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WASHINGTON, DC—Web White & Blue, the campaign to promote easy access to election-related information on the Internet, has demonstrated the public's tremendous interest in using the Internet for election information and has in fact made that information easier to find, according to a survey of those using the site. Web White & Blue also has resulted in substantial increases in traffic at several of the election- related resources linked through the Web White & Blue site. Close to 400,000 users have already logged on to Web White & Blue since it was launched October 7. The Web White & Blue awareness campaign is sponsored by the Markle Foundation and Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and supported by hundreds of major industry and nonprofit Web sites. These sites have joined together in an unprecedented effort to donate prime "real estate" for placement of the Web White & Blue icon or banner ad to help Americans become better informed about politics. In a voluntary survey answered by more than 500 visitors to the Web White & Blue site, the most striking preliminary findings are: 84 percent of survey respondents said 1998 is the first year they have used the Internet to get election information; 88 percent said that Web White & Blue was extremely or quite easy to use; 49 percent learned about Web White & Blue by seeing the icon or the banner ads displayed on leading Internet sites; 61 percent say they expect to use the Internet as their primary media source for election information in 2000. "Web White & Blue makes democracy easier," said Markle Foundation President Zoe Baird. "These findings indicate that the American public wants political information that is easy to use, and that the Internet can provide it. Efforts like Web White & Blue can transform citizen involvement in politics." There are now more than 1,200 sites displaying the Web White & Blue icon, up from 350 when the site was launched three weeks ago. The icon links directly to the Web White & Blue site, which in turn links to 45 Web sites that offer a range of election-related resources. DemocracyNet, one of the resource sites whose access and visibility was significantly heightened through its link from Web White & Blue, registered a 1,200 percent increase in page views from October 1 to October 7 and continues to have a regular viewership that is 600 percent higher than it was prior to the launch of Web White & Blue. Minnesota E-Democracy reported a 300 percent increase during the same time period and has maintained double the viewership that it had prior to the Web White & Blue launch. "Web White & Blue is fulfilling its promise to be a portal for democracy," said Steve Case, chairman and CEO of America Online, which is hosting the site. "This unprecedented online initiative will have a major impact on shaping the way the public gets political information in 2000." Other compelling findings from the Web White & Blue user survey include: 80 percent of those who said television was their primary news source were especially impressed with the comprehensiveness of the Web White & Blue site. Almost 90 percent of those users age 46 and over said they were getting election information from the Internet for the first time. 81 percent of the Web White & Blue users said they would recommend the site to a friend. "Web White & Blue has clearly met a need among Internet users who wanted to know more about the upcoming election," said Shorenstein Center Director Marvin Kalb. "We look forward to using what we've learned about educating voters online in 1998 to make the Internet an even more effective and interactive information tool in the presidential election in 2000." Web White & Blue links to election-related resources in the following categories: Voter Information - polling locations and youth resources Your State - government and non-profit election-oriented Web sites, by state Issues - comprehensive issue directories, candidate positions and public opinion poll results Campaigns - candidate directories and more Election News - national, regional and state news sites Participate - discussion about politics and election issues On election night, November 3, Web White & Blue will offer Internet users a comprehensive directory of links to live election results compiled by state governments and national media organizations. The John and Mary R. Markle Foundation is a private, not-for-profit grantmaking foundation that was incorporated in 1927 in the state of New York by John Markle and his wife, Mary R. Markle. The Foundation has assets of $180 million, and makes charitable contributions of approximately $9 million per year in the development and use of technologies of communication and information to enhance lifelong learning and promote an informed citizenry. The Media and Political Participation program aims to study the democratic process and develop new practices for how media and technology can improve citizen participation in national politics. Currently, the Markle Foundation supports applied research on political campaigns and creates innovative experiments that use new media technologies to enhance political dialogue, deliberation and participation among citizens. The Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy is a Harvard research center dedicated to exploring the intersection of press, politics and public policy in theory and practice. The Center strives to bridge the gap between journalists and scholars and, increasingly, between them and the public. Through teaching and research at the Kennedy School of Government and through its program of fellows and conferences, the Center is at the forefront of discussions in this area. Established in 1986 with a generous gift from the Shorenstein Family, the Center has emerged as a major source for research on U.S. campaigns and elections, journalism and public policy, international news, and race, gender and the press. It is a widely respected convener of journalists, scholars and political activists working to help the press improve its role in democracy."
