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Rural Grassroots Telecommunication: Big Sky Telegraph and its Community

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                  Rural Grassroots Telecommunication:
                  Big Sky Telegraph and its Community

                      (Neil) Willard Uncapher
  		       [email protected]

           Abstract (300 word overview- text to follow)
 
   The research examines the introduction of a low cost computer mediated
conferencing and communication system into the rural Montana one room
school system and develops a theoretical framework based on a model of
global cultural flows with which to assess computer networking's role in
the informatization of the rural community, as well as to assess broader
changes in the overall technoscape.

   Based on interviews, site visits, and an extensive collection of
secondary materials, primarily between January 1988 when Big Sky
Telegraph first went online, and January 1990, the research provides an
ethnographic case study of the way social, cultural, economic, and
preexisting communication arrangements, disjunctures, and practices come
to frame the definition, acceptance, support, and uses of a new medium.
Developing from Prof.  Arjun Appadurai's framework of disjunctive global
cultural pathways of the ethnoscape, technoscape, finanscape, mediascape,
and ideoscape, the research elucidates three additional theories of
socially located definitions, of cultural pathways, and of technological
or media ecology to explore how these global cultural flows come to be
inflected into and redefined by local contexts and cultural politics.

   The research develops these points in the context of the very
important, interactive, information medium of 'computer networking' that
has seen virtually no real field research outside of structured,
institutional settings.  After reviewing the existing state of social
research on public computer networking, the study explores the history of
the Big Sky Telegraph.  Evidence pointed to the importance of considering
how new media displace and assume previous media practices and work to
disrupt or transform associated relationships.  While local informants
tended to feel that changes in the technoscape were inevitable, they were
divided about how to see this as an empowering advantage. Non-traditional
students, including women changing their occupations and self-definitions,
provided an important source of change in the communities.

                                 ###
[Ok, now the main text!]

               Rural Grassroots Telecommunication:
               Big Sky Telegraph and its Community

                    (N.) Willard Uncapher, M.A.
                     ([email protected])
                   (c) n. willard uncapher 1991

 
                    Contents
                                                   Line  
    Table of Contents ..........................     46
    Introduction to Electronic Edition..........    110
    Acknowledgements & Copyright ...............    152

 1. Introduction ...............................    194  

 2. Technoscapes ...............................    393
      I. The Theory of Definitions .............    550
     II. The Theory of Paths ...................    857
    III. The Theory of the Ecology of Technologies  986

 3. Computer Mediated Conferencing                               
      I. Overview and History ..................   1096
     II. Sonatas On a Single Instrument ........   1198

 4. Methods                                                      
      I. Overview and History ..................   1381
     II. Site Selection:
            From Technoscape to Landscape ......   1474
    III. Sample Selection ......................   1631
     IV. Survey Outlines .......................   1816

 5. Ethnographic Setting                                          
      I. Sketches and Overviews: Big Sky Country   2124
     II. Going to School: The Rural School Systems 2557
    III. A World of Change:
            Dillon and the Larger Communities ..   2709
     IV. The Outer and Inner Worlds:
            A Brief History of Big Sky Telegraph   2982

 6. Ethnographic Analysis: The Telegraph in the Community          
      I. Rural Teachers and the New Medium .....   3360
     II. The Rural Community and the New Medium    3791
    III. Telegraphing Groups
            Among the Municipal Community ......   4034
     IV. Crossing Borders:
            Collaborators, Outsiders, and Power.   4180

 7. Conclusion: The Changing Technoscape                          
      I. Changing Cultural Flows ...............   4338
     II. Changing Definitions ..................   4511
    III. Changing Paths and Roles ..............   4793
     IV. Changing Technoscapes .................   4937

 -Footnotes ....................................   5118            
 -Bibliography & Computer Networks Cited .......   5179
 -Appendices
    -Survey Outlines ...........................   5693
    -Map .......................................  (5731)
    -Wisdom Graduation Speech...................   5746


                  ******************************

         	  Intro. to Electronic Version

The following material is copyrighted by myself, N. Willard Uncapher 1991.
The reason for the copyright is that I do *not* want this material
published in print form before I get the OK of the people involved, and I
don't want the material to be altered.  As it is, online publication can
be pretty funky as material can be altered pretty easily, and the final
product can end up looking like some corrupt, late medieval manuscript....
So if the paper doesn't look right, send me a line at [email protected]
and ask for another elec. version, or better yet, send me $6 and I will
send you a paper copy.  In line with the rather loose copyright system of
Hakim Bey and Semiotext(e), send me a note if you make a copy of this paper!

Next, since this is an ascii *electronic version* based on my final
version which was in another word processor format, it seems that I have
lost my underlinings, highlightings, and so forth, and have had to fiddle
with margins.  Hope everything is clear!

Finally, this paper itself was written for a somewhat academic audience
on one hand, but with media activists, and, in a way, future historians
of cyberspace in mind as well. The first audience, however, held sway
over something of the writing style and the overall presentational
format, alas!  Likewise, limitations in funding, time, and in the
receptiveness of my primary audience further limited what I could do or
relate. So just be glad for what is here!  I am!  The research
(interviews, collection of online materials, bibliographies, etc.) was
pretty much undertaken in 1988-1990 when there was less material
available on what I was interested: not 'online behavior' but *how*
behavior gets online, the cultural politics of how to get online!  I have
left references as they were, un-updated.  I could now recommend a lot of
new material for different projects, and intend to expand a lot of the
material contained herein.

Any project of this sort is bound to be to a great extent a collabor-
ation, so I would like the dear reader to glance again at the
acknowledgements, and recognize how even this small investigation,
historical survey, and theoretical outline would not have been possible
without the material, intellectional, and compassionate help of the
activists and individuals named. 

                         ******************

                         Acknowledgements 

   I thank my fellow students and friends for the work they have done and
the ideas they have shared.  I thank the people I met in Montana, and
hope they understand why my immediate interest here is not just the new
medium we have thought about together, but an intimation of the process
by which media can bring people together, and separate them.

   I thank the founders and members of the Electronic Networking
Association, including Stan Pokras, Lisa Carlson, Frank Burns, Ed
Yarrish, Nan Hanahue, Paul Leach, and Tom Sherman, as well as Dave Hughes
for their vision and for helping to introduce me to Big Sky Telegraph.  I
thank Frank and Reggie Odasz, Gerry Bauer, Jody Webster, as well the many
people who kindly allowed me to interview them, for their time,
hospitality, and insights.  I thank Prof. Robert L. Shayon and Nash
Shayon for teaching me so much about how to conduct interviews when there
was no such course at Annenberg, and for their help both in and outside
of Montana.  I am still learning, and hope to continue with the goals
of individual, social, and spiritual empowerment which have so inspired
them.

   I thank the many members of the WELL, the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link,
in San Francisco, CA for their spirited comments and conceptual
interventions.  I thank Prof. James Russell for his support and for the
intellectual example he set for me.  I thank the generosity of Mr. & Mrs.
Howard B. McLane without whose financial support this study would not
have been possible.  I thank both my parents, of course, and see such
similarities in what I am doing with what they have done.  I thank Lisa,
her love, and her most spirited and visionary outsteppings.

          Copyright:  N. Willard Uncapher 1991


Subject Headings:
Penn theses--Communications
Communications--Penn theses
Technology--Social Aspects
Community Development
Information Networks

                          *******************

                            - Chapter 1 -
                             Introduction

     The following study focuses on the introduction of a computer
mediated conferencing and communication system into the rural Western
Montana school system, and develops a theoretical framework with which to
assess its role in the informatization of rural communities, as well as
with which to assess changes of the overall technoscape.  It shows how a
general framework of global culture flows and transformations can be
further developed and applied to assess the specific social and cultural
complexities involved in the introduction of new communications
technologies, and thereby seeks to move beyond more traditional theories
of the diffusion of innovations.  Based on interviews, site visits, and
extensive collection of secondary materials, primarily between January
1988 and December 1989, this study in turn provides one the first
detailed analysis of computer mediated conferencing outside of relatively
formal work environments.

   The Big Sky Telegraph officially began operation in January, 1988 and
was designed primarily to support and interconnect rural educators in
western Montana with electronic mail, computer conferencing, a software
library, and access to a wide variety of online educational and health
care data bases and services.  Its secondary mission was to act as a
community wide, shared information resource, serving to integrate the
business, civic, and educational communities.  It is one of the first
pilot projects to use a low cost computer network to link up entire
communities with one another, perhaps the first.

   The aptness of such a new communications technology to the rural
teaching community is not hard to fathom.  Western Montana, a beautiful,
though arid land of mountains and broad valleys, of high ranges with
scrub grasses, lodgepole pine and yellow birch, quick streams and
wildlife, is also a scene of very small, rural towns.  The already low
population density near these rural towns declines ever more quickly as
one heads out into the surrounding wheat and hay farms and cattle
ranches.  It is also an area still characterized by the persistence of
one and two room schools, relatively isolated from one another, as are
the communities that they serve.  The Big Hole Valley, where most of my
research was conducted, has the longest high school bus route in the
United States.

   The Telegraph has sought to link up these schools, and the communities
for which they serve, with a computer conferencing and communication
system.  The term 'conferencing' must be stressed here.  Much as
Meyrowitz (1985) has noted the persistent failure by investigators of the
dynamics of 'interpersonal' interaction like Erving Goffman to consider
mediated spaces in their frameworks, so I have had to address a
persistent 'broadcast' orientation in the analysis of new information
technologies.  The older methodological division of mass from inter-
personal communication, of mediated from face-to-face is becoming
increasingly not simply outmoded, but a source of confusion.  Computer
conferencing ideally allows users to store messages or files online which
other users or groups can 'access' later on.  The point is so basic that
most communications researchers continue to overlook it in favor of the
broadcast characteristics of computer networks, choosing to concentrate
on problems of the relatively one way online information flows associated
with corporate sponsored videotext and database archiving. (eg. Mosco
1982)

   Unlike electronic mail in which an individual directs a message to a
designated user or group of users, computer conferencing allows messages
to be socially shared among participating individuals, leading to what
inelegantly might be termed a 'computer augmented network of group social
exchanges.' Since messages can be stored over time, conversations which
might take place in a matter of hours can be extended over a period of
months.  Further, individuals who can be online only during the evening
can still interact with someone who can only be online during the day.
One of the implications of this structure is the possibility of creating
a kind of 'living database.'  At the other end of a question one asks
online might be a host of other people with all their individual
information and ideas, rather than a data base of stock responses.  The
other people online can act as both conduits and filters to information
which might not be centrally stored anywhere.  The differences between
the static and 'living' database can be marked.  In the case of the Big
Sky Telegraph, a teacher who is having a problem developing a program for
a dyslexic child at her rural school, or even in assessing the severity
of the impairment, can now ideally draw on the experiences and resources,
whether online or off, of other teachers.  And at the same time she can
still have recourse, whether online or off, to the more traditional
materials available from the College or from the County Superintendent of
Education.  A teacher who had collected pertinent materials (of which no
central administrator was aware) could ideally provide or suggest them
online.  Someone else might have some general advice, or just have some
encouraging things to say.

   The possible professional and pedagogical benefits of such a system
are not hard to imagine.  The relatively small individual sizes of these
rural schools, their isolation from one another, and the lack of ample
individual resources, could provide real incentives for them to share
what they have, to support and advice each other, and to look for ways to
gain low cost access to agencies and individuals interested in helping
rural teachers.  In a more traditional fashion, the medium could augment
access to lists and collections of offline materials, such as movies and
books, and include instructions about how to get these things.

   Further, setting up a regional, professional network in an area where
chances to meet one another are infrequent, teachers could not only
coordinate resources, but could offer professional empathy and comfort as
well.  Heather Hudson in her survey of research on the role of satellite
telecommunications in Alaskan rural development (Hudson 1984) noted that
the introduction of the telephone allowed teachers in isolated rural
communities to socialize and consult with each other, resulting in an
increased amount of time that teachers were willing to stay in the
"bush."   Trying to actually quantitize the benefits of
telecommunications or to unequivocally interpret the data, as many
researchers of the effects of rural telecommunications have tried to do
is exceedingly difficult as different co-factors tend to be at work, and
the amount of potential 'value' tends to be ambiguous (see Goldschmidt,
et alia 1980; Drossinos 1981; Saunders, et alia 1983; Uncapher 1986;
Parker 1990 for overviews).  This quanititative ambiguity should not
disguise the notion that social and interpersonal benefits such as being
able to console or advise an isolated teacher or resident can have
materially beneficial results as well.

   If the Big Sky Telegraph could offer such benefits, why wouldn't more
teachers be going online?  How are we to locate and understand the
resistances to going online?  With 114 potential schools, only some 30 or
more were actively involved at the time of this study in 1989, although
the number was gradually growing.  The easiest answer would probably be
structural: there were not enough modems, nor enough teachers who knew
the system, nor enough money to make the initial connections.  Perhaps
more teachers needed to become 'computer literate' or 'online literate.'
Preliminary investigation suggested, however, that the reasons were more
complex.  There were cases where teachers had taken an 'online course'
and knew how to use the system, had access to modems, and had the funds
from grants to make the connections, but still didn't use it much.  Other
teachers, even before they had access to the Telegraph became real
enthusiasts about what they felt might be its possibilities.

   Another possibility as to why teachers might not be going online, and
which would demand investigation, potentially lay with the very complex
public/private nature of the medium.  Even if the Big Sky Telegraph was
initially directed to the rural educational community, most of the
conferences were also open to the 'online public,' general callers who
might want to read these exchanges.  Such openness, particularly in the
rural setting, can work to the local educational community's advantage
when these outsiders, whether they be local, national, or international
have their own resources and answers to share.  It also can be seen as a
liability, inviting panoptic eavesdropping by those with an entirely
different agenda of what to do with the information collected.  And, in
so far as teachers perceived a conference as a public, shared area, there
was the possibility that the they felt that only certain kinds of
information or needs should be expressed there.  Public spaces evolve in
the context of complex sets of rules and assumptions so as to maintain a
balance between trust and power in the disclosure of wants, needs,
resources, and perspectives.

   In connection with these lapses, I made my general thesis that the
dynamics of acceptance, rejection, or oversight of the new technology
would not be understood without properly examining the ways in which the
new communication system would affect the teacher's position and roles
within the general community, nor without examining the differing
interests within the general community in either promoting or hindering
the new communication order.  The effort to situate definitions, support
and available uses of the new technology within existing social
communication was especially important to undertake when one considers
that many of the supporters of the Big Sky Telegraph suggested that this
technology could act as bridgehead to what loosely might be termed the
informatization of the rural communities.  One of the reasons for the
importance of this project as an example to other rural areas and
developing counties was its relatively low cost, and the fact that it is
primarily run by and for the teachers.  The central computer, a 386 16
mhz micro, acting as a switch board cost in 1987, along with all
necessary software and hardware, less than $15,000.  Prices have dropped
considerably since then, and technical quality has improved.  The system
made use of the computers, mostly Apple IIs, which were already at the
schools.

