The potential for democratic empowerment that the Net can imply has already been tested as some begin to live out McLuhan’s prophesied redemption through electricity. The development of various FreeNet systems, for example, suggests that universal access and suffrage are economically and politically conceivable, as individuals gain direct electronic access to strategic information and to the brokers of power. The Net can be the bidirectional conduit necessary for the mobilisation of an informed citizenry. However, the unrestricted Iaissez faire approach to information provision on the Net also implies an inevitable shift from the civic to the commercial, as information, equally available to all for the exercise of effective citizenship, is diluted and pushed aside by market forces discovering and dominating this new enterprise arena. As others before who set out to create a revolution, and instead created a market, Net enthusiasts are testing the water for free so that major commercial interests can safely wade in. The Net has already proved itself an effective market place for pornography and propaganda. Without an agreed regulatory constitution, the future electronic superhighway
is for gamblers, entrepreneurs and big business, as email becomes junkmail, voting becomes market research and information becomes advertising.
- Jeffrey Taylor