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Open Technology Initiative

The Rise of the Intranet Era

Media, Research and Policy in an Age of Communications Revolution
February 20, 2009 |

No starter pistol announces the beginning of a new technological era.[1] There are no cannon blasts or tower bells ringing forth the end of the old and dawn of the new. And yet, if the previous ten years were "The Internet Decade," then the next decade may be dubbed the "Age of the Intranet." Intranets are digital communication networks linking devices, such as computers or handheld devices, to each other and to network-based applications and services, often within a specific geographical location. Much as the global Internet has interconnected computer networks, Intranets provide local connectivity, services, and applications to their users. Intranets are often home or office networks used to interconnect computers. In this chapter, we explore the notion of a "community Intranet" -- an expanded network of networks spanning a neighborhood, municipality, or geographic region. By amplifying community interconnectedness, Intranets promise to enable new forms of political and democratic engagement that expand upon present day networks and models of cooperation. Intranets are often decentralized and ad-hoc, with no one entity owning the entire infrastructure or controlling expansion of or access to the infrastructure. These arrangements create new challenges for surveillance and command and control as well as new opportunities for participatory media and information dissemination.

Intranet systems supplant old notions of networking geographic places by allowing people to be both networked and an integral part of the infrastructure-the creation of "device-as-infrastructure networks." These peer-to-peer communications systems provide unprecedented opportunities, as well as serious concerns, for the future of community organizing, political activism, media production, and communication research. Even as evidence accumulates demonstrating how these technologies encourage civic engagement, their social trajectory is far from determined, and the possibility for a more dystopian outcome cannot be dismissed. While drawing from real-world case studies, including community and municipal wireless networks, Indymedia, the iPhone, geo-locational applications and services, and next-generation wireless devices, this chapter documents the emergence of Intranet technologies, discusses their implications for research, and explores policy implications at this critical juncture in telecommunications development and policy making.

The Intranet Potential

Intranet-enabled communications have the potential to accelerate fundamental changes begun in the 1980s with the advent of widespread public use of pagers and cell phones. Like these cellular systems, Intranets are often fully functioning communications networks, connecting participants to one-another and to locally run services and applications within homes and offices at the local, state, regional, and even national levels. Similar to businesses connecting computers to share Internet connectivity, printer and file server access via a Local Area Network (LAN), community Intranets connect devices to form a community-wide LAN. Intranet technologies create new possibilities for how information is produced, disseminated, and archived by creating a peer-to-peer infrastructure that parallels the rise of peer-to-peer technologies, services, and applications. Sharing media, educational content, and public services via local telecommunications systems, Intranets provide web resources for their respective communities, ranging from the mundane, such as e-mail, webhosting, and filesharing, to the more innovative, such as streaming micro-broadcasting, video chat-rooms, temporary device-hosted LANs, and audio and video telephony. While some Intranets are geographically bounded, others are regional or even global in nature. Often, Intranets rely on darknets and friend-to-friend networking client (i.e., peer-to-peer file-sharing networks predicated upon social networking and trust) -- one example embraced by the open source community is Nullsoft's WASTE, a decentralized file sharing and IM program -- but increasingly they are focused on providing useful services, applications, and media to local communities (Biddle, England, Peinado, & Willman, 2002).

Using local Intranets, communities can set up forums for political debate, artistic display, and educational fare. Streaming video and audio from local events -- from town council and PTA meetings to annual music festivals -- have created entirely new media services and information-sharing options for residents. Intranets enhance local government, education, and civic organizations services, allowing services such as online voter registration and real-time directions to polling stations, bill payment and live tax advice, access to school homework and teacher lesson plans, public service announcements, online newspapers and radio, and instant webcasting of emergency alerts.

Public safety and social service groups, local schools, churches, and municipalities are already beginning to embrace the potentials of these technologies and recent shifts in municipal wireless business models have just begun to tap Intranets' potentials. And, as municipal networking business models continue to evolve, Intranet services and applications will increase in importance, becoming meaningful differentiators among different implementation options.

dynamic.jpg

Figure 1: Illustration
of a Mesh Network

Schools can set up a local wireless network and broadcast a student-produced news program or a theatrical play; a housing project can establish an online media forum to feature local artists, upcoming events, job listings, or educational opportunities; social workers out in the field and municipal workers can dynamically update their caseload files and task lists as they travel around town; religious organizations can webcast services to residents whose health prevents them from attending; electrical, water, gas and parking meters can be remotely read; and, automated congestion-pricing of vehicles and optimal traffic light configurations can be ascertained in real-time.

