Preface to 1991 Article on Nettime

Rotterdam train station
The article in Nettime was first published in the Interdoc Newsletter (Contact-0) in 1991 as a response to the emerging frustration among NGOs in Europe not able to respond to the "End of History" ideology of the neo-liberals. 

The role of many NGOs was shifting as a result of the radical changes in Europe. The emerging Internet - formally known as the Global Electronic Village, in this paper the word Internet does not occur -, started to become a technological and communication platform. Antenna became on May 1 in 1991 an Internet linked E-mail system. The fact that we linked ourselves via the University and co-operated with NGO's, local governments and local companies, who contributed to our self-finance - Antenna never accepted subsidies -, made us aware of the potential of our mode of operation. This article was ment as encouragement to others.

I felt that bringing it up again in the current discussions on the use of Internet by NGOs, it could show that the issues at stake are not new and that in my opinion NGOs need to face the challence of meeting the needs in the public domain in stead of the needs of the donor agencies.

The UNCED to be held one year later projected already its shadow on the nature of the work of NGOs. The trend of responding to the agenda of the UN and the paralel trends of the funders willingness to finance continues up to date. Yet I feel that new media are still a viable and sustainable platform that can foster an independent public debate and can finance public domain activities of the NGOs and their networks.

In 1991 I hoped to activate a debate among NGOs and the NGO mailboxsystems as to whether they should be aware of their position in the development of the Global Electronic Village as forefront of the emerging Global Information Society. Likewise a paper in 1981 on the adoption of information and communication technology for NGOs to start networking - using PCs and modems - was not welcomed very much at that time. But almost the same paper presented in 1986 to Interdoc encouraged many to become actively involved in networking technology. It was the start of Antenna. Perhaps 1996 is again a more appropriate moment for a five year old proposal.

Michael Polman, November 1996.

Source and complete article on Nettime:

Preface to 1991 Article on Nettime