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  •                                  NETFUTURE
                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #86      A Publication of The Nature Institute        March 11, 1999
                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    NETFUTURE is a reader-supported publication.
    Editor's Note
    Quotes and Provocations
       When Computers Disappear, Will Salesmen Disappear Too?
       Why Johnny is a Cynic
       Conference on Abdicated Minds
       Cluttering Our Lives for Profit
    The Farm in Its Landscape (Craig Holdrege)
       Helping students to see the land in context
       NETFUTURE and the Issues Facing Libraries (David Miller)
       Firestorm in a Kindergarten (Stuart Cohen)
       Thanks for Bringing Pleasure to an Old Man (Klaus Rieckhoff)
       Muktha, Computers Are as Innocent as Your Shoes (Robin Sircus)
       There is a Place for Manipulation (Michael Goldhaber)
       When Film Projectors Were Going to Redeem Education (Alan Winston)
    About this newsletter
                                  EDITOR'S NOTE
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    My hope at the outset was to receive $10,000 during 1999.  I don't know
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    I don't intend to belabor this a great deal in the future.  But when one
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                             QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS
    When Computers Disappear, Will Salesmen Disappear Too?
    The new digital technologies will soon fade into the background, becoming
    transparent to our direct and meaningful engagement with the world.  When
    interacting with content, we'll no longer be distracted by the technical
    apparatus that mediates our interaction.
    So, at least, the technology salesmen assure us.  But there seems to be a
    disconnect here.  If the tools of the future will be as transparent as
    they claim, why are they so busily working parents and teachers into a
    frenzy about getting children in front of computers to "prepare them for
    the 21st century"?
    Why Johnny is a Cynic
    In a posting to the "mediaecology" list, John Maguire, an occasional media
    critic for the Boston Herald and a writing teacher at various Boston
    Colleges, recently offered a concise and penetrating summary of the
    burdens we have placed on young people today:
       I think many kids (speaking of freshmen I have taught) today
       "understand" that the world is an untrustworthy place, that their own
       minds are untrustworthy, that they must rely on others to explain
       things to them and the explanations are wormy with self-interest, and
       that someone else is in charge of everything that matters, and that the
       truth is not inside them but "out there" and endlessly evasive.
    It seems as clear as day to me that a good part of the problem lies in the
    way we push children into a premature, sophisticated cosmopolitanism.  The
    extremely unchildlike world in which they find themselves can breed only
    cynicism in young spirits who were never allowed the securely enclosed
    experience of home.
    The abandonment of children to television, of course, is a big part of the
    problem.  But now many parents and teachers exult in the power of the Net
    to make little sophisticates of their children -- children who
    increasingly enter the abstract, no-man's-land behind the computer screen
    before they have had any full benefit of a child's world.
    In his powerful little booklet, Beyond Ecophobia (see NF #33 for some
    excerpts) David Sobel passes on some stories that every parent and teacher
    should read.  They have to do with the critical balance, changing year by
    year, between the child's experience of a richly tactile, highly
    personalized, and secure home base and his exploration of the "wild
    beyond".  An excerpt from Annie Dillard's An American Childhood catches
    the essence of the matter.  Relating her experience in Pittsburgh at
    around the age of ten, she writes:
       I pushed at my map's edges.  Alone at night I added newly memorized
       streets and blocks to old streets and blocks, and imagined connecting
       them on foot .... On darkening evenings I came home exultant,
       secretive, often from some exotic leafy curb a mile beyond what I had
       known at lunch, where I had peered up at the street sign, hugging the
       cold pole, and fixed the intersection in my mind.  What joy, what
       relief, eased me as I pushed open the heavy front door! -- joy and
       relief because, from the trackless waste, I had located home, family
       and the dinner table once again.
    The boundaries of private discovery push outward inexorably, from the tent
    formed by a tablecloth over a kitchen chair to Dillard's neighborhood
    travels to the adult adventures that bring new realities into view for all
    mankind.  It doesn't take a lot of imagination to realize that all true
    adventures are first of all adventures of spirit, and that their
    prerequisite is a strong sense of home.  The small child may glory in
    being the master of his own tent, but let him believe that his mother and
    father have suddenly left and no sign of his mastery will remain.  Annie
    Dillard's trekking was predicated upon the solid reassurance of that
    dinner table.