Perhaps one of the most exciting prospects of Intranet-enabled communications is an enhanced potential for community journalism. As national media outlets increasingly omit local news, Intranets may facilitate a municipal service that provides a daily digital community news bulletin, replete with local beat reporting and investigative news. Community news, most likely delivered via a municipal or community wireless network offering ubiquitous high-speed broadband, could be treated as a public utility, provided each morning in the form of an informational service, and supported by local tax revenues. As local broadcast and print news continue to be eviscerated by national market pressures, the potential for Intranets to provide local journalism will be increasingly valuable.

Many of the projects already utilizing Intranet technologies aim to change the cultural economy of the Internet by creating resources for people to democratize media distribution and information dissemination, often via existing infrastructures and off-the-shelf networking hardware. Unlike the Internet, which disproportionately favors capitalized publishers like the NYTimes.com and CNN.com, Intranets reliance on local networks allow low capital users to host websites, e-mail lists and accounts, stream audio and video programs, and create dynamic media for local consumption -- creating an integrated system that provides affordable access to everyone from independent musicians and journalists to teachers and civic officials (Young, 2003).

The remainder of this chapter provides a glimpse of community Intranets' implications for reconceptualizing the theory and study of emergent communications technologies, with the goal of not just providing a thought-piece of what might be, but also showing how these technologies are already being used and studied.

Community Intranet Case Studies: CUWiN & Chambana.net

An exemplar of Intranet technology is the Champaign-Urbana Wireless Network (CUWiN; see cuwin.net), launched by a coalition of wireless developers in 2000 with a mission to "connect more people to Internet and broadband services; develop open-source hardware and software for use by wireless projects world-wide; and, build and support community-owned, not-for-profit broadband networks in cities and towns around the globe." Although the CUWiN Foundation is a non-profit organization headquartered in the small town of Urbana, Illinois, it has received considerable national and international attention during its years of successful open-source development. Through the ongoing support the Acorn Active Media Foundation (see: acornactivemedia.org), CUWiN has integrated the wireless network with a host of different services.

In Spring 2000, a group of software programmers, radio techies, system administrators, and community activists began discussing ways to set up a community-operated wireless network using widely available, off-the-shelf hardware. After two years of intensive work, CUWiN's software development allowed the first multi-hop, bandwidth sharing, wireless cloud to become operational, creating shared access to the Internet from multiple locations. This milestone marked the first time a single Internet connection (in this case, donated by the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center Foundation; see: ucimc.org) was utilized from houses located a half-kilometer away from one-another, with traffic routed through an intermediary wireless node. This technology later became known as "mesh" wireless networking.

CUWiN went on to deploy additional wireless routers (often called "nodes") in the community and develop the system software to deal with real-world conditions. This initial deployment brought CUWiN's first major press coverage and created opportunities for over two-dozen new organizations to partner with the project. Realizing that scaling up the system would require major upgrades, CUWiN received an exploratory grant in 2003 from the Threshold Foundation to buy much-needed additional equipment as a proof-of-concept for deployment in impoverished communities. Henceforth, CUWiN has been building a new generation of hardware chosen for its durability, price, and suitability for this application. The initial exploratory grant allowed CUWiN to double the number of nodes in the test bed network to try out software improvements under in-vivo conditions. Continuing collaborations with the Acorn Active Media Foundation have led to the development of lower-cost equipment and the implementation of free public Internet access in areas throughout downtown Urbana.

In 2004, CUWiN received a $200,000 grant from the Information Program of the Open Society Institute to develop networking software as a model case for transfer to other communities. That same year the Center for Neighborhood Technology began using CUWiN's software in the economically disadvantaged, minority Chicago suburb, North Lawndale, to help bridge their digital divide by bringing broadband connectivity to many residents for the first time. Over 50 different communities are considering using CUWiN's software worldwide, and key facets of CUWiN's technology have been integrated into many open source wireless technologies. As these open source technologies have continued to stabilize, the number of organizations and communities looking to use them for Internet service and Intranet applications in their neighborhoods has increased dramatically.

cuwin-coverage-map.jpg

Figure 2: CUWIN Coverage Map

Today, the CUWiN foundation project has over 200 members and 100 developers, and has deployed systems in multiple locations around Illinois, across the United States, and internationally. In CUWiN's local community, there is a long waiting list to join the network and the City of Urbana has allocated funding to build additional nodes and added them to extend the CUWiN network in the downtown region. This may represent the first time that a municipality has actively deployed an open-source, open-architecture wireless solution, thus helping to further advance these technologies.

