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Re: [Membership] A Model for Community & Global

Dear Antoun,

AN>Tom - fascinating idea. You should talk to Andrew Shapiro at Columbia he
AN>spends a great deal of time thinking about how community translates to
AN>the cyberspace context.

The name seems familiar. Would you be so kind as to provide a contact
point for Andrew Shapiro.

AN>My comments interspersed below:

TL>District 3 is quite diverse with many black and Hispanic residents.
TL>And the need to assure our neighbors that they are, indeed, our brothers
TL> seems appropriate, and maybe essential, these days. But the basic
TL> design of the Internet doesn't allow it to play a role here. AOL, AT&T, Bell

AN>OTOH, the Internet allows us to communicate in ways less fraught with
AN>the baggage that we carry into face-to-face conversations: On the
AN>Internet nobody knows your race, or whether you have long hair, or wear
AN>baggy jeans, or wear a tie, or have a tattoo, or what. Frequently, we
AN>can transcend our prejudices by establishing "mind-to-mind"
AN>relationships via the Internet before we meet face-to-face. Remember
AN>what James Brown said: "Don't just give me integration - Give me true

Keep in mind that we are a geographic community and residents are in
regular contact - whether we want to or not. Online is just part of our
communications milieu.

TL> While most agree on the desirability of these networks there is some
TL> confusion as to their method of birth and sustenance. Some suggest that
TL> neighborhood networks be created through voluntary enrollment by users.
TL> But sans regulatory intervention, the reach of this voluntary system
TL> would be miniscule. They'll have no marketing punch against AOL et al.
TL> And most will see them as government or quasi-government; and we know
TL> people only seek government in time of dire need. We need a way to

AN>I think there's always a tension between "voluntariness" and
AN>"community." Have you ever had an experience with a nosy or persnickety
AN>co-op board? Hence, I'd like to see more thought around whether these
AN>networks should be anything but voluntary for all participants.

Enrollment / participation is voluntary. I'm not proposing that all must
participate. I'm simply proposing that a platform be put in place which
will provide the opportunity for people to participate. A neighborhood
network without "connived" connections from "Certified
Community-Friendly ISPs" would be useless. No one would participate.

AN>Besides, your idea hasn't really been tried - I'm optimistic that people
AN>and ISPs would support such a system based on the "carrot" rather than
AN>the "stick", provided that the community network really does provide
AN>useful information and doesn't turn into a clique of the sanctimoniously
AN>"more involved than thou."

I think so too. But I think it need be a very pointy carrot.


TL> (The neighborhood network described here is appropriate for a
TL>community located in the "world's capital" in booming economic times. Other
TL> communities might decide on lesser or more capacious networks.)
TL> If our neighborhoods are to govern themselves and prosper as part of the
TL> networked world, all our residents need: email accounts and access to
TL>a Community Service Tier - providing federal, state, city, community
TL> board, and civic web sites. They also need a structure that develops
TL> and maintains the web page housing the Community Service Tier pointers;
TL> and training. The network must provide immediate notification of emergency
TL> situations upon connection - or a beep with always-on technology.

AN>I'd love to see this implemented as a piece of software that would run
AN>in the background on my PC, like PointCast or Explorer channels. You
AN>don't even need ISP involvement - it could use HTTP transport and look
AN>just like other packets on the network. Set it up as its own embedded
AN>protocol or application protocol (like ICQ or Telnet), and then have
AN>people configure their client software to point to the appropriate
AN>"Community Service Server."

Without the sharp carrot no one would ever know about it. What would you
imagine - public service announcements over TV pushing "Make sure you
create a connection to your neighborhood network. It's very important."
People only look to government or participate in governance in time of
trouble. I'm looking to put a system in place for that eventuality.

And I'm looking to put a system in place that makes government (more
precisely, governance) a part of life that is more readily available
than it is today. To make it more inviting. To make it more
comprehendible. Not the pain in the ass it is today. I'd like to make
governance a new sport and a click away.

AN>Sorry if that's a little impressionistic. We could talk more about it.
AN>It's not the sort of thing that I could code, but if we could get a team
AN>to write a prototype, then register the protocol as an RFC, the
AN>community could pick up the development process.

An RFC that will facilitate the "Certified ISP" and allow improved
neighborhood governance would be a beneficial project. I'd love to work
on that with you.

TL> So how do we let our neighbors using AOL, AT&T, etc. know about us?
TL> How do they gain access? How do they reap the benefits of a Community
TL> Service Tier, discussions, emergency notification, etc? How do we reach
TL> more than the do-gooders? This involves ISP Certification.

AN>Again, I don't think that's necessary. You can get the functionality you
AN>need with just a client-server exchange.

I disagree. Are we to be sexier than AOL? Have them install a piece of

AN>Are you saying it's somehow desirable from an ICANN membership
AN>standpoint even if unnecessary?

Not sure what you mean here. But I've not proposed this model just for
ICANN's benefit. It just seems to fit in nicely with their governance
problems - they can get some bona fide voters out of the structure.

I don't think ICANN sees the Internet as anything more than e-commerce -
TVnet. Certainly not as a mechanism for improved governance of
geographic communities.

TL> Since a key Communisphere role is facilitating the resolution of
TL> community issues we will only accept bona fide residents as full
TL> contributing members. We'll use snail mail to a neighborhood address
TL> to verify residency.

AN>Tricky. Some places don't have good geographical locators, and
AN>increasing numbers of the world's population change locales frequently.

AN>If nothing else, I'd like to see some provision for "absentee ballots."
AN>There is a neighborhood in Chicago that I think of as "home," and I'm
AN>intensely interested in its well-being. I only get back there every
AN>couple of months or so, but a crisis in that community is of more
AN>importance to me (and the kids I and my friends will raise there) than
AN>what happens here in Boston. (And in fact, there is a listserv for those
AN>who are interested in that community, and it does help me stay abreast
AN>of what's going on.)

Antoun, thanks for your thoughts.

Tom Lowenhaupt

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