    Clearly, making bold explorers of children is at least as much a matter of
    making a home for them as of getting them out into the world.  (You may be
    reminded here of the polar relation between globalization and localization
    mentioned in NF #84.)  Unfortunately, cyberspace does not offer much of
    either home or world, and those who are most eager to get kids online seem
    least concerned about holding any sort of balance.
    Sobel points out that, beginning in middle school, young people need
    outlets for their developing impulses toward community service, and that
    local communities provide an ideal context for these impulses -- a context
    youths can begin to understand and affect with their own activities.  They
    can see themselves making a difference.  It is exactly this sort of
    concrete context that the online world desperately lacks.
    Take these youths and make rootless cosmopolitan sophisticates out of them
    before their time, and you will reap a bunch of swaggering cynics,
    covering for their lostness and insecurity as best they can.
    Conference on Abdicated Minds
    The theme for the Third International Cognitive Technology Conference
    (August, 1999, San Francisco) is "Networked Minds", and the first call for
    papers begins with this litany of graces bestowed by the gods of
       Human minds are becoming increasingly networked.  We are steadily
       approaching the Optimal Flow Point, a theoretical point in
       telecommunication when the technology allows any mind on the planet to
       reach any other mind in a minimal amount of time.  Developments in
       satellite and cellular technologies are moving us to the point of
       spatial ubiquity, when any spot, no matter how remote or primitive, can
       be connected with any other in a worldwide telecommunications system.
       As spatial ubiquity is approaching, time needed to contact any human
       being is being steadily reduced.  As ubiquitous networking develops,
       computer interfaces such as expensive virtual reality systems allow
       higher levels of user embodiment.  The sensors and effectors of the
       interface increasingly penetrate the sensorimotor system of the user.
       Interfaces with high levels of user embodiment potentially allow the
       flow of communication between any two connected minds to meet and,
       possibly, surpass face-to-face communication.  The networking of minds
       proceeds apace.
    By all means, let the networking of minds proceed apace.  But can we at
    least keep our feet on the ground?  The "time needed to contact any human
    being" may be steadily decreasing, but it's worth remembering that this
    contact refers essentially to the performance of a technical system, not
    to the performance of minds.  There is a difference.
    By contrast with this contact time, the time needed to get in touch with
    another human being has not decreased at all.  It requires the same
    cultivation of mutual caring and understanding, the same painstaking
    exploration of shared and unshared meanings, as it always has.  In fact,
    there's a good case to be made that the time required for getting in touch
    is lengthening as we approach the Optimal Flow Point:  it takes more
    effort to break through the busyness, distraction, and habits of
    detachment encouraged by all those technically enhanced possibilities of
    Despite the near-universality of the confusion, I still find myself
    startled when I come across such a casual and uncritical blurring of the
    distinction between minds and the technologies they exploit.  It reminds
    me of the point I heard philosopher Ronald Brady make a while back:  when
    you put a computer in the classroom, you've installed what is for most
    people an image of the human mind.  No wonder those young people John
    Maguire talks about (see "Why Johnny is a Cynic" above) have lost all
    confidence in the coherent, meaningful achievement of their own minds!
    Cluttering Our Lives for Profit
    The occurrence was trivial:  a sign outside a bank displayed the time as I
    drove by.  Well, it didn't just display the time; a pattern of lights
    paraded across the sign and then congealed into the correct numbers --
    again and again and again.  What hit me with a tiny shock of revulsion was
    that those responsible for this sign were content to add their little bit
    of meaningless distraction to the landscape.  Such bits add up, so that in
    many locations simply to drive down the street is to find oneself
    unavoidably translated into the chaotic, hyperkinetic visual world of the
    web surfer.
    That sign, of course, was a kind of advertisement, designed to make me
    more aware of the bank's presence.  And while complaints about its visual
    pollution of the environment may seem trivial, the matter gains a
    different cast and additional dimensions when you look at the larger
    picture.  Advertising is re-shaping our culture.  Just consider a few of
    the symptoms:
    ** Not long ago the American Heart Association sold its logo for display
    on such products as Cocoa Frosted Flakes, Fruity Marshmallow Crispies, and
    a brand of cappuchino called Belgian Creme.  Only a tsunami of public
    protest forced the Association to back down.
    ** Noting that "prescription pharmaceuticals are being turned into brands
    and marketed like soap powder", the Economist (Aug. 8, 1998) believes we
    are heading toward "disease management through advertising".  The magazine
    reasonably concludes that "drug companies are unlikely to advertise
    without any regard to patients' well-being" -- the operative word being
    ** The recent acceleration in the commercialization of culture has been
    roughly coincident with the rise of the Net -- perhaps for good reason,
    given the Net's effectiveness in conditioning us to accept distraction.