WASHINGTON, DC—The Markle Foundation and Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government today joined with industry leaders representing hundreds of Web sites to unveil "Web White & Blue Day" on October 7, an awareness campaign promoting easy access to election-related information. The campaign seeks to harness the power of the Internet to strengthen democracy by giving Internet users a more informed and authoritative voice in the 1998 elections, which are just four weeks away. Commercial sites are leveraging their massive audience appeal to encourage participation among the broadest possible range of Internet users. More than 350 commercial and nonprofit Web sites—including ABC News, Microsoft, the Democracy Network, Infoseek, the League of Women Voters, Compaq, Hispanic Online, iVillage and Yahoo!—have joined together for the first time at a national level to get Americans informed about politics by displaying an icon on their homepage that links Internet users directly to the Web White & Blue Day site. The campaign's Web site—at www.webwhiteblue.org—will be live October 7 and remain active through the election, November 3. Web hosting services for the campaign are being provided by America Online. The Internet recently passed a milestone in cementing its role in American politics: Last month some 20 million people used the Net to gain access to the Starr Report within 24 hours after the report was released. "Participation in our democracy just became easier," Markle Foundation President Zoe Baird said. "Web White & Blue Day will insure that the vast array of political information on the Web is as accessible and user-friendly as possible. As 1998 unfolds, the public clearly feels that the Web is an important part of the political process. This unique partnership will further that trend." Based on historical traffic records for Web usage, it is estimated that more than 25-30 million Web users will see the Web White & Blue Day icon throughout the campaign. Almost 35 percent of the U.S. adult population now uses the Internet, and Americans have adopted this medium faster than they adopted television, radio, and the telephone. While citizen involvement in politics is at an all-time low - less than half of the voting age population in the U.S. voted in the 1996 election according to the Federal Election Commission - 60 percent of "connected" Americans vote, according to a 1997 study by Wired magazine. The Internet can "fundamentally change our political process by empowering people to educate themselves," America Online Chairman and CEO Steve Case said. "Web White & Blue Day illustrates this tremendous power - how the Internet can provide a depth and breadth of information in one place that's simply impossible to duplicate in the traditional media." The Web White & Blue Day site offers election-related resources in the following categories: Voter Information - polling locations and youth resources Your State - government and non-profit election-oriented Web sites, by state Issues -comprehensive issue directories, candidate positions and public opinion poll results Campaigns - candidate directories and more Election News - national, regional and state news sites Participate - discussion about politics and election issues All together, Web White & Blue Day links to 45 Web sites that offer a range of political information, from ELECnet, which links to state, county and city sites in all 50 states, to the Center for Responsive Politics, which offers in-depth campaign finance information, to Project Vote Smart, which tracks information on more than 13,000 candidates and elected officials, to the Newspaper Association of America's Newspaperlinks.com, which is creating a new directory of local election coverage by its 850 members. The more than 350 web sites carrying the Web White & Blue Day icon represent organizations ranging from major Internet search engines and services, to media organizations, online directories and general-interest sites that focus on sports—types of Web sites not usually associated with politics. "The value of the commitment by commercial sites to putting the Web White & Blue Day icon on their homepage cannot be overstated," said Baird. "It means that millions more Internet users will visit the site, and we hope they will be motivated by what they see to actively participate in the political process." Web White & Blue Day has also attracted wide online involvement by families, local governments, small businesses, libraries and local citizens' groups. "What we learn from Web White & Blue Day about educating voters on-line in 1998 will help us make the Internet more effective for voters in the presidential election in 2000," said Marvin Kalb, director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. The John and Mary R. Markle Foundation is a private, not-for-profit grantmaking foundation that was incorporated in 1927 in the state of New York by John Markle and his wife, Mary R. Markle. The Foundation has assets of $180 million, and makes charitable contributions of approximately $9 million per year in the development and use of technologies of communication and information to enhance lifelong learning and promote an informed citizenry. The Media and Political Participation program aims to study the democratic process and develop new practices for how media and technology can improve citizen participation in national politics. Currently, the Markle Foundation supports applied research on political campaigns and creates innovative experiments that use new media technologies to enhance political dialogue, deliberation and participation among citizens. The Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy is a Harvard research center dedicated to exploring the intersection of press, politics and public policy in theory and practice. The Center strives to bridge the gap between journalists and scholars and, increasingly, between them and the public. Through teaching and research at the Kennedy School of Government and through its program of fellows and conferences, the Center is at the forefront of discussions in this area. Established in 1986 with a generous gift from the Shorenstein Family, the Center has emerged as a major source for research on U.S. campaigns and elections, journalism and public policy, international news, and race, gender and the press. It is a widely respected convener of journalists, scholars and political activists working to help the press improve its role in democracy.
NEW YORK, NY—At 6:00 AM, PDT a new era in American Politics began. At long last, the promise of the Internet—to provide voters on-demand access to high quality information about government and politics—has been fulfilled. "Democracy Network's national launch marks the birth of a new political paradigm—one where voters can get their information directly from the candidates, in the format they want, when they want it," says Tracy Westen, President of the Democracy Network. "DNet makes the promise of the Internet a reality by bringing a nation full of election and government information into a single, easy to navigate site." "Before DNet, voters only direct communication with candidates was in the form of paid television advertisements or mailers. DNet was designed to make it easy for voters to communicate directly with candidates," says Area Madaras, Director of the Democracy Network. "DNet's format encourages candidates to offer detailed and informative statements about their positions rather than negative statements about an opponent. And it makes it easy for voters to find and review this information. DNet takes the work out of becoming an informed voter." DNet's signature feature is the candidate grid—a single page that provides voters access to every candidate's statement on the issues in a campaign. Voters can also search for one issue across multiple elections. A new feature, the Issue of the Day, allows voters to review issue debates in other states. Where grids are unavailable, DNet provides links to reliable sources of information. Tom Grubisich, Managing Editor, Digital City/America Online, was attracted to DNet because of the wealth of information it provides coupled with its ease of use. "DNet is a crucial component of our mission to provide online coverage that will not only keep people informed about political races and ballot questions in their states and congressional districts but give them opportunities to help shape the agenda of issues." Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, President of the League of Women Voters, explains why the League of Women Voters Education Fund has joined with Dnet to create sites in seven states. "Voters have told us they need in-depth, nonpartisan information on voting procedures, election materials and candidates and we are providing that with the latest in online technology. By providing this information online, the League is guaranteeing that all citizens can quickly access complete information to make informed decisions - whether they work third shift or long days in the law firm." DNet has won numerous awards for its pioneering role in the area of online public affairs information. It is expanding its award winning coverage across the United States with the help of its partners the League of Women Voters and the Earth Pledge Foundation. Becky Cain, Former League of Women Voters President, stated "The Democracy Network project offers a wonderful opportunity to use new technology to enhance the democratic process. We were so impressed that the Board selected the project for a Leadership Award in recognition of the innovative use of interactive media."
