Free Expression and Digital Dreams: The Open and Closed Terrain of Speech
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Each new communications technology (theater, print, telegraph, telephone, radio) presents the possibility of altering the infrastructure of discourse. As it is absorbed, implemented, and developed, each technology plays out and reshapes ideas of community. Societies, as Karl Deutsch wrote, reveal themselves and can be differentiated through the distinctive webs of social intercourse that are the consequence of particular domestications, adaptations, or responses to innovations in modes of communicating. Because the current and massive redesign in the communications infrastructure - digital dreams of an electronic highway - will yield basic changes in social structure, governments are destined to try to affect the pace and direction of transformation. We are at an early stage, but government responses already seem chaotic, fitful, and undertheorized, more the product of the interaction among pressure groups than of some coherent notion of the role of free speech in society.