    Certainly the new capabilities afforded by digital technologies only add
    to the problem.  We now have not only ad-strewn web sites, but ads in
    email, ads in the middle of free, long-distance telephone calls, and ads
    on CD-ROM (high school students can get a free CD-ROM containing
    application materials for hundreds of colleges -- as long as they're
    willing to put up with ads by Federal Express, Microsoft, and others).
    **  Ads are forced into our unwilling ears while we are held captive by
    telephone answering systems (which conveniently find opportunities to put
    us on hold).
    ** Some software developers now offer their products for free -- they make
    their money on ads built into the software.  Whoever finds occasion to use
    the ad-infested programs will come up against the commercial appeals.
    ("Are you sure you want to delete this file?  Why not click here for a
    Prozac prescription instead?")
    ** Video-on-demand has been supplied to residents of New York's Trump
    Towers -- along with two thirty-second commercials.  Advertisers, the
    supplier notes, are eager for access to a captive, upscale audience.
    ** Advertising in retail stores has moved beyond the audio public address
    system.  In 1997, for example, Wal-Mart inaugurated its Walmart Television
       The national chain hopes to draw twenty million viewers a month into
       their electronics department where they will be able to view
       entertainers like Garth Brooks, the Spice Girls and Fleetwood Mac in
       between commercials for products that are only yards away ....
       Advertisers seem to like the concept too.  Ken Mills of Polaroid
       complains that "All of the traditional media are cluttered nowadays".
       So true.  He's especially happy about the "intrusiveness" of Wal-Mart's
       rows of thirty to forty TV sets all blaring the same message.  (Wall
       Street Journal, Oct. 7, 1997, via Edupage)
    A company called AdEdge was, in September, 1997, preparing to market color
    video screens for installation on retail shelves, designed to "feature
    recipes, household tips, and pitches to check out store deli counters or
    ** The commercial assault on children continues to intensify.  Ads are
    appearing not only in the Channel One television shows that eight million
    students watch every day, but increasingly in books and other curricular
    materials.  As Business Week put it:  "Corporations are flooding schools
    with teaching aids -- and propaganda galore."  At Palmer High in Colorado
       Burger King and Sprite advertise on the sides of school buses.
       Norwest, Cub Foods, and Mountain Dew have posters in school hallways.
    Among the innovative curricular materials:  a science experiment designed
    by Campbell Soup had students proving that Campbell's Prego spaghetti
    sauce is thicker than Unilever PLC's Ragu.  (Campbell was forced to
    withdraw this one in the face of protest.)  In Florida, students can learn
    how to design a McDonald's restaurant, discover how a McDonald's works,
    and find out how to apply and interview for a job at McDonald's -- all in
    a seven-week, company-sponsored class to teach kids about the world of
    work.  When a ten-year-old was asked to assess the benefits of the course,
    he replied,
       "If you want to work in a McDonald's when you grow up, you already know
       what to do."  Also, he adds, McDonald's is better than Burger King.
       (Business Week, June 30, 1997)
    As to the Web, already back in October, 1997, Business Week spotlighted
    the trend:
       Instead of posting a dry list of nutritional facts, [Darwin Digital, a
       division of marketing firm Saatchi & Saatchi] created a children's site
       called You Rule School that's chock full of games, educational material
       -- and cereal ads.
    ** With television screens appearing in the seat backs of automobiles,
    children can now be spared even the fleeting exposure to the larger
    environment they might otherwise have suffered.  At least the ads are more
    interesting than the bank temperature signs outside the window.
    ** People are buying pagers that display "news" about contests and
    programming on MTV.
    ** Museum programs, exhibits, and gift shops now come with advertising.
    According to Business Week (Nov. 10, 1997), a dinosaur program
    traveling between natural history museums featured both real dinosaur
    fossils and models created for the movie, "The Lost World".  Although the
    fake dinosaurs are marked as such, "for a museum to knowingly display an
    inaccurate dinosaur is astonishing", says Michael Jacobson, head of the
    Center for Science in the Public Interest.  Writes Business Week:
       Exhibit sponsor Mercedes-Benz, whose sport-utility vehicle is featured
       in both the movie and the museum display, would not comment, although
       the American Museum of Natural History defends the mix as helping
       visitors "distinguish fiction from reality".
