Surfing the Internet: A Political Guide for Beginners
(page 1 of 2)
By Sam Kritikos
Chicago Third Wave Study Group
Are you the kind
of person that is interested in progressive politics and enjoys
a good conversation?
Do you find that
some of your friends just do not have enough time to exchange
ideas over coffee?
Well, take courage
because there is help over the Internet! The electronic superhighway
is here to stay and it offers many opportunities for contact
with like-minded people from all over the world.
Of course communicating
on the Internet is not the same as actually meeting someone--the
warmth of human presence, the magic of the dialectic over
a teacup is not there. But participating in a discussion over
the net is better than intellectual isolation and compromise,
and in some respects it even advances over actual conversation!
For people not
experienced in the Internet all that probably sounds confusing
and implausible. I can hear strong voices from the back of
the room: "What exactly are you talking about?"
The Internet refers
to an international electronic network that connects computers
over long distances, and so it also connects the people that
use them. In the last year or so the Internet have hit the
public conscience with a vengeance. It seems that everywhere
you look there are books that try help to learn how to get
connected. So assuming that you are a new user, what we are
trying to do here is to provide some basic information that
might make your net experience more enjoyable. We would like
to think that if you have never logged in, what follows would
entice you to get a connection from a local provider.
is an ambiguous term, because there are many types of connections.
For example many people only have access to electronic mail
(email), i.e. they can send messages through the net to other
people who are also connected. Email is of course a very powerful
way of personal expression, but it is restricted to only two
people and to the subjects they find interesting in common.
The particular kind of service we are going to examine here,
though, is the USENET newsgroups.
is like a bulletin board on which people can post messages,
except that in this case we have electronic messages. If you
find something interesting, you can just respond to i t, by
posting your message commenting on it. Believe it or not there
are thousands of discussions groups on the USENET. It is difficult
to be sure for the exact number because almost every day new
groups are formed, and old ones are dissolved when interest
in their subject has fallen.
there are more than 7000 groups on the USENET, ranging
from groups dedicated to computers, to political and cultural
issues. Before we discuss some of them a word about their
of similar content come together in groups called hierarchies.
Every name of a newsgroup is a series of strings of characters
separated by dots. The string that denotes the hierarchy
comes first. For example a discussion group dedicated
to the discussion of beer has the name:
In this case
"alt" for alternative, the name of the hierarchy
in which this group belongs. Some of the more popular
for computer subjects
for discussion of scientific subjects
for recreational subjects, hobbies etc.
As in many
other areas in the Internet, there is a flexibility in
the process of name selection. For example we do not know
exactly why beer was put in the "alt" hierarchy
and not in the "rec" one. We certainly find
newsgroups such as:
in the "rec"
hierarchy. Whatever the reason a particular the name might
be, the name chosen for a group is supposed to reflect
the content of the discussion. That is easier said than
done, consider for example the following two groups:
which on the
face of it they look almost the same. Somewhere along
the line someone proposed the second group, and after
the appropriate discussion and required voting, the second
group came to be. We looked up the descriptions and they
both talk about radical political and environmental activism.
The mystery of the two names aside, the content and subject
of the discussions is similar. Here is a small recent
sample from alt.activism.d.
Justice in onion fields Date: 15 Apr 1994 17:33:30 GMT
union demands seem reasonable to me. Especially the
part about the effect of heavy containers on inducing
back problems. It would have been better if the article
had said how much these workers make.
He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.
One of the things to notice here is that on the subject
line we see the string: "Re". That denotes
a response to somebody's previous posting whose subject
was "Justice in onion fields". Another recent
Re: Men's Rights Movement Date: 14 May 1994 20:23:50 GMT
rather rise above the feminists and show that people
in the men's
movement (and anti-feminist movement) can say something
women. Women are not the enemy, feminists are.
you imply in that first sentence that feminists have
only bad things to
say about men. that simply isn't true -- for me or for
many of the
feminists i either know personally or read. if i make
a statement about
women being discriminated against or otherwise disadvantaged
because of ... I don't think you two are talking about
the same kind of feminism. You don't seem like the more
common type that say that all sex is rape even in marriage
and marriage should be banned and all men are evil...