Emory Report

February 28, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 23

Speech addresses online citizenship

By Eric Rangus

The rapidly advancing information age has drastically altered our idea of community. The idea that people have daily conversations with others 3,000 miles away but don't know the name of their next-door neighbor may be a cliché, but it also rings true.

The ways in which computers have altered our ideas of citizenship are only now being explored. Being a good citizen in the technological age and how new innovations shape our definitions of community are just two issues David Batstone will discuss in his presentation, "Citizenship in a Network Society," March 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Winship Ballroom. The discussion is free and open to the public.

Batstone, associate professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Francisco, teaches social ethics. He is the National Endowment for the Humanities Chair at USF for his work in technology and ethics. Batstone is also CEO of The Business Network, an Internet startup company that focuses on the business-to-business marketplace.

"The major thing is to look at the dramatic ways that communications technology has been changing the institutions of family and business, and even our own sense of personal identity," he said.

"I have an optimistic/realistic viewpoint. Many things the Internet gets blamed for are products of industrialization," Batstone said. He said Emory serves as an excellent example. While the Internet is accused of cutting down people's face-to-face communication, a student relocating to Emory has the same effect. He or she is unable to physically connect with family, a problem that existed long before the Internet boom.

Regarding the Internet's impact on the media, Batstone said that while he was growing up, there were just three networks and clear channels of authenticity. Now there is unlimited dissemination of media and news, but little guidance to verify what information is true.

"It comes down to what filters we trust," he said. "But I'd rather have that problem than a narrow view of the world."

Earlier in the afternoon, Batstone will offer a workshop to examine technological dilemmas facing society in the 21st century. That event is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in 311 Woodruff Library.

Batstone was a founding editor of Business 2.0 magazine, and he writes for several national media outlets. With such a variety of interests, he finds himself talking to varied groups, such as religious conferences, businesses and universities. He said that he finds more fear of the 'Net at universities, where it is discussed in terms of commerce and social relationships.

For more information, please call 404-727-3064.

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