    One hears that lame-brained defense all too often, particularly in
    relation to the chaos on the Net -- chaos that (so we assure ourselves)
    kids will "learn to assess critically".  It's rather like breaking a
    person's leg because "it will help him to learn to overcome adversity".
    This may be true as far as it goes, but it's not the part of the truth
    most likely to interest any impartial court of law looking into the
    ** Advertising has long been known for defacing the earthly landscape.
    Now the unearthly one is at risk as well.  Two London ad executives, Gary
    Betts and Malcolm Green, have proposed a system for projecting corporate
    logos onto the moon.  French scientists offered a competing scheme whereby
    satellites would reflect advertisements from orbit.
    Directing rage at such crazy suggestions is hardly worth the energy.  But
    we should nevertheless remember that the idea of redesigning the heavens
    is not as fantastic as it might seem at first.  Pepsi Cola contracted with
    the Mir space station to unfurl a Pepsi banner in space.  And, quite apart
    from our having blotted out the night sky with our earthbound lights,
    there is the matter of satellites.  Motorola's low-flying Iridium
    satellites catch the sun at certain times and throw a bright flare
    earthward.  Lasting up to twenty seconds, this artificial streak is so
    bright it can even be seen in daylight.
    ** Finally, as I was writing this article, NETFUTURE reader Richard Smith
    from Simon Fraser University told me of the latest wrinkle on the Web: hot
    buttons are being inserted between the words of otherwise
    noncommercial content.  If you don't believe it, go to Gary Chapman's
    column at www.latimes.com/excite/990301/t000018839.html.  There you will
    find a brightly colored logo inserted (within parentheses) in two
    different sentences of the column.
       Further exploration [writes Smith], including e-mail to and from Gary
       Chapman, has revealed that these adlets are for the benefit of outside
       viewers.  Authors don't see them if they come into the site with their
       subscriber account.  I'm not surprised, since it must be bordering on a
       violation of an author's moral rights to have his or her letter spacing
       filled up with ads.  Are we next going to see neon signs in the holes
       in a Henry Moore sculpture?
    Increasingly, the preconditions for every service under the sun look like
    including a willingness to subject ourselves to ads.  This
    commercialization-of-everything has its defenders.  David Talbot, founder
    of the online Salon magazine, says, for example, that
       online journalists must learn to operate in an environment where buy
       buttons and other features of online commerce co-exist with editorial
       material -- it is critical to our success.  (Economist, Feb. 14,
    No thought here, apparently, that some forms of success might not be worth
    Johann Wachs, an executive targeting the children's market for Saatchi &
    Saatchi, is impressed with "how rich digital media are in the lives of
    children.  They provide an enormous developmental push.  It's bound to
    have a major impact on kids."  Getting that impact just right, of course,
    is what Wachs' job is all about.  As he told the New York Times (Feb. 18,
    1999), Saatchi & Saatchi has learned that merging content and advertising
    is the only effective way to reach children from moderately affluent
    The chairman of the Internet Advertising Bureau is sure that
       consumers understand the basic proposition that all the free things are
       enabled by advertising.  Advertising is transforming the business
       model.  (Los Angeles Times, Mar. 2, 1999, via Edupage)
    So it is.  As a society we seem hellbent upon maximizing distraction
    through the commercial employment of every vacant space and every vacant
    moment.  But the notion that advertising makes a service free is juvenile
    at best.  I doubt whether you could find a single contemplative movement
    upon the face of the earth that did not recognize the truth:  we become
    like our distractions.
    Commercial marketing threatens to swallow up all of culture.  I see no
    hope of bringing proportion and health to this arena until there is a
    widespread willingness to look at the human transactions involved, and to
    take responsibility for them.  A good starting point would be to grant
    that requesting someone's attention is a personal, not a merely
    mechanical, act, and is therefore also a morally tinged act.  You are
    asking something of another human being -- something extremely valuable.
    Attention is a limited resource whose responsible allocation is crucial to
    the welfare of both individual and society.  It is central to personal
    At the very least, the claimant seeking someone else's attention should be
    able to say, "I honestly believe that this interruption, this redirection
    of your attention, is worth the disturbance it will cause."
    Unfortunately, (although it can be no accident), the declaration of
    commercial open season upon everyone's attention has coincided with the
    disappearance of any idea of real worth -- as opposed to bottom-line
    "worth" -- from most business strategizing.  (For more on this, see
    "Beyond the Dreams of Avarice" in NF #68.)
