John Horvath on Thu, 2 Oct 1997 02:32:57 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Re: The User is The Content - public education

Here are some replies to the latest thread related the "the User is the

> At what particular moment did access to telematic technology become a
>"basic" right, and would he specify browsers and modem speeds to be
> written into the UN's declaration?

Telematic technology became a "basic" right as soon as it left the
realms of the military and found its way into the public sphere. I
wouldn't specify browsers into the UN declaration, but modem speeds
would not be a bad idea. Perhaps not specific baud rates, but to word it
in such a way as to take into account the new developments in
technology. Don't forget, today's 14.4 modems were yesterday's fast

If you think this idea (declaring access as a right) is ridiculous, I
read a while back that the city of Bologna in Italy already did such a
thing. In the same way that we regard access to education (and to a
lesser extent, libraries) a right, so too should we view Internet
access. In fact, it would appear that through convergence (i.e., putting
free access into libraries and schools) this end can be achieved
somewhat practically. After all, aren't education (schools) and access
to information (libraries) among the initial promises of the Internet?

Which leads me to the next point, my negative view toward the state of
public education, namely in North America. Firstly, while most people
omit the seond part of McLuhan's famous phrase (medium the message, user
the content), Peter Lunefeld likewise forgot to mention the first part
of the obscure one I used (smart bombs, dumb kids) which, in turn,
slightly misses the point of what my arguement is about. By this phrase,
I not only wanted to remind the reader of the poor state of public
education but, more importantly, I wished to draw attention to the fact
that government resources that are badly needed in one area (education)
are being wasted on another (military). Furthermore, I am quite aware
that anti-public school, pro-private education forces "have a vested
interest in promoting these kinds of sentiments". However, just because
I am pointing out present shortcoming doesn't mean I favour these forces
in the opposing direction. In fact, it is precisely because I see public
education being either taken over, influenced, or replaced by private
education (your choice) that I bring these problems to the fore. In
other words, I consider a form of constructive criticism. I see that
public education has to be strengthened (for a number of obvious
reasons), and in terms of the Internet, this is especially so if you are
going to try to provide universal access, as I argued above. The same
goes for libraries, by the way.

Finally, there is this little piece:

> John Horvath's [I corrected my name] argument with its dire
> predictions seems highly determined in so far as it positions US mass
> entertainment as a (the) cause of chronic social ills.

You can get rid of the "the" in parenthesis; I see US mass entertainment
as "a cause" of social ills.

> Do the many US families beneath the poverty line suffer from apathy
> caused by mass entertainment, do they even own the TVs?

I would argue yes. But you don't need a TV. It is everywhere, from radio
and billboards to the way people dress and talk.

As a side note, a very good example of how language and the art of
conversation is corrupted by the entertainment media is my personal
observation of Americans working in Central and Eastern Europe. Even in
an informal setting, many can't help but talk the talk of the
(predominantly US) entertainment media, complete with its jingoes and
cliches. It is interesting that the further one moves east, which also
means less access or exposure to this media, in terms of not only the
broadcast media (i.e., TV) but also in terms of goods and advertising,
Americans and their attitudes become less and less comprehensible. Is it
any wonder that many in Central and Eastern Europe regard Americans as
cold and awkward when it comes to something like simple friendship?

That's it for now. I'll wait for the next onslaught.


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