But in this issue's reviews I'm going to cover sites that broaden who has control in the first five senses.
Increasing access and use:
The Homeless Women's Network, http://www.speakeasy.org/hwn
HWN was begun by a group of homeless and formerly homeless women in Seattle to increase the use of computers and the Internet among homeless and low-income women and youths, and to increase the resources available out on the Internet for them.
HWN connects donated computer equipment with recently homeless women who now have stable housing. They are working with Speakeasy and the Seattle Community Network on a project to place computers with Internet access in four Seattle homeless shelters. And they provide training in computer and Internet skills, as well as information on other sources of free training.
I am highly biased in favor of information and usability on websites.
Graphics are amusing, but if they take any more than 30 seconds of my
time to load, I lose patience. With its logo of a woman of all ages,
provided by Linda Israel, HWN's site is visually striking, yet clean and
simple. It loads fast, and you can get straight to the meat. The meat
* Resources for Women -- A searchable database of King County resource information, provided on PAN, the Public Access network, and maintained by HWN volunteers.
* A link to the King & Snohomish County YWCA website
* Powerful Voices: King County Women Talk About Their Needs -- The complete text of a report filed by the Seattle Women's Resource Project in 1995.
* Domestic Violence Information - Love Shouldn't Hurt -- Link to a web page maintained on PAN by the Department of Housing and Human Services Domestic Violence Unit.
* A link to Real Change and the Speakers Bureau
* A link to S.T.E.P. -- Searching for Training & Employment Programs -- a searchable database of training and employment programs provided on PAN and maintained by the Worker Center, a division of the King County Labor Council, AFL-CIO
* A link to the Crisis Directory on Seattle Community Network, maintained by Peace Heathens.
* A link to the home page of the National Coalition for the Homeless, reviewed in the March 15, 1996 issue of Real Change.
* A list of some Volunteer Opportunities
I often refer to the Internet as "the greatest slush-pile ever created." The 'slush pile' is the stack of submitted manuscripts that editors read to pick what's published -- on the Internet, it's all published, no one sorted it out, and you have to be your own editor. The sheer volume of material to wade through becomes its own limitation on access -- I seldom use the newsgroups, for instance, because I just do not have the time to wade through a thousand messages a day to find five or six that interest me.
Simply providing links to useful sites of a common interest, then, is a useful service. At the panel discussion I mentioned, "Who controls the Internet?" I asked a couple of questions of the audience. About 200 people had email accounts; only five or six had web pages. I urged everyone to set up their own web page -- to increase the community presence on the Internet -- and even if all your web page consists of is a link to other web pages of interest, that will be a great contribution to community access.
Seattle Community Network, http://www.scn.org
I realized up in Vancouver, B.C., how good we have it here in Seattle. Phone service costs are greater in Canada -- the cost of almost everything is more, I paid $1.80 for a cup of coffee -- and the Vancouver Community Network can't give away free accounts. An account on VCN costs $25 a year, which is pretty low, but still beyond the reach of most of the homeless community, and it would also stop many low-income people.
There are three terminals in the Vancouver Public Library from which you can access VCN, for free. There are several computer cafes, but they have no free terminal use.
Seattle Community Network provides free email accounts, and can be accessed from the Seattle Public Library on about half of their terminals, scattered throughout the library. You can also dial into SCN from home, through the Seattle Public Library lines. You can telnet to SCN from one of the Speakeasy's ten free terminals (or the terminals at one of their many remote locations) for one dollar, for an hour's use a day.
Seattle Community Network and the other community and educational nets in the United States have been the major factor in keeping at least some of the Information Highway controlled by people instead of all controlled by corporations.
SCN provides web page space and technical support to community and non-profit groups -- further expanding public access.
The Speakeasy is a business. The Speakeasy also has a non-profit side, the Speakeasy Foundation. The Speakeasy hosts the Real Change website, the Homeless Women's Network website, and the upcoming StreetLife Gallery website, as well as a number of other websites of community value and interest. The Speakeasy provides up to an hour a day of free Internet access time in a pleasant environment with art on the walls, music in the air, and whatever you can afford to eat or drink right beside you. It's even better than the library. (It even has books.)
I'll quote from the Speakeasy's own mission statement, "How to provide the general public access to the methods of communication and volumes of information now available on the Internet, at a cost they can afford and in such a way that they aren't socially, economically, or politically isolated. The goal is to provide a service that is not simply entertaining, but educational, enlightening, and most of all empowering.