    But we are not entirely without hopeful signs.  There seems to be a
    growing awareness, for example, that boomboxes should not be imposed upon
    the unwilling -- that cluttering the public perceptual spaces and thereby
    coercing the attention of others is not a healthy thing.  Whether that
    kind of respectful sentiment can stand against the onslaught of philistine
    commercialism remains to be seen.
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                            THE FARM IN ITS LANDSCAPE
                                  Craig Holdrege
    This "quiet", pastoral essay by my colleague at The Nature Institute
    was written for Stella Natura, the Kimberton Hills Agricultural Calendar
    (year 2000 edition).  As you read, you might want to compare the
    teaching process Craig describes here with the corresponding educational
    software.  Incidentally, the valley and hills you meet in this article
    happen to be the setting for my own home as well.  For information about
    Stella Natura, see the end of the essay.  SLT
    I have the fortune of teaching at a rural Waldorf School -- Hawthorne
    Valley School in upstate New York.  It is surrounded by forest and by the
    fields and meadows of the biodynamic Hawthorne Valley Farm.
    In the 11th grade I teach ecology.  For me, ecology means viewing and
    understanding phenomena within their larger context, the context that
    gives these phenomena their real meaning.  In an ecological view each
    tree, each wild flower, is a focal point for a whole web of connections.
    Can I help the students begin to see such connections?  Can we build up an
    understanding of a unique environment -- the place Hawthorne Valley -- of
    which they are a part every day?
    Many of the students have gone to the school since Kindergarten.  They
    have taken walks up through the forested slopes, played on the rock
    outcroppings, walked along and waded in a stream that meanders through a
    part of the valley where the heifers graze.   They've tended farm animals
    and helped with harvesting in their project classes, as well as on farm
    practicums in the third and ninth grades.  They have been able to connect
    with the environment of their school in a way that most children cannot.
    When the students reach high school, they can observe more wakefully and
    reflect more consciously upon their experiences.  They can begin to see
    the familiar with new eyes.  Once again we take walks.  We study the
    shape, size, and species composition of the trees in different parts of
    the forest.  By counting the annual rings of trees that have fallen over
    in winter storms, we find that most of the trees are less than 100 years
    Once in a while we'll come across single trees or a small group of mighty,
    older trees that once had great, expansive crowns, evidenced by the
    remains of dead branches and by knots further down the trunk.  Such old
    giants usually grow along the remains of stone walls that criss-cross
    through the woods.  Some of them have wire from sheep fences running
    through them, the wire having been overgrown by the wood and bark of the
    trunk.  One time we came across a group of lilac bushes in full flower in
    the middle of the woods; nearby stones were piled upon one another in an
    order that suggested they had once been part of the foundation of some
    The students are surprised and fascinated by these observations, because
    until then they had thought of the forest as a basically unchanging
    entity.  Suddenly the forest becomes part of a process of historical and
    ecological change.  The present is connected to a past that the students
    can begin to picture in their minds:  within the past one hundred years
    these forests have grown up in an area that was previously dominated by
    farming.  The fields had been cleared of rocks and rock walls were built
    to mark property lines and also to keep in sheep.  Along such borders
    trees grew with expansive crowns, and lilac bushes were planted next to
    the farmers' dwellings.
    But in the course of time sheep farming died out and dairy farming moved
    west.  Most farms were abandoned and the forest grew.  If Hawthorne Valley
    and neighboring farms were to stop working, the Northeast would become one
    gigantic, dense secondary-growth forest -- except for towns and cities.
    Or, by contrast, if industrial agriculture had taken hold in full force,
    then there would be deforested land covered with huge hay and crop fields.
    Instead, the rich interplay of forest and farmland has come to determine
    the landscape in this part of the Northeast.
    We then turn our attention to the farm.  There are meadows, which are cut
    for hay, and some old abandoned fields that are becoming forest.  There
    are grain fields and a large parcel of land used for various garden crops.
    The cattle graze different pastures on a rotational cycle.  Two streams
    run through the farm, one of which separates it from a forested slope.
    There are a number of small ponds. There are bands of trees and bushes
    that run between some of the fields and along parts of the streams.