   Since the schools served as perhaps the most prominent focus of most
of these small, ranching and farming communities, linking them together
could act as an example to the rest of the community, which could
gradually follow suit.  Indeed in one scenario, the teachers could become
information resource individuals to the rest of the community. (Hughes
1987a)  But what would the informatization of the rural community mean?
How would it transform and shift traditional roles?  Here then was one of
those special opportunities to follow the dynamics of the introduction of
a pervasive new medium or technology, pervasive in the sense that, like
the telephone, all sorts of people within the community might find
reasons to use it.  What's more this was happening in communities small
enough that I might with some confidence be able to capture something of
how the process was occurring; and yet with a medium important enough to
expect some kinds of interventions from outside the community.


   My research was designed to serve as an ethnographic case study of the
way social, cultural, economic, and preexisting communication
arrangements, disjunctures, and practices come to frame the definition,
acceptance, support, and available uses of a new medium.  It argues for a
much more contextualized understanding of media and media practices as
against approaches that limit themselves to purported implicit
characteristics of the medium itself; and it seeks to develop and test a
framework for elucidating these contexts.  And finally, my research seeks
to develop these points, as will be discussed in Chapter 3, in the
context of a very important, interactive, information medium that has
seen virtually no real field research outside of structured,
institutional settings.

                         ******************

                           - Chapter 2 -
                            Technoscapes

   In the following section I will outline a general theoretical
framework, to be applied later in this research, with which to draw out
and assess these complex interrelationships, resistances, resonances,
histories and practices all involved in the way new technologies are
evaluated, used, forgotten, and re-evoked.  To that end, I have added
three additional elements or theories to the general framework of the
technoscape, that realm where machines and skills of production and
information are being phased in and out of use, renovated and abandoned,
acquired and redefined by changing conditions of capital and demography,
as well as by political, ecological, and cultural limitations.  With
these three additional theories or elements I hope to come closer to that
paradoxical local/global juncture between which local conditions and
intentions make use of new technologies, even as they are made use of by
them as well.

   In formulating a general context of the social and cultural changes I
have found it particularly helpful to make use of Prof. Arjun Appadurai's
fivefold typology of global cultural flows, elaborating a bit more fully
a number of his concepts which I hope will augment what he calls his
'tentative' framework, especially in its adaptation as a research tool to
specific, regional locales.  His first element is termed the ethnoscape,
and refers to the movement of peoples, not simply in terms of movement to
or from a territory to establish or disestablish a community, but as part
of a more general 'landscape of persons' including "tourists, immigrants,
refugees, exiles, guest workers and other moving groups." With the
movement of peoples comes the movement of capital, ideologies,
opportunities for work, and skills as well.  Distinct cultural formations
can in turn arise from within the diasporic communities, or depopulated,
or repopulated areas, such as the invention of 'homelands' that never
existed, or traditions which that are new or newly emphasized. (Anderson
1983)

   The technoscape, the second dimension of his framework, is the one I
found most necessary to re-situate, to reformulate, and the one to which
my thesis has had to grapple with most persistently.  With this dimension
of global flow Appadurai seeks to throw into relief issues of "the global
configuration, also ever fluid, of technology, and of the fact that
technology, both high and low, both mechanical and informational, now
moves at high speeds across various kinds of previously impervious
boundaries." And as he goes on to say, "the odd distribution of
technologies, and thus the peculiarities of these technoscapes, are
increasingly driven not by any obvious economies of scale, of political
control, or of market rationality, but by increasingly complex rela-
tionships between money flows, political possibilities, and the
availability of both un- and highly skilled labor." (Appadurai 1990:8)

   The finanscape focuses on the 'disposition' of global capital, on its
movement in and out of regions, at a pace ever more accelerated by the
increasing knowledge of relative economic advantage or disadvantage
between different markets.  Ethnoscape, Technoscape, and Finanscape
deeply interact and involve each other.  However, as Appadurai points
out, the problem in using his analytical assessment of these different
flows to predict the rates and natures of these global flows is limited
at this time by their profoundly disjunctive nature:

    The critical point is that the global relationship between
    ethnoscapes, technoscapes, and finanscapes is deeply disjunctive and
    profoundly unpredictable, since each of these landscapes is subject
    to its own constraints and incentives (some political, some infor- 
    mational, and some techno-environmental) and the same time as
    each acts as a constraint and a parameter for movements in the
    others. (8)

   The mediascape and the ideoscape to which he next turns are 'part of
the closely related landscapes of images.'  By way of definition he
states that "mediascapes refer both to the distribution of the electronic
capabilities to produce and disseminate information (newspapers,
magazines, television stations and film production studios), which are
now available to a growing number of private and public interests
throughout the world, and to the images of the world created by these
media."  Finally, the ideoscapes "are also concatenations of images, but
they are often directly political and frequently have to do with the
ideologies of states and counter-ideologies of movements explicitly
oriented to capturing state power or a piece of it." He goes on to point
out that the most profound element of the ideoscape is the way it
inflects different versions of an 'Enlightenment worldview' into the
local imagination.  The ideoscape is one of the most important sites of
the Politics of Enlightenment.  Such a politics seeks to engage issues
and images of how enlightening practices might be worked out, what the
telos, the ends might look like, which are to most important factors to
work out immediately, and how these relate both to the individual and to
his or her society.  These issues and images are political because they
implicitly posit just where the metaphysical and social freedoms of the
individual can and should reside.

   I think we can set aside for now the questions of whether these latter
two categories, at least as Appadurai describes them, reflect a
profoundly visualist bias, and simply assume that the visual here stands
synecdochically for aural and other elements, including, for example,
dance or the semiotics of the built environment.  The main point is to
capture how the most powerful elements of media envisionings become
manifest in the powerful narratives out of which more localized nar-
ratives are constructed.  The question of media forms is not out of place
when one considers that the medium which this thesis seeks to
investigate, computer networking, has the capability to 'broadcast' ideas
globally in a matter of minutes, both directly, and as the ideas are
picked up and indirectly re-broadcast to other communal forums elsewhere,
either online or off.(1)  It is likewise a medium that has the capability
to allow individuals, globally dispersed, who might have never known of
each other previously, to participate in the same forums at the same time
with relatively low expense.(2)  That is, the issue of the production and
dissemination of information, even in a global context, give rise to new
kinds of interactions which will transcend simple genre division into
mass (eg. radio, film or TV) or one-to-one, interactive media (eg. oral
conversations).  The functional relationships between the size and nature
capital investment and the ability to reach a mass audience also have the
potential to change.  What will happen to traditional means of video
dissemination as the bandwidth of the telecommunications infrastructure
widens, as it is doing, and private computer networking systems are able
to send images, and whole videos around with world with the same ease
with which they have begun to send and receive simple text?  The number
and nature of points of access into or from the mediascape mutate at an
accelerating pace.

   However, it is the idea of technoscape which for my own research needs
the greatest elaboration, especially as I apply these ideas to capturing
the nature of social, cultural, and economic divisions and flows in an
applied ethnography of the introduction of a new medium.  For Appadurai,
the technoscape can include all the means of material production,
including the mechanical and the "informational."  The 'informational'
here seems to get at two distinct aspects of production.  The first
alludes to 'informational' technologies, devices and related skills
needed to transform informational resources into usable commodities,
often other forms of information.  The second I would interpret to
include the skill component of information, the ability to know how to
use and reproduce a technology.  Indeed I would consider the skill of how
to use, or even conceive of a technology as part of that technology, of
the ways the  materiality of a technology expresses and reproduces
itself.

   It is especially within the sphere of the technoscape that the skills
needed to 'make use of,' 'work with,' and so forth are located.  What's
more, my thesis assumes that the skills and ways of conceiving and using
technologies, including communications and conceptual technologies are
differentially located among social and cultural groups within a society,
and that it is part of the playing out of cultural politics that
different groups come to adopt or ignore, disrupt or deny new
technologies.  A new technology or practice, a new medium or a new way of
using that medium comes to be diffused through society not simply on
account of the temporary global alignments of peoples, technologies,
capital, narrative symbolisms, and ideological conveniences, but also on
account of the ways by which in the play of local cultural politics
different groups play on and come to be defined by the different
technologies and media that they understand and use.

   My thesis then locates itself at this juncture within the technoscape
where new technologies are not simply appropriated, but where they also
seem appropriate.  In order to clarify and organize my field work, I had
to first develop three additional elements or theories within the
conception of the technoscape:  the first I term the theory of
definitions, the second, the theory of paths, and the third the theory of
media or technological ecology.


                       The Theory of Definitions

   The theory of definitions seeks to draw out the ways by which new
technologies, whether material, communicational, or conceptual, come to
come to seem appropriate within the interplay of cultural politics. It
seeks to act as heuristic point of departure from which to reveal how
power, conceptual frameworks, and social position work together to define
and position a new technology.  To this end, I have outlined within the
theory of definitions a four fold analytical framework.  Each of the four
components of the schema (1) definition of the technology; (2)
acceptance/rejection of the technology; (3) support/disavowal of the
technology; and (4) use of the technology have their own associated
questions, and it should not be supposed that one part of the scheme, say
(1) definition of the technology temporally precedes any other category,
although I do assume a temporal tendency from definition to
acceptance/rejection to support/disavowal to use.

   While other communication scholars such as Everett Rogers have
elaborated what they feel the process of 'acceptance' or 'rejection' of a
technology might be, making use of such rational processes as
testability, displacement, and cost, I wish to emphasize that the very
definition of what a technology is, and what it is supposed to do are not
set, and in fact are subject to all kinds of revision.  And whereas in
literary studies this approach to the suspending the final, ontological
meaning of an 'object' and the consequent interest in the process of
reading and deciphering has been in vogue for a number of years (eg.
Burke 1941; Derrida 1962, 1981; Jauss 1972), and has lead in turn, and to
some extent in parallel, to a number of similar theoretical recastings in
the social sciences (eg. Godelier 1970; Murphy 1971; Bourdieu 1972;
Giddens 1979), the idea of the instability of the meaning of the object
as a tool of analytic study has only been a part of the study of the
diffusion of technologies and of cultural transformation for a brief
while (eg. the studies inspired by the transformation of the
'technological frame' of Pinch & Bijker 1987).

   These studies of the 'Social Construction of Technological Systems'
(Bijker et alia. 1987) strive to uncover the outlines of the social
forces coming to bear in the stabilization of the form of different
technological artifacts, such as the bicycle.  Pinch and Bijker attempt
to organize a synthesis of what they feel are two important interpretive
'programs' for examining the role of social dynamics in the establishment
of technological innovations.  The first program attempts to develop a
sociology of scientific knowledge loosely in terms of three stages.  In
their three stage process of scientific stabilization, a preliminary
stage of 'interpretive flexibility' of scientific results must soon yield
to "social mechanisms that limit interpretive flexibility and thus allow
scientific controversies to be terminated...  A third stage, which has
not yet been carried through in any study of contemporary science, is to
relate such 'closure mechanisms' to the wider social-cultural milieu."
(1987:27)  Pinch and Bijker in turn contrast this interpretive program
with an alternative one focussing on the 'social construction of
technology' during which technological development occurs by a process of
"variation and selection" guided by social forces.  For Pinch and Bijker,
"if a multi-directional model is adopted, it is possible to ask why some
variants 'die,' whereas others 'survive.'" (1987:29)

   Their distinction between what in essence is the classical disjunction
between the Spenserian view of cumulative evolution and the Darwinian
view of "multi-directional" evolution which has characterized social
developmental theory since the 19th century (Ingold 1986), is in fact not
so great as to preclude both research perspectives from supposing a
common, final resting point of development.  In keeping with these two
research outlooks, and those of Pinch and Bijker's precursors among the
early theorists of the sociology of knowledge beginning with Max Scheler
and Karl Mannheim, the lines of questioning of both sociological
orientations converge to what Kuhn later called a 'paradigm,' or stable
pattern of assumptions. (Kuhn 1970)

   However, in adapting the concept of the technoscape to the field, I
found it necessary to forgo this assumption of a final, synthetic account
of what a particular technology is nor how it should be used.  Rather I
realized it would be necessary to assess how different social groups
identify, or fail to identify, and in turn organize themselves around,
and in terms of, a new communications technology.

   A useful concept here turned out to be that of the "technological
frame."  In the use of Bijker and those inspired by his approach, the
technological frame is said to structure the attribution of meaning to an
'artifact,' "providing, as it were, a grammar for it.  The grammar is
used in the interaction of members of [a] social group, thus resulting in
a shared meaning attribution." (1987:-173)  The nature of a technological
frame can be approached in two primary fashions, either cognitively or
socially.  Taken cognitively, the technological frame acts to highlight
or neglect different features about how an artifact is approached,
defined, and imagined.  Taken within a social perspective, the
technological frame acts to establish social boundaries, tests for
inclusion or exclusion that can be made in accordance to the accepted
premises and grammar of that group.  This more socially oriented
conception of the 'technological frame' is similar to Brian Stock's
notion "textual communities," communities whose existence develops in
accordance to shared 'readings' of particular texts. (Stock 1983; also
Anderson 1983)  As Carolyn Marvin points out in her adaptation of Stock's
'textual communities' to the context of innovations in communications
technology, the establishment of a 'community of interpretation' can
actively define itself and the thing it is interpreting, whether it be a
gnostic text, bakelite, or telegraph technology, in ways to promote their
own social status, as well as their own exclusivity as a group or
community.  (Marvin 1988)

   The development of the technological frame does not by any means
stabilize social pragmatics.  As Bijker says, "The concept of
technological frame is intended to apply to the interaction of various
actors.  Thus it is not an individual's characteristic, nor the
characteristic of systems or institutions; frames are located between
actors, not in actors or above actors." (Bijker et alia., 1987:17)  For
Bijker, however, it appears that the technological frames are established
in accordance to vaguely defined historical reasons and then become the
leading property of differing groups or communities which come into
conflict in defining and promoting a technology in accordance to their
particular definition.  In the development of the material Bakelite,
according to Bijker, the technological frame which conceived of Bakelite
as a plastic, artistic material to be used in the making of fancy radios
and combs, and not simply an industrial material with particular
qualities of electrical resistence, brittleness, and opacity, structured
the social environment in such a way so as to ensure funding and the
stabilization of the technical production of the bakelite material.  Had
Bakelite been considered simply as an  'industrial' material, he argues,
it might never have been developed as fully.

