rBST, Biotechnology, electronic Free Speech--I

Stephen Modena nmodena at ncsu.edu
Wed Mar 2 14:54:31 EST 1994

Forwarded message:
> From slezberg at ssc.wisc.edu  Tue Mar  1 13:37:43 1994
> Date: Tue, 1 Mar 94 11:43:33 -0600
> Message-Id: <9403011743.AA06059 at eunice.ssc.wisc.edu>
> From: slezberg at ssc.wisc.edu (Sharon Lezberg)
> To: "sanet-mg at ces.ncsu.edu"@ssc.wisc.edu
> Subject: freedom of speech, bst, & access to technology
> Dear Sanetters,
> I have been following the discussions on free speech (origins in
> the BST disc.) with great interest.  Finding my feelings
> ricocheting from despondency (curtailment of freedom on a medium of
> great potential) to hope (possibility of the network becoming a
> tool for organizing and opening up communications), but very much
> concerned about the rapid development and dissemination of this
> technology and the potential for social control and curtailment of
> speech that exists with it.
> Recent postings to the network advocating the abandon of
> emotionalism and science/corporation-bashing, etc., seem to
> indicate that we have not yet come to accept diversity in
> expression and interpretation.  Results of scientific studies are
> valuable and informative; equally as informative, however, are the
> opinions and perceptions of a wide range of people - in this case,
> the users of SANET.  
> The discussion currently run amock on this network is, in my mind,
> heartening.  What is being debated here is nothing short of a
> debate on the nature of the society we would like to be living in. 
> Sustainable agriculture is a piece of the vision, as is freedom of
> speech.  To advocate limiting the discourse to verified scientific,
> peer-reviewed information is to silence the voices of many users
> who have valid and important points to make in these discussions. 
> One of the most restrictive measures in our society, which keeps
> some folks in power and others out of it, is the notion that all
> information must be dispensed following an arbitrarilly dictated
> protocol (derived, it would seem, from the same folks who bring you
> rational, deductive science as the only way of knowing and
> experiencing the world).  To advocate that networks be run in this
> fashion is to advocate the imposition of a stratified heirarchical
> virtual society.
> My concern with the use of this technology runs deeper than the
> recent events on SANET.  As users of telecommunication
> technologies, we all bear a responsibility towards the way in which
> the technology is utilized, disseminated, and controlled.  As well,
> we have a responsibility to assure wide-spread access to this 
> technology.  I question whether the networks, as currently
> operating, are accessible to all people.  For instance, how many
> farmers are on SANET at present?  vs. how many policy people and
> academics?  I challenge Mr. Hegyes to find this out.  I also
> challenge all of us to mobilize our collective resources to make
> this medium of information sharing accessible to farmers, community
> folks, everyone.  It is our mutual responsibility to improve access
> so that the exchange facilitated will account for a wide variety of
> needs and opinions, so that the information exchanged will not be
> only that reproduced in our hierarchical institutions and
> corporate-funded laboratories.  
> The most recent issue of Z Magazine (a political monthly, not an
> agricultural journal...but the issues are relevant here none-the-
> less) carries two excellent articles concerning access to
> information technologies.  One of the most striking images
> presented (in an Open Magazine interview with Prof. Herbert
> Schiller) is that of the public library.  Prof. Schiller states
> "the public library has been one of the most progressive
> institutions in American history...by and large, ...it's been a
> much more democratic institution than others.  And one of the
> cardinal principles of the public library system is that
> information is to be available for everyone, and it's to be
> available without cost."  Now communication technology is far from
> free, and even those who utilize university systems will soon feel
> the pinch (NSF will is to withdraw the annual $12mil that it grants
> to internet as of 1994).  More importantly, the Administration is
> currently planning the sale of "long-term leases to frequencies on
> the radio spectrum".  The commercialization of public space, of the
> air ways, is in the offing.  I ask then, will the general public
> have access to telecommunications information?  Will sustainable
> farmers have access to networks?  Will low-income people have
> access, as in access comprable to that of the public library?  If
> the answer is no, we will be adding a level of stratification to
> our already stratified society -- that being, who has access to
> information and who does not.
> This does, in my mind, have direct bearing to the issue of rBST. 
> Does the public have access to the wide variety of information and
> sources that has been presented over SANET these past few months? 
> We have been fortunate to have been presented with a wide range of
> opinions and perceptions -- user chooses those pieces that will
> impact individual decision-making.  In general, the public is
> handed the information that the government and the media choose to
> mete out.  My preference is to expand the variety of sources,
> rather than contract them, both on and off the internet.
> The public library carries a wide variety of information sources --
> some of which are verifiable by peer review and standards or
> `rigorous methodology'.  Other pieces are not.  It is the diversity
> that enriches us.  Communicating, sharing information and
> interpretation, allows us as individuals to stretch our thinking. 
> As representatives of organizations and institutions, as members of
> society, it is the constant stretching of parameters of thought
> that allow for vibrant change and discovery.  Institutions do not
> think or act, but individuals within them do.  Curtailing an
> individual's voice because they are associated with an
> institutional position will eventually serve to fossilize the
> institution.
> The thoughts above are mine only, and none can take them away
> (though I'm open to changing them)
> Sharon Lezberg

Stephen A. Modena      
nmodena at unity.ncsu.edu    samodena at csemail.cropsci.ncsu.edu

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