As isolated wireless "clouds" grow within the City of Urbana, distinct areas will merge, creating a single trans-neighborhood, interconnected wireless community. This process of conglomerization of distinct wireless clouds creates a community Intranet capable of providing multi-media services to network users, as described in more detail in the next section. CUWiN has also formed numerous partnerships with university research laboratories to develop next-generation wireless technologies, and is now working with a diverse array of groups, from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in its own back yard.

Chambana.net

Community Intranets are as diverse as the constituencies they serve. In Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, the Chambana.net project is a proving ground for next-generation Intranet services and applications. Chambana.net is built and maintained by the Acorn Active Media Foundation (Acorn) and creates an community LAN that interconnects the local mesh wireless network with multi-media resources located at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (UCIMC). Chambana.net hosts scores of websites for local organizations as well as web portal capabilities, hundreds of e-mail lists, serves tens of thousands of users, integrates an IRC server and file storage capabilities, streams audio and video, provides telephony capabilities, and is a platform for darknet participants and local IT developers. By directly integrating the local low power FM radio station, WRFU 104.5 FM (Radio Free Urbana), the project allows such innovations as the streaming of live shows from the performance venue, which are also simulcast through the radio station and the Internet. By harnessing the Intranet capabilities of this system, this community Intranet allows local and global participants to communicate via the chat servers with audience members, sound engineers, etc. The project allows Intranet participants to access video files they have been editing at the UCIMC's production center from their laptop computer at a local cafe. Soon social networking and geolocation multi-media web portal functionality will allow media producers to upload their work to local wireless hotspots and comment on each other's work.

ucimc-network-diagram.jpg

Figure 3: The Chambana.net Infrastructure and Community Intranet

The power of Intranets lies in their potential for supporting new forms of communication. As the functionality of mobile devices increases, Intranet usage will expand as well. Together, CUWiN and the Chambana.net project provide a natural laboratory for Intranet services and applications. By integrating media production and information dissemination, they support a return to localism -- the potential to blend participatory media production with the reach of regional networking.

Intranets represent a clear shift away from the broadcast model, enabling two-way flow of information, community and shared ownership of communications infrastructure, and more services and applications than existing telecommunications systems. In Urbana, the Independent Media Center, CUWiN, Chambana.net, Acorn Active Media Foundation, UCIMC, and WRFU 104.5 FM (see: wrfu.net) and a host of allied organizations are using these new technologies to advance democratic communications.

Community Informatics

In response to these emergent digital communications, vibrant new strands of communications theory have begun to coalesce, while traditional barriers between participatory action, policy and regulatory debate, and technological innovation are breaking down. Feedback loops among developers, implementers, policy reformers, and community organizers are placing pressure on decision-makers in Washington, DC to substantially reform our telecommunications policies to better match on-the-ground realities. Telecommunications reforms in 2008 are set to extend Intranet capabilities from the margins of "techno-geekery" into the mainstream.

Current battles over access to the television white spaces (unused frequencies between existing broadcast channels; see Meinrath & Calabrese, 2007) have pitted public interest groups (who want to foster more democratic communications) and hi-tech firms (who want to sell next-generation wireless equipment) against the National Association of Broadcasters and its allies (who want to protect their current business models and prevent competition). The 700MHz spectrum auction that was concluded in March 2008 created, for the first time, an "open platform" band that requires the license-holder (in this case Verizon) to open its network to all compatible devices. With Google's Android phone and the continuing work of the Open Handset Alliance (a coalition of over 30 corporations working on next-generation open cellular hardware), community Intranets are poised to become an everyday part of normal life. And with the increasing functionality of next-generation hand-held computers, device-as-infrastructure networking is rapidly becoming an everyday reality.

