As I mentioned, there are three repeat broadcasts of Vint Cerf's lecture on the future of the Internet on KST8 (Cox Cable Channel 8). The recording was produced by the Kansas Regents' Educational Communications Center (ECC).
Dr. Cerf's response to my question about the socializing effects of net communities went as follows:
1. The Net is good for forming communities of people who share common interests and need a venue at which to congregate.
2. Chatrooms and weblogs are a good way for eople who might otherwise not know each other to form bonds.
3. It is nonetheless healthy for people to meet now and anon "in meatspace" as physical and economic constraints permit.
4. The Net is a powerful augmentative technology for face-to-face meetings and it facilitates a plethora of information channels beyond message boards, IM, and chat.
Nice and understated. You, who are probably reading this on LiveJournal, might call this "preaching to the choir". Going int the talk, I too wondered how any people didn't think of the Internet this way. Before asking my question, though, I had remarked that I had used the Net in three ways during his talk: once to notify people about the webcast, once to check Wikipedia for the source of an urban legend he had alluded to1, and once to give the link to thekuffs. My point was that in a very real sense, the technology Cerf invented and helped make a household concept was successful in that it was commonplace and transparent. From a few surprised whispers in the audience, though, I gathered that social use of the Net was not as quotidian as I thought.2
As I watched the rebroadcast, I was struck (even more) by the disseminative effect of technological evangelism. In some ways, industry leaders shape the acculturation and - as Dr. Cerf might put it - the monetization of technology.
1 Cerf had told the apocryphal story that there is no Nobel Prize in mathematics because Alfred Nobel's wife ran off with a mathematician, leading him to omit mathematics as a category in his endowment.
2 If you're wondering what the composition of the audience was: Cerf's talk was in Provost's Lecture Series, but it was held in the Fiedler Engineering Library, so there was a slightly higher representation of the College of Engineering, especially CS, which fielded a couple dozen faculty, staff, and students.