Masthead CMC Magazine / February 1, 1996
 The Electronic Colonization of the Pacific, by Spennemann, Birckhead, Green, and Atkinson

Masters or Sorcerers' Apprentices?

C.Quinn (1994) stated that "webmasters are riding it [the Net] like crazy." That may be so. But even though the technophiles drive the Net at present, the commercial providers wait in the wings, positioning themselves for a lucrative future. Both seem to have the same restrictive, or even destructive effect, on traditional cultures, albeit for different reasons: the technophiles out of ignorance and carelessness, and the commercial providers out of financial 'greed'. While the total lack of social conscience of commercial providers may be understandable, that of the webmasters and the Web community is not. The webmasters and the "surfies" pride themselves on the anarchic nature of the Web and their own streaks of anarchic behavior. But doesn't this anarchy also demand the basic respect for others' identities? How can cultural imperialism be reconciled with such concepts? And how does the commercialization of the Net fit in?

In view of the discussion above, one, indeed, wonders whether the webmasters are not merely sourcerers' apprentices, whose magic has spun out of control and developed a dynamic which is currently being harnessed by the forces of the commercial world. The growth of the Web has seen new players enter the scene and there is an urgent need for a discussion of the ethical underpinnings of "nettiquette." The ethics of present and future webmasters need to be challenged to ensure a more equitable environment that is equitable towards women, equitable towards those economically weak, and equitable towards cultures with languages other than English. --

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