NETFUTURE Technology and Human Responsibility for the Future ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Issue #3 Copyright 1996 O'Reilly & Associates January 4, 1996 ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Editor: Stephen L. Talbott (firstname.lastname@example.org) On the Web: http://netfuture.org You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes. CONTENTS: *** SPIDER OR FLY? -- $5000 competition Preliminary announcement *** Editor's note Homing in on the topics of netfuture *** Do subscriber numbers matter? (Michael Legeros) A brief conversation *** The Internet as terminator (Stephen L. Talbott) There is no technological fix for prejudice *** Our lives have become a series of addictions (Dale Lehman) Computers are not the only dangerous tools *** Economics, not technology, is the problem (Pascal de Caprariis) That phone answering system again *** Kill the droids. Up with the machines. (Dick Carlson) Human operators can be the biggest pain *** Problems with Nonstandardized Phone Answering Systems (Henry G. Cox) This user needs a cheat sheet *** The complexities of technological determination (Doug Johnson) We don't control everything and we don't control nothing *** The ultimate pen pal club (Candi Brooks) Linguistic excursions on the Net *** About this newsletter -------------------------------------------------------------------------- *** SPIDER OR FLY? -- $5000 writing competition SPIDER OR FLY? Are we masters of the Web or trapped in it? How can we take full responsibility for computing and networking technologies? Catching the dew and sunlight, and serving as an efficient means of livelihood, a spider's web is one of the glories of creation. Depending on your perspective, a spider's web is also a prison -- the most delicate, flexible, and refined instrument imaginable for immobilizing life. The SPIDER OR FLY? competition invites you to illuminate the deep nexus between computerized networking technologies and human responsibility. It does not aim at identifying what you like or don't like about the Net and the World Wide Web -- not, at least, unless you can relate these likes and dislikes to the most fundamental levels at which our personal choices in front of the computer screen are shaping the future for good or ill. Scholars now debate whether certain technologies determine us more than we determine them, and whether the determination in either case is healthy or unhealthy. The SPIDER OR FLY? competition is not premised upon any particular answer to such questions. While the questions signal our passage into new spheres of responsibility in relation to evolving technology, the terms of this responsibility haven't yet become clear. The competition seeks to stimulate a highly personalized exploration of the issues. Watch this space for further details soon. Full contest information will also be posted on the Web. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- *** Editor's Note (113 lines) Homing in on the topics of netfuture By the evidence of incoming mail, I have so far failed rather badly to convey the central questions that motivated the creation of netfuture. I accept the blame for this, and will keep trying to make those questions clearer. There is an abundant scholarly literature dealing with at least some aspects of technology and human responsibility. (See, for example, Langdon Winner's "The Whale and the Reactor" and Rob Kling's "Computerization and Controversy.") But no one will deny that the issues have yet to be effectively framed as living, personal ones for the mass of Net users. Even those of us thundering self-righteously about the need for responsible use of technology must admit that ethical issues often seem remote and theoretical as we work away with keyboard and mouse. In any case, discussion tends to be trapped at a relatively superficial level and to be tinged with naive absolutism. ("The Net allows me to do X faster that I could do it before, and that in itself must be good." Or, "the Net puts a distance between people, and that in itself must be bad.") But we must carry such arguments at least one step further, and ask: What deep tendencies in ourselves does this or that feature express, and what tendencies does it evoke? And can we work at changing these tendencies?" The SPIDER OR FLY? competition (see previous article) is one attempt to promote a wider exploration of the terms of our responsibility for technology. I also submit below an article about prejudice and the Net ("The Internet As Terminator"), intended as one isolated example of relevant discussion. While the piece is colored by my own particular pessimism stemming from the prevailing inattention to issues of responsibility, it does try to reach down and address a fairly basic question of choice that remains open: are we choosing to read each other across the Net, or are we substituting a kind of blank screen in place of the other? More directly, however, here are a few paragraphs in which I have previously tried to point toward the level of concern that netfuture is all about. (The reference to the history of the automobile is perhaps a bit schematic and simplistic, but I think it gets the point across.) Imagine the arrival of the first few cars in turn-of-the-century American cities. John Doe, proud of his sleek new machine, can now decide on the spur of the moment to visit flu-stricken Aunt Jane, who lives on the other side of town. Wasn't it reasonable for John to think that such good deeds would now be easier, and that the automobile, by shrinking distances, would help bind cities together in true community? The ensuing century, however, told a different story--a story of freeways and urban sprawl; devastated city