PITTSBURGH, PA—There are many issues related to use of the Internet—from loneliness and depression caused by too much online time to what can be done to make the Internet a more social place. These questions and answers deal with these issues in greater depth. The comments are based on recent findings gathered from HomeNet, the first study to look specifically at the impact that the Internet has on general emotional well being, particularly the emotional well being of families. Those findings were generally negative. Respondents include Carnegie Mellon's Robert Kraut, a professor of social psychology and human-computer interaction; Sara Kiesler, a professor of social and decision sciences; Tridas Mukophadhyay, a professor at Carnegie Mellon's graduate business school; and William Scherlis, a senior research scientist and director of the Information Technology Center in the School of Computer Science. Vicki Lundmark, a post-doctoral candidate, and Michael Patterson, a graduate student in Social and Decision Sciences, contributed to the research findings. QUESTION. Why has something perceived as being so social had such an anti-social impact on its users? Kiesler: For many people, the Internet is wonderfully convenient and fun. No need to dress up to "meet" new people, join a group discussion, or get in touch with your brother in Alaska. So talking on the Net is fun and rewarding. But talking on the Net takes time and attention away from your "real life." Think of the teenager avidly typing away in his room instead of playing a pick-up game of softball with his friends, and avoiding that party where he doesn't know anyone. Friends in real life are sometimes more troublesome, but they are the people who play a bigger role in one's life—the people who know you as a person and who are there to give the most all-round social support. Of course, if there *is* nobody around for you, then the Internet might be a lifesaver. But even so, maybe it would be better if the Internet helped people find local friends rather than far-flung people who may disappear from their lives as easily as they entered them This is exactly the paradox we are trying to understand, and we have to admit we don't yet have all the answers. Kraut: We're starting to think that the problem isn't with what people get when they go on-line, but with what they give up in their real lives to achieve it. It is likely that the social contact people get on the Internet is of lower quality than the social contact they get when they talk to members of their family, go to church groups or clubs, or have dinner parties. In some ways, it's easier to get on-line social contact than to get the real thing. You don't have to be at the same place at the same time, and can communicate when it's convenient for you. With the strangers you meet in chat rooms, you can always drop the relationships they don't work out, without having to run into them again and again. The problem may be, though, that the easy is driving out the good. Mukophadhyay: It's true that the Internet allows us to get to know a lot of people we would not meet otherwise. People can use email, go to chat rooms, subscribe to distribution lists or newsgroups. You have many ways to meet many people. Of course, you can also surf the Web as much as you want. However, the key point is that cyber-friendship may be good if you have no opportunity to meet people. But it's not a good substitute for real-life friendship. In fact, if you like someone you meet on the Internet, chances are that you would want to meet that person face to face. QUESTION: Did the findings surprise the research team? Kiesler: Yes, the findings surprised me for two reasons. First, many studies of work communication, including our own, were showing positive effects of electronic communication on such things as knowledge of the organization or participation in organizational life. Second, many anecdotal studies that preceded ours suggested there would be only positive effects. Third, we expected measures such as depression and social involvement to be very stable, and not to be affected by a single technology. Kraut: When we started this research, we weren't sure whether the Internet was going to be used more like the telephone or the TV, the other important information technologies heavily used at home. Our own research had shown that for the people we were studying, the phone-like uses were more important. They used the Internet to keep in touch with friends and family and to make new friends on-line. Teenagers rushed home from school to exchange mail with kids they saw an hour earlier. Both teens and adults also started to have chitchat and to exchange information with people they met on distribution lists or in chat rooms. These social uses were more important to them than finding impersonal entertainment and information on the World Wide Web. So we were shocked when we discovered that as people used the Internet more, they became more socially isolated and lonelier. And using the Internet primarily for communication purposes didn't seem to prevent these negative effects. Mukophadhyay: I was not surprised that the Internet had some negative effects. It's only natural that a powerful new technology like the Internet will have some unexpected consequences. What is surprising is that it seems uniformly and negatively to affect a bunch of measures of social involvement and emotional well being. QUESTION: How can you be showing that using the Internet leads to less social involvement when common experience and your own data show that it is used heavily for keeping up with old friends and making new ones? Kraut: To draw conclusions about the consequences of using the Internet, one needs to have comparisons. One needs to compare people who are using the Internet heavily with people who are not using it or using it very little. People can only report on what they have experienced, and many of us have experienced using the Internet for social purposes. But people can't easily report on what they are giving up, what economists call opportunity costs. For example, I find the Internet very convenient for keeping up with colleagues from my old job. The question is, does the time and energy I devote to these email messages hinder me from forming strong friendships with people in my current work setting or community? The best way to see what is being given up, is by comparing heavy and light users. QUESTION: Why should readers take this research more seriously than many other studies on consequences of using computers and the Internet? Kraut: First, this is one of the few pieces of research that has looked at all at the social and psychological consequences of using the Internet. Second, unlike some national surveys, this research measures actual usage. Our data tell us that there is a lot of error in people's reports about how much they use the Internet. Third and most important, we measure Internet use, social involvement and psychological well being at multiple time points. As a result, we can rule out the possibility that being socially isolated, lonely and depressed causes people to use the Internet more, and can discover what the consequences are of using the Internet once initial social and psychological state are taken into account. QUESTION: Society survived the introduction of the telephone and television. Do you think we'll survive the Internet? Kiesler: We humans are very confident, very smart and very adaptive. So of course we will survive the Internet. But we can make changes in technology, too. We made changes in the telephone (automated switching, privacy protections, universal service) and in television (Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street, and rating systems). We expect changes in the Internet. We hope the basis for these changes will be research rather than hyperbole or scare tactics based on anecdotes. Mukophadhyay: Society changes. But the Internet is changing faster and will continue to do so for some time. It'll be a while before we come to terms with the Internet. QUESTION: There are lots of other technologies that distract people from their social relationships. Is the Internet worse than them? Kraut: When people watch TV, play video games, or even read, they are withdrawing from social interaction. We can't directly compare whether spending an hour on the Internet is better or worse than spending it watching TV. Other researchers have shown effects of watching TV that are similar to the ones we see for using the Internet. My personal opinion is similar to those expressed by some of the parents in our study. They think that much of what their kids do on-line is a waste of time, but it's a better waste of time than watching TV, because its more personally engaging, active, social and literate. Mukophadhyay: There are two issues here. First, it's too early to have a definitive opinion about the Internet. Second, there is a fundamental difference between the Internet and TV or any other household technologies. The Internet is so flexible and has so many possibilities. We would probably see a wide range of impact from the Internet. QUESTION: If the Internet is having these negative effects, why are people using it so much? Kraut: It's important to remember that we have only looked at a small set of the