    We notice that different species of wild flowers grow in the forests than
    in the meadows.  A rock outcropping in the woods supports a wholly
    different community of plants than a rock outcropping on a southerly
    exposed pasture.  We are impressed by the great variety of life and the
    intermingling of different kinds of habitats.  Ecologists speak of the
    edge-effect:  where boundaries between differing habitats are created, a
    diversity arises that is not the same as in either of the habitats whose
    borders create the edges.  In one study, for example, ecologists found
    only five species of birds on and around large crop fields, but when trees
    grew along a field they found an average of nineteen species.
    It becomes clear to the students that if Hawthorne Valley were a forest or
    only a specialized farm with corn and meadows, this diversity would not be
    as great.  The diversity is connected with the variety of habitats and
    boundaries, but also with the fact that herbicides, pesticides, and
    inorganic fertilizers are not used.  Under these conditions myriad
    organisms can thrive.
    In this way of viewing, an ecologically oriented farm begins to become an
    example of how the human being can interact with nature to support
    richness and diversity.  Every child grows up today hearing primarily
    about the destructive impact of humanity on nature.  But there is a real
    danger that overemphasis on the negative will have the opposite of the
    desired effect:  increasing passivity in young people inculcated with the
    "keep-out, you're destructive" attitude.
    It's not a matter of denying our often negative influence or of
    overlooking the importance of conservation.  But the reality of most
    places today is that they have in one way or another been influenced by
    human beings -- even many places we call wilderness.  We can't step
    outside of nature, and the example of the Northeastern forest shows
    clearly how bound together we are with ongoing change in nature.  The
    question is whether we can find ways to guide our interaction with nature
    responsibly and creatively.  I suggest that ecologically oriented
    agriculture is one place where this striving and its fruits can be seen
    and also serve as a positive guiding picture for young people.
    The Stella Natura agricultural calendar contains an essay (like
    this one) for each month, as well as general information for farmers and
    gardeners.  The calendar costs $11.95.  You can contact the publication
    at:  c/o Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association, P.O. Box 29165,
    San Francisco, California 94129-0135 (Tel: 888-516-7797).
    Goto table of contents
    NETFUTURE and the Issues Facing Libraries
    Response to:  "Editor's Note" (NF-85)
    From:  David Miller (dmiller@curry.edu)
    I'm sorry to see that IFLA is pulling the plug on NETFUTURE. I want to
    assure all nonlibrarian readers that this doesn't say anything about
    NETFUTURE's relevance to librarianship.  I thought that it was quite
    enlightened of IFLA to provide space for the newsletter, but apparently
    not everyone at IFLA agreed.  Too bad.  I'm sure I'm not the only
    librarian reader, since the questions you address go to the heart of many
    of our most important issues and challenges.
    David Miller
    Levin Library, Curry College
    Milton, MA
    Firestorm in a Kindergarten
    From:  Stuart Cohen (stuart@shore.net)
    Dear Steve:
    I spent some time in a Waldorf kindergarten yesterday, doing photos for
    the school.  One incident made me think of you and what you are trying to
    do with NF.
    In a kindergarten of mostly 5-year olds, a boy picked up a yellow piece of
    silk with a stick and waved it around, making the silk flutter.  "Look,"
    he said.  "I have a torch."  He showed it to the other children and waved
    it about, talking about the fire his imagination saw in the fluttering
    yellow color.  Other boys liked the idea and copied him.  Pretty soon 3 or
    4 boys were waving yellow and gold and orange silk torches around.  Then
    they realized they could play with their "fire" and not get burned, which
    appeared to make them feel powerful.  After a few minutes of this, one of
    the girls started to feel uncomfortable with the notion of all that fire
    and complained to the teacher.  The teacher approached the boys and made a
    hissing sound saying, "I'm a fire engine putting out all the fires now."
    After a minute of that the boys, reluctantly, gave up the fire game and
    moved on to other things.
    I can't imagine anything on a screen that could be so rich or so
    Also, I've been asked to do a book review of Jane Healy's recent book
    [Failure to Connect] for a newsletter.  There is one quote in
    there, near the beginning, that would be perfect for NF:
       The most interactive experience you ever had with your computer is less
       interactive than the most meaningless experience you ever had with your
       cat!  (p. 39, quoting Tom Snyder, educational software designer)
    Stuart Cohen, Photographer/Writer
    Creator of Marblehead 2000 Photo series documenting life in a small town
    at the coming of the new Millennium
    Thanks for Bringing Pleasure to an Old Man
    Response to:  "I'm Glad the Net `Corrodes' My Culture" (NF-85)
    From:  Klaus Rieckhoff (k_rieckhoff@sfu.ca)
    This has been one of the most enjoyable discourses that I have encountered
    thanks to the web. Alas, that level of depth and relevance of exchange is
    only too rare, even though the intellectual level of web-users is probably
    significantly higher than that of the average citizen.
