I started using the computer as a tool for research while in undergraduate school. We had to do research reports using data from NORC (National Opinion Research Center) in Chicago. It was a chore. Years later, while getting my Master's degree we had to do the same thing; but I discovered CompuServe. I still used a dumb terminal, but mainly for research. Later yet, I became a single mother, alone, stuck in the house with an infant. I borrowed my father's Macintosh 128 computer; and he never saw it again!
I am a people person, and have never spent much time at home. Stuck at home for the first time in my life, I had to find a way to "keep on truckin." I bought a modem, on the advice of a friend, and I found local bulletin boards to keep myself occupied. These BBSes allowed me to connect with others, yet remain at home with my infant son. The most active area on these BBSes was the political areas; full of people who would tell me how I should live my life -- so I spoke up and often. Eventually, I started using my Mac, the bulletins boards, and the Internet to make my living.
It never occurred to me that one day I would have to defend my right to speak my mind in this medium.
In high school I helped start an underground magazine. It was the first or second one in the country, and was eventually written up in Time magazine. Why did we start it? One of our friends had written an article against the Vietnam War for the school newspaper and they refused to print it. Our underground magazine was started in reaction to censorship on our high school campus. Somehow I thought this pettiness of refusal to print views on controversial subjects was limited to the high school administration -- little did I think that years later, the issue would surface globally in a medium which I use every day to make my livelihood and stay connected to the world!
I believe that it is up to the users of the medium, in this case the Internet, to "police" themselves, to work together to follow general rules of honesty, politeness, and "decency." I don't condone illegal behavior in words or actions anywhere; but I react with hostility when the government goes beyond telling me what is illegal and it starts to define what is decent!
I am a dancer, and the human form is sacred to me. Much of what the US government would consider pornography is art to me. An example of this is Robert Maplethorpe's photography, and a book I recently purchased called The Body.
I have a child, and he is learning that the body is beautiful, not to be ashamed of, nor abused. He uses real words to define his body parts, not cutesy expressions and he is learning that respect of other human beings is the most important part of human communication. We can be sexual without slipping into pornography; and we can communicate without offending. I am also teaching him to speak up when he finds injustice, prejudice, and unfairness around him.
If I can teach my child what to view and read; so can others. I am also teaching my child how to analyze what he hears and sees, so that he can make decisions as to the fairness of something, like a new law. The government has no right to invade my morals with its misplaced protection (unless I am doing something illegal). And we shall continue to fight against unfair laws.
The Internet is an exceptional medium for sharing information. Many companies just want to make money here; but I think they are misdirected. Education, learning, and information dissemination is the key -- and I think my web site reflects that.
This is the first truly global form of communication, where we can all speak at once, yet be heard as individuals. We need to preserve everyone's right to speak, be heard, and to use information to bring us together.
:::::: I think it is time for some words to some tacky song here... but I just can't bring myself to type them! Feel free to sing out loud though! You know the songs, don't ya? :::::::[Update 2000: My son is now 15, and somehow we've survived single parenting. He is thriving, as an A/B student, on the top soccer team, and is a hot sax musician. Dinnertime discussions are an important time in our lives. Almost daily we discuss issues of freedom, sexuality, and choice, using commercial television as our springboard into discussions. Internet censorhip is still a concern, and global communication has been usurped by ecommerce and banal advertising, but people still come. Its been built &hibar; and they are coming in droves. Hopefully, the original educational intent is not lost in the abyss of Americanized commercialism.]
IleneH@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Created February 22, 1996, email address edited Nov. 20, 1996; 4/12/00 (added Think Diff banner); 6/18/00 added link to son's sax recital; 11/9/01 moved to ilene's machine.com