centers; malls; neon-lit commercial strips; and the disappearance of an underclass beneath the freeway ramps. Society reorganized its business and pleasure around weekday commuting and weekend escape. Not much of this looks like a strengthening of community. There are two lessons here. First, we dare not say it's impossible to do good things with our modern machines. Visiting the sick is indeed admirable. Second, we dare not think that, just because we can do good things with technology, it therefore threatens no radical and unconsidered change. If John Doe was initially delighted with his new "freedom" to visit an ailing aunt, the time would come when visiting any friend or relative at all would require a lengthy car trip along painfully congested highways. What looks like freedom in the short term may constrain us in the long term. Much the same applies to computers. We have to look beyond the immediate activities we are inclined to praise or curse. We have to grasp the underlying forces--human as well as technological--through which society is being reshaped. Do not merely tell me, then, about your new email friends, or your online discovery of an enlightening piece of information, or how you downloaded the current draft of controversial legislation. Tell me also about the long-term prospects for community. Tell me about the effect of digitally manipulable information upon our habits of reflection and understanding. Tell me about the transformation of the political process as it comes online. .... There is no answer outside the human being. The machine's hidden agenda turns out to be our own agenda. Don't forget that we could have used the automobile to strengthen local community. But we were moving in the opposite direction, and the automobile readily cooperated. .... There is no capability of the computer that can't be made to look good in one light and bad in another. Which light should we choose? Only the light--and the darkness--emanating from the human heart. At the end of the twentieth century it scarcely seems possible to stand in this light and this darkness without worrying deeply about the terms of our inner pact with the computer. (From "The Machine's Hidden Agenda.") I hope and expect that readers looking at our "pact with technology" will discern a different balance of tendencies from the one I have found. The key thing, as far as netfuture is concerned, is simply to begin looking. Finally, I have perhaps tried the patience of some readers by making this issue of netfuture exceptionally long. It contains a sampling of the rapidly burgeoning netfuture correspondence, and to some of the letters I have appended a brief remark, not as criticism, but to indicate how the writer might extend his or her thoughts to make them more directly relevant to netfuture. Unfortunately, under current arrangements I cannot acknowledge, let alone print, all the messages received. I do not intend to make future issues this long. I'm inclined to think that a separate vehicle is required for open-ended discussion, and that netfuture itself should be a newsletter delivering provocative, highly selected content of a sort that is hard to come by elsewhere on the Net. Your comments? -------------------------------------------------------------------------- *** Do subscriber numbers matter? A brief conversation (60 lines) From: "Michael J. Legeros" (email@example.com) Howdy. (Nice newsletter, btw.) I run my own mailing list, of movie reviews, from home, and I try to included a one-paragraph blurb on every "issue" to the effect of: "reaching XX subscribers in YY states in ZZ countries." Perhaps, if it's easy enough, y'all might consider noting the current subscriber count in each issue. Given that this is a forum about the future of information exchange (among other things), the presence of an "ongoing count" may be of interest to many. Just a thought.. mjl * * * * * * * * Michael -- What worries me about that -- something I felt even in mentioning my surprise at the initial subscription rate -- is the possibility of getting sucked into the "where it's happenin'" syndrome, as if numbers and the excitement of the herd's stampede were what really counted. Any tendency to allow the Net to infect us that way is one of the foundations for irresponsible use of technology. (I'm eminently susceptible to this myself.) After all, who really needs to know the size of the list? Advertisers. But the spirit of (most) advertising is just about the antithesis of the spirit of truth-seeking and the exercise of responsibility. Yet, I imagine there are some valid reasons for publishing list size. Maybe you could comment further? SLT * * * * * * * * From: "Michael J. Legeros" (firstname.lastname@example.org) Thanks for the reply. I'm not sure on a valid reason, except... maybe it has something to do with the famous "billions and billions served" that McDonalds used to advertise. I wonder how the dynamics of a moderated list/newsletter would change, month-to-month, if we were continually aware of just "how many of us" were on the "other end of the line." I don't know. I'm [not] sure if I understand my own reasons for such a suggestion, but I find it fascinating to think about the potential for changing the dynamics simply through the inclusion of a figure. Who knows..... mjl * * * * * * * * Michael -- I guess it's exactly that potential for changing things with numbers that I'm wary of. But, for whatever it's worth (you'll have to envision the golden arches yourself) we're at about 2500 subscribers now--although some of them are redistribution points for groups. SLT -------------------------------------------------------------------------- *** The Internet As Terminator (111 lines) THE INTERNET AS TERMINATOR There is No Technological Fix for Prejudice Stephen L. Talbott After the Holocaust, after the struggles of the American civil rights movement, after apartheid -- and in the midst of the Bosnian and Rwandan tragedies -- we finally hear the good news. There is a cure for prejudice. It's wonderfully simple: put people on the Internet, and their prejudices will simply disappear. This gospel may be the single, most universally preached sermon on the Internet today. The "liberating power of anonymity," so the doctrine runs, will triumph over prejudice. Unable to observe your age, race, gender, or physical handicap across the Net, I will not be unreasonably bothered by such irrelevant traits. I am freed to honor your real self. The doctrine is false. Crushingly, self-evidently, dangerously false. I do not conquer my prejudices against foreigners by putting all foreignness out of sight. The things I prefer to keep out of sight are, in fact, the things that will subsequently rule me most effectively from my subconscious. The roots of prejudice lie in the human being and cannot be eradicated with a trick of technology. Certainly we cannot be more fully human toward each other by being less human, less there, less in view. Moreover, we discriminate against each other quite as easily on the basis of belief and other intangibles as on the basis of appearance. As long as anything of the person remains, there's something to discriminate against. If prejudice easily "disappears" across the Net, it is because the person himself easily disappears. But getting rid of the other person in this way begins to sound suspiciously like "termination with extreme prejudice." The difficult truth of the matter is that we cannot overcome prejudice except by overcoming prejudice. Putting temptation out of sight may be the most prejudicial action of all. If I would accept the other person, I must accept him in all his particularity. I rise above the external, not by ignoring it, but by reading it. This is true in all things. The color and shapes of ink upon the book's page fall from consciousness only when I grasp their meaning as text. The outer forms then express a world of inner significances. In the same way, a friend's face leads me on an inward journey toward his true self. How else can I know him, except through some sort of physical expression? But I must learn to look through this surface, and with its indispensable help discover the one who is expressing himself. In other words, I transcend his external features if, accepting them, I make a revelation of them. Only when I grasp the inner life of a revelation does its outer husk drop away. I cannot ignore the ink on the page if I would read the words -- and yet, when I do read, it is no longer the ink I am aware of, but the thoughts and feelings expressed. When, on the other hand, I ignore the outer traits instead of reading them, I also ignore the person. But this is an insult. Moreover, the utter blank that results from my refusal to read cannot be sustained. I end up projecting my own subconscious upon it. The Jews of the Third Reich knew what it was to carry the hidden qualities of others. It would have been far better if the Nazis had really looked at the faces of the Jews. The faces might have been read, revealing the human beings within; the blank could only be projected upon. The infamous Net flame today betrays a similar refusal to see or engage the other person. More broadly, the entire culture of the Net, in trying to make a virtue out of blind disconnection, is sinking toward a kind of collective autism in which the darker powers of the human subconscious can find easiest release. But the extravagant nonsense about the liberating power of anonymity has at least this value: it alerts us to the dangers we're up against. The blankness of the Net, the distance between conversants, the shifting personas, the dizzying succession of far-flung connections, the pitifully narrow channel for shared activities -- perhaps even the hypnotic qualities of the computer screen itself -- all powerfully invite us to project ourselves into the electronic ether under the illusion that we are getting to know each other. One classic expression of psychological projection is head-over-heels infatuation. We need not be surprised, therefore, at the unsuppressed infatuational energy -- the downright frenzy -- amid which the Internet has burst upon the national scene over the past few years. It has not been a time of clear-sighted assessment. Yet, clear-sightedness is exactly what is being demanded of us. We must rise above the celebration of anonymity. We must reject the notion that there is a technological fix for prejudice. And above all we must find a way to rediscover and read fully embodied selves across the great gulf of the Net -- an accomplishment that has long been eluding us even in face-to-face contexts. The alternative is to treat each other like so many abstractions -- an alternative on vivid display in the prejudice-borne conflicts currently tearing our globe apart. Is it a coincidence that these conflicts have flared up so visibly just as the false gospel of Net-induced brotherhood was gaining sway? Or does the same, blind inattention to the concrete presence of our fellows underlie both the gospel and the warfare? (Stephen L. Talbott is author of "The Future Does Not Compute--Transcending the Machines in Our Midst." The foregoing reflection is part of a developing collection called "Daily Meditations for the Computer-entranced." -------------------------------------------------------------------------- *** Our lives have become a series of addictions (35 lines) Response to "Phenomenology of Computing" (NF-1) From Dale