   What Bijker fails to properly theorize is the way in which the
activity of making the definition serves to further social goals.  A more
dynamic outlook towards the ongoing definition of an object would be more
in line with the original conceptualizations of the social frame as
elaborated in the works of Gregory Bateson (1955) and later Erving
Goffman (1974) for whom a frame is not a static, tacit possession used to
make sense of the life world but a strategic tool by which different
people can agree on common assumptions about how social interaction
between them might take place.  For Bateson and Goffman, individuals do
not simply assume a common frame for their discourse, a grammar for their
ways of speaking, but actively and interactively define the frame so as
to establish the boundaries of acceptable discourse and acceptable
activities.  While Bijker notes that the original definition of a
technology, the establishment of its meaning, can serve pragmatic
purposes, such as to encourage diverse support for a new technology, once
the definition has been set, it appears in his reading of the 'frame' to
quickly stabilize.  Accepting this final stability, Bijker returns to his
original concern, that of a process of selection between technological
pathways and the establishment of a stable and dominant outlook on the
technology.

   A more dynamic view of the activity of definition leads to an
important range of theoretical issues not covered by a static view.  What
are the factors involved in creating a 'technological frame,' that is, a
frame about how to conceive the nature of a technology?  Carolyn Marvin,
for example, in her examination of 'textual communities' suggests that
one important factor is the desire of the operators of a tool to profes-
sionalize themselves in an exclusionary manner so as to augment their
social status.  These professionals will in turn define and present their
technology, the rules and culture of using a tool as  'difficult' and
hard to learn, so as to consolidate their position as the masters and
authentic interpreters of that tool.

   According to Anthony Giddens in his critique of the different forms of
symbolic interactionism, this movement towards a dynamic view of
definition by one or two groups using a new technology only partially
reveals the forces and factors involved in the overall processes of any
definition of an object or activity:

   Goffman implicitly brackets institutional analysis in order to
   concentrate upon social interaction as strategic conduct... Goffman's
   sociology, like Wittgensteinian philosophy, has not developed an account
   of institutions, of history or structural transformation.  Institutions
   appear as unexplained parameters within which actors organize their
   practical activities.  This is therefore in the end more than a
   methodological 'bracketing': it reflects a dualism of action and
   structure that has been noted earlier.  Being limited in this sense,
   Goffman's sociology also ignores the possibility of recognizing the
   dialectic of presence/absence that connects action to the properties of
   the totality: for this involves the need to generate an institutional
   theory of everyday life.  (Giddens 1979:80-81)


   The point of an 'institutional theory' for Giddens is not to
substitute a mechanist, regulatory, synchronic structure as an
explanatory device of 'everyday life' but to explore the ways in which
larger scale institutional structures impinge onto the productive and
socially reproductive strategies of dynamic frameworking.  This is done
not by historicizing the ways in which certain subgroups define, isolate,
and socially elevate themselves vis-a-vis an emerging technology and in
so doing undertake to define what technology is, and the limits of how
and by whom it can be interpreted; instead, by avoiding the easy
alternatives of either synchronic and diachronic assessments, a more
sophisticated institutional theory moves toward examining the ways in
which historically and institutionally situated groups manage the
continual emergence and ongoing redefinition of social groups and
technologies.

   This process of investigating the historically and institutionally
situated management of dynamic enframing, is not without precedent.  For
example, D. Holaday (1986) in a study reminiscent of Sol Worth (1972)
explores the social dynamics of the introduction and first use of film
making equipment in a traditional Malaysian village.  What Holaday wanted
to discover was how the village might organize itself in the making of
its first film, a film written, directed, and in some ways produced by
whatever elements in the village wanted to take on these engaging tasks.
He writes, "The research reported here asks how this new communications
technology was made to fit the existing social system in the village, not
how it might have changed that system." (1986:2)  The Functionalist
perspective of his work, that society is like a single biological
organism seeking atemporal homeostasis (cf.  Malinowski 1922) leads him
to investigate how society as a whole seeks to establish a meaning for
the new medium.  "Adjustment, as I will use the term, refers to symbolic
action in the form of microcultural events though which newly acquired
technology is classified and assigned a value in terms of the cultural
categories of the recipient community." (1986:6)  In the end Holaday
concludes that far from undermining the 'traditional elders' as a number
of Diffusion of Technology theorists might have assumed, the traditional
elders acted in a traditional manner to define the role of the new medium
within the community.

   Even accepting his questionable assumption of the duality of social
change and social stasis, and his desire to investigate the nature of
this stasis, his assumption of categories of a "recipient community"
deserves special note.  Holaday makes a traditional rhetorical move,
common in classical anthropology, of assuming the integration of the
beliefs of a tradition into a single whole, one to which the outside
interpreter, the ethnologist, seeks special ingress.  And reminiscent of
Pinch and Bijker above, the impact of this premise is to encourage the
cultural interpreter to examine the social politics necessary for a
single meaning of a new technology to emerge.

   I have made no such assumption here.  My approach to the organization
of society is post-structural in the sense that I assume that a society
into which the new medium will have to fit can not be simplified into a
unified, hierarchical structure, with one elite or highly interested
group deciding the meaning or position of the new technology. (cf.
Jameson 1983)  Rather, the organization of society consists of many
groupings, each with their own agenda, history, and interests.  I would
include the communications researcher as simply one interpreter among a
field of (local) interpreters, and I would conclude that the researcher's
perspective on what a technology might be would have to be dialectically
bound by the institutional and historical factors which led to his or her
practical decisions to undertake the research, as well as by the various
institutional and historical factors encouraging and facilitating him or
her to pursue it. (cf. Tyler 1986)

   There were further lessons to be learned from Holaday's thesis which
were directly relevant to the conceptualizing of the research on computer
mediated conferencing to be done in Montana.  Whereas Holaday sought to
address the problem of 'how this new communications technology was made
to fit the existing social system in the village, not how it might have
changed that system,' he did little to examine the factors which would
bring such a medium to the village in the first place, nor the factors
which might sustain its presence in the village, and how these factors
could over time transform village society.  Appadurai's schema of global
cultural flows clarifies this.  He is able to show that along with the
influx of new kinds of peoples (such as the anthro- pologist him or
herself), new kinds of capital and goods, new kinds of images and ideas,
come the many of the complex relationships and obligations which sustain
and transport these things across the globe in the first place.

   Rather than examining the longer term relationships the new medium
invokes- after all, for theoretical reasons Holaday dismisses this
problem- he concentrates on the moment of the immediate act of the
introduction of an artifact.  However since neither the youth nor the
adults had much acquaintance with the new medium, there was little reason
for the youths not to defer to the elders.  But what happens when the
film device gets connected into the mediascape, to the flow of images, or
to the flow of ideology itself?  Will the elders still be able to
negotiate the meanings and uses of this 'artifact' then?  In fact, I
would imagine that the television researchers in rural India project
which Holaday was criticizing, and who felt that television was
empowering the youth at the expense of the traditional flow of authority
from elder to youth, were in fact looking at the introduction of TV
within the contexts of the changing mediascape, whereas Holaday was
looking at the preliminary stages of the changing technoscape.

   From within this range of different definitions of what the new
technology might mean, and what its role in the community might be, comes
the further reaction of (2) acceptance or rejection of the technology.
This phase is similar to Bijker's stage of the 'selection' of the
technology.  Is the new tool or medium useful for what one claims it can
do?  Does the meaning of a technology or art increase at the cost of some
other activity deemed more culturally important?

   The decision of (3) whether to support or disavow the use of the
technology in other groups, or as part of the general 'fund' of things
within society, involves decisions about the importance and proper roles
of other groups.  And part of what another group is, are the things it
possesses, uses, or encourages.  Given an initial understanding of social
structure in rural Montana, which we will examine in a moment, this point
led me to originally hypothesize that one of the most powerful factors
inhibiting the expansion of the use of computer mediated conferencing
systems in general, and of Big Sky Telegraph in particular, into the
ranching community, was that the ranchers considered this 'tech- nology'
as belonging primarily to the teaching community.  For the technology to
become part of the ranching community, it would have to be 're-phrased.'
I hypothesized that the migration of CMC skills and definitions would
have to be understood in terms of the social and cultural obligations of
the teaching community to the ranching community.  How did the
obligations of the present user community colored or characterized what
was felt to belong to another community?  The operative question here,
'what is the role of a particular technology or art in society,' must be
explored from a number of socially located perspectives.

   The final category of (4) the 'use' of the new medium still must be
culturally defined.  One could try to locate behavioral attributes of
use: either one turns on the computer and modem, or one does not; either
one leaves a message on a computer bulletin board or one does not.  And
yet which of these consists of use?  While the researcher might invent
one standard, another group might have its own criteria.  One of the
points of establishing the factor of use is to include and adequately ask
questions whether a user had the material prerequisites to actually  make
use of the technology or medium.  Did the intention to use something
actually materialize?


                   The Theory of Paths

   How did the teachers or the ranchers or anyone else find out about or
even begin to think about the possibilities of the new medium in the
first place?  To get at this problem I had to develop a second element
within the conception of the technoscape, which I called the theory of
paths.  The theory of paths I have in mind would be general enough to
describe the nature and qualities of flow in any of the cultural currents
which Appadurai has formulated.  However, here I am more immediately
interested in the specific problem of the flow or diffusion, the
invention and re-invention, of technologies.

   In developing this theory six issues stand out: The first issue is the
notion that the movement of people, skills, capital, narratives, or
ideologies along paths is non-isomorphic.  That is, movement often
proceeds much more easily in one direction than in another.  We must
begin to identify the different kinds of path differentials which
encourage or inhibit, accelerate or disperse movement.  People are drawn
to where there are jobs, capital to where the rate of return and security
is high, and so forth.  Secondly, the path by which something comes, the
implied or inferred origin, color the conception and  definition of what
something is.  A thing or skill becomes phenomenologically imbued with
the characteristics of the path by which it arrives.  Thirdly, access has
to be constructed.  A path must be built.  If one doesn't know how to
read, one can't get the information from the book, directly, that is.
One might still get information from someone else who can read and who
can translate the content into an accessible form.  If one doesn't know
the language, or the concepts, one can't get access to the content or
ideas.  Fourthly, certain sites or nodes, including temporal ones are
privileged.  This is a constructed, contingent privilege, but is
something to which we must pay attention as we assess the nature of how
skills or capital or whatever arrive, leave, or are displaced within an
area with which we are interested.  A place like a school house in a
small town can be a privilege meeting place, both physically and in other
ways in so far as what happens there is of interest to many different
kinds of people.  People and places are more open to transformation or to
influences more at certain times in their life cycle or day than at
others.  Fifthly, as Appadurai showed above, paths and relationships can
be profoundly disjunctive from one another.  They don't all add up neatly
to some kind of spider's web.  Rather they can clash and collide.
Finally, paths are always being rebuilt.  In the context of envi-
ronmental entropy and displacements, and at a cybernetically higher
level, a path must be constantly remade in a way that it can reproduce
itself.

   These are some of the minimal elements of a theory of the movement of
diffusion in the technoscape.  While it might seem precocious to
enumerate these points before I have the time to adequately develop them,
I feel that it is necessary when I am using the concept of social
networks in the context of what is generally understood in communications
theory as 'network analysis.'

   In part because of its prominence, and in part because of its
dominance over the very term of 'communication network' within
communication research studies, Rogers and Kincaid's work, Communication
Networks: Toward A New Paradigm for Research (1981) deserves special
notice.  As its Preface notes, "The purpose of this book is to present
what is currently known about communication networks and to illustrate
methods of network analysis." (xi)  For the authors, a 'link' between
different individuals is established when they know of, and can initiate
something called 'communication' between each other.  Clearly there will
be some qualifiers about these links: a demi-link occurs when only one
individual tends to initiate communication, when there is a low level of
communicational reciprocity (Rogers 1981:101); there are issues of
proximity (multiple links to the same person), and strong vs weak ties
(1981:127), issues of network stability (1981:316); but the focus of this
kind of analysis tends to be dyadic, content-free association.  The goal
of such analysis appears to be sociometric, leading to such, might I say,
common sense conclusions as "An individual is more likely to adopt family
planning if a larger proportion of her personal network consists of
individuals who have adopted previously." (1981:231)

   The value of such an analysis might be seen it its ability to identify
certain kinds of subgroups, but without a better theory of group closure,
of communication boundary conditions, even this level of analysis will be
hampered and reduced to truism.  This kind of social network analysis
needs to be much more developed before it will really prove to be a
useful tool for social analysis.  Two immediate area of development stand
out, areas that were particularly important to conceptualizing my
research in Montana.  First, the pathways between people and, in a
secondary analysis, between groups, need to have some content injected
back into them.  Are people linked by the sharing of skills, or capital,
of ideas or what?  It was partly in response to this problem that I began
to make much more use of Appadurai's cultural flows typology.  The second
point is perhaps as obvious, but more important in its implications.  We
need to come up with a better theory of movement differentials along a
path, of the things that accelerate or slow down movement; and in
particular we need the problem and metaphor of power in the social
network.

   In another essay I have explored how knowledge is acquired as well as
exchanged in the context of power and trust, and the way relations of
power and domination inscribe themselves in seemingly disinterested, even
objective account of the world. (1988a)  Knowledge and information are
publicly bequeathed only in the context of certain kinds of negotiations,
in part because along with the bestowal of knowledge or information, is
also bestowal of power.  The metaphor of power manifests itself in the
potential to do something, the ability to withhold, transfer, or collect
something, but it also manifests itself with a sense of obligation, one
of the phases of trust.  A field researcher can  gather information
directly from informants in so far as they accept and trust that the
consequent use of that content will be used in acceptable, safe ways, and
that the researcher will implicitly understand when to use it and when
not to.  It takes an act of trust to bequeath information to a
researcher; it is an act of power by which the social scientist reveals
and takes command of the narrative and assessments of that information.

   The theory of paths in the context of my research then impels me to
delimit who is talking to whom, considered in terms of social or cultural
groups, some of the conditions for different kind of exchanges, the
exchange of technological skills and definitions in particular, and some
of the movement differentials along these paths.  In so far as the
technical knowledge and skills of computer conferencing were expected to
move from the teacher community to ranching community, I informally
expected that ranchers would be worried that: 1> accepting this knowledge
would obligate them in some way to the teachers whom preliminary research
showed to be socially, and economically dependent in many cases on the
ranchers, particularly through the intermediary of the school board which
I expected to be representative of ranching interests; and 2> accepting
this knowledge would make them dependent on the technical skills of the
teachers.  (3) The access to new technologies, whether material,
informational, or conceptual must be constructed.  A path must be built.

