Masthead CMC Magazine / April 1, 1996
SPECIAL FOCUS: GOVERNMENT AND DEMOCRACY ONLINE

A Map for the Civic-Minded

by Don Langham

Book Review: Civilizing Cyberspace: Policy, Power, and the Information Superhighway
by Steven E. Miller
Addison-Wesley, 1996
413 pages, indexed (no bibliography)
ISBN 0-201-84760-4

Civilizing Cyberspace: Policy, Power, and the Information Superhighway is an informative and readable exploration of how the National Information Infrastructure (NII) can be built to promote a more democratic society, and the economic, political, and technological realities that have to be negotiated for that to happen. The book provides a comprehensive overview of the issues surrounding the NII, mapping the terrain of its development to help civic-minded computer professionals, information specialists, and social activists chart its future course.

Written in the form a textbook, Civilizing Cyberspace is designed for either cover-to-cover or selective reading. In thirteen chapters Miller examines why the NII is being built, who is building it, the role of government and citizens in guiding its development, and its potential to enhance or degrade democracy. Between the chapters are twelve brief "Question and Answer" pieces in which Miller asks information professionals, telecommunication executives, industry watchdogs, and community activists to address concerns about the NII. Overall, Civilizing Cyberspace is an excellent introduction to the matters of public policy that will determine whether or not America's information infrastructure will be built to serve the -- broad public interests (e.g., universal access, free speech, the right to privacy, etc.) or the narrow goals of the nation's corporations (e.g., profit maximization) which may not serve the greater social good. [TOC]

Don Langham (dl8772@csc.albany.edu) is a student in the School of Information Science and Policy at the University at Albany. He is the author of the article, "Democracy in Cyberspace: The Need for a New Literacy," in the August 1994 issue of CMC Magazine.

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