possible effects that the Internet is having. We haven't investigated whether using the Internet provides job-relevant skills for people, gives them useful information for work or school, allows them to organize their home lives or purchases more efficiently, changes their self-esteem, or had any number of compensating benefits. It is possible that, all things considered, the Internet is actually good for people. On the other hand, we have many other examples of people engaging in behavior that is bad for them, either because the immediate experience is pleasurable even though the long-term consequences are bad or because the cost to gain some pleasure is so low. TV is the classic example. Adults watch over two hours of TV per day and spend less than 60 minutes visiting with friends and conversing with them, even though they much prefer socializing to watching TV. The reason sees to be that watching TV is easier than socializing, even though adults don't like watching TV that much. Mukophadhyay: People believe that the Internet is here to stay. It is the way to go for the future. They do not want to miss the boat. Let us also not forget that the Internet is a valuable tool for getting information and even for communication. QUESTION: We're just not talking about Internet addicts are we? Should we ALL be concerned about the findings? Kiesler: We didn't see a sudden drop in psychological well being or social involvement when people reached a certain number of hours of usage. Our results show a "linear" effect, which means the more Internet, the more the negative results. It is important to emphasize that this research report doesn't apply to educational and learning effects of the Internet. Our data suggest that there may be a tradeoff here, with more usage leading to better computer skills or worldly knowledge, and even self-esteem enhancements, even while social involvement declines somewhat. Mukophadhyay: We're talking about average people who use the Internet heavily and experience negative consequences. The lesson is that one should not run away from friends and families and escape into cyberspace. QUESTION: How can we recognize susceptibility in ourselves—in other words, when can we, as individuals, recognize that we may be entering a danger zone of Internet usage? Kiesler: Many people do things "too much." Eating quarts of ice cream at night, smoking three packs a day and sitting at the computer 10 hours at a time. Many people know very well when they are in a danger zone, and they must decide to change their behavior themselves. Most people probably do. We are planning to analyze our sample over a somewhat longer time period to see who drops and who doesn't and how their own behavioral changes affect their well being. QUESTION: If teens are afflicted more by loneliness and depression brought on by Internet use, do you have any useful advice for parents, schools or college counselors? Kiesler: Send them to camp, encourage them to play sports, help them be with real life friends. Kraut: My teenaged kids have access to the Internet, which I pay for, so obviously I think that the Internet can be valuable for them. But we've put limits on how much they can use the computer. I've also talked to my kids about this research and its implications, and tried to encourage them to monitor how they use it. I try to encourage them to get involved in real social activity -- after school clubs, temple youth group, visits to friends, volunteer work. As parents, we refused to allow them to put a computer in their bedroom, so we could monitor how much they use it. Scherlis: It would be an overreaction to stop Internet use altogether, since the educational and learning benefits would also stop. Our point is that use of the Internet has many kinds of social effects (just like the telephone and TV). We should consider all these effects in making judgments about its use for ourselves and as parents. We should also recognize that this technology is evolving rapidly, and its social impacts will also change. Finally, there are many different ways the Internet can be used (again, like the telephone and TV). Parents and teachers should focus their attention on the nature of the Internet use as well as the amount of the use. Mukophadhyay: The advice is simple. Maintain open communication and stay vigilant. As far as the computer and Internet go, the best thing to do is to put the machine in a public place—in the living room or kitchen rather than the basement or the kid's room. This will automatically ensure that your teen does not use the Internet too much. QUESTION: The Internet was first created for sharing scientific information and not for social activity. Would it be better if it went back to being that? Kiesler: The Internet (it wasn't called that) was first created so engineers and computer scientists could share computers. Even in those early days, it was used extensively for communication. You aren't going to change that, and you wouldn't want to. Society depends on communication, and grows stronger with more communication. Perhaps it would be better if people talked more with local family and friends rather than chatting away on the Internet with strangers. But we don't know for sure what led to our effects, so this is just speculation on our part. Kraut: Absolutely not. I have confidence that we can shape service on the Internet so that it will have beneficial influences. I've seen many cases where people are able to reconnect to a long-lost friend, share problems and get advice, pleasurably pass the time and provide social support on-line. Our goal should be to make this style of interaction increase and to make the likelihood of wasted interaction decrease. QUESTION: If not, what needs to happen to make email a socially useful tool for communication—one that brings people with strong supportive ties together in positive ways? Kiesler: One thing preventing people from using the Internet to support local strong ties is that everyone close to them that they know doesn't have email or is wary of the technical complications. Email has to be more accessible to everyone locally and it should be as easy for grandpa as for his teenage grandson. Kraut: I think there are ways to use the Internet that will improve how it influences lives. For example, in our study, some of the kids who graduated from a local high school created distribution lists to keep in touch with their classmates after they moved on the college. They are able to share news, and to arrange activities when they came back to town for vacations. This seems to me to be a healthier use than one that encourages discussions with strangers. Even better would be services that support communication among already existing social groups. For example, schools could have after-school clubs and homework sessions on-line. If kids find electronic communication fascinating, then channel it so that they communicate with people with whom they already have ties. Mukophadhyay: Unfortunately, most people still do not have access to the Internet. We found how families were excited when a close friend or a distant relation went online. As the Internet becomes more widespread and it becomes easier to use, it will take its place beside the telephone, cellular telephone and beeper as a powerful medium for interpersonal communication. QUESTION: As consumers, what should we tell government regulators, Internet providers and software companies about what we want? Kiesler: The Internet is too often fodder for political debates and grandstanding. Policy-making should be based on careful empirical research. We don't hesitate to do evaluations of educational interventions and medical technologies. We should do much more empirical evaluation of the massive social intervention called the Internet. Scherlis: Issues related to content have triggered much of the policy debate on the Internet. But, like the telephone, the Internet itself, along with the user-level services it supports (such as email and the Web), is neutral with respect to the content it conveys. So we should avoid simplistic appraisals and focus on understanding the issues through careful research. QUESTION: What are the implications of this study on policy and technology development related to the Internet? Scherlis: For more than 20 years, the Internet served primarily to support the sharing of technical information among professionals working in offices. Most of the Internet services we use today—email, the Web and newsgroups, for example, were designed to support this technical exchange. Only recently has the Internet become a public resource, and the average citizen who uses the 'net has largely inherited this set of services. These services constitute the user experience of the Internet. There has been a lot of attention paid to the huge improvements in the capacity and connectivity of the network. But (except for multimedia support) the actual user-level services they support have not evolved very much since their introduction. (Packet-switched email was introduced in 1972, and the email systems we use today are similar to those of a quarter-century ago. The Web was invented in 1989 to help physicists share data and scientific results, and has evolved primarily in technical respects.) Our results suggest that this set of services