The Internet and Beyond:
Where No User and Information Has Gone Before

Paul Evan Peters
August 27, 1993.


Abstract = Less than ten years after the big bang in cyberspace that created it, the Internet information environment has become home to a diverse and rapidly growing population of communities. Many of these networked communities create and use information in ways that represent modernized versions of strategies and practices that were well-established before the emergence of the Internet information environment. Other communities are striving to actualize the genuinely innovative, even transformational, potential of the Internet as a communication medium and publication channel. In this lecture I will survey the large features of the current and relatively close horizon Internet information landscape. I will also explore a number of areas in which fundamental shifts in thinking are possible, even necessary, by creators and users of networked information resources and services. Finally, during the question and discussion period I will be pleased to entertain questions about the politics and economics of the contemporary Internet, the National Research and Education Network (NREN) program, and the National Information Infrastructure (NII) initiative.

But first I would like to learn more about who you are. Some brief "session aerobics" should suffice in this regard.

Reality check!


My basic perspective.

I represent a coalition of three large, primarily North American, associations that address various aspects of knowledge management and information technology in primarily higher education settings: ARL, CAUSE, and EDUCOM.

I manage a task force of 188 institutions and organizations that provide this coalition with many of the insights, initiatives, and resources it needs to pursue its mission of promoting the creation and use of netwworked information resources and services to promote scholarship and intellectual productivity.

1/3 of the members of the task force are technology, information, and other providers, and many of these are for-profit entities ... including UC Berkeley, most of the other UC campuses, and the UC Office of the President.

The members of the Coalition and its task force have made major, perhaps the major, investments of time, talent, and money in the Internet, and they are eager to increase the returns on their investments by promoting the use of the Internet for communication and publication as well as a for computation.

The Coalition is also a small business (3 folks and around $700K per year) that offers a variety of networked information resources and services to the Internet community.

We are ".org" and proud of it.

Bear with me as I develop two responses to the basic question "What is the Internet?" I am sure that most if not all of you are comfortable with you own answers to this question, or have long since given up worrying about as you pressed on to using the capabilities of the Internet. Still, I want to encourage you to think big about the Internet and its real and potential impacts on research and education communities, and the best way I know to do this is to begin by working through the basic question "What is the Internet?" together.

Let's start with a left-brain response, a response that should appeal to your ratiocination.

Yes, I am a policy wonk and political junky and participating in long, tortuous discussions of the Internet public policy issues and strategies feeds my left brain.

Now let's try a right-brain response, a response that should appeal to your imagination.

This right brain response is not an entirely whimsical interest of mine. Language is important, especially in public policy, and metaphors are invaluable wheels for the mind. One metaphor, that of the "information superhighway" has seized most if not all of the early engineering and public policy conceptual space.

The "information universe" metaphor speaks to the human cultural aspects of the Internet.

VP Al Gore at LC on 7/14 recommended that we all start thinking in terms of data being presssed into information, information being distilled into knowledge, and knowledge being fermented into wisdom.

We have to develop both metaphors, use both brain hemispheres, if we are going to realize the full potential of the Internet moment.

Next I want to switch gears and conduct a brief survey of contemporary Internet information resource and service planning and development strategies as I conceive them. Three basic Internet information product and service planning and development questions.