February 1997

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Balancing the Global Through the Local

Book Review: The Wired Neighborhood
by Stephen Doheny-Farina
New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1996
224 pages.
ISBN 0-300-06765-8

Reviewed by Leslie Regan Shade

Amid all the discussions and debates swirling about the nature of virtual communities, Stephen Doheny-Farina provides us with a grounded and lucid look at their possiibilities and problematics. His thesis is deceptively simple: in order to sustain our local communities, the Internet must be used for the local good.

"A community is bound by place...You can't subscribe to a community as you subscribe to a discussion group on the net.It must be lived. It is entwined, contradictory, and involves all our senses...Unfortunately, communities across the nation are being undermined and destroyed by a variety of forces...The hope that the incredible powers of global computer networks can create new virtual communities, more useful and healthier than the old geographic ones, is thus misplaced. The net seduces us and further removes us from our localities˝-unless we take charge of it with specific, community-based, local agendas." (p.37)
Doheny-Farina thus makes an impassioned defense for the creation and sustenance of community, or civic nets, and warns us of the consequences of not getting involved with this burgeoning movement: "If we do not, as communities, as a society, support the movement, we risk the further disappearance of local communities within globalized virtual collectives of alienated and entertained individuals."

Given the palpable tensions that exist now between E-Commerce versus E-Commons visions for the information infrastructure, Doheny-Farina's book is a timely and persuasive reminder of the need to rethink and prioritize digital visions, so that our local communities and local lives will be strengthened and enhanced, rather than eviscerated and flattened by these converging technologies. [TOC]

-Whither Traditional Communities? | Our Will to Virtuality | Public Space | Community Networking

Leslie Regan Shade ( is collaborating on a project which is looking at universal access to basic network services in Canada.

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