missing in mainstream media. They have more facts available to us than any community ever has, they are affluent, generally educated and connected with one another -- they have the greatest communications system in the world.
I think they draw tolerance from the left -- they are perhaps the most tolerant generation ever, racially and sexually. They are economically conservative. They value individual responsibility. They are somewhat disconnected from social problems like those afflicting the urban underclass.
Their sense of community and access to technology spells political power, if you look at most of human history. How this community will use this power is unclear. But a common political sensibility is arising. I don't have space to detail it here, but I'm writing about it in the next WIRED, a piece called "The Birth Of A Digital Nation."