    I found it interesting, though, that part of the enthusiasm for the
    internet expressed by Marcelo resulted from becoming through the web
    acquainted with world literature. Clearly, the printed word, as likewise
    noticeable in Muktha's response, is the important and substantive value.
    The web may assist in gaining access but there are other avenues of low
    technology, such as libraries, well educated teachers etc. which have
    provided this access long before the internet came into existence. It
    certainly was not the web that acquainted me with Garcia-Marquez, Fuentes,
    Tomas Blanco, Jorge Amado, or Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, and others.
    Even though I have been a user of the internet since its earliest
    beginnings, I still find its greatest value in e-mail and have little or
    no use for its commercial aspects, which I detest.  I can see limited
    educational benefits, but the flood of frequently unreliable and
    undigested (mis)information may tilt the balance to the negative side.
    For trustworthy information and access to literature I still rely on the
    printed medium, and for becoming more cognizant of other cultures, besides
    their literature, I have found no substitute in the web for travel and
    personal interaction.
    Anyhow, thanks to all three of you, Stephen, Marcelo, and Muktha for
    bringing pleasure to an old man via the web!
    Klaus E. Rieckhoff, Ph.D.,LlD.(h.c.), Professor Emeritus,
    Department of Physics, Simon Fraser University
    8888 University Drive, Burnaby, B.C. V5A 1S6
    Phone: (604) 291 4848, FAX: (604) 291 3592
    Muktha, Computers Are as Innocent as Your Shoes
    Response to:  "Who Are We Without Our Technologies?" (NF-85)
    From:  Robin Sircus (marriage@urbi.com.br)
    Dear Marcello and Muktha and of course Steve,
    Between the three of you a fascinating read.  Steve you and I are similar
    in that we know how to open up our big mouths no matter whose feet we step
    on.  Congratulations for taking on the really big giant beasts like
    Monsanto.  If you ever need my cyber 16 inch battle guns of a fleet of
    cyber light vessels manned with heart beings who are not afraid to stand
    up for what is right just call but give me a year or so to assemble the
    Marcello, being in Brazil I understand where you are coming from but I am
    an American boy from New York.  I think you most totally right in your
    view point and in the future. Muktha I have compassion for your
    experiences and was sitting by the sea with you.  I just recently came
    back from two weeks in the jungles in the interior of Brazil and was with
    my young kids and it was more than fantastic.  A dream but the first night
    there I dreamed of solar panels and a satellite connection and leading the
    cyber revolution from there.  I understand many of your feelings but
    computers are as innocent as your shoes.  They should be as transparent
    and it only matters what they do not what they are.  Much the same as our
    brain cells they have a physical structure but they do more, they carry
    more, they facilitate more than just physical existence.
    Knowing what you are reacting to and the low levels of culture online it
    is time to create a new high culture online.  All the old societies are
    committing social suicide and none of them have the answers for the future
    and the family also is on the way out so we need new families and that is
    why I wrote The Marriage of Souls which has two versions, one for f2f and
    the other for cyber existence.  Yes our souls need to touch the oceans and
    the mountains and each other my dear.  Don't disappear, the world of too
    much love and heart is coming and it will dawn via digital carried beams
    of heart felt communication.  So forgive me this brief communication you
    all seem so interesting but I am busy building this world called Camelot.
    We will create our own culture and through the years organize ourselves
    throughout the world to love and fight and protect when necessary.  Steve
    fights with his words.  Our laser swords and photon torpedoes will be the
    razor sharp communication beams of our hearts spoken bravely in tight
    places.  Steve if there is anything I can do to make your home change
    easier just yell.
    Robin from Brazil
    P.S. Oh dear, and there is only one dear here, I am also a man if you
    could not tell, but Muktha please don't tell me that you would doom this
    and future generations to the classroom with teachers and curriculum and
    all that torture.  The sky and the sea and the spirit and the heart can be
    combined no problem with using computers as teachers that give children
    real freedom to learn at their own pace.  Balanced with imagination and
    intuitive education and heart and social stuff we could create a race of
    enlightened beings.  We have already seen what your societies and schools
    have produced.