Meanwhile, contemporary researchers are increasingly drawing from current telecommunications and regulatory deliberations, familiarizing themselves with new and emergent technologies, and immersing themselves in the communities they study. A promising development in communications theory since the late 1990s is the emergence of the field of community informatics (CI), which is particularly well-suited to address issues raised by Intranet technologies and digital media-production practices. Howard Rheingold underscores the importance of formulating a new field as a potential starting point for new communications theories that is "based on actual findings by people who have tried to use online media in service of community, then reported on their results." He notes that "In the absence of such systematic observation and reporting by serious practitioners, public discussion will continue to oscillate between ideological extremes, in a never-ending battle of anecdotal evidence and theoretical rhetoric" (Keeble & Loader, 2002, p xx). Emphasizing the cross-disciplinary and emergent aspects of CI, Keeble and Loader (2002) define "community informatics" as:

...a multidisciplinary field for the investigation and development of the social and cultural factors shaping the development and diffusion of new ICTs and its effects upon community development, regeneration and sustainability. It thereby combines an interest in the potentially transforming qualities of new media with an analysis of the importance of community social relations for human interaction. (p.3)

CI draws from a wide range of source material and expertise based on the understanding that new and emergent technologies often fall outside traditional disciplinary boundaries. Therefore, expertise concerning their use, impacts, and diffusion are found through a participatory action research methodology (Meinrath, 2004). Similarly, since CI is, first and foremost, involved in the systematic study of contemporary technologies and social phenomena, it relies on the work of "community activists, webmasters and Internet enthusiasts, policy-makers, digital artists, science-fiction writers, media commentators [in addition to] a wide variety of academics including sociologists, computer scientists, communications theorists, information systems analysts, political scientists, psychologists, and many more" (Keeble & Loader, 2002, p. 3). Beyond media research, these new technologies also have a profound impact on the formation and nature of communities. One of the most overlooked facets for determining whether technological innovation is empowering to its users is whether it is open and how that openness is operationalized.

Open vs. Closed Technologies and Network Architectures

At its heart, one of the most significant barriers to the potential of Intranets comes down to the differences between closed and open technologies. These notions often bring to mind issues related to open source and proprietary software (e.g., Linux versus Windows), but the distinction is more encompassing. Stolterman (2002) defines the important attributes thusly:

A closed technology is one that does not allow the user to change anything after it has been designed and manufactured. The structure, functionality and appearance of the artifact are permanent...The technology is a relatively stable variable in social settings.... An open technology allows the user to continue changing the technology's specific characteristics, and to adjust, and or change its functionality. When it comes to an open technology, changes in functionality pose a question not only of change in the way the existing functionality is used or understood but also of a real change in the artifact's internal manifestation. (Stolterman, 2002, p. 45)

The Internet, generally speaking, was conceived and remains an open and designable technology. One can "add, embed, contain or surround the artifact with other technology in a way that radically changes it." (Stolterman, 2002, p. 45). This aspect has contributed to the successes of so-called "Web 2.0" applications. Unfortunately, this openness is also under attack, as moves by Comcast to block Bittorrent communications, the blocking of pro-choice text messaging by Verizon, and the editing of a live Pearl Jam's concert by AT&T all exemplify. Unfortunately, the "gentlemen's agreements" that have been sold as "solutions" (that these corporations will not engage in these practices again) do nothing to prevent these sorts of anti-competitive, anti-free speech, and anti-democratic actions from being repeated at a later date. Thus, a growing list of public interest organizations have grown increasingly worried that by abdicating their responsibility to prevent this sort of corporate malfeasance, the Federal Communications Commission and other regulatory agencies are all but guaranteeing that these sorts of behaviors will continue.

In fact, without the advent of the landmark Carterphone decision to allow interconnection of "foreign attachments" to the AT&T telephone network, wireline communications may well have taken a different turn -- even preventing the emergence of the Internet in its present form. Prior to Carterphone, the FCC tariff governing interconnecting devices stated, "No equipment, apparatus, circuit or device not furnished by the telephone company shall be attached to or connected with the facilities furnished by the telephone company, whether physically, by induction or otherwise" (FCC 68-661). The growth and successes of the Internet are predicated upon an open architecture (Cooper, 2004; Kahin & Keller, 1997) that facilitates the interconnection of a variety of different devices and technologies (Louis, 2000; Meinrath, 2005). While AT&T may have wanted end-to-end control over every part of their network, the FCC wisely concluded that the best interests of the general public would be achieved by ensuring that innovation could not be stifled by AT&T and that end-users could decide for ourselves which devices and technologies we wanted to attach to the telephone network.

