Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

The Genesis of this Special Issue

by Kevin Hunt

Here we go again.

As the debate over the Federal Communications Decency Act heats up again, so will questions over what sort of indecent material and behavior is accessible online and how much of the stuff is out there. When the debate raged last summer we tried hard, in the pages of our August 1995 issue, to shed some light on these questions. We focused our examination on the credibility of the information on which members of Congress were using to find answers and choose sides.

Unfortunately, lost in the din surrounding last summer's heated cyberporn hoopla--both in the U.S. Congress and throughout the rest of the country--was an examination of the assumptions on which players on all sides of controversy were basing their claims about pornography and free speech. Dr. Charles Ess, a philosophy professor at Drury College, pointed out in a letter to CMC Magazine that debates about free speech, pornography, and censorship begin with unstated philosophical starting points, and favor "adversarial speech styles as a means to truth." Dr. Ess then suggested to us that using the magazine as a vehicle for examining the assumptions on which the debates are being grounded would perhaps add a needed dimension to the debates.

We agreed with Dr. Ess's suggestion and gave him the opportunity to draw together the sources for such an exploration. The result is what you see here.

This issue differs from others in the past in that some might find it straying a bit from a focus exclusively on computer-mediated communication. While this is true, one of the missions we see for the new year is to contextualize the uses of CMC technology in ways that other media are not. It's time, in other words, to critically examine how CMC technology is being received and used--positively and negatively--throughout society.

We also believe that the medium of the Web and the power of hypertext provides an ideal environment for examinations such as the one in this issue. The Web provides the means to carry out a more dialogical, multi-threaded examination than print-based media allow by letting us more directly connect multiple, and sometimes conflicting, points of view.

We'd like to thank Dr. Ess and all the contributors for putting together what we hope you'll find is an important and intriguing issue.

As always, we welcome your response to what you find in these pages.

Kevin Hunt ( is the Assitant Editor of CMC Magazine and was the Acquisition Coordinator for this special issue.

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