NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 13 February 13, 1997
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


Reinventing Democratic Culture
Airport Security: Check Your Luggage, Not Your Rights
NetAction Welcomes A New Advisory Board Member
The Virtual Activist Revisited
How to Help NetAction

Reinventing Democratic Culture

When David Bollier first began to examine the convergence of communications media some four years ago, he recognized the immense potential that technological change could bring to public life and democratic values. Subsequent events have not only exceeded his wildest expectations, but they have underscored the deep gap that presently exists between what is possible and what we have achieved so far.

In "Reinventing Democratic Culture in the Age of Electronic Networks," an in-depth analysis of these issues that he prepared last fall for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Bollier examines how electronic networks are profoundly transforming the basic structures of commerce, politics, governance, community and culture.

"There is an urgent need for new institutions, resources and leadership that can develop a sovereign citizen vision for the new media environment," he writes. "It is critical that this vision, in its inception, reflect citizen needs, independent of the commercial priorities and political calculations of others."

Bollier argues that non-profit organizations and foundations are in danger of being "locked into a reactive, catch-up mode," and that in order to avoid being left behind, the public interest community must assume a leadership role.

I am pleased to announce that Bollier's thought-provoking examination of the transformative potential of emerging technology is now available on NetAction's Web site, Bollier is an independent journalist, political advisor and consultant specializing in the social performance of business, emerging electronic media, progressive public policy, consumer issues, and citizen action.

In "Reinventing Democratic Culture," Bollier argues that there is an urgent need for new ways of nurturing democratic participation and reinvigorating community, and that new and emerging technologies provide the public interest community with powerful tools for achieving these goals.

I am confident that the ideas presented in "Reinventing Democratic Culture" will spark further discussion among activists and inspire new and creative ideas for harnessing the power of the Internet for positive social change. Both David Bollier and I welcome your feedback and comments about "Reinventing Democratic Culture," and you can contact us directly from the page where the article appears.

The addition of "Reinventing Democratic Culture" is a significant milestone in the content of NetAction's Web site. In depth and breadth, the essay is several orders of magnitude greater than anything else on the site. I am deeply indebted to Erik Strom for volunteering to edit the document, translate it into HTML, and organize the document for easy navigation; and to Judi Clark, NetAction's volunteer webmaster, for her ongoing management of NetAction's web site.

The collaborative effort that made it possible for NetAction to host the essay is, in itself, a testimonial to the Internet's community-building potential. Bollier sent me a copy of his essay by postal mail because he is a reader of NetAction Notes, which gets wide distribution because the Internet makes it possible to share information with thousands of people for the same cost as sharing information with a single person. Without the Internet, our "paths" would not have crossed, and it is likely that far fewer people would have access to Bollier's insightful essay.

Airport Security: Check Your Luggage, Not Your Rights

Airline passengers in the United States are in danger of losing their constitutional rights as the result of a misguided effort by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety to enhance airport security. In response to the Commission's recently issued recommendations, NetAction has joined with 16 other organizations in letting Vice President Al Gore know that some of the recommendations are likely to do more harm than good.

The Commission has come up with a list of 53 ideas for increasing airport security, including a recommendation that computerized passenger profiles be used to help identify potential terrorists.

The letter signed by NetAction, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and other groups notes that many of the Commission's proposals were developed in the highly-charged atmosphere following the still-unsolved crash of TWA Flight 800, and consequently reflect a misguided rationale that something must be done.

"We all feel strongly that air travel must be safe," the letter states. "However, basic civil liberties protected by the Constitution should not be sacrificed in the name of improving air safety, especially where the potential benefits are questionable."

The complete text of the letter is available on the EPIC Web site at

NetAction Welcomes A New Advisory Board Member

NetAction is pleased to have Larkie Gildersleeve join the Advisory Board. Gildersleeve is Director of Research, Information & Technology for The Newspaper Guild-CWA, and has extensive experience in computer-related health and safety issues. The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America is affiliated with both the AFI-CIO and the CLC (Canadian Labor Congress).

Gildersleeve has more than 10 years experience in the field of computer user health issues. She is a certified ergonomist, and served on Cal-OSHA's Special VDT Advisory Committee to the Standards Board, as well as on other state and local boards and advisory committees concerned with computer-related health and safety issues. Her current responsibilities include research, lobbying, and media worker training programs on health and safety issues, coordination of several media corporation research projects, and the Guild's Broun Library, which contains comprehensive information on Guild history, the newspaper industry, and other media.

Gildersleeve serves on the Board of Directors of the First Amendment Congress, is a member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, and serves on the Ergonomics Committee of the American National Standards Institute. She is also a member of several AFL-CIO committees, including the Arts, Entertainment, Media Industry Committee, the Safety and Health Directors Committee, and the Research Directors Committee.

Prior to joining the national office staff of The Newspaper Guild-CWA, Gildersleeve served as an Administrative Officer of the Northern California Newspaper Guild, Local 52, where she was responsible for member organizing, contract negotiations, and grievances and arbitration. She has a Master's Degree in Anthropology and taught Anthropology in the Los Rios Community College District, where she also worked for the Los Rios College Federation of Teachers.

The Virtual Activist Revisited

NetAction, the Institute for Global Communication,, and Media Alliance,, are co-sponsoring a four-week class in San Francisco on how to be a Virtual Activist.

The workshop is designed specifically for people who want to learn how to make better use of the Internet for organizing, advocacy, media outreach, building membership, education, and fund raising. Classes are scheduled for four consecutive Mondays, March 3, 10, 17, and 24, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Media Alliance, 814 Mission Street, Suite 205.

The first two sessions will be an overview of the basics of the Internet, including selecting an Internet service provider, using E-mail and Web browsers, and more advanced tools. The last two sessions will focus on how to make use of these tools for activism, including fund raising and membership building, with examples of successful strategies.

To register, phone 415-546-6491. Cost is $95 for members of Media Alliance, NetAction, and IGC; $125 for non-members.

Virtual Activist workshops can also be scheduled in communities utside the San Francisco Bay Area. Activists in organizations interested in co-sponsoring Virtual Activist Workshops with NetAction should contact Audrie Krause, by phone: 415-775-8674, or by E-mail: .

Some of the course materials will be available on NetAction's Web site after the course is concluded.

How to Help NetAction

Membership in NetAction supports continued publication of NetAction Notes, as well as a wide range of organizing and training activities. NetAction projects include helping grassroots organizations harness the power of the Internet as a tool for outreach and advocacy; helping activists who are already using the Internet do a more effective job of building a base of grassroots support for technology-based social and political issues; and promoting more widespread access to information technology by organizing hands-on demonstrations of the Internet.

Please join NetAction today by sending a check payable to NetAction/Tides Center to: NetAction, 601 Van Ness Ave. #631, San Francisco, CA 94102.

Regular membership is $50 per year; student/senior/low-income membership is $25 per year; sustaining membership is $100 per year; non-profit organization membership is $125 per year; and corporate membership is $250 per year.

NetAction brochures are available for distribution at conferences and other events. If you would like a supply of brochures to distribute, send email to , and include your name and the mailing address where you would like the brochures sent.

Thanks for your support!

Copyright 1997 by The Tides Center/NetAction. All rights reserved. Material may be reposted or reproduced for non-commercial use provided NetAction is cited as the source.

NetAction is a project of The Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. NetAction is dedicated to promoting effective grassroots citizen action campaigns by creating coalitions that link online activists with grassroots organizations, providing training to online activists in effective organizing strategies, and educating the public, policymakers and the media about technology-based social and political issues.

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