John Horvath on Sun, 4 Aug 96 23:59 METDST

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nettime: the ways of the net


I will try to kill two birds with one stone in this message. First, I
would like to apologize to everybody for being out of touch for over a
month. I know I have missed a lot of activities and events but technical
problems beyond my control prevented me from accessing my mail. Which
brings me to the next point. The past month has been a good first hand
experience at how fallible the net still is. For those who are
constantly praising it, regarding it as the liberation of mankind or as
a key to economic prosperity, think again. Not only do the vast majority
of people worldwide not use the net, but those who do have access are
limited, especially in places such as Central and Eastern Europe.

The reason for this limited access is twofold: one, the infrastructure
is badly developed; telephone lines are shit, and it's hard to get a
hold of good, decent equipment. The second reason (and I do admit a lot
of this is based on speculation), has to do with a form of censorship.
People have wasted so much time and energy fighting a bill like the CDA,
which is unenforceable (is that a good word?) as it is, while
overlooking more subtle forms of repression. With new media comes new
forms of censorship. Of course the watchers can't look through every bit
of e-mail floating around, but what they can do is either flood the net
with confusing and contradictory messages, so that truth lies mangled in
a pile of noise and jargon. Also, by the inability to connect properly
you are in effect cut off; while more experienced users can find their
ways around obstacles, other can't. Furthermore, the damage has already
been done: wasted time, lost messages, and confusion all around.

Take my case for instance. I kept logging in, but was not given the
prompt. Thus, I was unable to read or send messages, just stare into the
deep, dark recesses of cyberspace. For over a month I tried, but to no
avail. Writing to my sysop did not help. Of course, the problem could
have been my own hardware, but after using a commercial online service
provider (Compu$erve) temporarily so as to send important messages, I
had come to the conclusion that everything was fine at my end.
Eventually I got around the problem by using a friend's account, but in
this hustle and hurry world one month off the net seems like a lifetime.
And it is. Moreover, in a part of the world where monopolistic telecoms
still have a stranglehold, attempts at connecting has cost me a fortune.

I've noticed a growing tendency among providers to not allow users to
use all the options available on the net. For instance, at the beginning
my provider enabled most options. However, slowly but surely it has been
whittled down to basic e-mail. I can't do IRC, can no longer FTP, and
basic commands such as "finger" and "mail" are restricted (I have to use
PINE in order to send and receive messages). Why no use another
provider?, you may ask. Well, on the one hand it is a question of money;
on the other, changing providers all the time makes your presence in
"cyberspace" unstable. I have had over 5 different addresses in the past
year alone. Some have recently written to me saying it was hard enough
as it is to find me on the net; when they have, they are not sure which
one I'm at anymore. To be honest, I'm not sure either.

This is not to say that whenever there is a problem it is done
deliberately. There's actually quite a few people who do not know
exactly what they are doing or are merely doing a sloppy job. Mix into
this others who are creating such problems for an intended purpose and,
together with the rest of the community who marvel and how nice and easy
everything goes, you have for yourself the complete picture of the

Thus, for those who still have their heads in the clouds, it's time to
come back down to earth. The economic prospects of the net (i.e., the
global economy or, as I call it, globaloney) are unequally in favor of
western, industrialized nations. Moreover, opportunities for censorship
are real, albeit in a more clandestine manner. As for the internet being
the "new home of Mind", don't hold your breath; we are still a long way
from home.

For those who have made it this far, thanks for putting up with this
verbal diarrhea. Now that things are more or less under control, I will
try to remain in contact, but don't be surprised if I drop out again for
days, or even weeks, at a time.


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