   This leaves open the question of what would impel technologies and
skills to overcome these movement differentials.  This leads in turn to a
consideration of the third element or theoretical specification of the
technoscape, the theory of media or technological ecology.


           The Theory of Technological Ecology

   The final element I found necessary to develop in the context of
applying the conception of the technoscape to the field I have called the
theory of ecology of communication or technology.  The basic idea is that
new technologies, be they communicational or whatever, enter a scene by
displacing something else, some other means of production or conveyance,
and thus disrupt and transform many other associated relationships which
presumed, struggled against, or depended upon the medium to be displaced.
The very existence and nature of this struggle is quite often
misunderstood, or even intentionally overlooked by the proponents of a
new technology or practice.  I break these media ecology issues into
three parts: the migration of skills or means, context shifting, and
message dilution.

   By the 'migration of skills' I refer to the idea that an environment,
to paraphrase Husserl, is 'always already' doing what it is supposed to
do.  An environment is historically located.  Where problems exist, there
are also local practices, representations, or ideologies will have
evolved which cope with, explain, dismiss, or even purposefully ignore
the problem.  As new practices intervene, and come to be identified,
approached, supported or denied, used or abandoned, they do so in the
context of something that is already working, albeit imperfectly.  A
computer network might ideally inform ranchers about pending weather
conditions, for example, but if their current system of listening to the
radio works, calling friends on the telephone, or not even worrying all
the time about weather conditions, and if they have to learn all kinds of
new skills to gain access to a different means of communication, why
should they try, unless there are some other important factors or
interventions, such as media image  constructions, some kind of new
funding, etc.  I call this blindness to the context of existing media
practices and needs, 'system orientation.'  It is a conceptual pathology
closely related to over-reliance on the rhetoric of media or
technological determinism.

   Two more points stand out. The migration of skills is always
accompanied by a degree of uncertainty, the gap between the ideal and the
real.  This uncertainty is admirably captured by the historian William
Reddy writing about the decline of guilds during development of the
textile trade in 17th century France:

   But it may be that people resist reform for reasons that have nothing
   to do with its intellectual merit, and that by the same token, their
   commitment to the present arises from no deep conservatism.  Like the
   petitioners who appealed for the retention of the guilds in 1779, people
   may simply balk at the vacuum that results when a thousand familiar
   practices are abolished and replaced with abstractions. (Reddy 1988:281)


   Also, the issue of the migration of skills also involves the issues
which semiotician Preziosi has termed the 'multi-modality of
communicative events.'  In Preziosi's dense and often  provocative
article, he reminds us that a signal, or sign is often meant to work not
in terms of one distinct medium, such as writing or television, but in
a complex interdependence of several.  He states, "A communicative act
such as a verbal utterance does not normally exist in vacuo (except
perhaps in the fictitious atmosphere of certain fashionable linguistic
models); rather, speech acts are invariably co-occurrent with
communicative acts in distinct signalling media.  This state of affairs
is neither accidental nor circumstantial, for on the basis of internal
evidence alone, it is increasingly evident that each of the isolable sign
systems evolved by humans has been designed from the outset to function
both semi-autonomously and in deictic concert with other sign systems. "
(1979:44)  Investigating the role of signalling even in one medium
involves a sensitivity to the way signalling of a single sememe can
involve several media.  Hence investigating the displacement of one
medium may involve signalling activities in several media.

   By 'context shifting' I refer back to a number of the problems
discussed above under the context of definitions, to the way in which a
new skill or production technology which might be added to one's
repertoire for one reason, may over time, begin to take on other
responsibilities and even lose those responsibilities for which it was
originally adopted.  It is important to keep firmly in mind that the uses
of things are continually being reworked in the bricolage of culture.
While the original path of entry into an individual's or a group's
practice might occur for one reason- one learns to read to read the bible
to participate in local religious discussions and to more deeply inform
one's religious devotions- feedbacks from practice- one encounters
unexpected ideas from new sources-  involves one in different social and
cultural relationships.  Such contingent events may soon even shift why
the original skill or practice is maintained or augmented.  A practice
might be accepted because there is an available niche, but once in that
niche, it can act in all kinds of unforseen ways.

   Finally, 'message dilution' refers to the particularly contemporary
problem of the surfeit of 'solutions' to problems, not just to
'information overload' but to a kind of 'solution overload.'  The problem
was raised by Chris Koepke (1989) in his study of the relationship of
television viewing to the adoption of new medical practices when he
noticed that messages coming over one medium, say television, could get
lost (less correlation to adoption) in houses where a higher number of
different media were being consumed.  With the changes in the ethnoscape,
the mediascape and the ideoscape, solutions can come colliding into
focus.  I distinguish two kinds of message dilutions: synchronic and
diachronic.  The first refers to the problem of multiple messages coming
at the same time, job solution to being out of work, or in Koepke's case,
having too many available media channels with each with a different
message stream.  The second kind of message dilution occurs as what is
perceived as a single source of solutions becomes tainted on account of
past failures.  If the first messages or practices didn't work, suspicion
will be cast on the solutions that follow.

   All of these theories taken together provide what I consider a basic
framework for investigations of transformations and displacements
within the technoscape, and in the adaptation of Appadurai's more general
framework of global culture flows to field conditions.

                          ***************

                            - Chapter 3 -
             Computer Mediated Conferencing - Part I  
                  Overview and a Brief History

   Because this is one of the first studies of the medium of computer
mediated conferencing outside of structured, institutional settings, I am
on many accounts obligated to situate my research vis-a-vis this
tradition, especially since I feel that more research on interactive,
yet mediated forms of communication, including the telephone needs to be
undertaken.  While my research seeks to contribute to the field of what
has somewhat erroneously been called the 'diffusion of innovations,' it
likewise seeks to stand as a contribution to the study of computer
networking, and to mediated, yet interactive forms of communication in
general.  What, then, is computer conferencing?  What do we know about
it?  What questions are important to keep in mind, and what are some of
the long term research objectives that need to be kept in mind as social
scientist begin to assess its potential roles?

   Let me first address the question of what computer mediated
conferencing is, how it developed, and something of why Big Sky Telegraph
can been considered a very significant development in its history.
"Computer conferencing systems" have attempted to use "the computer to
structure, store, and process written communications among a group of
persons." (Hiltz&Turoff 1978:7)  The first computer mediated conferencing
(CMC) systems were designed in the mid 1960's to help exchange timely
messages between computer operators linked to each other via various time
sharing devices.  During this period, since computers were still
relatively expensive, terminals might be set up at one location to
access a computer somewhere else.  New York University's first terminals
were connected to a computer at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
While instructions as to which computer tapes to load, at what time, and
so on, were originally coordinated by voice telephone, the operators
began to send messages directly via the computers themselves.  A message
sent from one location would appear immediately on the screen at the
other location.  Over a period of time, the operators wrote and improved
on programs to save and store these messages. (Pokras 1989)

    Since the IBM PC was originally released in August, 1981, most of
these early conferencing systems were done on large, institutional
computers, first for the Defense Department, and later for more
purportedly academic purposes.  The first non-computer oriented computer
mediated communication system was designed and implemented in 1970 by
Murray Turoff at the Office of Emergency Preparedness of the Executive
Office of the President of the United States (Hiltz&Turoff 1978:43).  It
was not until the late 1970's that public CMC sytems were developed.  One
of the first of these, using the institutional mainframe computers, was
established in January 1980 at Duke University.  It attempted to initiate
a message exchange system between different Unix (a specific computer
operating system) computers. (cf.  Daniel 1980; Quarterman 1988).  At
this time, however, most UNIX computers could only be found in academic,
government, or business establishments.  The first public bulletin board
system was written in 1978 by Ward Christensen and Randy Suess in Chicago
for early generation of amateur created computers, and hence was
limited to individuals who knew how to create or maintain these nodes.
(cf. Christensen & Suess 1978)  Not until mid-1983 were the first
bulletin board systems being written for computers using the IBM's Disk
Operating System (DOS), and not until then was there really the pos-
sibility for the general public to establish bulletin boards on
non-computer related topics. (Mack 1987:5-6; cf. Glossbrenner 1983;
Gengle 1984; Dewey 1987; Uncapher 1988).

   The only systematic investigations on the nature and use of computer
mediated mail and conferencing systems have, with few exceptions (Sankar
1986) concentrated on the medium itself.  These studies tend to relate
the demographics of the background of the users to their online behavior.
Given that the computer can record in numbing and minute detail all kinds
of online behaviors, including the number of times a user was online, and
the percentage of messages he or she left, and so on, these studies are
full of data for potential interpretation.  The milestone study of this
genre was Hiltz and Turoff's The Network Nation (1978). This study
examines a number of different professional groups that made use of the
Electronic Information Exchange System (EIES) during a test period of
1977-1978.

   The problem with these sorts of studies is that they concentrate
solely on the 'computer mediated communication system' itself.  A CMC
system is reduced to a few technical details, and user problems.  The
unexplicated social issues and contexts are considerable, even in the
work of purported sociologists studying the use of computer conferencing.
After the 528 pages of The Network Nation, we still are not sure of the
actual contexts which led to the computerization of the meetings of the
listed organizations in the first place.

   The number of articles, studies, and books examining computer mediated
communication has grown considerably since 1978 when The Network Nation
first appeared, and yet on many accounts The Network Nation is,
surprisingly, still unsurpassed as a guide to how to examine and
interpret online behavior.  The research orientation of these studies,
like that of the 'social psychology' of telephone use (Short 1976), has
been to examine the nature of online behavior, not how behavior gets
online.  As the field has developed, different communications scholars
have taken on different aspects of the overall design proposed by Hiltz
and Turoff.  Researchers such as Rice (1980a, 1980b, 1982, 1983, 1985),
Steinfield (1986a, 1986b), Danowski (1982, 1985), Finn (1986), Fulk
(1987), Allen (1987), Barnett (1985), Finn (1986), Johansen (1984), and
Kiesler et alia. (1982) have covered such issues as the critical mass or
size needed to get and keep an online conference going, online emotions,
etc.  But the trend is to work from the machine outward to the 'users'
and not from social needs and contradictions to the implementation of a
new conferencing system.


                Computer Mediated Conferencing - Part II
                     Sonatas on a Single Instrument

   Two exceptions to this trend deserve special mention: general
speculations about computer mediated conferencing as a medium; and
preliminary critical research about the role of information technology in
organizations.  The speculations about CMC as an autonomous medium make
many of the same mistakes as the McLuhanites of the 1960s did: while they
alert us to the importance of studying one medium or another, and thus
the importance of communication studies in general, they fail to
recognize that different social groups have different uses for the same
medium, and that how any of these groups actually make use of a medium
cannot be isolated from the recursive, structuring rules which constitute
and maintain that group in the first place.  They fail to ask the
important questions about the social influences on the evolution of a
technological or artistic form, as was discussed in the introduction.
For example, recent, but usually unpublished works by Fulk (1988),
Ball-Rokeach & Reardon (1988), and Rafaeli (1985, 1986) have begun to
attempt to consider whether CMC is undermining the distinctions between
mass and interactive media.  These studies attempt to approach CMC as if
it were an autonomous entity, independent of the social conditions which
sustain and develop it.

   Another promising, yet still strongly medium-centric view has been the
developing consideration of what role CMC might hold for 'Electronic
Democracy.'  Christopher Arterton's Teledemocracy: Can Technology Protect
Democracy? asks whether the new, more interactive technologies such
as CMC can propel political change in the direction of direct democracy
(1987:196).  Whereas books such as Hollander's (1985) lacks empirical
force or methodology, Arterton has collected attempted to examine a
number of recent experiments using new forms of interactive, electronic
media.  However, most of his material is still speculative, leaving
unexplored some of the most ambitious real life experiments, such as the
ambitious 'Public Electronic Network' established in Santa Monica or the
French Minitel.

   The reports from Europe still appear to be coming in.  While more
systematic research about the development of uses of the Minitel has been
promised for some time (eg.  Kapoor 1989), most of what has appeared has
been of three sorts: either very policy oriented, dealing with the
questions of interconnection standards, pricing rationale, and so
forth; general works of the promise of primarily one way videotext as a
concept, with a few examples, such as the german Bildschirmtext; or else
very journalistic.  Of note are those works dealing in particular with
the 'saga' of the creation of the Minitel, including its heroic
beginnings in bringing the telephone directory to the people and its
decision to give away terminals, its flirtation with the more sexual
explicit messageries which built up its customer base, and its coming to
maturity as a friend to the business person. (eg. Abadie 1988)

   The critical research perspective is in many ways the most pertinent
to field research, and is a perspective which will undoubtedly propel new
studies.  Writers such as Mosco (1982), Robins & Webster (1986, 1988),
and Wilson (1988) have explored many of the issues of privacy, potentials
for surveillance, unequal access to resources, social fragmentation,
Taylorism, and the commodification of everyday life, and with enough bite
to demonstrate that the fears that the 'everyday' person might have of
either the computer or electronically mediated communications can have
real grounds.  In a recent work on the introduction of information tech-
nologies into industrial organization, Shoshona Zuboff has examined by
questionnaire, observation, and interview, the introduction of a
computer conferencing system to a managerially stratified Pharmaceutical
Corporation.  She explores how a communicational opportunity meant to
increase communication across socially stratified boundaries, had in fact
"unwittingly exposed once evanescent and intangible aspects of their
social exchange to an unprecedented degree of hierarchical scrutiny."
(1988:362)  The solution to the social problems encountered by this
'hierarchical scrutiny' could only be either to challenge the needs for
hierarchical stratification, or to limit one's use of the suspect
channel of communication only to those operations in which such
'hierarchical scrutiny' would be benign.