is not well adapted, for example, to increasing the social involvement of network users. Historically, government research sponsorship and policy initiatives have been the major force behind the development of the Internet. Without the sustained government involvement over the past two decades, there would be no Internet today. But this attention has generally focused on network infrastructure. Our results suggest that there may be real benefits from greater R&D attention to the broad area of user-level communication and information services. Both industry and government can help foster this growth, through research into new services, experimentation, evaluation and standards development. QUESTION: Does this report end the debate about the social value of the Internet? Kiesler: The debate will continue as more data come in. Kraut: No, for several reasons. First, we don't know how these results generalize and how stable these results are. Will the results be the same at different eras, with more socially isolated people, using different services? We doubt it. And second, we don't really understand the mechanisms that produce the negative effects, even in the sample we've studied. One must understand both the limits of the results and the mechanisms behind them before designing solutions or making policy recommendations. Scherlis: Beware of monolithic characterizations of the Internet as socially "good" or "bad." The Internet is a complex and multi-faceted social phenomenon, and it is evolving rapidly. It is as diverse both in form and in content as the existing and established popular media. Any debate and subsequent policy setting must recognize this complexity. Mukophadhyay: This report really jump-starts the debate. We will next examine how stable or generalizable these results are. We'll also try to understand the mechanisms that cause these results. QUESTION: As your study progresses, what will you look at next? Kiesler: Do negative effects continue or do they dissipate as people get less enamored of the Internet? Are the effects we found the same for different kinds of people and different samples? Are the effects better or worse than the effects of television? Is there a tradeoff of positive educational effects or skill for negative social effects?
PITTSBURGH, PA—The Internet has the potential to make us socially isolated, lonely and depressed, according to the unexpected results of a study of home computer users by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University. The findings are gathered from HomeNet, the first study to look specifically at the impact that the Internet is having over time on the social involvement and psychological well being of average Americans. Published this month in The American Psychologist, a publication of the American Psychological Association, the findings provide a consistent picture of the downside of using the Internet extensively as a source of information or setting for friendship and or social support. "We were surprised to find that what is a social technology has such anti-social consequences," says Robert Kraut, a professor of social psychology and human computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon who is the lead author of the article for The American Psychologist. Even though people in the study heavily used electronic mail and other communication services on the Internet, the research found that spending time on the Internet was associated with later declines in talking among family members, reductions in the number of friends and acquaintances they kept up with, and increases in depression and loneliness. Because the research studied the same people over time, it could rule out the possibility that people who are initially socially isolated, lonely and depressed were drawn to the Internet. Rather, according to Kraut, using the Internet seems to cause isolation, loneliness and depression. "Our results have clear implications for further research on personal Internet use. As we understand the reasons for the declines in social involvement, there will be implications for social policies and for the design of Internet technology," he adds. Various scientific and marketing reports say that more than 50 million Americans are using the Internet, a number that is rapidly growing. Given widespread use and with more growth expected, Kraut says the Internet could change the lives of Americans as much as the telephone did in the early 20th century or as television did in the 1950s and 1960s. "We want to help make these changes good ones," he says. HomeNet studied 169 personal computer users in Pittsburgh, whose communications on the Internet were monitored during their first years online. The home computer users are families with a wide range of demographic backgrounds whose common bond was a high school age student or membership in a community development group. The families used electronic mail, the World Wide Web and computer games, among other normal home computing uses. Time spent online varied a great deal among the subjects. Members of the research team are part of Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute and include Kraut and Sara Kiesler, a professor of social and decision sciences; Tridas Mukophadhyay, a professor at Carnegie Mellon's graduate business school; William Scherlis, a senior research scientist and director of the Information Technology Center in the School of Computer Science; Vicki Lundmark, a post-doctoral fellow, and Michael Patterson, a graduate student in Social and Decision Sciences. "We hope our findings help make things change on the Internet. We are not talking about Internet addicts, just regular people," Kraut says. "These are not just results that occur in the extremes. And these are the same people who, when asked, describe the Internet as a positive thing." The technology that has allowed people to keep in touch with distant family members and friends, to find information quickly and to develop friendships with people around the world apparently is also replacing vital, everyday human communication. "Many users may be substituting weak online friendships for their stronger, real-life relationships," Kiesler says. "You don't have to deal with unpleasantness, because if you don't like somebody's behavior, you can just log off. In real life, relationships aren't always easy. Yet dealing with some of those hard parts is good for us. It helps us keep connected with people." Greater use of the Internet was associated with statistically significant declines in the social involvement that Kiesler refers to. Decreases in social involvement were indicated by a drop-off in communication within a participant's families, the size of a person's social networks and reports by participants of increases in loneliness and depression, psychological states associated with reduced social involvement. In all, the study uses data on 169 people in 73 families. A little over half the subjects are female users, a quarter of them belong to minorities. The subject pool also represents a fairly wide income range. Of the different demographic groups, teenagers seem the most vulnerable to potential negative effects. What's more, teenagers used the Internet for more hours than did adults. Mukhopadhyay offers the following advice to parents: "The basic objective is to maintain open communication and to stay vigilant. As far as the computer and Internet go, you can put the machine in a public place—in the living room or kitchen rather than the basement or the kid's room. This will automatically ensure that your teen does not use the Internet too much." Carnegie Mellon's scientists believe the findings will spark a debate, not only for Internet users and researchers, but also for government agencies looking at growth of the Internet and for companies that write Internet software. Scherlis notes, "We are not branding the Internet as either socially good or bad. The Internet is a complex and multi-faceted social phenomenon and it is evolving rapidly. It was created more than 20 years ago for sharing technical information among scientists. It's really only recently that the Internet has become a public resource, and the average citizen who uses the 'Net has largely inherited this set of services. Our results show that there may be real benefits from greater research and development to the broad area of user level communication and information services. Both industry and government can foster this growth through research into new services, experimentation, evaluation and standards development." The research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Markle Foundation, and a consortium of computer companies (Apple Computer, Hewlett Packard, Panasonic), software companies (Lotus Development Corporation, Interval Research), and communications companies (AT&T Research, US Postal Service, Bell Atlantic, Bellcore, US West Advanced Technologies, NTT, CNET) and others (NPD). Markle Foundation works to improve health and national security through the use of information and technology. Markle collaborates with innovators and thought leaders from the public and private sectors whose expertise lies in the areas of information technology, privacy, civil liberties, health, and national security. Learn more about Markle at www.markle.org.
