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May 2001: Civil Society Online and Off

May 23, 2001: This message was distributed by Papyrus News. Feel free to forward this message to others, preferably with this introduction. For info on Papyrus News, including how to (un)subscribe or access archives, see <>.

The May 2001 issue of iMP: The Magazine on Information Impacts, which is published on the Web by the Center for Information Strategy and Policy (CISP) of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), has been posted. You can find the magazine at: [follow "visit iMP"] or or

In this issue, we are featuring stories and essays on civil society: Is there civil society online and off? Our guest columnist Laurence Press joins us with an essay on MIT's new online venture.

"One way to think about civil society is to characterize it as "what's left" after government, market and domestic institutions have been subtracted from some abstract whole. What's interesting here is that we impute the notion of "society" to the Internet, which is fundamentally a set of engineering and communications technologies." Editorial,

Imagining Fairness: Equality and Equity of Access in Search of Democracy. Jorge Reina Schement. "In an information society of nearly one-third of a billion people, democratic participation requires access to mediated channels and often takes place between parties whose only shared experience may come from membership in the same network. Scale alone, not to mention demographic, technological or economic change, confronts democratic discourse with a profound challenge: how can we assure access for all?"

The Internet and Civil Society: Dangers and Opportunities. Peter Levine. "But as civil society moves online, some worrying trends are beginning to emerge. This article examines five main grounds for concern: inequality, weakened social bonds, diminished public deliberation, rampant consumerism, and the impact of eroding privacy on freedom of association."

A Privacy Challenge. Robert Gellman. "In the end, we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking that we either have privacy or we do not. Privacy is a bundle of interests."

Reliance and Reliability: The Problem of Information on the Internet. Robert Wachbroit. There are two issues regarding information on the Internet: a narrow issue regarding the reliability of information from a specific Web site, and a wider issue regarding reliance on the Web for information. This paper discusses some of the issues and their connection with recent discussions about community and fragmentation.

The Internet, Cities and Civil Society. John B. Horrigan. "There are encouraging signs of how the Internet might help build civil society, from efforts to make cities more hospitable to innovators to programs to extend technology's reach to the less well-off. But having a new space for public deliberation will not happen by accident. At this stage, it is easy to see the foundations that have been laid, but it will take sustained effort over several years to build long-lasting civic structures."

How the Internet Can Transform Civil Society: Nonprofit Productivity in the New Economy. Jason Saul. "While innovation and business process improvement have been a mainstay in the for-profit sector, scant resources have been committed to the development of similar productivity tools to streamline the work of NPOs. Why?"

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth in 2001: A Cyber Ethnography . Terry M. Gudaitis. "What will social scientists centuries from now think when they discover data servers filled with chatroom remnants, message board ramblings, and e-mails? Assuming that investigators can read the files, how will they interpret these types of communication? Will they see us as civilized?"

Of more general interest are our columns, "What's Happening" and "Calendar", in which we identify new reports, journals, funding opportunities, upcoming conferences and developments on the Hill and in the courts.

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Next month, we will do our annual issue on education: Who needs computing in school?

Amy Friedlander

May 22, 2001

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Last updated: May 23, 2001 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0