   The question of challenging the foundations of hierarchical
stratification is the most difficult concept to generalize.  If we are to
examine industrial organizations from the perspective of profits, then
a new organization structure might lessen hierarchical stratification
so as to maximize profitable advantage.  It is part of the examination of
researchers like Zuboff to identify and explore the dynamics of existing
industrial organizational strata threatened by such changes.  What
becomes of the roles of 'middle' managers in informatizing industrial
organizations, and how are these managers reacting? It had been the
orientation of earlier critical evaluation of information technology to
explore how this technology can further deepen social divisions.  As
Mosco has said speaking of the purported democratic promise of
'information' technologies touted by the manufacturers, "Equity here
simply means wider access to information that reinforces, if not deepens,
existing divisions of whose who control the production and distribution
of information and products, and those who don't." (1982) The limit of
this perspective is an inadequate exploration of the local management
of the ways by which information is put in circulation.  The computer
mediated communication equipment of the critical theorist of information
is usually 'read-only' videotext and as such readily and comfortably
situates their discourse within a traditional vein of the critical
analysis of mass media.  What is to happen when computer mediated
conferencing as a more interactive medium, and one premised on relatively
low initial overhead took to the field?  How might this medium be
organized, especially given the diverse inputs of government, business,
and individual interests as CMC is taken up as a practical widespread
solution to existing communication problems? (cf. Uncapher 1991)

   A number of projects attempting to make use of CMC as a low cost
vehicle of information exchange have been begun, although they seem to be
particularly concerned with providing specific information and services
for a limited audience.  An unpublished Ph.D. dissertation by Bob
Rubinyi, then at the communications program at the University of Illinois
(Champagne-Urbana), examined how a number of firms intended to use a
grant from Apple Corp.  to adopt CMC.  This work, as I understand it
second hand from the author, deals primarily with the relationships
between a number of small, non-profit groups with the Apple Corp to which
eacg had actively made the grant applications.  His research was
constrained to examining the expectations and self-reported uses of the
non-profit groups themselves, rather than assessing the dynamics of how
they might have used they had learned about CMC or how the medium might
have worked in the community at large. (Rubinyi 1988)

   In a particularly interesting (and unstudied) program, the Rodale
Carinet project has been disseminating agricultural knowledge to the
developing world via an interactive computer conferencing system located
in New Jersey.  The idea of the Rodale organization is not simply to
provide pertinent agricultural information, but to also indicate the
original source of the information.  The idea is that when the inquirer
needs to make similar requests in the future, he or she will more likely
contact the person who gave to the other bit of information, rather
than use the more distantly located Rodale Press.  As the Rodale people
stated, the most pertinent advice for a remote country often comes from
someone else in the same region.  Rodale hoped that by identifying local
informants they could create local help networks, so as to bipass Carinet
in the future.  However, the complexity and expense of initially gaining
'access' to this evolving network in the first place raises many
questions of equity and access.  In so far as the Carinet's provision of
knowledge to one class and not to another could exacerbate class
divisions, it would appear that the Carinet project could well be setting
the cause of 'development' back by creating new social problems which
will take considerable time and resources to solve.  (Rodale 1988)

   Given what some outsiders consider as the Telegraph's preliminary
success, many people felt by late 1988 that Big Sky Telegraph could serve
as a paradigm for analogous resource coordination at a grass roots level
in developing countries.  For example, James Waldron, who has been
coordinating the use of the international "FidoNet" computer conferencing
system for the United Nations, trying to get this international amateur
computer network recognized at as a NGO (Non-Government Office) by the
U.N, spoke quite highly of using the Big Sky Telegraph as paradigm for
rural networks elsewhere (1988).  Yet as Waldron admitted to me, he did
not know very much about how such technology was being defined or
approached on a local level.  He was, as I defined the category above in
the theory of technological ecology, 'system oriented.'

   One solution to Rodale's problem of equity might be to first find ways
to improve local cooperative knowledge networks, augmented, not directed,
by foreign expertise (eg. Rogers 1983).  In one scenario, which seemes to
have assumed the status of fact for some people, low cost computers,
costing something like $200 each, equipped with $100 radio modems (to
bypass bad telephone lines) could become community information centers.
Such a use of packet radio modems interconnecting computers has already
been reported in Zululand and in Southeast Africa where larger distances
can be covered by bouncing signals off of balloons.  (Quarterman from
Hughes 1988:15.13) Local problems could be shared to determine local
solutions.  When an impasse was reached, the entire discussion could be
forwarded to a country like Sweden where presumably it was to be
discussed by experts up there, and all their online comments, rather than
a single hegemonic summary, was to be sent back to the local networks.
At least in theory.  Certainly such communications could not address
structural problems, but new kinds of formal and informal affiliations
might make sharing and international collaboration easier to conceive and
conduct.

   And yet no one had yet examined just how the process of computer
conferencing 'innovation' was actually occurring, neither in Montana, nor
elsewhere, nor with what consequences.  The ongoing technical discussions
of how to adapt the Telegraph to countries with fewer computers and how
to bypass existing telecommunications bottlenecks using packet digital
radio networks with the specially designed packet satellites currently
being launched by amateur 'ham' radio operators, really couldn't overlook
the need for better social research into the complex consequences of
introducing new interactive technologies into rural areas.  When I
spoke to members of the Rodale organization, they likewise indicated
that a project like Big Sky Telegraph could provide some indication as to
how to best make use their provision of agricultural 'information' via
computer conferencing.

                        *********************

                           - Chapter 4 -
                          Methods - Part 1
                        Overview and History

   I realized the importance of a study of the Big Sky Telegraph, and of
establishing the contexts of its diffusion and reinvention in Montana not
too long after it was set up.  I had helped organize a conference for the
Electronic Networking Association in Philadelphia.  Set up as a forum for
individuals interested in electronic conferencing, the ENA set as its
goal to "promote electronic networking in ways that enrich individuals,
enhance organizations, and build global communities." The conference of
1988, the first since 1986, and organized to a great extent online, drew
some 250 people together from organizations as diverse as the National
Science Foundation, Boeing, General Electric, the Presbyterian Church,
and PeaceNet, and from countries such as Japan, Canada, France, Great
Britain, the U.S., and the Soviet Union.

   The participants were, at least at this forum, "system oriented,"
looking practically at what potentials might be realized with CMC.  The
point was to get people who had had dealings with CMC in one way or
another to get together, many face-to-face for the first time, to break
out of their specialties, to begin thinking about the medium as a whole,
to assess its status at that point and to look to the future.  Each of
the three elements of the charter quoted above were featured at the
conference.  By way of 'promoting' CMC, a few software designers criti-
cized each other, promoting their own conferencing software, and probably
getting ideas about how to develop them; a number of lawyers examined
questions of liability, problems of surveillance and the 'information
panopticon,' and about the emerging specialty practice which Rees and
Wallace called "Syslaw."  As an individual, Michael Esserman, blind,
explained how blind individuals could adapt their equipment to
participate online, for individual enrichment, and potentially for
employment.  A number of sessions dealt with creating and managing
electronic networks, for corporations, scientific or research
associations, public interest agencies, 'to enhance organizations.'  The
director of MCI Communications gave a more corporate view of CMC, while a
Bertold Brecht aficionado encouraged people to use his Brecht oriented
network.  Practical ideas about international standards, 'global boundary
bashing,' internetwork gateways, and discussion about developing networks
around the world were also discussed.

   Amid this bustle of new ideas, I had the perception of the convinced
talking to the convinced, of networkers finding new ways to interconnect
themselves to each other.  As Prof. Robert Shayon noted in one of the
keynote addresses to the conference, much of the ideology of the mass
empowerment and new forms of democracy has been appropriated as part of
the ideology at the advent of each new medium; he gave examples from the
early years of television, and spoke of earlier media as well.  (Shayon
1988)  And yet the special qualities of the CMC medium were not lost on
us either, or else we would not have been there.  About this time I met
Frank Odasz and his wife Reggie who had come from Montana to talk about
the rural computer conferencing network they had set up a few months
before, partly with the help of Dave Hughes, but also with the help and
ideas of the teachers themselves, a project designed to link up the one
room school houses along the edge of the Rocky Mountains in the valleys
of Western Montana.

   At that time I had the opportunity, indeed the obligation, to
undertake an extended research project.  It was also clear, however, that
working on such a distant and complex ethnographic project as this would
involve all kinds of logistical problems that would make it difficult to
conclude my research within the normally alloted time for this level of
research.  In the end, with the encouragement of some important people
around me, I decided that the necessity and the timeliness of researching
this project were too important to let this opportunity slip by.

   Having formulated an approach by which to situate and assess change in
the technoscape, it was clear that I would need: 1) to choose an
appropriate site or sites; 2) to determine the nodes of the communicative
pathways, that is cultural roles which were invoking the different
communicative pathways; 3) to go on to determine pathways and to assess
their movement gradients; 4) and to clarify the issues by which one
medium might be displacing which others, for what reason, and with what
consequence.  Within this framework I then wanted to determine how the
Telegraph itself was seen: as a reified 'thing' to be discussed and
explained, supported or ignored; and as a practical, already used means
of communication.

   One of the profound limitations of my methodology would be its
relatively synchronic nature.  I was under no illusion that the uses of
the Telegraph would stay the same, that a subset of ranchers or other
cultural entities that might have dismissed or ignored the Telegraph at
the point of my study might not take it up at some later time.  In fact,
I think this will happen provided the Telegraph continues its path of
gradual growth.  Therefore, although it was not to be explicit in my
methodology, I wanted to make sure that I provided a baseline of
information for later researchers about the earliest phases of the
Telegraph so that they could begin to assess diachronic changes,
especially the way different cultural entities were reproducing
themselves and the way the Telegraph was both inducing and responsible to
outside forces and interests.


                        Methods - Part II
          Site Selection: From Technoscape to Landscape

   In applying the global cultural flows model outlined above to the
question of site, issues of scale emerged quite frequently.  For the
purpose of this study I identified three scales of demographic and
cultural organization.  The first, which I call 'local' would be my
primary focus.  This is the level of the small town, population 50 to
300, situated in the midst of a primary extractive, agricultural, or
pastoral region.  The schools tended to be primary level only, from
nursery school to eighth grade.  People generally had to travel a
distance to get things done, 5-20 miles to the post office, more to the
schools, even more to make use of other services, such as buying
equipment of different sorts.  The second level of organization I termed
'municipal.'  This included the relatively more urban centers, such as
Dillon, Butte, and Bozeman, Montana, with populations more in the range
of 3000-6000, and it was here that the 'regional' offices of agricultural
extension agencies, social service agencies could be found.  Schools at
this level would go on now to include secondary (high school) and quite
frequently tertiary as well (college).  There would be a much broader
offerings in the service sector.  Finally, in this somewhat Braudelian
perspective, there was the 'broader' community or ecumene.  (Braudel
1984)  By way of category I might delimit this region, including 'cities'
with populations of more than 6000, as including tertiary educational
institutions, as well as a complex array of regional, national and
international path connections.5  However, my actual research did not
take me to such complex sites, and the category of the 'broader'
community was primarily made up of individuals, such as politicians,
communication researchers, individuals of the general diaspora out of the
state who had returned for awhile, members of the online community, and
so on, who had taken an interest in the either of the 'local' or
'municipal' levels of organization to which my research was con-
centrating.

   My 'local' site selection process was similar to the one outlined by
Shoshona Zuboff (1984) in her methodology section.  I sought to locate
sites with a relatively high degree of occupational diversity, so that a
presumed tension and comradery within the community might follow a number
of different paths.  Clearly, I would like my samples to be
representative of the different communities involved, but accepting
limitations on the generalizability to the full sample was necessary.  As
S. Zuboff explains, however, "the roles of serendipity and oppor- tunism
in site selection cannot be denied." (1984:424) There is an endemic
tradeoff between depth and breadth in field research.  The Holaday
dissertation noted above (1986) used only one site.

   I sought to concentrate my 'local' research on a site or sites which
would rich enough to have a broad yet still representative mix of social
elements to it, and that could be feasibly covered within the three weeks
that I would have available in the field.  I initially hoped to study a
site that had been on the Telegraph for a number of months, and where the
teacher used the Telegraph with relative frequency, a second site where
the teacher may have finished one of the online courses, but who used the
system relatively infrequently, and finally a third site where the
telegraph might have been used but hadn't been.  In the field, however,
such tidy compartmentalization of informants would not work.  I found
that even though informants might be separated by several hundred miles,
they quite often knew of each other, and each other's children and so on.
A school board member whom I sought out in one town (with high usage)
actually lived in the second town (with low usage) I had been interested
in researching, some 35 miles away!

   Indeed if I had been able to spend some time in a research location on
the other side of the state (not all the one room school online turned
out to be in the Western part of the state) then, indeed, I might have
had problems of generalization and validity of my interpretations, at
least without a deeper comparative assessment of the demographic,
economic, and cultural factors between the two areas.  I knew that I
could cover only a limited number of informants in three weeks.  Concen-
trating particularly on a single community proved particularly apt given
that members of a single 'community,' who would send their children to
the same elementary school, use the same post office, and share the same
town designation and page in the telephone book might be separated by 30
to 50 miles from one another.

   The location which I finally settled on, Wisdom, Montana was located
in a mountain valley some 70 miles to the north of Dillon and fit my
requirements admirably.  Located near the center of the Big Hole Valley,
it had a mix of large and small ranchers.  Since Wisdom was somewhat
centrally in the some 30 mile long valley, there were a number of small
businesses locally, including an art gallery, hardware store, and gas
stations.  A number of my informants described this Valley as one of the
most conservative in the region, while others reported that it had also
seen a fair amount of change, having lost its bank and a number of other
shops over the years.  Another factor making Wisdom a good site was the
presence of a Federal land management outpost, making it one of the more
socially complex localities in Western Montana.

   While concentrating on Wisdom, and the area surrounding it in the Big
Hole Valley, including the schools in Jackson and Polaris, I also sought
to broaden the generalizability by including where possible informants
from Wise River community on the far end of the Big Hole Valley beyond
Wisdom.  If in Wisdom there had been some tension between the teachers
and the ranchers, Wise River witnessed a much better relationship between
teacher and community.  In Wise River, the teacher has been at the same
school for a number of years.  The school has about 40 students.
Apparently another difference between this community and Wisdom was that
there is the presence of transient 'members' of the community in the form
of tourist traffic, connected in part with the ski industry in the
winter, and hunting during the summer.  The teacher in the Wise River was
a frequent user of Big Sky Telegraph a number of times, and had tried out
a national educational computer mail network service.

   In connection with my original idea to see if I could do some
interviewing in an community which had not been online, I went down to
the Dell area, where there had been a number of important self-help
programs for 'displaced homemakers' and for individuals wanting to go
back to school to get equivalency exams, but whose schools had not been
online.  This area proved very illuminating about the nature of the
change in the region.  In the end I did not have enough time to perform a
thorough investigation.  A preliminary investigation of this region
pointed to 'structural reasons' for teachers not being online- they had
not been able yet to get grant money with which to buy modems, although
my subsequent research in the Dell Valley showed that several teachers, a
rancher, and two service people in the area did know of the Telegraph,
and that some of them had connected to it from either home computers or
from a computer lent to the individual by a social active organization.
Several months after my research, in fact, much more of the region did
get modems and go online.  However, from the perspective of my thesis the
structural bestowal of computers and modems is not an adequate
explanation since it would be necessary to determine just how these
'structural' limitations were constructed in the first place and by whom.

