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From the Writings of
Willard Uncapher

Abstracts and Online Versions

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'Uncapher' - 'One Ka Fire' - 'Un Cipher'

Selected Recent Writings:

* A Geodesic Information Infrastructure: Lessons from Restructuring the Internet"
A medium length text examining the emerging geometry of the information networks, suggesting that instead of 'highways' we should think of the as increasingly as geodesic structures. Going beyond Huber's repord to the U.S. Justice Dept. on how the geodesic telecommunications network undermined traditional policy frameworks, this article, the first of four, broadens the approach, in keeping with Buckminster Fuller's original vision, to examine the historical and conceptual issues involved. I argue, for example, that we need to conceptualize the geodesic information infrastructure to assess changes in access and individual and political power. Subsequent papers go on to relate this emerging geometry to (2) business; (3) community activism; (4) education.

* "Words of Modernity and Post-Modern Difference: Communication and Cooperation in the Light of Revolution Iran"
This medium length paper examine the importance and nature of difference in the process of interpersonal, intercultural, and inter-disciplinary 'dialogue' and 'collaboration,' and in the description of 'reality.' Using the example of Revolutionary Iran, this paper assesses how traditional scholastic debate might aid our understanding of Modernity and Post-modernity. The paper suggests the importance of considering the impact of new media and an aggressive, conflictual, 'competitive' approach to rhetoric. It would appear, to paraphrase FCC Chair, Newt Minow, while competition brings out the best in products, it often brings out the worst in people. I also enveigh against a pseudo "post-modernism," that hyper-modernist posing that sees post-modernism as the latest and greatest cultural trend. Situationg postmodernism 'after' modernism simply works to invoke traditional modernist elitism (and terms of transformation), without revealing the important cultural dimensions opened up by postmodernism.

This article (and its associated lecture) is associated with a series of articles I have been writing on compassion and post-modernism, and which will include investigations of such writers as James Joyce, and the historical and media transformations associated with the beginnings of Modernism and the end of the 'Afro-Eurasian' medieval culture. Central to my discussion in this article is also an assessment of: (1) the political and cultural consequences of relationships and differences that end up being described in terms of identities; (2) criticism of the metaphor of the 'network;' (3) and a paradoxical examination of possible practices of sharing 'beneath' theories of difference.

* "Rural Grassroots Telecommunication: Big Sky Telegraph and Its Community"
A long text. Based on interviews, site visits, and an extensive collection of secondary materials, primarily between January 1988 when Big Sky Telegraph first went online, and January 1990, the research provides an ethnographic case study of the way social, cultural, economic, and preexisting communication arrangements, disjunctures, and practices come to frame the definition, acceptance, support, and uses of a new medium. Developing from Prof. Arjun Appadurai's framework of disjunctive global cultural pathways of the ethnoscape, technoscape, finanscape, mediascape, and ideoscape, the research elucidates three additional theories of socially located definitions, of cultural pathways, and of technological or media ecology to explore how these global cultural flows come to be inflected into and redefined by local contexts and cultural politics. I have been arguing that 'online culture' cannot be seen in isolation from what gets behavior online, that from the perspective of a 'cultural ecology' we cannot isolate one environment from the other. I am currently preparing to expand this study, both ethnographically and theoretically.

* "Placing the Mediascape in the Transnational Cultural Flow: Learning to Theorize an Emerging Global Grassroots Infrastructure.
This three part paper explores elements of my approach both to globalization theory, and to the way that I think media theory must be reformulated to assess the landscape between 'interpersonal' and 'mass' media, suggesting that a multiply mediated, decentralizing, increasingly globalized realm of computer concerencing and hand to hand distribution networks may be developing new organizational and social arrangments. I feel strongly that we must move along a new middle path, and it was some of the ideas here that may have resulted serious differences at my master's level research. The paper then posits that the global mediascape thus defined needs to be refracted into three fundamental dimensions with relatively distinctive freedoms and limitations: a grassroots practice oriented realm of shared affinities, a public sphere of collective debate and action over physical bodies; and a transnational level using advanced communications to develop massive economies of scale: grassroots, nation state, and trans-national corporations, each disjunctive yet acting as parameters to one another. Grassroots does not neccessarily mean empowered. The paper concludes using the case of the flow of VCR's to clarify this complex relationship.

*New Communities/New Communication: Big Sky Telegraph and its Community
A chapter in Smith and Kollack's Communites in Cyberspace: Perspectives on New Forms of Social Organization Routledge..

* Other papers:
I have published a number of papers, such as the lead article in The Humanist's Cyberspace issue, entitled, "Trouble in Cyberspace: Civil Liberties in the Information Age." This same issue published Prof. Lawrence Tribe's lecture on "The Constitution in Cyberspace." I have helped organize several conferences as well.


Advanced Information Retrieval

I had been an organizers of the information on both the ACTLab's Web page and Gopher server, including setting up the rudiments of an RTF server. In case you haven't explored it yet, look to the ACTLab's home page down to the different 'World Wide Web Gateways.' I have been also helping out and am interested in the success of the Center for Research on Communication Technology & Society


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