Lehman (email@example.com) As there are no rules yet, the two stories did strike some thoughts. There is nothing uniquely addictive about computer networking. Most of our modern lifestyle has similar addictive qualities. Absence from shopping, TV, traffic, etc. all have some similar effects on me. It is a statement of what the human condition has become. Computers do pose more serious dangers than many other tools, but I think they are a matter of degree and not a qualitative difference. Our 20th century lives have become a series of addictions. It takes drastic circumstances to realize how habitual most of my actions have become. Even shopping in person is usually a mechanized affair. Occasionally we receive a "shock" which reveals how much we take for granted and how addicted our lifestyles have become. Examples include intentional shocks, such as planned backpacking experiences. An unintentional shock might result from a personal crisis which makes us aware that we are interacting with other human beings and not machines when shopping, going to the post office, etc. Such experiences happen to all of us but are relatively infrequent which is why we notice them so much. Suddenly, we are disengaged from our usual rituals and acutely aware of how mechanized our lives have become. Is it human nature to become machine-like? What are the special dangers of computers vis a vis other tools and machines? How do we live our lives not as routines but as unique creative interactions? is this possible? desireable? why is it so rare? Dale Fort Lewis College Durango, Colorado -------------------------------------------------------------------------- *** The economic system, not technology, is the problem (62 lines) Response to "The Fundamental Deceit of Technology" (NF-1) From Pascal de Caprariis (firstname.lastname@example.org) Steve: I think your example of the telephone ordering system misses the point. Imagine this scenario. The CEO of O'Reilly & Associates decides that the balance sheet is not impressive, so he decides to cut costs by downsizing and installing an automated telephone ordering system. By defraying the costs for a quarter or two and by citing the savings in salaries immediately, the company's profits soar this quarter, and mutual fund managers drive up the price of the stock. The Board of Directors is pleased enough to raise the dividend and give the CEO a large bonus. The CEO looks like a genius, is featured in an article in Fortune Magazine, and gets put on the boards of several other corporations. Of course, there is a downside to all of this. The people who used to take orders have trouble finding new jobs - they may have been hired for their "people skills," not for their technological backgrounds - and the new ordering system does not really work very well. So eventually, customers become dissatisfied and sales drop. The point is that technology is a symptom but it is not the problem; the economic system that rewards those who maximize short term profits at the expense of everything else is the problem. Technology is used as a crutch by those who justify the depersonalization of society in the name of profit. Unfortunately, a corporation is usually not a company. A generation ago, a company was a member of the local community; it provided jobs and economic stability, and its officers felt a responsibility to the community. Decisions sometimes were made that did not make economic sense but which benefited the community (a recent example involves a mill that burned down in Massachusetts; management is paying benefits to its employees until the mill can be rebuilt). On the other hand, although a corporation provides jobs, quite often it also milks the community for every tax break and benefit it can, before deciding to move to another state (where the cycle begins again). The managers who do this are not evil; the system requires it. I think you are wasting your time blaming technology for the depersonalization that is occurring; an out-of-whack economic system is the villain. Pascal de Caprariis Dept. of Geology Indiana-Purdue Univ. Indianapolis, IN 46202 * * * * * * * * Pascal -- Some agreement there. But do you and I carry no responsibility at all as cogs in what you call "the system"? To have learned to point out the system is already to have made oneself partly responsible for its future, and that responsibility is what netfuture is about. I'm curious, though: why do so many people tend to misread any technology criticism as "blaming technology" -- even when ultimate responsibility is explicitly attributed to us? SLT -------------------------------------------------------------------------- *** Kill the droids. Up with the machines. (56 lines) Response to "Automatic Phone Answering Can Improve Cust Svc" (NF-2) From Dick Carlson (email@example.com) > I think you CAN have it both ways. That is, you can introduce the > technology, AND maintain the reputation for good customer service. I'd go even further, with this thought. The premise that interacting with a human is a superior experience is, in my experience, frequently incorrect. To wit: My mail today contained a glossy postcard with a solicitation from the latest service provider who wanted to offer me a two-month free (with-my-credit-card-number) account. Since I teach in this area, and am frequently asked by students about different services that are available, I called the toll-free-to-me number and punched in the extension. A human answered, and I explained that I just wanted to see if they had a local service number available in my tiny hamlet. He refused to check, saying that they had to input all my information before the machine would give us an answer -- but assured me they had an "800" number if service was not available. His data entry skills were poor, so getting name/rank/serial number took a numbingly long time, and he even demanded the credit card number and expiration. And phone. Home and work. "Whirrrrrr! Click! Bzzzzzzzt!" His machine spit out the surprising information that my tiny little burg was not among the thousands of cities that were served, and he announced that I could use the toll-free-to-me number for a pre-payment of one month's service, where I would be credited for two hours of use. Not the "unlimited" two months they had advertised. I declined. (I'm not too worried that he has my phone and card numbers -- he's got the right digits, but the order might be a little confused . . .) Just out of curiousity, I visited their Web site -- where I managed to get the same information on connectability in less than a minute, with no data given from me. Kill the droids. Up with the machines. Resistance is futile. firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.az.com:80/~dick/ Fairhaven College -- Western Washington University Bellingham WA 98225 (360) 650-3680 * * * * * * * * [Nice story. Now spell out what bearing it has on the particular values you consider worth striving toward, or even just how it relates to the question whether the Net has been improving the overall efficiency of our access to meaningful and relevant information. SLT] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- *** Problems with Nonstandardized Phone Answering Systems (39 lines) Response to "Automatic Phone Answering Can Improve Cust Svc" (NF-2) From: Henry G. Cox (email@example.com) Short response to something Ray Brownrigg said in issue #2, discussing "friendly" and "unfriendly" voicemail (and related) systems: > However, what is essential, and usually lacking, is a > continuously operative 'escape to human' key, which would ideally > use your current context to connect you to an appropriate person, [...] A reasonable idea, which brings up a new set of problems. Unless _everyone_ uses exactly the same system (actually, the same user interface, regardless of manufacturer), the cure may be worse than the disease. For example, on my system "*" meansSteve Talbott :: NetFuture #3 :: January 4, 1996
and "#" . Unfortunately, on your system, "1" is and "#" is . Unless the system continuously announces the various button functions [...which can also be pretty annoying...], you aren't going to be happy using my system, and I'm not going to be happy with yours. As a concrete example, my fingers seem to be keyed to the voicemail system at my previous employer. A year later, I still can't the the new system to do what I want - or rather, I still have to get out my cheat sheet to figure out which keys do what. A discussion of more important risks of differing user interfaces is going on over in comp.risks - mainly regarding hospital patient monitors, but various avionic systems (Airbus in particular) have also come up in the past. Henry * * * * * * * * [Are there other (though perhaps less obvious) issues posed by having all such interfaces standardized? SLT] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- *** The complexities of technological determination (84 lines) Response to "Monthly posting of netfuture guidelines" (NF-2) From Doug Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org) > How does technology determine us and how do we determine technology? > That is, where are we most free, where are we most unfree, and where is > the greatest promise of extending our freedom? As technology changes > the face of society, are we masters of the change, or are we being > taken for a ride by forces we can no longer control? How do we "determine" technology? That sounds something like how do we "determine" the future? We don't, really. Certainly millions of individuals are out there laboring to make things happen, but there's no way to "determine" what will happen or how it develops. And that's not to say that technology "determines" us, either, because we can choose how we react to the developments. This is all too big, too vast. It's making me dizzy. I am simultaneously master of change to some extent while being taken for a ride, but I have some control over where I get on or off. I bought that new computer because I wanted to, because of the things I want to do with it. It is a tool, made to assist me. It serves me. I do not serve it. I will NOT be mindlessly "determined" by technology or by anything else. If I am, then I have allowed that to happen. I would be choosing (consciously or by default) not to exercise my inherent empowerment. There must be some happy medium or balance between expecting to control everything and expecting to control nothing. Doug Johnson Austin, TX * * * * * * * * Doug -- Appreciate your comments. If you look closely, I think you'll see that you're saying almost exactly the same thing as the blurb you begin by quoting. "How does technology determine us and how do we determine technology?" And "where are we most free, where are we most unfree, and where is the greatest promise of extending our freedom?" Those questions are phrased so as to emphasize that, just as you point out, it's "some of this and some of that" -- no simple matter. The challenge is to start gaining a concrete awareness of where it's this way and where it's that -- and to nudge the dividing line in favor of freedom and mastery. We're in something like the position of the environmentalist before there was an environmental movement. "I can try to recycle, avoid pollution, and so on, but my drop of effort seems to disappear within the ocean of unaware behavior." And yet, the collective determination of the future does arise from nothing other