Empowering or Entrapping?

The sharp rise in home computer ownership during the 1990s and the associated growth in influence of the Internet provoked concerns about the social consequences of computerization. To some, the World Wide Web is a positive force for good worldwide as a virtual expression of the global village; to others, it is culturally imperialistic and a corrupting force. In many ways, the debate has paralleled earlier arguments about the role of television in society. On the one hand, computer technology was applauded as empowering and democratizing; on the other hand, it was denigrated as socially exclusive and escapist. As with television, concern centered on the potential negative effects on children of the home-computer generation. The image of the socially gauche computer nerd, more comfortable with the synthetic relationships of the Internet chat room than face-to-face interaction, has become familiar through movies such as Weird Science. However, it is the ready availability of pornographic material on theWorld Wide Web that has generated the greatest outrage. Like most technologies, computer technology is open to abuse, but only a minority of people would currently contend that the negatives of computerization outweigh the positives.