DaveNet: Tuesday, February 18, 1997; by Dave Winer.
Rick SmolanSee Breaking Rules, 2/9/97, for background.
This is Rick Smolan's story, in his own words, about freedom and the Internet as expressed thru the 24 Hours In Cyberspace project.
Kids in Space
Kids in America, Russia, England and Argentina got to work together to go on a make-believe journey to Mars.
Imagine being in sixth grade and being able to talk to and depend on kids around the world. Talk about lowering the barriers of understanding.
The idea of the project was to show that the web is a worldwide phenomena.
That it is affecting people on every continent.
That as opposed to TV, the web makes people feel like they can make a difference.
I love the fact that these kids live in two worlds.
In the morning they go out hunting caribou with their fathers and in the afternoon they talk to native kids in Australia and America.
Their parents are now sharing information about how to reclaim tribal lands - both political, legal and media strategies.
Without the web these remote groups of native peoples could never have afforded to meet each other and share this information.
Nelson Mandela Township
The kids in Nelson Mandela Township show how computers are filtering down to even the most disadvantaged groups.
These kids use donated computers and after school they carry their computers to the local police station where there is one phone line that they can jack in to send email.
For $.21 a day the kids can each send 5 email messages and on Feb 8th they were talking with kids in Malaysia about race relations.
As with DaveNet, Carolyn Burke decided to self publish on the web and developed an amazing following. No paper, no printing, no postage.
Many of the stories show that on the web being creative (i.e. interesting) is more valuable than how much money you have to spend on your web site. In other words if you spend a fortune on a web site and it's deadly boring, no one will come back again and no one will tell their friends to check your site out.
But if you are interesting you can attract an audience that will come back day after day. This may be one of the few times in human history that creativity beats out money.
Like many web sites on Feb 8th HotWired turned their pages black in protest over the siging of the telecommuncations deregulation act.
I love this picture because it symbolizes how immediate the web is and that word spread immediately throughout the web that the Communications Decency Act was threatening the very freedoms the net has come to represent.
The Buckshire 8
On TV you would have seen a sad story about how a zoo in Texas was closing down and the owners of the zoo were going to sell the gorillas for HIV testing.
But on the web you find out that one woman who, like the rest of the community, was appalled that these creatures, which the community had watched grow up since they were babies, were going to be tortured.
So she set up a web site asking people who love animals to help her save the lives of the gorillas. She raised $126,000 from complete strangers (one of whom donated his baseball card collection) and the animals now live in a private preserve in Texas.
The guy with the PowerBook over his face with the word HONESTY on it represents the web's self-policing nature. This guy created a web site aimed at exposing hate sites on the web.
Jamie McCarthy helps run Nizkor, a website with the mission of rebutting neo-Nazi revisionists who deny the Holocaust. McCarthy shields his face because of threats Nizkor has received.
The web is a mirror of society - as wondering, touching and compassionate or as sick, disturbing and bizarre as the world is. Each person who sits down in front of the web looks for others who share the same passions or problems.
One of the things I tried to to with the book/CD is make each picture a doorway into another world.
With the Day in the Life books whatever caption was under a picture was all you'd ever learn about the person or situation depicted in the photo. But with 24 Hours we've included the URLs at the end of the book and there are hot links on the CD at the end of each story so with the click of a mouse you can be visiting each of the people and web sites featured.
You can see where the elephants are in the jungles of Malaysia right now at this very moment. That immediacy is very compelling and to me makes the book a lot more interesting.
Two weeks ago the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History formally inducted the 24 Hours in Cyberspace web site into their permanent collection, making it the one of the first web sites ever to be considered a piece of history. The web site now resides along side the original Star Spangled Banner and the slippers Dorothy wore in the Wizard of Oz.
Putting it in perspective
Jonathan Seybold showed me this a few months ago and I thought it would be an appropriate closer for this piece. Very thought provoking.
"The gross national product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.
"It counts special locks for our doors, and jails for the people who break them.
"The gross national product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior.
"It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads . .
"And if the gross national product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend.
"It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play.
"It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike.
"It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.
"The gross national product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to country.
"It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.
"It can tell us everything about America - except whether we are proud to be Americans."
-JFK, 30 years ago
Dave thanks for the olive branch - I hope you felt the book captured the same view of how powerful and important the web is to people who love the freedom it (and this country) represent.