Working The Net
A growing number of grass-roots campaign groups are using internet and electronic mail to get their message networked to a global audience. Professional information manager Ben Schneider continues his series of articles on who is using the net and why SQUALL readers should know about it.
Squall 9, Jan/Feb 1995, pg. 13.
The variety of people using the Net is incredible. Sure, many of the users are in business and education but as I mentioned in the last article, its unregulated nature means that anyone can put whatever they want onto it.
It is as a result of this that there has been a swell of Net use in this country amongst environmental and social justice campaign groups. One major advantage of posting information on the Net is the instantaneous way a campaign group can inform others of a demonstration or rally. Just before Claremont Road was finally evicted (RIP), both Road Alert and the No M11 Link Campaign posted information on the ‘Alert’ news- group in the environmental network GreenNet, asking for people to come and support the Claremontians during their eviction.
The Hunt Saboteurs Association posted an article (news-group: animal.rights) announcing that the first court case of arrested sabbers under the new Act was taking place on December 14 last year. The court case was adjourned.
Meanwhile, Smallworld, the alternative video news agency, posted an article on the gen.media news-group letting everyone know that their avidly awaited video news magazine, ‘Undercurrents No 2’ (see review on page 27) was out and about.
There are also regular news updates from both Earth First! and Road Alert, with information on the progress of specific campaigns.
PHreak on the other hand are an actual dial-up service accessible through a net modem. Instead of dialling your internet provider (see accompanying box), you set your communications software to PHreak. The service offers the user 20 minutes of FREE access per day. For longer access time subscription costs are only £5 a month. You can find some of SQUALL 7 on PHreak, as well as all of SQUALL 8 and very shortly the SQUALL 9 you are reading now.
PHreak is not strictly speaking the internet. It does however, allow all Netwide electronic mail to be sent and received, but does not offer other Net facilities. What it does have is ‘local’ bulletin board and information from the New Economics Foundation, a radical think tank. It also offers a selection of Net-wide bulletin boards, such as alt.pagan and alt.hemp.
According to PHreak’s Chris Smith the service was set up to “give alternative groups a site in cyberspace where they can hang out”. Much of the Net is taken up by computer program-swapping, business and mainstream, so that PHreak provides an opportunity for assorted itinerants to enter an arena and communicate with a larger percentage of like-minded individuals than might normally be found on the Net itself.
Groups like PHreak give me hope that the future of the Net will not just involve the expression of dollars for data. The groups mentioned in these articles are on the frontline of their issues, enabled by Internet to proactively comment alongside the more conventional voices that usually dominate the airwaves.
* Comments, updates and net-news write to Ben Schneider c/o SQUALL or e- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SOME OF THE GRASS ROOTS GROUPS ON THE NET
Film and distribute the alternative news video magazine - Undercurrents. They also train people to use camcorder to record events,
No M11 Link Campaign
As the name suggests, an environmental protest organisation aiming to hinder the completion of the M11.
e-mail - email@example.com
Involved in anti-road building campaigns all over the country
Many local environmental NVDA groups.
Hunt Saboteurs Association
campaign and protest against blood sports
Networking information re: Criminal Justice Act and other associated actions and events
The alternative urban cyclist’s mouthpiece
Resource centre for many groups including Earth First
Contains info on underground campaigning organisations in the UK. This is on World Wide Web, an internet application allowing even faster referral to sound and images. Editions of SQUALL will be found on this bulletin board in the near future.
http://web.cs.city.ac.uk/homes/ tgs1001/home.html (offline)
Getting Hooked Up
To get ‘hooked up’ you need four tools: a computer, a piece of communications software, a modem and an account with an internet provider.
- Most computers are able to work with the internet - check with the internet providers and support services mentioned in point 4 if in doubt ie. your computer is very old.
- The communications software enables the computer to send and receive information from an external source.
- The modem converts small epics of computer code into electronic signals which can be sent down a telephone to a receiving computer.
- An internet provider is an organisation which has a large central computer which has access to an internet entry point or ‘node’. The provider can store electronic mail (computer post) and holds internet applications such as news-groups (computer newspapers).
Costs to join up vary with each access provider and often depend on the different special services they offer.
GreenNet, a member of the global Association for Progressive Communications has a join-up fee and varying subscription charges for commercial or non-profit organisations and how much time you are ‘on-line’. For non-profit groups, it costs £ 15 to register, £5 per month subscription and 4-6p per minute on-line time.
Demon, one of the most popular commercial internet providers charge a £12.50 join-up fee and £10 per month subscription with full internet access and unlimited time.
Internet Users must of course be aware that there is the cost of using the phone line too! The larger internet providers will usually have numbers all over the country, so that you will be charged at the local call rate, rather than national rates, wherever you are dialling from.
In The Net - Ben Schneider looks at the information revolution - Squall 8 - Autumn 1994.