   Next, one of the most important of these 'webs of relationships' lay
at the 'municipal' level where I sought to explore who was promoting,
designing, or hoping to use the Telegraph.  What did the County Extension
Agents, the Social Service agencies, and so on know about the Telegraph?
What did *they* think its worth might be; how did they get in touch with
people as it was, and how did they assess where and the impact of a
system like the Telegraph displacing existing means of getting their
ideas and services out into the community, and getting people to contact
and use what they had to offer.  In some ways, then, Dillon, Montana
itself (pop 4,000), home of both Western Montana College and the physical
equipment of the Telegraph itself was the second community I looked at in
depth.  Dillon offered a privileged perspective on the surrounding areas
since it was here that I could talk to individuals who were part of the
general diaspora from the countryside, including from the Big Hole Valley
where I chose to do extended field research.  Many of the individuals I
interviewed here were involved in projects that either demanded or
resulted in increased, albeit general knowledge about the surrounding
areas, and how they may be changing.

   Finally, I attempted to include some acknowledgement of the interest
and support, or lack of support, that came from the 'broader community.'
However, for the purpose of my study, this level was still manifested at
either the local or municipal level.  Indeed, none of these levels are
cut off from the other, and the distinctions are indeed relative.  Many
of the ranchers on the small 'local' towns were powerful enough to be
able to call up their U.S Senator to complain about various local
problems. Further, the demographics of even the smallest areas would
include a flow of outsiders, especially those involved in some
recreational or environmentalist pursuit.  I can imagine a more
integrated research approach to this 'broader' community, but I would
like to see it done in the context of a number of municipalities, the
same way as my municipal level involved the input of a number of
different 'local' communities.

                           Methods - Part III
                            Sample Selection

   In applying this framework to field conditions, decisions had to be
made as to how to identify and isolate the meaningful social categories
with which to establish the configuration and use of the different
pathways.  It is important to bear in mind that an 'individual' will not
belong exclusively to one group in particular.  Rather we must be
concerned with the patterned accesses and knowledges of the different
group identities available to be appropriated by a single individual.  A
teacher might belong simultaneously to the teaching, ranching, and
parenting groups.  As Meyrowitz has pointed out in his Goffmanist
perspective, "Social reality does not exist in the sum of people's
behaviors, but in the overall pattern of situated behaviors." (Meyrowitz
1985:42)  At the same time these social categories appear as part of the
conscious justifications of when and on what terms people encounter one
another.  They are part of the strategic self-enframing examined above in
the contexts of a dynamic 'technological enframing.' Definitions of
social identities, and hence of social boundaries, are part of an intra
and inter social strategy, and an individual's definition of and asser-
tions about inclusion within a particular social or occupational group is
itself part of the working out of power, social position, and conceptual
frameworks in terms of implicit structural contradictions of social
organizations (see below).

   In many respects, the following research is a working out of the logic
of the inductively recovered social categories in rural Montana.
Foucault has asserted the forms of classification of each age depend on
considerations of power rather than knowledge.  (Foucault 1980; Hutton
1986). If we are not to quickly assume the categories of 'innovator'
'laggard' and such as have been used in the Diffusion of Innovations
tradition (cf.  Rogers 1983), or other strongly etic systems of categor-
ization, it is not that these categories are inapplicable, but that in
some sense that they are too applicable; they serve to categorize but not
to explain.


   The issues of ethnocentrism have special pertinence at this point.
The time is past when an outside researcher could simply assume that he
or she could speak for 'the other.'  The rhetorical move of 'speaking for
the other' obscured the reality that the exchange of knowledge between
researcher and informant takes place within the contexts of power and
trust.  Given the way my thesis has been formulated it would not correct
to simply label one individual or social group as more 'innovative' than
another, as might have been done in the manner of the classical diffusion
of innovations typology (cf. Rogers 1981).  Degrees of innovation can
only be compared against a common background, and where interpretations
of the context, nature, and meaning of an 'innovation' vary, then
assertions of the degrees of innovation become problematic.  In studying
social problems it is important to leave off overly grand analogical
generalization and to return to a more dialogical position which sees the
establishment of social and cognitive frameworks as a shared and pressing
problems (cf. Tedlock 1986).  As communications researchers we must be
sensitive to the problem that the use of technologies, including commun-
ications technologies, is not so much an 'attribute' of a social group,
but quite often one of the ongoing, defining qualities, and that
researchers of technological innovation must not quickly assume that the
social categories investigated in one intermixing of technology,
historical contingency, and power can quickly and isomorphically map onto
another locale.  The discovery of the social and technological categories
are part of the same transcendental research problem.

   Since the focus of this study has been the role and definitions of the
new communications technology within a rural community, and how these
reflect different demographic, technological, capital, narrative, and
ideological pathways, this research had to make an intensive survey at
the community level, rather than employing a sweep methodology,
surveying, for example, teacher's reactions to the new technology.  Such
an analysis of all of the teacher reactions would demand a broader
research objective than can be undertaken in a project of this limited
size, and will simply have to wait until a research design and funding of
a broader scope is possible.

   During initial field research I asked several teachers and community
members to identify some of the different social groups in their local
community.  Their responses soon converged.  I then added several
additional groups which were identified by my field informants as being
particularly important or active.  Again, in the same manner as Shoshona
Zuboff's (1988) methodology used to research the impact of 'information
technology' in work settings, I sought to determine as many distinct, yet
informed perspectives as possible on the meaning of the introduction of
this computer mediated conferencing system.  I likewise sought to
determine what different social groups thought of a computer conferencing
system such as Big Sky Telegraph, as well as what they thought
technological, social, and cultural change might consist of in Western
Montana, and what they thought it mean.  What kinds of people did they
think were using a computer mediated conferencing system like the
Telegraph, and how do they themselves relate to these people and their
social groups?  What kinds of changes did each of the different social
groups foresee for the near future, and what role might a new
communications technology such as computer mediated communication (CMC)
play?

   I found that most of my informants initially broke down the overall
make-up of the communities into occupational categories, such as rancher
and teacher, and I found this a very good place etically to begin to
analyze local social patterning as well.  The reasons are two-fold.
Firstly, differences in occupation would appear to correspond to
differences in availability and knowledge of different new technologies.
The computer mediated conferencing system of Big Sky Telegraph itself was
initially directed to one occupational group, the rural teachers, in
their one room school houses, and it has been one of the goals of this
research to determine the range of factors encouraging or discouraging
the 'adoption,' or, more accurately, the exploration of a new medium
among the teachers.

   Secondly, occupations appear to mark off significant cultural
differences in Montana society.  Being a rancher, for example, entails
more than taking care of cattle herds and the surrounding land; it
involves affecting a style of being.  A number of local humor books like
Gwen Petersen's The Ranch Woman's Manual (1976) have sought to define the
archetypal ranching 'style.'  More classical renderings of the ranch
life, elaborated in American folklore, books, and film, appear to
dominate the characterization of the rural 'style.' What is more,
belonging to one social group or another would appear in some instances
to mark actual cultural boundaries.  When I asked one professor why he
didn't explain his ideas to some of the more prominent leaders in the
ranching community, he claimed that they would have 'closed up' to him,
and have seen him as an outsider simply because he was a professor.
Whether or not this pessimism about the ability of certain problems to
transcend social categories or not is justified cannot be established
since in fact this professor did not go into these communities to explain
his ideas.  The expected conflict never had a chance to materialize.

   I also wanted to explicitly identify corporate bodies such as school
board which might be involved in determining the nature of path flow
within each community.  A preliminary sketch of the local level yielded:
1) Ranchers and Farmers; 2) Teachers and Educators; 3) Mining groups; 4)
Service Sector groups, including those involved in Tourism, Retail, and
Religious groups; 5) the Forest Service; 6) Politicians; 7) 'Intentional
Change Agents,' including Agricultural Extension Agents and Continuing
Education Groups; 8) Women; 9) Children; 10) School Board members; 11)
Computer Users; and 12) Outsiders and more transient residents.  The more
specific nature of these groups will be examined in the following section
outlining the ethnographic setting.  Let me state for the moment that
categories such as 'women' were recovered from the setting as being
particularly significant only after the actual interviews and research
had begun.  Also, let me reiterate that these categories, which vary in
type and scope, often overlap, and become difficult to distinguish.  The
category of 'Intentional Change Agents,' which in this case refers to
individuals connected with some *institution* which identifies itself
with providing new rural opportunities, quickly slides into the more ad
hoc associations of the more generally conceived Service sector, since
Service entities are quite often interested in promoting new local
behaviors, new customers for products, etc.  However, I make the
distinction based on whether the group takes as its explicit mission the
proselytizing of some new form of behavior vis-a-vis the technoscape.

   On the basis of these divisions, I conducted 38 formal interviews, of
which 30 were taped and transcribed, yielding several hundred pages of
transcripts.  Field interviews took place in Montana on two different
intervals, on March 30-April 4th, 1989 and November 7-19, 1989.  I met
with individuals connected with or having a deep interest in the
Telegraph on a number of other occasions, including meeting during the
Spring and Falls of 1988 with Dave Hughes, one of the primary technical
and visionary individuals supporting the Telegraph.  Also, I conducted
two real time, online interviews with other individuals connected with
the Telegraph.  That is, I was able to ask questions with individuals
connected with the Telegraph via computer modem, capturing the
conversations to log files which became a kind of instant transcription.

   I was also able to collect during the period from January 1988 to
December 1989 several hundred pages of secondary materials, including
reports by or about the Telegraph, descriptions from or about Western
Montana or rural telecommunications, as well as what in essence would be,
were they printed out, several thousand pages of online material about or
from Big Sky Telegraph.  I was able to collect materials from a number of
other conferencing networks.  There were a number of relatively prominent
computer conferencing networks, such as the WELL in San Francisco, CA,
MetaNet in Washington, DC, and the Chariot in Denver, Co which regularly
discussed Big Sky Telegraph, as well as other issues of rural net-
working, telecommunications policy, or computer conferencing in general.
And of course, at any time, one could (and can) call up the Telegraph
(406-683-7680; 1200 8N1) and find out how teachers and other members in
the community were/are using it.  One could scan requests for text books,
ideas for student papers, social salutations, ideas about community
development, and so forth.  While there were a few other public
conferencing systems in Montana during the time of my research, these
systems (I tried to contact all of them) rarely had more than 20
individuals registered, and showed particularly slow traffic.  One of the
new problems of collecting online conference materials is how exactly to
cite it.  Indeed, the copyright of who owns the materials, and to whom
permission must be asked to use the material changes on the different
systems.

                          Methods - Part IV
                           Survey Outlines

   I was able to interview either formally or informally at least one
person in each of the 12 different categories above in the 'local'
context, primarily around Wisdom, Wise River, or Dell, as well a number
of in the 'municipal' Dillon context.  I encounter many of the same
interview limitations as were encountered by Robert Drew in his research
on Art World of graffiti writers in Philadelphia (1988) where cleaving to
a rigid questionnaire format would have limited my access to the
information which my informants might have.  If information and knowledge
is transacted only in the context of power and trust, then to maintain a
strict adherence to a specific questionnaire, to have allowed information
to be transacted only on *my* format and *my* terms would have limited
the scope and depth of the answers.  The director of the Agriculture
Incubator told me in an interview that she had sent out 800
questionnaires the previous summer (1988) to ranchers to determine what
their needs and interest might be in a new computer conferencing and
communication system.  She said that, in the end, few individuals sent
back their responses.  I can't say much about her research protocols,
sample selection, and so forth, but it did corroborate what the County
Extension Agent in Beaverhead county likewise told me, that the ranchers
and most rural people in Montana tend to be suspicious of outsiders and
*particularly* suspicious of abstract protocols like questionnaire and
heavily structured interviews!

    I therefore organized a general interrogatory outline with which to
structure my questions.  I had to make my actual shifts rather
informally, however.  There were four basic categories of questions
covered: Personal Background, Perspectives on Change in Montana, Per-
spectives on Change in Education, and Personal Knowledge and Perspective
on the Big Sky Telegraph.  The section on personal background gave me a
chance to determine four additional dimensions of responses: 1) Where do
you come from/How did you get here? (to this place & to this job); 2)
What role do you feel you have locally? 3) What role would you like to
have? 4) What are the constraints you feel on your occupation.  These
general questions allowed me to determine something of the background of
my respondent.  I wanted to determine just how they might fit into the
different path networks, as well as how they would assess the network.  I
also wanted to determine such demographic materials such as whether they
had originally come from Montana (and thus could be viewed as relatively
local in the cultural network) or had come from further afield.

   The section on Perspectives on Change in Montana and the local area
broke down into six additional questions: 1) How has the area been
changing during the last few years? 2) What are the threats of change? 3)
And what are the possibilities for positive change? 4) How might new jobs
be secured in the area? 5) How has the role of women changed? 6) 3
Questions on Information and Media Use: a) What kinds of media do you
use? b) where do you tend to meet your friends? c) How do you get
information on different things?  This set of questions sought to
determine not just what the material changes locally might be, but to get
a sense of phenomenologically just what the most important of these
changes locally might be.  It was during this question set that I would
ask questions about what the informant thought of outsiders, of
foreigners buying up properties, or moving into the area, or natives
moving out.  The inquiry into their perspective on changes in the role of
women was one of those special questions in that the longer that I was
out in Montana, the more I began to appreciate just how important this
change was- for example, it was typically the wife or mother or single
parent who would be the first person on the ranch to use a computer.
While the scope of my research limited just how deeply I was able to
investigate the questions on media use, I sought as best as I could to
determine just what messages they might feel that they were getting over
it, just how they felt themselves located potential communicative uses of
CMC within the general mediascape.
  
   My next set of questions about the perspectives of my respondent on
change in education in general sought to situate their impressions on
social and cultural change discussed previously, and to determine their
relationship to the schools in general.  This section broke down into
five questions: 1) Have you have any family member or friend in the
educational system recently? 2) What are the children doing in school
right now? 3) What support do the schools get, from parents, from the
school, from the community? 4) What are they going to be doing in the
future?  5) What should they be doing?  By getting at this crucial area
in which the local culture reproduced itself, and an experience which
everyone in the region had gone through, answers to questions such as
these appear to get at what the respondent thinks of change in the
region, and what they think should happen, and it sets the stage for
their assessment of the Telegraph.