NEW YORK, NY—Zoë Baird, President of the Markle Foundation, announces the additions of two new senior staff appointments to the Foundation. Julia Moffett, formerly Vice President of Communications for NBC News and former Director of Communications and Strategic Planning for the National Security Council, The White House, will become Markle's first Vice President of Public Affairs, effective September 21. Andrew Blau, Director of Communications Policy and Practice at the Benton Foundation, will join Markle as Program Director, effective October 16. Both Ms. Moffett and Mr. Blau will report directly to Zoë Baird. "Andrew and Julia represent the next generation of leaders. They both have unique perspectives, and have already played critical roles in shaping the public policy process, specifically as it relates to media, politics, telecommunications and technology," explained Zoë Baird. "Adding Julia and Andrew to our senior team will strengthen, and, I'm sure, deepen Markle's ability to meet our goal of being at the forefront of employing communications technologies to enhance learning and promote more effective democracy." Andrew Blau has been Director of Communications Policy and Practice at the Benton Foundation, since 1993. He is a noted telecommunications industry expert, and one of the most innovative and effective voices on the public issues created by the communications revolution. He is regularly quoted in the media for his views on telecommunications and media policy, including in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and on television and radio. Blau has testified before Congress about the role of non-profits in the information age, and frequently speaks at industry and trade conferences on the Internet and public policy. At Benton, Blau significantly expanded the telecommunications and media policy programs, created the Communications Related Headlines, a national electronic service; negotiated a significant agreement with the National Endowment for the Arts to support Internet access and training for arts institutions; and organized the Public Interest Summit between the Clinton Administration and non-profit and foundation leaders. Prior to his post at Benton, Blau helped open the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Washington, DC office, where he developed the public interest group's positions on telecommunications and Internet policy. He was on the Senior Research Staff at Columbia University's Institute for Tele-Information, and before that he was the Assistant for Communications Policy, United Church of Christ. Blau is Chairman of the Urban Libraries Council and he has been appointed by the National Academy of Sciences to a high-level committee on the future of the Internet. He has served as advisor to the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the City of Seattle, and Microsoft Corporation on issues of communications technology and philanthropy. He graduated with honors from Swarthmore College. Julia Moffett has a strong record of using communications to enhance public understanding of and support for difficult domestic and international issues. She was Vice President of Communications for NBC News from 1997 through 1998, where she served as the top spokesperson and strategist for the public positioning of the network news division. She oversaw all press, communications and publicity activity for NBC News. Prior to NBC, Moffett was Director of Communications and Strategic Planning for the National Security Council, The White House, where she was responsible for communications strategies for all national security and international economic issues affecting Presidential foreign and national policy. Prior to her role as Director of Communications, Moffett served as Special Assistant to The White House Director of Communications in the Office of the Chief of Staff/Strategic Planning and Communications. There, Moffett was part of the strategic team that oversaw communications for the President's major domestic events and initiatives. Before joining the White House staff, Moffett held a variety of political and consulting posts including positions with the 1992 presidential campaign, the staff of Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), former Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and several non-profit organizations. During that time, she produced President Clinton's first Economic Conference in Little Rock; coordinated the congressional delegation trip to the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro; and helped to direct Rock the Vote's Motor Voter campaign. Moffett graduated with highest honors from Wesleyan University.