than the sum of such individual efforts, and the early efforts did eventually lead to much larger-scale acceptance of responsibility. So those early efforts were not quite as futile as they may have felt! You sound like you've deeply thought through some of these issues. Further comments? SLT * * * * * * * * From Doug Johnson Maybe I'm still too fascinated and enthralled to be worried about where computer technology is taking us. Maybe that's good, maybe that's bad. I'm not worried that I'm not worried, either. This morning I was perusing messages from a list I subscribed to, Cybermind. Most of it is academic/intellectual pap, but there's the occasional interesting item. One guy offered a paper he'd written, "Language and Culture in the Information Age." He would send a copy via e-mail to anybody who asked. So I fired off a message. Not 15 minutes later he responded with the article. This guy is in Oslo, Norway. It represents a quantum leap in technology (and freedom) for me to be able to do that kind of communication exchange. I did read your book, "The Future Does Not Compute." Reviewed it in the magazine I work for. One passage from the book does seem to apply to my exchange with the Norwegian guy, and hint maybe at how I could be getting sucked into something insidious that I'm not aware of. You mentioned at one point a teacher's experience with students who were enthralled with the ability to send e-mail messages around the world, but wouldn't bother to talk to the students sitting next to them. Aren't you getting swamped with e-mail these days? --Doug Johnson * * * * * * * * [Yes -- thanks in part to my handling rather poorly that quantum leap you referred to. SLT] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- *** The ultimate pen pal club (87 lines) From Candi Brooks (email@example.com) Dear Sirs, Here goes nothing, or maybe not, I'll let you decide. I'm submitting my viewpoint of part of the interrelational side of the Net. It may be too "human interest" for your newsletter, but I'll give it a shot. I am in this for the "humans" at the other end of the line, and I think a lot of your subscribers are too. Net heads are an interesting breed, diverse in geography, social status, etc, and joined by a love of words and technology. I am very committed to helping the Net be more human, "user friendly" to beat a term to death. I have found the ultimate "pen pal club" for the out of school crowd, and I am loving it. Let me know what your thoughts are. Sincerely, Candi J Brooks. International Flavor, Accent for the Net Candi J Brooks For me the net has been a freeing, international experience... international chats afford me the advantages of connecting with another culture, without the expense of travel. Of course, it's not the same as actually visiting another culture, but for a word addict like myself, the savoring of various accents is a an adventure in itself. To enter a chat, look over the participants, and see Australia, Great Britain, Scotland, Italy, Belgium, and France represented is a linguistic dream come true. I don't like stereotypes, so I don't go in for a lot of "g'day mates" kind of malarkey, but I love to "listen" for the subtle nuances of speech, the phrases indicative of a different culture. A friend from Scotland gave me a phrase that should be bronzed and put on my mantle...I fell in love with it. He calls the pm hours and wee hours of the morning "Dark O'clock". I think of that one phrase alone, and I'm on the Scottish Highlands, looking out over the landscape just before a glorious sunrise. A Brit I have met likes to tease me about "Merican culture" (who IS Oral Roberts, anyway?)...and I keep telling him to learn to spell correctly, ie. words like humour and favourite, though I have to admit, sometimes I spell them that way myself for a touch of culture. From Italian friends I have learned such colorful phrases as "In boca al lupo" (in the mouth of the wolf) and the response "Crepi il lupo" (may the wolf die)...their rough equivalent of "break a leg", meaning good luck, and "sogni di oro" (dreams of gold), like our "sweet dreams". And I understand, now, that in Italy you "have" years, not "are" them, it makes for an interesting point of view on age, as something acquired, not something foist upon you. One day I met an Aussie of Italian extraction...he "sounded" different, as he used quite a mix of phrases and constructions. I asked him what he sounded like in reality and he related his friends estimation of his accent as "british european". OK, I can imagine that. Several of my Italian acquaintances are absolute anglophiles, and use such phrases as "bloody" and "mum" quite frequently, I really hope to "hear" that in reality some day. It should be a kick. Maybe that's the catch to all this "inexpensive" roaming of the world via the Net. It gives you a great wanderlust, to see the "real" places you have visited virtually. Well, looks as though I'd better start saving up for those plane tickets...NOW! sigh. cjb... Dec 22, 1995 http://www.myrrh.net/ Central Missouri, USA * * * * * * * * Candi -- Well said. What would be interesting to hear in this venue is how, if at all, your linguistic encounters relate to shifts in the character of human relationships in this era of the Net. There is the claim, for example, that electronic relationships are diluting what it means to "have human contact," and the contrary claim that online communication frees people to be "more fully themselves." SLT -------------------------------------------------------------------------- About this newsletter Copyright 1996 by The Nature Institute. You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes. 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