In "Dot Con" the documentary, FRONTLINE tells the story of the Internet
stock-market bubble -- and some of its most disturbing excesses -- through
interviews with several prominent and influential inside players of the
dotcom era: Silicon Valley venture capitalists, Wall Street analysts and
investment bankers, the former chairman of the SEC, key litigators, and journalists who've covered the story for The Wall Street
Journal and Fortune magazine.
For "Dot Con" the website, we decided to extend the story beyond the focus of
the documentary and to find out what some of the most astute observers of the
Internet and the "new economy" have to say about what happened during the
late-1990s -- and what lies ahead. That is, to take in the bigger picture,
to step back and try to assess the broader economic, cultural, and political
context in which the Internet bubble took place.
From August of last year through this January, we conducted email interviews
with economist Robert Shiller of Yale University, James Fallows
of The Atlantic Monthly, Michael Mandel of BusinessWeek,
Thomas Frank of The Baffler and Harper's magazines, and Steven Johnson,
co-founder of the pioneering online magazine FEED. We asked each of
them to comment, at whatever length they chose, on the questions below. In some
cases, we followed up with specific additional questions.
(To read the various responses to each question, click on the links below. To
read the full interviews, click on the links in the right-hand column on this
The Internet was supposed to "democratize the market" and "level the playing
field." But what role did the Internet itself, as a new communication medium,
really play in driving the Internet bubble? Read the responses ...
Economists will be debating the "new economy" (whether or not there really is,
or was, such a thing) for years to come. But what role did all the talk about a
"new economy" -- that is, the "new economy" rhetoric -- play in the
Internet boom and bust? Read the responses ...
What did the Internet bubble really cost, not just in economic terms but in
social, political, even cultural terms? And what have we learned, or failed to
learn, about the real value of the Internet as we go forward? Read the responses ...
||email interviews with...
· James Fallows
National correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and a former columnist
for The Industry Standard, he has written extensively about technology,
economics, and politics for more than two decades.
· Thomas Frank
Editor of The Baffler magazine and a contributing editor of
Harper's, he is the author of One Market Under
Capitalism, Market Populism, and the
End of Economic Democracy (2000).
· Steven Johnson
Co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online magazine FEED, he is
the author of two critically acclaimed books on technology and society:
Interface Culture (1997) and Emergence (2001).
· Michael Mandel
Chief economist at BusinessWeek, he is the author of The Internet
Depression: The Boom, the Bust, and Beyond (2001).
· Robert Shiller
He is the Stanley B. Resor Professor of Economics at Yale University and the
author of Irrational Exuberance (2000).
The interviews were conducted via email by Wen Stephenson, managing editor of
FRONTLINE's website, between August 2001 and January 2002.