NEW YORK, NY—Some of the world's leading experts on virtual communities and the Internet say society must create formal, inter-disciplinary forms of research to better examine the powerful impact the Internet is having on our boardrooms, classrooms, courts and legislatures. The call to have more robust and dedicated courses of study of life online at the world's top universities was the centerpiece of a recent M.I.T./Markle Foundation panel, Virtual Communities: Questions, Theories and Opportunities. Panelists are now part of an effort to organize a worldwide conference at M.I.T. intended to gather social scientists in fields ranging from Sociology and Psychiatry to Architecture and the Humanities slated for the fall of 1998. The panelists joined a multi-discipline group of top M.I.T. scholars, including Sociologist Sherry Turkle and M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Lab Scientist Roger Hurwitz, in setting the agenda for the adoption of formal courses of study on how cyberspace impacts society. "Tens of millions of people are sitting in front of screens all day, and that's influencing the way we think, the way we identify with ourselves and the way we socialize," said panel participant and noted author Howard Rheingold. A lot of decisions about how our children and grandchildren will be able to communicate in the future are being made on the basis of remarkably little knowledge, but the number of people doing research on the subject could fit in a small room. "We need a much larger, better-funded sphere of research on the subject." said Rheingold, whose pivotal book, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, has been acclaimed for delving into how we behave differently online and offline. The panel also included lively discussion on how to safeguard the free and open content control of the Internet in the future. Amy Bruckman, an M.I.T. PhD. and Georgia Tech faculty member who has created virtual communities for children and professionals, warned of the Disney Dilemma, or a growing domination of Internet content by media and entertainment conglomerates. She mentioned concerns raised in a recent meeting held with the creators of Disney Online, a children's site open only to paid subscribers, in which she clashed with Disney's philosophy about controls in the structure of its virtual community. Their plans are in some ways, oxymoronic," said Bruckman. "The great promise of the Net is the way people are contributing and how users are creating content. But if you let people contribute content, it's not always going to be squeaky or Disney-perfect. Will the polished, perfect content overwhelm the imperfectly created content?" Bruckman also dismissed conventional wisdom alleging that participation in Virtual Communities somehow leads to deviant behavior. As with anyone managing a gathering of people, Bruckman said, you have to be prepared to manage the "one weirdo who can do a lot of damage." Bruckman recommended strategy for manage troublesome participants: lay the same ground rules you would if you were hosting a party in a private home. Panelist and UCLA scholar Marc Smith, who has launched an exhaustive study to map traffic and behavior in the myriad of different UseNet discussion groups, said, "We don't know how group dynamics or political power are developed yet in social cyberspaces." Smith said that 1.2 million different people had posted to the Usenet in the past ten days, and pointed out that the wide majority are participating not during leisure time, but from the office during 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. "The Usenet is distributed by a large, decentralized anarchy, and yet its still robust after 17 years," said Smith. "By examining the Usenet, in aggregate, over time, we'll find behavior and patterns we'd never expect. For example, one of the most popular cross posting patterns is between alt.fashion and alt.dieting." University of Toronto sociologist Barry Wellman criticized most research on cyberspace behavior as being filled with traveller's tales, or unscholarly antecdotes. Nonetheless, Wellman believes that research that applies foundations of sociology to the Internet will reveal some new social behaviors, such as the unforseen cyber side effect of a Toronto suburb of "wired" homes he is studying. Homeowners who were promised high-bandwidth access, video phones and other experimental technologies have now begun to use the Internet connections provided in their homes to organize a protest against the developer, who they claim has not delivered much of the technical wizardry promised in the suburb's marketing material. "We have to understand that people have online lives and offline lives," said Wellman. "These people are using an online community to develop offline relationships. They're building their own political organization and a new kind of civic community." "We are just beginning to recognize the importance of cyberspace as a field of study. Many essential questions about the nature of democratic life, about interest groups and the establishment of new forms of community now confront us," said David Thorburn, an organizer of the Media in Transition project and a Professor of Literature and Director of the M.I.T. Communications Forum. This emerging on-line culture is already a major presence in our society, and we must begin to classify, describe and evaluate its impact Virtual Communities: Questions, Theories, Opportunities is the latest panel discussion in the 18-month-long Media in Transition project, a collaboration of the M.I.T. Communications Forum, the M.I.T. Media Studies Program and the Markle Foundation. The primary goal of the project is to establish a conversation, across a wide range of academic, professional and social disciplines, on the impact of new media technology on society. Moreover, the project will examine the roles of political, legal, social and cultural institutions in mediating and shaping technological change. Both the Virtual Community panel and the project will aim to nourish a sense of history by comparing older periods of media transition with our contemporary experience of technological change and instability. The Media in Transition project will consist of a program of seminars, forums, lecture series and cyberspace activities that will be held at M.I.T. during 1997 and 1998. It will conclude with a national conference in 1998. The governing board of The Media In Transition project includes leading M.I.T. faculty members, authors and experts William Mitchell, Dean of The School of Architecture and Planning; Sherry R. Turkle, Professor of Sociology Program in Science, Technology and Society; Peter Donaldson, the Ann Fetter Friedlaender Professor of Humanities; Edward Barrett; Senior Lecturer Program in Writing and Humanistic Study; Markle Foundation President and noted media studies visionary Lloyd Morrisett, and conference co-organizer Henry Jenkins, Professor of Literature and the Director of the Film and Media Studies Program at M.I.T., in addition to Thorburn and Hurwitz. The Media In Transition project is funded by New York City-based Markle Foundation. Founded in 1927, the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation, Inc. was established "to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and the general good of mankind." The Markle Foundation has supported some of the nation's most influential research on how media forms impact society, including partnerships with PBS, CNN, the Children's Television Workshop, and more. Markle Foundation works to improve health and national security through the use of information and technology. Markle collaborates with innovators and thought leaders from the public and private sectors whose expertise lies in the areas of information technology, privacy, civil liberties, health, and national security. Learn more about Markle at www.markle.org.
