there are the first "experiments" with attempts to use the great efficiency of the information distribution capabilities of the Internet for advertising—and the first squeals of protest from those who (probably rightly) see a whole new world of electronic junk mail opening up; there is an Internet "radio station" broadcasting music from Santa Cruz, California, and beginning to strain the current limits of copyright law and performance; and there are merchants ranging from a small used clothing store in Los Gatos, California, with World Wide Web/Mosaic access through which customers can query a database regarding available stock, to Digital Equipment Corporation, which derived some $100 million worth of sales for a particular product line from publishing product literature and enabling benchmark testing over the Internet.1
Although many activities and products will not change, there will be new options in various arenas, and corresponding changes in market share for options on how to spend time as well as money. The frenzy of activity and "hype" noted in Chapter 1 points to the problem of differentiating a long-term vision from unrealistic promises of near-term products. The expectation for change in many quarters raises questions about what can be done as a nation and a people to learn from past mistakes with other media.
Discussion at the colloquium underscored a fundamental reality: while many executives and scholars recognize the potential for achieving social good, actual offerings of goods and services will depend on what sells, and perhaps as well on some broader vision of what is possible. While the profit motive is expected to promote multimedia programming for entertainment and various business applications, many colloquium participants emphasized the importance of developing other applications (e.g., for health and education). Their reasons were cultural, intellectual, and altruistic, and, in the context of debate over telecommunications policy reform, politically astute. By way of illustration, Richard Notebaert outlined a number of applications of telecommunications and information infrastructure to the improvement of health care. For example, the Wisconsin Health Information Network (WHIN) enables at least seven hospitals, over 250 doctors, and insurance companies to send and receive patient information electronically, through the public network.23 While such experiences arouse interest in advancing the information infrastructure, the goal of maximizing benefits for health care, education, and libraries as well as more business-oriented domains raises practical questions of how to achieve sufficient scale, affordability, and interoperability.
Perhaps the most important theme of the colloquium discussions was the recognition by technologists, industrialists, and social scientists that there is no one way that digital convergence technologies and applications will or must develop. This variability is a principal reason that the social consequences of new media are among the most difficult of all effects to predict. Who, for example, would have predicted the emergence of "The Patriot Network" of the 1990s (Farley, 1994), which links ad hoc citizen militias, based on looking at the