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World Wide Jam


jeffrey cook takes you to the next olympic city

sydney 2000 Sydney, the next Olympic City in 2000, stands poised at the brink of the new millennium to enter the global community either at the head or at the end of the race. And if you thought there was a hypestorm around the internet and the World Wide Web, then this global sporting event, with potential television rights in the hundreds of millions of dollars, has redefined hype from the ground up.

As we users of the net struggle to get equitable and cost-effective access to communications, arguably one of the key elements of our country's future, it seems no expense has been spared to build new parks, tollways, stadiums and airports to bring in the tourists for what is effectively a three week event that more often than not leaves the host city tired and listless with a painful debt hangover. It would be interesting to hear from citizens of Barcelona and Atlanta tell of their experiences during and after their games and whether they feel they have gained any noticeable benefits from these huge events.

As the games approach Sydneysiders can already taste the future with increasingly crowded roads and peaktime traffic jams, abnormal rent increases, particularly in the inner city, and another building boom reminiscent of the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations. At least some of the big tower holes left on the cityscape after that fiasco are being slowly filled by steel and glass monoliths.

But while the physical city is being artificially pumped up by speculators, what of the "digital city," the expanding cyberspace realm of the net and web? Are the new ISP's, large and small, building the infrastructure the best way for us to populate and make use of the fabulous resource of computer mediated communications, or will the huge sums of money being put into cable television and the explosion of websites web-o-mmercials leave these new cybercities exhausted after the silicon rush is over? So while a billion dollars plus is spent on the Olympics and the three annual cultural events leading up to 2000 big bang, our burgeoning net industry is also increasingly drained of resources by that other glittery media circus of pay television and its promise of high speed access to the net through cable modems and fiberoptic cable connections.

Already there are warning signs on the horizon with Telstra's announcements (similar to recent statements by US telcos) that the voice phone lines will be congested by those nasty net users tying up phone lines for hours. Telstra has foreshadowed plans to begin time charging for data transmission using modems if the government allows them - forcing net users off the phone lines into cable systems, plans that would be equivalent to placing tolls on every main road in Sydney. If allowed this could put a huge damper on one of our brightest and most creative industries, and one that is vital for a country so distant to the rest of the world and stretched across a vast continent. And with both Telstra and Optus Vision likely to charge heavily for high speed access it makes the slow but workable phone connection the most practical route through infospace for many years to come.

sydney opera house

We have a bright future in new media because we have shown the world our best software, films and television can hold their own on the international scene. But in the new media and on the web our rediscovered local talents - community building, storytelling and communications - are in danger of being speculated on and overbuilt to death. Without our involvement in the planning of these new spaces to make them creative and accessible - whether Olympic or digital - we might find ourselves once again marginalised at the edge of the global community, condemned to expensive and hence limited access to the enormous potential of web - to share, create and participate in the new communications media.

Community Broadcasting Association of Australia research site


windwalker said:

I am once again a very small child exploring the paths through the Montana woods and find a place of total enchantment where there lived a very wise old man who taught me to talk to the fairies on their huge sunflower telephones and walk down a magic path to where the trout filled pond lay glistening in the sun. An old dead tree stump, carved with nitches here and there and a crow's nest sat atop it waiting for its owner to come cawing back, while I, in awe and wonder, saw a Fairy Post Office which held from time to time, a pack of Wrigleys Juicy Fruit gum, a string of pearls or a nail set to fix my nails. How I loved that gentle soul and often wished his tale be told. His name was Hawkins and the place was Absarokee, Montana

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