NEW YORK, NY—Zoë Baird, noted lawyer and business executive, has been named President of the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation, a New York-based philanthropic organization, it was announced today by the Foundation's board of directors. Ms. Baird assumes the Markle Foundation's presidency in January 1998, succeeding Lloyd Morrisett. "We are delighted that Zoë Baird is taking over as President of the Foundation," Markle Chairman Lewis W. Bernard said. "Her diverse background in government, business, public policy and academia, combined with her well-known abilities as a strategic thinker, make her uniquely qualified for this post. Under her leadership, we look forward to the future with great confidence." Mr. Bernard continued: "Lloyd has been an extraordinary leader of the Markle Foundation for the past 28 years, more than a third of the Foundation's life. He has been a visionary and innovative grant-maker, a steward of the public interest and a superb colleague and mentor." Ms. Baird, who has held prominent positions in the public and private sectors over the last 20 years, commented: "This is a tremendously exciting time to assume responsibility for Markle's work. The Foundation's areas of concentration—communications, the media, and the political process—are vitally important. I am very enthusiastic about the opportunity to build on Markle's past excellence as we race ahead in the information age." Ms. Baird, 44, is currently Senior Visiting Scholar and Senior Research Associate at the Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut. Until late 1996, Ms. Baird was Senior Vice President and General Counsel to the Hartford-based Aetna, Inc., where for six years she was responsible for all legal and regulatory affairs and a member of the Chairman's management group. Ms. Baird became nationally known when President William J. Clinton nominated her as the Attorney General of the United States following his election in 1992. In 1993, President Clinton named her to the prestigious President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, on which she still serves. Ms. Baird was the founder and is currently Chairman of Lawyers for Children America, a nonprofit organization concerned with the impact of violence on children, and serves on a number of corporate and public boards. Ms. Baird was previously Counselor & Staff Executive at the General Electric Company, and also has been a partner in the law firm of O'Melveny & Myers. She served as Associate Counsel to President Jimmy Carter in his White House and was attorney/advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley's Boalt Law School, Ms. Baird was a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Albert Wollenberg in San Francisco. Ms. Baird has written a number of articles on law and public policy, and lectures widely. She is presently researching and writing a book on governmental and business strategies for dealing with global crime issues and new technologies. She is married to Paul Gewirtz, the Potter Stewart Professor of Constitutional Law at Yale Law School. They have two children. Regarding the Markle Foundation, Ms. Baird added: "Markle has multifaceted contributions to make—as a center for developing public policy, as a grant-making institution to promote and support important private initiatives, and as a creative investor in new communications and information technologies. Markle's challenges have never been greater - seeking to increase the promise and reduce the risks that these developments pose for personal, social and political life, both in the United States and globally." Current Markle President Lloyd Morrisett initiated the Foundation's program in communications and information technology in 1969. He is renowned for helping found the Children's Television Workshop (CTW) which he continues to chair—producers of such critically acclaimed educational programming as Sesame Street. He has also served as Chairman of RAND. Morrisett is currently overseeing the Markle Foundation's initiative to study and explore the potential of universal electronic communications in our society. Another principal activity is the "Media in Transition" project, a collaboration between the Foundation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, bringing together scholars, engineers, journalists, corporate leaders, and policymakers to address the political and cultural significance of emerging communications media. Founded in 1927, the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation, Inc. was established "to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge...and the general good of mankind. "Within this broad charter, the Foundation is currently concentrating in communications and the political process, interactive communications technology, and communications policy. Markle Foundation works to improve health and national security through the use of information and technology. Markle collaborates with innovators and thought leaders from the public and private sectors whose expertise lies in the areas of information technology, privacy, civil liberties, health, and national security. Learn more about Markle at www.markle.org.
NEW YORK, NY—The Markle Foundation today announces the launch of the Markle Special Collection of public policy research documents at the PolicyArchive, a project of the Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) and Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. The Markle Special Collection focuses on the ways in which information technology shapes policymaking, particularly in the fields of health, national security, interactive media for children, Internet governance, and global development. PolicyArchive.org, a leading digital library of public policy research, showcases influential policy research from a variety of non-profit foundations. The Markle Special Collection highlights Markle’s most significant publications, including reports and papers that have been instrumental in the creation of laws that seek to protect the civil liberties of all Americans, strengthen national security policies and practices, improve health outcomes, and transform the health care system through information sharing and innovations in technology. These vital documents are now available in a forum that brings them together with other research collections that address the broader spectrum of policymaking for an array of public interest needs.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (PR Newswire)–PolicyArchive.org, the leading digital library of public policy research developed by the Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) and IUPUI University Library, launches a new online portal of research documents sponsored by the Markle Foundation in New York. The Markle Special Collection focuses on the ways in which information technology shapes policymaking, particularly in the fields of health, national security, interactive media for children, Internet governance and global development. “PolicyArchive offers a unique opportunity for us to share our insights and the results of our work in the true spirit of collaboration,” says Stefaan Verhulst, chief of research at the Markle Foundation. “We believe the Markle Special Collection will be of particular value to those interested in finding new ways of addressing critical public needs in the information age.” The Markle collection is one the first of PolicyArchive’s upcoming series of research collections that gather and showcase influential policy research from nonprofit foundations. The Markle Special Collection highlights Markle's most significant publications, including reports and papers that have been instrumental in creating current laws and policies. These vital documents are now available in a forum that brings them together with other collections that address the broader spectrum of policymaking for an array of public interest needs.
Princeton, N.J.—The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today kicked off a landmark program to design and test bold ideas for how consumers can use information technology to better manage their health and navigate the health care system. Project HealthDesign: Rethinking the Power and Potential of Personal Health Records, a $4.1 million initiative, has selected eight multidisciplinary teams that will build new tools that advance the field of personal health record (PHR) systems. Grant teams will work collaboratively to design and test a suite of PHR applications that can be built upon a common platform to help people better meet their health care needs in an integrated fashion. Such PHR tools may remind a patient to take medications, provide tailored decision prompts to help people adhere to treatment regimens for diabetes or pain therapy, or transmit data to providers—such as blood pressure readings or exercise levels—that are collected from patient self-testing and biomonitoring devices in the home. "It's not just the wider use of personal health records or online access to the data they store that is so revolutionary," said Stephen Downs, S.M., RWJF senior program officer and deputy director of the Health Group. "Project HealthDesign is challenging the PHR field to focus on the potential for patients, providers and caregivers to use this information to improve their health. The design of the systems over which this information flows is critical, and that is why we’re excited to support the efforts of these technology pioneers to develop the next generation of PHR systems."
New York, NY– "Connecting for Health applauds Secretary Leavitt for moving the nation much closer to the day when patients and medical professionals will be able to exchange potentially lifesaving health information in a secure and private manner. By selecting Connecting for Health’s three community electronic health information exchange to serve as a prototype for the nation, the Secretary has acknowledged the major contribution made to health information technology by the hundreds of organizations involved in Connecting for Health. With the support of the federal government, Connecting for Health will help deliver what the American people want -- a fully connected health care system in the 21st century." - Carol Diamond, M.D., Managing Director, Markle Foundation; Chair, Connecting for Health Background Michael O. Leavitt, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced the award of a contract today to the Connecting for Health team to make its three-community health information exchange a prototype for nationwide health information exchange. The Secretary also awarded 3 other related contracts today to develop the nationwide electronic exchange of health information.