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partnerships:articles:ed [2017/06/12 10:20] (current)
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 +The Internet'​s Engine for Politics-Email
 +US activist and community networker Ed Schwartz provides an article
 +adapted from his book NetActivism:​ How Citizens Use the Internet,
 +O'​Reilly,​ 1996.\
 +The mass-market coverage of the Internet in politics is quite
 +misleading. Given that the World Wide Web is the most visible system on
 +the Net, reporters and columnists focus entirely on particular web
 +sites, as a kind of Internet Broadcasting System. They are then quick to
 +point out that only a tiny portion of the country has access to these
 +sites, as opposed to television ads that reach just about everyone. On
 +this basis, it's easy to dismiss the Internet as a potential political
 +resource for the future, but largely irrelevant today.\
 + The heart of political organizing and advocacy is communication. At any
 +given moment, we need to be able to reach one another and to speak out
 +to the people in power. Up to now, we have to do rely on snail mail,
 +telephones, and fax machine. All are expensive and limited in their
 +outreach. Only large organizations or movements with sizeable budgets
 +could make full use of them.\
 + Email now adds a powerful new resource to the list. It is not simply a
 +"​me-to-you"​ broadcasting system. It is a powerful "​we-to-us"​
 +communications system. It is this system that permits people from all
 +parts of the world to connect simultaneously with one another quickly,
 +easily, and at minimal cost. This is the system that holds the greatest
 +for the Internet in politics.\
 + What can we do as activists through email that we can't do as
 +easily--or at all--right now?\
 + We can send complex messages and material to each other individually
 +within a matter of minutes. Fax machines do give us this capacity now
 +(and consider how rapidly these have become standard equipment in
 +offices), but email is faster and a lot cheaper, especially if we need
 +to reach people all over the country. Faxing a ten page memo to three
 +people can take as much as a half an hour; sending it via email takes
 +two or three minutes.\
 + We can communicate back and forth with thousands of people
 +simultaneously on our own time for only the access charges of our online
 +service providers. I am not here talking about live "​chats,"​ which are
 +possible--and easier--over the phone. I'm referring to Usenet groups,
 +where people post public messages sharing information and ideas with one
 +another. Or email mailing lists--even more potent in this area--where
 +people use an electronic list server or "​listserv"​ to email messages
 +back and forth to one another, each message being routed instantly to
 +hundreds of people on the same list. Every organization in America has
 +some sort of newsletter that it sends to its members at great time and
 +expense. Imagine if we could use email to do this. No more stuffing
 +envelopes all day. Moreover, the people who receive the information via
 +an email list can respond immediately to it--to everyone on the list. No
 +existing technology has even permitted this sort of interchange among
 +large groups of people, let alone made it easy and inexpensive to use.\
 + We can use email to develop online to establish ongoing discussions
 +within our civic and political organizations,​ thereby strengthening the
 +relationships among group members and attachment to the group itself.
 +The hardest problem facing any organization is securing attendance at
 +its meetings, especially now when both parents in families are likely to
 +work and need their evenings to spend time with their children. It's
 +rare for a group to get together more than once a month and even these
 +occasions involve only a small portion of the membership. The result is
 +that boards and committees end up doing most of the work, which is then
 +conveyed to the membership via a newsletter.\
 + A group that established an email list for its members, however, could
 +conduct business every day. There would still have to be "real time"
 +meetings, of course. Even ongoing electronic communication is no
 +substitute meeting face-to-face. Nonetheless,​ a list would permit those
 +who could not attend regular meetings to offer suggestions online in
 +their absence. It would enable members to see drafts of proposals prior
 +to meetings and offer feedback before formal discussion began. People
 +could even "sign off" on final drafts of proposals and resolutions
 +without having to wait a month for the next meeting. If citizen
 +activists and political organizers had asked the telecommunications
 +industry to develop a new technology just for us, they couldn'​t have
 +found a better one.\
 + These are just three tools available through the Internet that make it
 +possible for what we call "​average"​ citizens--people like you and me--to
 +develop and act upon civic and political issues with devastating
 +effectiveness. At the core of political empowerment is the ability of
 +people to develop a common course of action in dealing with government.
 +Any change in telecommunications effects this process. Radio and
 +television has ended up contributing to concentrations of power in the
 +hands of elites who can broadcast to us even though we can no longer
 +connect with one another.\
 + The new technologies permit millions of us to find one another and to
 +turn the transmitters around.\
 + Ed Schwartz, Institute for the Study of Civic Values, 1218 Chestnut
 +St., Rm. 702, Philadelphia,​ Pa. 19107 215-238-1434
 + The ISCV home page can be reached at
 + Also check out "​Neighborhoods Online"​ at
 +<​http://​​community/​phila/​natll.>​ It's the Institute'​s
 +project with LibertyNet to support neighborhood activism.\
 + To subscribe to the Institute'​s international mailing list send to the one line message: subscribe civic-values\
 + To subscribe to the Institute'​s Pennsylvania mailing list send to the one line message: subscribe penn-neighbor\
 + "​Citizenship is the American ideal. There may be an army of actualities
 +opposed to that ideal, but there is no ideal opposed to that ideal."​
 +G.K. Chesterton
 +More information on '​NetActivism:​ How Citizens Use the Internet'​\
 + <​http://​​catalog/​netactivism/​noframesl>​
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