   Even still, I tried not to limit or prejudice the accounts of the
Telegraph as simply an educational device.  And after I had gotten a few
questions as to what they might think of the Telegraph in general, I
would finally suggest a few new ideas about what being online might do
for them, and how Big Sky Telegraph might fit in.  This led to the final
set of questions.  The questions about their knowledge of the Big Sky
Telegraph broke down into six additional questions: 1) What *is* the Big
Sky Telegraph?  2) How did you find out about it?  3) How do you think
others found out about it?  4) What role do you see it playing?  5) Who
do you think uses it?  and 6) What do you know about other electronic
Bulletin Board Systems?  These questions are a lot more 'system oriented'
on the face of them, and they attempt to answer a number of the questions
which had eluded the members of the ENA in their conference, but they
also serve to fill in important points in the global cultural flows
model, getting at the questions of pathway, definition, and technological
ecology, at least for this technology.

   In reporting the results of this section I had to be sensitive to the
problems of privacy and confidentiality.  Many times after I had turned
the tape recorder off, my informant would give me particularly
interesting accounts of more socially dangerous information, such as
their perspective on the rural configuration of local power, why certain
changes occur and others don't.  I have done my best to respect any
possible confidences, implicit or otherwise, and have not been overly
revealing when the information could have originated from most any local
source.  Doing ethnography is not like doing history in this respect: the
people who told me these things can possibly be hurt or isolated by the
some of the things which I have revealed.  We live in an era in which
even when one does an ethnography in the remotest of Papauan jungles, one
might find that one's 'natives' have already read much of the same
background literature as the researcher, leading to disorienting
paradoxes of recursion as the local past becomes partly constructed with
some of the fragments of misunderstanding of distant observers. (cf.
Marcus & Fischer 1988)  Frank Odasz for example was reading a good amount
of material on distance education, especially online and via satellite,
and was distributing many of these reports online, especially in so far
as they might help teachers with material for their arguments in the
local community in favor of the telegraph.  I am not uncomfortable with
this situation, for it points to the deeper conditions knowledge itself,
and to that fact that this research is part of a shared understanding.

                          *********************

Garrett was a hunting and fishing guide by profession who was called into
the project because she was one of the few people who had had some
experience with an IBM computer.

   The system began to take off as soon as it was online, making use of
pre-existing communication networks between the teachers, and their
communities.  According to Hughes, "In the first 40 days of it being up,
it has been called 1,612 times by people - 75% of whom are total novices
- all over that rural dispersed state of Montana.  They have left 975
messages which is a message-to-call ratio of over 60%. *That* meets my
standard for 'user friendliness' of a dial up system." (Hughes, EIES,
C685:153:275, 2/19/88)  Further, the system was not designed solely for
educators.  Said Hughes:

   There is an important point though, reflective of the way these
   technologies *ought* to evolve over time.  That is, as in many small
   towns in America, the concept of 'community' is so strong, that nothing
   is 'just' school, or government, or business, or private group. Schools
   are frequently a social center, a place where other elements of the
   community can do their own thing so long as the kids are educated and the
   school gym is available for the basketball games scheduled.

   So without any great intellectualizing - because it is a perfectly
   natural extension into the 'electronic society' - Big Sky has warmly
   welcomed anyone to log on, free. And [it] has sections where the local
   Women's Resource Center 'hang out' electronically, where a Medical
   Clinic's professionals chit chat in the 'Wellness' section - besides the
   specific educational 'resource' activities, and the current principle
   activity goes on - a formal, for credit, one room-school teacher
   recertification course in Telecommunications goes on. (Hughes, Ibid.)

   As time went on, different conferences had different successes.  The
Wellness section was later dropped, while others, such as a Writing
Conference added, only to be later replaced by other another conference
later on.  By August, just 8 months later, the over 7000 messages had
been exchanged between 300 people, and more than 30 teachers had
completed the accredited formal online training.  It is hard to estimate
the time and effort that both Frank and Reggie put into this project.
They were certainly constant friends and companions to most of the people
there, ready to fine tune the system.  Messages like the following were
quite common:

   No. 194  08/01/88   21:46:18
   From: Frank Odasz               To: Ruth Carlstrom
   Subject: (R) (R) (R) (R) Scie
   Message class: Public       Message base: CoffeeShop

   Go for it with the Sciencelab conference Ruth, I'll
   create a Science files area for uploading and down-
   loading too. Did you know we have 150 very special
   science essays from Walt Robertson?  They are listed
   in the files file area as science and scienceb.
   Telegraph is the first time they are being made
   available to the public. We are working on a U.S space
   foundation link also.   ;-)

Notice that the presence of something we might call 'soft publishing' in
which signed articles, in this case by a Walt Robertson are being widely
shared ultimately nation wide, directed to specific audiences in many
cases, and yet they may have never actually seen the wrinkle and creases
of physical paper.  What's more something of the constant sense of
innovation about being online at the Telegraph comes through.  The Coffee
Shop conference was a general conference, or message exchange area where
people would send public greetings or share announcements with each
other.

   One of the main technical problems of the system comes through on this
message as well.  I will call the problems of 'message threads.'  There
was a decided inability to keep the same conversations going for some
time in any conference since all messages in a particular conference
would simply follow one after the other, only to be distinguished by
whether they were public or private, or by their title.  The problem was
that if someone were to make a comment at one place, a number of
unrelated responses might soon intervene disrupting conceptual
continuity.  One can try to follow the titles, but they can get obscured
(cf."Subject: (R) (R) (R) (R) Scie" above), or the titles of a responses
belonging to the same message chain may begin to differ.  The reason was
that the Xbbs conferencing software which they had chosen in part because
of its compatibility with Xenix did not have either the ability to allow
specific topics areas to be branched off from the main discussions, or
some way to link the different responses of the same topic together.
Computer conferencing software designers and users commonly debate how
best to organize the generation of distinct topics, such as whether each
user should be able to start a 'topic,' or some moderator, or anyone
else. On a number of other Unix/Xenix comparable conferencing softwares
like Participate (eg, as once run on the Source), PicoSpan (run on the
WELL), or Caucus II (run on MetaNet) there is considerable flexibility to
the discussions that can be generated because they can be organized by
topic, and not just by conference.  It would appear that the lack of this
kind of logical organization will preclude for now deeper topical
discussions.  When I asked Frank Odasz about this he replied:

   Most online messages on the system now are not 
   in discussion mode; if they are, they would be
   between a couple individuals and they happen to
   leave it public which maybe a third or a fourth
   might come in for a very short discussion. There
   have been no real ongoing discussions as such
   mainly because the format at this point is more
   hodge-podge messaging, and I'll admit that.

What's more, it is not clear when this problem will be addressed for two
reasons.  First, much of the important energy has been going into
managing the continuing accelerating expansion of the use of the system.
Secondly, as both Frank Odasz and Dave Hughes have said to me, changing a
user interface is serious business since it involves training ones users
to do new things.

   Even still, the Telegraph continues to expand.  According to Hughes
and others involved with the system, this is because of the inherent
appreciation for the importance and difficulty of rural communication.
Said Hughes,

   153:294) Dave Hughes             2/20/88 15:03
   ... As I began to suspect about 5 years ago after
   travelling to Regina, Canada, Alaska, rural Colorado,
   and now Montana -there is a distinct possibility that
   the *rural* areas of the world will become far more
   'telecommunications literate' faster, than the Urban
   centers. Because rural people know the necessity, and
   costs, of 'communications.'  Now it remains to be seen
   whether those in the Power Centers of America accept
   the necessity for publicly supported Highways of the
   Mind - as they did the Homestead Act, Rural Electri-
   fication, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Inter-
   state Highways System, the Federal supported Air Port
   and Sea Port System. Or whether they miss the future
   entirely....  (Hughes 87-89, EIES, ported to MetaNet
   Old Salon)

While there are policy issues yet to work out, such as whether there
should be a publicly supported data network (Hughes' "Highways of the
Mind" or privately supported system, "Data Toll Roads"), these have not
slowed the Telegraph's progress since most of the data for my research
was compiled.  Recently, on June 5, 1990, for example, Frank Odasz gave a
laptop demonstration of the system to a Native Americans from 7 different
reservations in Montana, such as Assiniboine-Gros Ventre, Crow, and
Blackfeet, showing, he reported, how telecommunications could link
communities together (Hughes, WELL, Telecom, Top679:184).  According to
Hughes, the Native Americans in attendance in Great Falls, Mt expressed
considerable interest in setting up a their own computer conferencing
system, one which in turn would be linked with the Telegraph.  Many new
organization have been joining the Telegraph, including the National
Diffusion Network organization (450 teachers nationwide), the Office of
Public Instruction, and the Montana Associated Students, the Telegraph is
being itself linked up to other existing, national and international net-
works, expanding both its access to the rest of the world, and beginning
to permit easier access to it from the outside world.  The Telegraph has
been gated (opened) to the international UUCP/USENET network with its
8000 systems world wide, and some 250,000 users.  An experimental
system is just beginning to link even more remote, local bbs systems,
which have been encouraged by the Telegraph, first to the Telegraph, and
then via a link there to the international amateur computer FIDO computer
network, with its some 10,000 systems world wide.  By October, 1990 two
of the 4 'outlying-area' systems were already online (5 more were
expected in the near future) and were in turn to be connected through the
Big Sky Telegraph Fidonet Gateway both to the International FidoNet,
and via its own gateways, potentially to other networks such as UseNet,
and potentially at some point in the future, using gateways on FidoNet
and UseNet to the InterNet (or NSFnet), JaneNet, EARN, JunNet, and other
networks worldwide.  One of these local nodes was the Russell County BBS
in Hobson, MT set up for Native Americans, the very BBS proposed by the
Native Americans only some 2 months before.

   The importance in undertaking research is obviously not in cataloging
alleged successes, or cataloging possibilities, but in getting at the
sense of resistances to change, to how new technologies get to be
inflected into a culture.  In balancing too close to the 'system' or
'medium'-centric view, we lose sight of greater context within which new
media fit.  For a system to grow equitably, it takes more than the simple
stringing together of new inter-mediated groups since the presence of one
group might well serve to curb its acceptance by other social or cultural
groups.  What research can do, then, is to give voice to the
dissatisfaction and worries of different groups constructing the presence
and accessibility of a medium.  It should work so that their concerns and
worries can be given voice and addressed.  It should serve to deepen our
understanding about the social, and to a more limited fashion, the
cultural implications of the media.  And, taking advantage of the scope
of such initiations of new media, it should recover and illuminate
something of the process by which new media are defined, accepted,
supported, and used.


                      - Chapter 5 -
                  The Setting - Part I
                 Sketches and Overviews:
                     Big Sky Country

   The following section will establish the setting of the Big Sky
Telegraph, and by examining the degree of isolation attaining in the
region near Western Montana, will provide an overview as to why a
mediated, interpersonal means of communication might be and remain
particularly useful.  It will then go on to outline a number of prominent
rural social and economic factors discovered during the course of
research which have particular bearing on framing the nature and
significance of social and cultural change in Western Montana.

   Western Montana is located along the Rocky Mountains.  It is
characterized by a number of broad mountain valleys, some high peaks, and
a good amount of wildlife.  The streams have been full of trout and
grayling.  The hay and vast pastures in the valleys gradually give way to
the higher areas of high mountain grassland and timber.  The hillsides
are covered with sage brush and stands of yellow aspen, and at higher
elevations lodgepole pine.  It is an area of relatively low population -
density.  While statewide there are only some 12 towns with a population
of over 10,000, the Western Montana region itself has been characterized
by even lower population density than the rest of the state.  Few of the
participating schools are located in towns listed in the 1980 U.S. Census
data which only details towns with a population of 2500 or greater.
Western Montana College, which is sponsoring Big Sky Telegraph, is
located in the town of Dillon, MT and had a population of 3,976 in 1980,
and is now probably closer to 4,000.

   To the east of the mountains stretches a relatively dry plain
characterized by isolated groups of low mountains, and which consists of
a number of productive agricultural areas, such as the Yellowstone River
valley (cf. FWA 1949).  With the decline in mining derived income, much
of the income of the state comes from these lowland ranching and farming
operations.  The economy of the western part of the state in turn is
characterized by four major components: (1) wheat farming, (2) cattle
raising, (3) mining, and various service sector activities, including (4)
federal land management, (5) tourism, (6) education, (7) retail sales,
(8) construction, (9) health care, and (10) civil administration.  The
health, attitudes, and futures of each of these different sectors should
not be conflated.  Each of these eight categories, even as they overlap,
were taken as preliminary points of departure in the recovery of the
regional social categories discussed above in the section on sample
selection.  This preliminary sketch of the social system was supported by
a number of teachers, ranchers, civil officials, and merchants.

   One of the most important factors in understanding the dynamics of the
local social and economic life is the fact that the state tax burden in
unequally shared among these groups.  There are three basic components to
Montana tax structure: income tax, real estate tax, and property tax.
Property tax should not be confused with the real estate tax.  Property
tax is based on an assessment on the cost of doing business based in turn
on the actual property that a business has.  Originally it was designed
as a tax on the mining businesses, based on the amount of hardware they
were using for their extractions and processing.  However, with the
decline in mining fortunes, this 'property tax' burden has fallen on the
ranchers and farmers.  What's more, without a state sales tax, the tax
base has been unable to recoup its share of many of the more dynamic
portions of the economy, such as tourism.  Tourists, including skiers in
the winter, campers in the summer, and hunters in the Fall are able to
spend considerable time in Montana and yet only contribute to the tax
base indirectly through relatively small assessments made on the business
catering to the tourists.

   The Ranchers, and the Farmers to great extent, therefore see
themselves as bearing the burden of any state initiative.  This
impression was verified by the ranchers, farmers, forest service
personnel, intentional change professions, and the teachers. Spending on
things such as education or telecommunications is often translated by
the ranching community into the terms of increased taxes to themselves.
Hence, their suspicion of change on a local and state level quite often
seems a reflection of their own fear of an increase in taxes.  At the
same time, according to the ranchers I interviewed, the perennial
suggestion of instituting a sales tax is considered political suicide.
Apparently, Montanans don't trust that if they accept the institution of
a sales tax, any of their other taxes will be lowered in consequence.
New taxes are seen as simply a new way for the state government to
increase its income.

   Another issue interrelated to the tax burden of the ranchers and
farmers is the number of students who leave Montana to pursue their
careers elsewhere.  Students, especially advanced students, were jokingly
referred to as a bad investment.  While the increase in teachers and
other related learning related can bring new life to the State, the
sensibility is that the investment in a person's education is repaid in
another state.  Said one farmer, "we export about 90 per cent of our
young people out of this area."  However, most of the ranchers said that
this was an investment they had no deep qualms in making.  After all,
what were their children supposed to do otherwise?  Ralph Nichols, the
rancher from Wise River, and on the school board in Wisdom replied to my
questions about how he saw the local school systems in relation to this
problem of children leaving the area:

   RN:  My idea of education is to get the kids to want
   to learn, and to make education interesting enough so
   that they will continue to learn, whether it's for
   working in the valley or outside. [etc.]

