When do ordinary people get a look in?

This presentation was given by David Wilcox at Sussex Community Internet Forum September 30 1996. The title of the Forum was: The Internet: When do ordinary people get a look in?

This presentation
An appropriate title
Does the Internet matter?
Do ordinary people need a look in?
How do we give ordinary people a look in?
Other presentations and Forum workshop reports

An appropriate title

It is a great pleasure, and appropriate, to be introducing the seminar under this title - when do ordinary people get a look in - because it is the result of work by ordinary people.

Eighteen months ago Clive Baldock of the Health Care Trust, Colin Miller of Hove community development team, Elaine Jewell of Brighton Library and I met.

I was inspired by a trip to a US conference of community networkers - The Ties that Bind. Since then Mark Walker at PACT, Gill Muncey of Common Purpose, Peter Day of Brighton University, Sally McMahon from the library and others have carried the ideas forward with our volunteer co-ordinator Peter Mason.

Nationally I have worked with others to help create Communities Online which has funding from BT and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Three questions lie behind the main title
  1. Does the Internet matter?
  2. If so, do ordinary people need to get a look in? Can't we just leave it to the experts?
  3. If ordinary people do need a look in, how is that best achieved?
I'll give you my conclusions in advance: it is important, we can't leave it to the experts, and the way to gain involvement is local.

Does the Internet matter?

I think there are three views:


The impact of new technology will be something like a combination of the internal combustion engine on town and countryside, TV on our leisure, and the black death on our health - mentally at least. It will destroy the national state, destroy many jobs, and glue our children to the screen downloading porn. This view was ably presented by Ian Angell, LSE Professor in last week's Independent and on BBC2 on Saturday in the programme on globalisation.

Techno empowerment.

For the first time anyone can be an international publisher. The kid is the back bedroom is as powerful as the grey suits. The Internet can be used to rebuild our communities by democratising communication and provides great opportunities for entrepreneurs. See Victor Keegan in today's Guardian.

Techno weary.

The Internet is over hyped - rather like CB radio. If you do use it regularly you will soon fall back to basic email. Top people in the industry use meetings, phone and pieces of paper. See Clifford Stoll in Silicon Snake Oil for this view.

Which is right?

I offer some pointers in judging between these three views: ·.... so something is afoot

Do ordinary people need a look in?

Can't we leave it to the experts?

The case for ordinary people and their representatives


How do we give ordinary people a look in?

Some of it is happening

But this isn't enough - it is a new set of elites

We need

Why local is important

There are several reasons for focusing on the local, which come down to the same thing - that electronic communications are not enough: If we want ordinary people to have a look in, we have to start where ordinary people are - and that means with the real world schools, businesses, clubs, societies, families and friends in Brighton, Hove and Sussex.
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