In fact, the Internet stands as a remarkable reminder of the potential power (and problems) of network effects (Hiller & Cohen, 2002; Nuechterlein & Weiser, 2007) and the promise that this new "networked information economy" (Benkler, 2003) makes possible. As Benkler (2003) sums up:

For over 150 years, new communications technologies have tended to concentrate and commercialize the production and exchange of information, while extending the geographic and social reach of information distribution networks... The Internet presents the possibility of a radical reversal of this long trend. It is the first modern communications medium that expands its reach by decentralizing the distribution function. Much of the physical capital that embeds the intelligence in the network is diffused and owned by end users. (p. 1250).

While thus far true for much of the wireline communications infrastructure, this analysis breaks down within the wireless realm (Meinrath & Pickard, 2008). Wireless communications are a particularly interesting case study since the transport medium -- the public airwaves -- is not only publicly owned, but also, for data communications in particular, often unlicensed (Meinrath et al., 2005). Yet the wireless systems that an increasing number of Internet participants use to connect to the Internet remain closed technologies (Nuechterlein & Weiser, 2007).

The 2007 deal inked by Apple and AT&T is a classic example of the problems with this approach. Apple's iPhone was only available to be used on AT&T's network, even though it could be used on any cellular network. Likewise, AT&T only allows certain services and applications to run on the iPhone, even though the iPhone could run many additional programs that would be useful for end users. Innovative iPhone owners and entrepreneurs have already found ways to unlock the device and consumer groups have launched campaigns to get iPhone limitations removed (see, for example, freetheiphone.com), but the extra work and cost are borne by end-users as a result of anti-competitive business practices. By comparison, the superiority of open architectures is immediately apparent:

An open architecture means fewer technological restrictions and, thus, the ability to explore more options. In an open architecture, there is no list of elements and protocols. Both are allowed to grow and change in response to changing needs and technology innovation...With an open architecture you are not making bets on a specific direction the technology will take in the future. You are not tied to a specific design or a particular vendor or consortium roadmap, so you can evaluate and select the best solution from a broad and energetic competitive field. Competition facilitates innovation and reduces equipment and implementation costs. (Waclawsky, 2004, p. 61)

With data communications networks, the costs of closed architectures are particularly devastating because they impact almost every communications medium. As Tim Wu (2007) documents, wireless cellular carriers may be the worst purveyors of closed technologies:

The wireless industry, over the last decade, has succeeded in bringing wireless telephony at competitive prices to the American public. Yet at the same time, we also find the wireless carriers aggressively controlling product design and innovation in the equipment and application markets, to the detriment of consumers. In the wired world, their policies would, in some cases, be considered simply misguided, and in other cases be considered outrageous and perhaps illegal. (Wu, 2007. p.1)

Luckily, open architecture cellular devices are just around the corner. Projects like OpenMoko.org are working to develop "the world's first integrated open source mobile communications platform" and the Open Handset Alliance is committed to creating a cellular platform that supports innovation (though how open this hardware platform will be is still to be determined). In fact, the superiority of these open systems is so strong that both Verizon and AT&T have declared their intention to run open networks (though the details of their "openness" have yet to be released as of this writing). Yet even these approximations of openness are steps away from a fully proprietary infrastructure and towards a more open, interoperable, and innovation-supporting one.

Within the data communications realm, today most municipal and enterprise 802.11 (WiFi/WiMAX) wireless networks are entirely proprietary. For example, a Motorola 802.11 system will not interoperate directly with a Tropos system, which will not interoperate directly with a Meru system, which will not interoperate directly with a Meraki system, etc. In fact, most consumers have no idea that the links they rely on to access Internet and Intranet services lock geographical areas into path dependencies with specific vendors (and their specific capabilities and limitations). Disconcertingly, in an era when interoperability of applications, services, and communications is assumed, and the communities that people participate in are geographically dispersed, the immediate and long-term ramifications of this geospatial lock-in remain almost entirely unexplored. Closed technologies have the potential to constrain the positive potentials of Intranets if their widespread adoption stems more from an emphasis on corporate profits than maximizing wireless networks' public benefits.

Unlike the Internet, these wireless "last-mile" links can disallow users from extending the network (e.g., using bridges and routers), adding applications (e.g., VoIP, P2P, IRC, IM), interconnecting additional services (e.g., streaming servers, distributed file storage, local webhosting), or connecting directly with one another. The wireless medium is a de facto throwback to an era paralleling AT&T's control over which devices could be connected to their network and which technologies would thus be developed. For unsuspecting communities and decision-makers, the long-term effects of wireless lock-in may be more detrimental than any policy previously witnessed in telecommunications history.

Thus far, regulatory bodies and decision-makers remain unwilling to address these fundamental concerns, even though, as Nuechterlein and Weiser (2007) document, telecommunications history is rife with cautionary tales of regulatory inaction. Within this context, communications researchers, in particular, have an opportunity to both study and positively impact the future of U.S. telecommunications. By facilitating interventions in telecommunications policy, engaging with community media activists, and emphasizing how the democratic potentials of new technologies are dependent on sound public policies, the praxis of contemporary academics can help shift the trajectory of global communications and shake the foundations of current and future Intranet practices.

The Challenges of the Intranet Era

The opportunities of Intranet technologies hold much promise, but also require meaningful changes to how we study communication and render media policy as we implement these new telecommunications systems. Communications departments are increasingly adding new media strands to study emergent technologies and we are beginning to see more research addressing issues like privacy and surveillance; Intranet vs. Internet services and applications; social networking; wired and wireless network neutrality; technology convergence, empowerment and independence; digital divides and inclusion efforts; digital rights management; and current and pending telecommunications proceedings (Lessig, 2001, 2006; Wu, 2007; Meinrath & Pickard, 2008).

The emergent roles of Intranets enabled by the Internet, digital television, cell phones, PDAs and other digital media are providing a powerful set of tools which challenge and shift social and economic behavior. While it is easy to slip into a perspective where we see these changes as a positive global phenomenon, the vast majority of humanity -- over five billion people as of 2008 -- do not have Internet access and are not directly participating in this "information revolution"; and these divides have implications that have only just begun to be studied.

Today, computer-mediated communication is, according to OECD, ITU, PEW Center, FCC and other statistics, far more prevalent among the affluent and highly educated. Meanwhile, the rural-urban divide in Internet connectivity, contrary to rosy press reports, may actually be worsening in the United States. While we often look to emergent technologies and new media for their "potential of being used as a liberatory and empowering tool by many people and...for the disadvantaged and excluded to 'challenge entrenched positions and structures'" (Keeble & Loader, 2002, p. 5), these new communications media are actually little-understood and grossly under-utilized (Cooper, 2003, 2006; Pickard, 2008). Media activists have played a pivotal role in deploying these technologies and opening up and shaping policy debates regarding community Intranets and other forms of Internet-enabled communication (Pickard, 2006a, 2006b). As they expand the boundaries on what is possible with new technologies, increasingly they engage with policy debates, including spectrum ownership, network neutrality and open access issues of the Internet, privacy, surveillance, and intellectual property law.

Likewise, the political and regulatory battles of the next few years will determine the trajectory of communications development for generations to come. Non-profit organizations like the New America Foundation, Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the Media Access Project are often on the front lines of debates that will affect the lives of all U.S. residents and reverberate around the globe. These groups are often battling against telco incumbents with orders of magnitude more funding as well as hundreds of lobbyists and enormous PR war chests. Top-down telecommunications reforms are critically important to the creation of a more just society, but given the systematic under-resourcing of public interest organizations, grassroots implementation of next-generation communications infrastructures is useful and much-needed strategy for illustrating the potential benefits that national reforms could facilitate.

In summary, community Intranets hold great promise, but the onus is on researchers and their allies to document the positive effects of these new technologies for civic engagement and democratized communications. Attentiveness to the issues discussed in this chapter will help scientists, activists, decision-makers, and practitioners better understand the intersections among the technologies, uses, and policies of Intranet-enabled communications. Communications research strives to shed light on changes in how we interact and communicate. As observers and participants during this time of rapid change, we have a responsibility to the global community to develop sound public policy dedicated to social justice. Keeping up with the rapidity of change is certainly a challenge, but while many outcomes of these shifts in communications are still to be determined, the opportunity to help shape the technologies and policies of next-generation communications and positively impact the day-to-day lives of millions of people has never been greater.

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[1] A version of this paper will be published in Kevin Howley (Ed.), Globalization and Communicative Democracy: Community Media in the 21st Century, London: Sage Publications.

Young, David (2003). Personal Communication. December 3. 2003.

Intranet systems provide unprecedented opportunities, as well as serious concerns, for the future of community organizing, political activism, media production, and communication research.