    Robin --
    Sometimes I marvel at who reads NETFUTURE!  You seem to stand for most of
    the craziness I rail against.  What in the world interests you in this
    newsletter?  But far be it from me to turn away anyone who offers me the
    "16-inch battle guns of a fleet of cyber light vessels manned with heart
    beings who are not afraid to stand up for what is right".  Why, those
    words themselves are worth any two issues of NETFUTURE.
    Despite myself, I enjoyed reading your message.  Thanks for writing.
    There is a Place for Manipulation
    Response to:  "Consumer Manipulation Made Easy" (NF-85)
    From:  Michael Goldhaber (mgoldh@well.com)
    Dear Steve,
    You suggest thst someone who is unwilling to be manipulated cannot
    manipulate, etc.  I don't think this is necessarily true, based on a
    recent, and very disturbing experience.  I have a friend who is enormously
    unwilling to be manipulated, yet is extraordinarily good at manipulating
    others, me included.  Recently, for the second time that I know of, she
    attempted suicide.  All her friends realized this was afoot, and did
    everything we could think of to stop her downhill trend.  As usual, she
    ignored us.  Now she is in the hospital recovering from her overdose (not
    nearly fatal, as it turned out) and calling on us to come to her side
    again.  Most of us, though aware we are being used, feel enough pity and
    admiration that we consent.
    While her example is extreme and perverse, I think it is indicative of a
    wide variety of cases in which people immune to coercion can be very
    coercive.  (Stalin and Hitler come to mind.)  My guess is that to go too
    far in refusal to be manipulated or on the contrary to refuse too much to
    manipulate is to end up in a pathological state denying self or others or
    possibly both.  It is certainly reasonable to want to learn how others
    such as merchandisers are attempting to manipulate us, while still
    scoffing at their overblown estimates of their own capacities and not
    worrying too much that we are going to be reduced to the automatons they
    might profess to want as ideal customers, despite prophets of doom like
    Robinson who delight in frightening us about all this.
    Michael H. Goldhaber
    PH  1-510-482-9855
    FAX 1-510-482-9857
    When Film Projectors Were Going to Redeem Education
    From:  Alan Winston (winston@SLAC.Stanford.EDU)
    Steve --
    I was watching Turner Classic Movies, a cable and satellite channel
    devoted to, well, old movies, yesterday.  Rather than cut films to fit
    into two hour slots, they fill odd time with old movie trailers, one-
    reelers, and assorted odd material that doesn't show up on the schedule.
    This is how I ended up seeing a promotional film made by Warner Brothers
    about the history of sound film.  Internal evidence suggested it was from
    1945, since among the things they congratulated themselves on were
    shipping morale-building Hollywood movies to our boys at the front, and
    even the boys of our allies; this was demonstrated by seeing the same
    scene of Gary Cooper as Sergeant York, first in English, then dubbed into
    French, Russian, and Italian.
    The film concluded with a brave vision of the future.  Someday every
    classroom will have a sound film projector, connecting the students to a
    world of images and information no matter how remote they are.  (Shot of
    one-room schoolhouse.)  Lessons will be lively then, and students will be
    interested.  (Shot of class watching a film that appears to be a
    recreation of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, followed by
    a close shot of the Constitution, which is held for long enough that it
    seems we're supposed to be reading it off the screen.)
    The promises struck me as a subset of those made for wiring schools to the
    Internet, and the examples just as misguided as those usually given by
    Internet proponents.
    Just thought you'd be amused.
    -- Alan
    PS: I was trying to figure out whether there's a lesson to be drawn by
    analogy, and I can't come up with one that's any good.  The most
    comforting idea would be that net connectivity will eventually fall to the
    same place that A/V tech falls now, just one tool in the instructional
    toolbox, but I can't make this hold water.  For one thing, parents weren't
    being conditioned to feel that their children were destined for failure if
    they didn't watch enough movies.
    Disclaimer: I speak only for myself, not SLAC or SSRL  Phone: 650/926-3056
    Physical mail to: SSRL - SLAC BIN 69, PO BOX 4349, STANFORD, CA 94309-0210
    Goto table of contents
                              ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER
    Copyright 1999 by The Nature Institute.  You may redistribute this
    newsletter for noncommercial purposes.  You may also redistribute
    individual articles in their entirety, provided the NetFuture url and this
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    NetFuture is supported by freely given reader contributions, and could not
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    Steve Talbott :: NetFuture #86 :: March 11, 1999
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