The Internet: Fact and Context
In the last few years there here have been thousands of Enghsh-language news stories about the Internet. In addition, this one door to the digital conference center/library has spawned scores of books, its own magazine ( Internet World), a series of newsletters, and several television shows dedicated to teaching "newbies," new users, the intricacies of "surfing" the "Net." As a result of this enormous and uniformly favorable publicity, being online in the center at large has become secondary to being on the Internet. That the whole has been a disappointment for many of the millions who have tried it in hope and left in despair is a result of overblown promises, unrealistic expectations, and a general misunderstanding about the electronic universe in general (new! amazing! totally different!!) and the Internet itself.
Everything you have heard about the Internet is false, incomplete, exaggerated, inaccurate, and/or outdated. It is simultaneously a voraciously democratic medium, a vox popular, and an anarchistic system in which no voice or venue can dominate. It is historically elitist, benefiting academics and the well-to-do most of all, but it is becoming a general resource for people who use it through library-based hook-ups and "free-net" community access systems. Whatever else it might become, the Internet is an increasingly fertile ground for commercial enterprises and exclusive, sometimes expensive, vendors. It is hierarchically structured in its organization, and can be thought of as an