2. Global Civil Society and the Internet


  1. For what purposes do you use the Internet? Do you know much about how the Internet works and what it allows you to do? How does this knowledge (or lack thereof) affect your online activities? (27)
  2. How is the book's account of the Internet's development (a) similar to and (b) different from other accounts you've heard? What do you consider the most important aspects, capabilities, and/or implications of the Internet? Why? Based on your answer, how would you describe the history of the Internet? (28-31)
  3. Can individual people influence the nature and dynamics of today's Internet? If so, in what way(s) and to what extent? If not, why not? (31)
  4. Has the vision of the World Wide Web as a "pool of human knowledge" been realized? If so, in what way(s)? If not, what are the prospects for this happening? Why? (31)
  5. Provide examples drawn from your personal experiences or construct fictional scenarios that illustrate (a) how the Internet facilitates global civil society and (b) how the Internet and global civil society reinforce each other. (33)
  6. How is the digital divide manifested in (a) your local community and (b) your home country? Does it matter whether or not all or most of the people in the world have access to the Internet? Why or why not? (33-35)
  7. Rank order, in terms of importance, the six ways that NGOs use the Internet. Explain (or justify) your choices. (35-38)


Old School Browsing

The World Wide Web has undergone some significant changes in a relatively short period of time, so it's easy to forget (or simply not know) what browsing the Web was like in the early days.

Visit Deja Vu and use the Browser Emulator to get a sense of how far the Web has come. Be sure to use some of the oldest browsers to view a site with which you're familiar. (The Emulator provides links to popular sites.)

  1. In what ways, and to what degree, are the Emulator surfing experiences difference from what you're used to?
  2. What are the most notable improvements of current Web browsers over older ones?
  3. What are some of the implications for global civil society of a bigger and more user-friendly World Wide Web?

Web Standards

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), founded in 1994, develops common protocols and standards for the Web. The W3C's current director is Tim Berners-Lee, the Web's founder.

Visit the W3C's website and read About the World Wide Web Consortium and W3C Goals to find out what the organization does.

  1. What are the most important endeavors in which the W3C is involved? What makes these endeavors more important than other W3C endeavors?
  2. Are Berners-Lee and the W3C helping to realize his vision of the Web as a "pool of human knowledge" (31)? Explain your answer.
  3. How would people's online experiences be affected (or not) if all Web designers adhered to the W3C's recommended standards?

Web Accessibility

Helping to ensure accessibility on the Web is one of the W3C's primary goals. (See Exercise B, above.) Using guidelines proposed in the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) and others have developed tools to measure the accessibility of Web pages for individuals with disabilities. A free online service, CynthiaSays, allows you to check individual web pages for accessibility.

Visit the CynthiaSays Portal and type a URL into the box to see how accessible (or not) a particular Web page is. Try this two or three times, using sites you visit regularly, or use the links in question 1 (below).

  1. How much more difficult is it to buy a book, follow your favorite sports team, or read a newspaper online if you're a disabled person?
  2. Based on your answer to the preceding question, would you change your answer(s) to any of the first three questions in Exercise B (above)? Why or why not? What would be your revised answer(s)?

Who's Online?

The Internet World Stats website compiles statistics on Internet usage, including connectivity rates in countries around the world. Browse the numbers on the world stats page and browse the various geographic regions to get a sense of where most people who use the Internet live.

  1. In regions of the world with relatively few people online (e.g., Africa, the Middle East), which countries have the most Internet users? What might account for these intra-regional disparities?
  2. Although these statistics tell us how many are online, they don't tell us who's online. Does this matter? Why or why not?
  3. Based on these statistics, and assuming there are connections between Internet usage and the development of global civil society, what can we expect global civil society to look like? Explain your answer.