"The Speakeasy Cafe in Downtown Seattle is the first step in a network of cafes in the Puget Sound Region and around the world which will bring new definitions to our idea of community."
There are a growing number of great websites on the Speakeasy server; art & music sites, personal web pages, commercial web pages, and community interest web pages. And, the entire owner / staff being computer geeks, the Speakeasy main pages are constantly being updated to improve your ability to find what interests you.
The libraries of America have been one of the major forces -- along with the community networks, which they have supported -- in keeping the Internet a public resource.
Increasing what you can get from it:
This is also a focus of HWN.
And going into its fifth year of service to Seattle is the Seattle Crisis Directory created by Peace Heathens and made available on-line by the Seattle Community Network.
OneWorld, http://www.oneworld.org (This portion written by Dr. Wes Browning) Increasing the information you have available on organizations working for change, and making networking easier.
Terry Waite, in support of OneWorld Online, has said, "I feel particularly keenly the need for improved communications, because of having had an experience that deprived me of all forms of human communication for almost four years [referring to being held hostage by the Lebanese Islamic Jihad] ... except that one small postcard came through, from a woman I didn't know, bringing me a message of hope. I see an analogy between that and Internet."
OneWorld Online is the internet arm of the One World Broadcasting Trust, a nonprofit organization set up in Britain in 1987 to promote global understanding through broadcasting, by establishing a "community of global justice organisations under one roof" within the internet.
OneWorld calls itself a supersite, but I would call it a *network* of related websites of participating organizations, 124 for now, that points the way to one possible direction the internet can be expected to take in the future. It was launched in January 1995. Within six months it offered the largest multimedia collection of data on sustainable development and human rights in the world. It currently averages approximately 70,000 hits per day, and the organization estimates (probably conservatively) that it has a quarter of a million readers during any month. The "site" offers, each week, more than two *gigabytes* of up-to-date information concerning human rights and economic and social development issues around the world.
Participating organizations include well known human rights and developments organizations such as Amnesty International and Oxfam, and research and policy making institutions in Europe and the US, but also grassroots Third World organizatons, like Casa Alianza (Central America), which works with street children, and Katha (India) which works with child laborers.
Besides being a single gateway to websites of its member groups, OneWorld also channels the information that these groups collect throughout the world. So OneWorld is an outstanding alternative source of global news that maintains a sharp focus on human rights and needs.
An interesting feature of the site that I wasn't able to check out is the on-line audio broadcast of Belgrade's Radio B92. At one time, Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic Radio B92, expecting that it would die. But the radio station soon reappeared on the internet. Once it had hit the net, this local station - normally only available to the people of Belgrade - had millions of potential new listeners.
Several Web sites soon offered to host B92's reports in internet audio format. One of these was OneWorld Online, which also is establishing a radio new service to allow broadcasters to take audio off the net and rebroadcast it on their local stations, as well as adding broadcasts of other radio stations, and selected programs.
Some areas of the site are still in need of extensive construction, the "Think Tank" for instance, an archive of position papers. And I found a schedule of world radio programs dealing with human rights that needed to be updated. But given the magnitude of the project and the fact that it has only been in existence for two years I'd say that it is realizing the potential of the supersite concept well.
Homeless at CSF, http://csf.colorado.edu/homeless
Created by Communications for a Sustainable Future (gopher://csf.colorado.edu). CSF "was founded on the idea that computer networking should be used to enhance communications with the objective of working through disparate views and ideologies to secure a more promising future."
CSF maintains a discussion list, email@example.com. (The subscription address for the list is firstname.lastname@example.org.) The web page, Homeless at CSF, is a compliation of information from that list, including Shelters and Programs, Health and Medical Services, and a giant list of links
Helping you have your say:
Jan Pennycook has made available at http://www.symmetrix.ch/Public/jpsp1/freeweb/sites.html a comprehensive list of sites that offer free web pages. Many of these offer free email as well. Of course, you have to get Internet access fist before you can use these services. But because of them, you can start with a free SCN account, sign up for some graphics terminal time at the library, get a block of web pages at one of the free sites, and have your own billboard on the information highway.
There are newsgroups, mailing lists, chat rooms, and web-based discussion sites. Ones that are issue-related:
Helping you get listened to:
StreetWrites - polish your writing and suasive abilities. Web page: http://www.speakeasy.org/~anitra/sw. Subscription address email@example.com -- say "subscribe streetwrites" (no quotes).
Find your politician's ear, or email address, at Vote Smart (http://www.vote-smart.org) or The Electronic Activist (http://www.berkshire.net/~ifas/activist).
Having an effect: