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Humanizing the Information Superhighway

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1 Author(s)
McFarland, Michael C. ; Dept. of Comput. Sci., Boston Coll., Chestnut Hill, MA, USA

We are rapidly moving toward an integration of two of the most powerful technologies shaping modern life: computers and communications. The telephone and television systems are merging with the computer to form an even more powerful and all-encompassing network of communication and information services, known formally as the National Information Infrastructure (NII), and informally as the Information Superhighway. The form this network finally takes will undoubtedly have an enormous impact on our individual lives, our businesses, and our society. The decisions that ultimately will determine it are even now being made. It is crucial that educators, engineers, business people, policy makers and citizens participate in shaping the technology and the institutions surrounding it. Some new ways of thinking about the NII are needed in order to achieve greater sensitivity to its social implications. Instead of regarding the network as a "superhighway", which emphasizes the technical infrastructure, it can be viewed as a gathering place, like a village square or marketplace, which supports a rich variety of human interactions. This perspective suggests a framework for understanding and analyzing public policy issues related to the NII and some principles for addressing those issues.

Published in:

Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:14 ,  Issue: 4 )