   WU:  What about the problem of people leaving the
   valley?  Especially some of your brighter students...
   some of them might stay around and some of them might
   take off. I don't know how many people it takes to run
   a ranch.

   RN:  Some children were raised on ranches and then
   they want to go.  They want something different.  And
   some people will stay on the ranch, for their whole
   lives.  It is hard to tell what influences these kids
   to want to stay or to want to go.  I guess it's just
   in their own makeup.  I don't think there are any set
   rules.

Other ranchers made it clear that the reason their children were leaving
the local area, and often the state was a problem of resources:  there
was just too little land available at prices which young ranchers and
farmers starting out could afford.  One rancher and spouse whom I
interviewed in Dell had four children.  All of them went to college.
Only the eldest was able to buy into the farm, helped in part by a
federal loan program for young ranchers and farmers.  The second got a
real estate licence and learned about real estate appraisal, and is now
in the State of Washington.  The third whose allergies made ranching
difficult became a coach and secondary school teacher.  And the fourth is
in the service, in the Air Force, so it is too soon to say if he will go
into ranching.

   The ranchers see themselves as the upholders of the Montana way of
life as well.  The Federal land management employees, the teachers, even
the merchants might come and go, but according to the ranchers
themselves, it is up to the ranchers to decide the future of the state.
In fact things are changing, and in ways in which the ranchers do not
appear to be reacting to or taking advantage of.  While the larger
ranchers and farmers continue to swallow up smaller ranches and farms,
now international and investment concerns appear to be taking increasing
interest in buying out even the larger owners.  One of the largest
ranches in the Dillon area was purchased in 1988 by a Japanese consortium
which wanted to raise and export its own beef.  While some of the new
interactive, information technologies promise ways of coordinating local
collaboration, such possibilities are only rarely discussed, let alone
acted upon.

   A third important issue in assessing the status and image of the
ranchers has been their increasing conflict with Federal land rangers who
manage the public lands in the state.  Montana is one of the states in
which a high portion of the land is federally owned and thus federally
managed.  Vast tracks of mountains, wilderness, lakes, and forests are
included under the purview of these managers.  The public land management
systems, bringing in people trained in ecology, forestry, wildlife
management, geology and other specialties often introduces fairly well
educated individuals into the rural areas, individuals who are acquainted
with the use of newer technologies.  While these individuals do have
access to many kinds of information, their impact on the local cultural
scene will vary since they are often seen as fairly transient.  At the
same time, since they are responsible for a large portion of the local
land, and land is seen as one of the great common resources, and federal
policy about how to deal with the land can be so volatile, the federal
land management rangers appear to be quite often at the center of a great
deal of local controversy and debate.

   Since the parcels of land deeded by the homesteading act were too
small to run an average size ranch, the government, seeking to encourage
the ranching industry, allowed them in 1897 to graze on these public
lands.  Because of the short, 90 day growing season, it takes much more
land, at least 100 acres in Montana (compared with an acre in Georgia) to
support a cow. (Royte 1990:62)  And ever since the Taylor Grazing Act of
1934 put an end to unregulated grazing, the Ranchers have had to put up
with getting Federal permits to graze their cattle on public lands, such
as the Beaverhead National Forest above the Big Hole Valley.  In recent
years, this agreement had come under increasing criticism.  In 1988, a
government survey by the Bureau of Land Management cited 68% of public
lands in unsatisfactory condition.  Said one ranger, 'the West's ecology
could collapse like the Amazon rain forest.' Indeed it has been cost the
government more to maintain their range management program than the
revenue which ranching fees have brought in, a kind of subsidy to the
cattlemen.  This problem has been setting many ranchers against a group
of environmentalists, recreationalists, and land management
specialists.  Indeed when I first made my visits out to a number of
isolated ranches in The Big Hole Valley, the ranchers first wanted to
know if I was an environmentalist or something.

   The Federal rangers have not been without considerable controversies
of their own.  Under the influence of Reagan policies to commoditize the
public lands, according to a number of ranchers I interviewed, lumber
was sold off during the mid to early 1980s at a loss and was strip
cleared.  The ranchers, I was told, feared for their watersheds and
organized the Big Hole Ranchers Association to fight the government.
Ralph Nichols, a rancher from Wise River:

   This country up here is high: it's really a high desert.  Rain fall
   about 15 to 20 inches a year. The altitude right here at the house is
   6000 and real short growing season so it takes a 100 years to grow a
   tree.  And then it was all clear cutting.  At least half of the sales
   were at a loss and they weren't recognizing any of the value of the
   watershed.  Everything  was based on board feet.

   We had this fellow, Jim West, he was an outsider and they put in a
   ranch behind his ranch which supposed to be in the roadless area.  The
   forest service at that time did whatever they pleased.  They built roads
   wherever thy wanted to.

   Jim organized a program to influence people and influence congress,
   and spent a lot of money at it. He was sort of classed as an outsider and
   an environmentalist, and so on, to start with.  Finally, in the end, he
   got a lot of the ranchers in here organized on his side and they
   organized their own Big Hole Rancher's Association and went ahead to
   fight the forest service policy.

   I don't know.  I think a lot of the work that we started to do in 
   here went nation-wide.  And there is now so much more interest in 
   preserving the forest aside from the timber potential. 

The other ranchers I spoke with echoed this sentiment.  They were
preserving the land, as they had done before, especially against the
incursions of outsiders who, for the most part, had no real experience
with the land or with what would keep it productive over the long run.
Feeling that they know about the way the resources on the land reproduce
themselves, the ranchers see themselves as being key players in reserving
its value for recreational use as well.  The folks on the East and West
coasts, they point out, have not been too good in maintaining their own
economies, nor their own resources.

   Many of the new brand of Federal rangers would not agree that the
ranchers have been the best custodians of the land.  The deleterious
changes have been too slow to see.  Cattle represents to them the number
one cause of 'non-point' pollution, that is pollution which emanates not
from a stationary source such as a factory. (Royte 1990:62).  Cattle
destroy the fragile and narrow riparian areas along the sides of the
small stream.  While these riparian areas represents some only 1% of the
Western public lands, still some 75-85% of wildlife depend on them.
Cattle muddy the sides of stream raising the temperature there and making
these areas unfit for the different kinds of fish that had traditionally
lived there.  Finally, it takes a certain cost to maintain the
infrastructure to allow the cattle onto the public lands in the first
place, and according to a number of the Federal Rangers, they had not
even been able to recoup these costs.  Shouldn't the ranchers be able to
pay for the resources that they use?

   The perspective I gathered from rangers I interviewed diverged from
that of the ranchers.  Responding to my questions about the founding of
the Big Hole Rancher's Association, a ranger from the Wisdom station
replied:

   They [the ranchers] had essentially a private park
   behind their ranches, and they controlled the access
   to it.  There was no way to get in.  And as the forest
   service began to build roads, and there became more
   interest in timber, they [the ranchers] felt like
   there was a need to organize, and get their views out. 
   They were opposed to such radical change.  They did a
   pretty good job of it; they set up an organization,
   incorporated, constitution and bylaws, and they had
   some good money backing them.  They've done one
   lawsuit against the Beaverhead canyon.  We don't know
   what their next step is going to be.

   At the same time, this Forest Ranger from Wisdom admitted that in the
context of all these controversies, the role of the Ranger him or herself
had been changing:

   The rangers are growing in their sophistication.  They
   are becoming more politicians.  They used to be a
   [simple?- garbled] forester.  Now things are becoming
   more administrative, because of politics... and they
   really need the input.  Communications, because there
   so many things happening so fast.  The ordinary ranger
   is not isolated; they are interlinked.  They need to
   be able to talk to each other, and to the Washington
   office... so they are linked in many ways, via the
   telephone, telemail...

A number of important points are broached here which I will unpack later.
Minimally, we can note that the Forest Rangers are trained, on the whole
to be more literate in different kinds of new communication tech-
nologies, and that they are not in any way obligated to teach the
ranchers how to use them, even if they live at the local level.  However,
when I explained the idea of putting some of the ranchers online, setting
up a ranchers' network, and added that one of the County Extension agents
had finally gotten a modem for his computer, the ranger reacted
positively:

   good, very good....  That would be so good for agri-
   culture. The agriculture community is still a step
   behind the rest of the world in electronics and com-
   puters.  The way they do ranching in the Big Hole they
   are still living in the 1930s.  There are a few of the
   ranches that are a getting a little more intense. 

Far from seeing the opportunity for linking to farming and ranching
communities together as a threat, jeopardizing the organizational
advantages of the Federal Land's Management people, this Ranger saw
advantages in being able to share his perspective with the ranching
community as a whole, and said that he did not see what he was doing as
in open conflict with this other community.

   This conflict between the ranching and public lands community can also
be seen in a struggle about how to even conceive of the 'rancher.'
Traditionally, the Rancher had been seen as the upholder of the values of
the region, of hard work, the frontier, taming yet respecting the
wilderness.  This image is itself then at the center of a controversy.
Said one conservationist, Tom France, "People come to look at the
situation and they fall in love with these cowboys.  It's the myth of the
American West.  The cowboys come off as the paragon of great American
values.  Now we're saying they're destroying public lands." (Royte
1990:70) Inversely, the myth of the cowboy features in computer networker
and Telegraph mentor, Dave Hughes's vision of a rugged individualism
possible on account of computer conferencing.  He has called himself
the 'Cursor Cowboy' and has described at some length CMC as a populist
medium which can allow its users to maintain their independence and way
of life, precisely because does allow new, more direct kinds of
collaboration.  The myth of the cowboy revives in a new light.

      At the same time the Ranchers have increasingly accepted that their
own lives, and that of their children and spouses is changing.  When I
asked ranchers how the valley was changing, the first response was
inevitably to mention the great diaspora, the loss of people:

   It's changing...  'cause of the accessibility to a lot
   of ground...  additional roads being put in.  The Big
   Hole Valley over a period of quite a few years [has
   changed] in that there are how many less people than
   there were 50, 60 years ago. Bigger ranches have
   bought up smaller ranches. Towns are really shrunk in
   size.  Jackson is not as big as it used to be.  As far
   as highways and the ease of getting out of the valley
   to another town where you can do your shopping and
   whatever business you have to do you can go outside
   and do.

   At one time Wisdom had a bank, and newspaper, and a
   hotel [it still does, two in fact]- more businesses,
   and a lot more ranchers throughout the valley.  So it
   has changed in that respect. I think the total
   population is less, towns are smaller, there has been
   a lot more development in land.

People who wanted to shop for something special might get into the car
now and make the 90 or more mile trek to Butte to buy what they might
need.  People could drive on through the old, smaller towns.

   The ranchers and farmers were also worried about overextend themselves
financially by buying too much new equipment, including computers and
modems.  They had all seen many ranches that had been in families for
years (and the ranches of people just starting out) lost to a downturn in
land and produce prices during the early 1980s.  A number of the ranches
had switched to exotic breeds of cattle.  Whereas they had traditionally
bred Hereford and Angus, "when the financial realities of the seventies
dawned"  many ranchers began to experiment with the new, larger breeds
coming on the market:  Charloais, Simmental, Maine Anjou, etc, which
yielded heavier calves, which in turn created a demand for larger cows,
which raised the prices for the cows.  These larger cows were seen as a
key to becoming more productive, and the higher prices it was necessary
to pay at the beginning would in the end more productively.  However,
when the market for these cows was found to be over inflated and suddenly
dropped, many of the ranchers found that they were no longer able to pay
off the loans with which they had originally bought them with.  Further,
the larger cattle demanded more feed and field space, which itself was
becoming more scarce.  And the effects of the Federal rangers not wanting
to have the public lands 'overgrazed' has not been fully felt yet!

   When I asked a Wisdom School Board member if outsiders were coming in
and buying ranches and what he thought of about it:

   Some, last few years.  Quite a few outsiders. And
   prices have gone so high on ranches that the rancher
   couldn't afford to buy a ranch. It took somebody with
   other money, made someplace else, to buy a ranch.

   A lot of them will be here for a little while and then
   they find out ranching isn't all they thought it would
   be and then they sell to somebody else.  Just very few
   that come from the outside that stay here permanently. 
   Most of them are short term, four or five or ten
   years, and then sell to somebody else.

   At the same time when I asked ranchers what they thought of the
Japanese and other large investment groups buying the larger ranches,
they were not angry, seeing it as part of the general commerce with
Japan:

   Yeah they have been marketing American beef, and then
   they come in and buy the land that is producing the
   beef, so they are quick to take advantage of anything
   like that.  Foreign ownership, you get a lot of publi-
   city over it, but it really isn't a very large amount
   of the country that is owned by foreigners.  And
   Americans have investments in other countries, which
   compensate for the investment here.

   We [would] have a hard time without... buying japanese
   products.  But you can't get around it, there's so
   much stuff that's made over there.  You buy anything,
   and a good deal of it is going to come from japan or
   foreign producers.

When he looked over at his tractor, he noted that even though it had an
American name, many of the parts in it were made outside of the United
States.  In the end the ranchers and farmers wanted to find ways to keep
productive enough so that they could stay in business, and to maintain
what the felt was their way of life.

   The local economy and cultural scene in Wisdom and the other small
towns included other local individuals of importance in understanding the
flow of ideas and skills in the community.  There were a number of people
who were involved in construction as carpenters and other kinds of
contractors.  And there were a number of other positions in these towns
as well.  The father of one of the children at the Wisdom school worked
the local telephone exchange box in town.

   The area merchants, from the owners of cafes and stores, to hardware
stores managers seem to be local individuals, born in the area, married
to people in the area, and who, according to my research, followed the
attitudes and values of the more economically and culturally
substantial ranchers and farmers, as did the other occupational groups.
The merchants and cafe owners provided many of the common spaces where
local people could meet one another.  What's more, these merchants and
waitresses were real 'information resources' about the local life.  When
asked in a restaurant near Alder, Mt.  who the local county agricultural
extension agent was, our waitress asked the cook who asked yet another
person, and gave us their names and an idea of how we might contact them
before the meal was over.

   At the same time, the merchants, and the individuals connected with
seasonal tourism (hunting guides, fishing guides, etc.) have more dealing
than most of the other local individuals with 'outsiders.'  It would
appear that culturally one of their roles was to act as an interface
between the inside and the outside world.  However, in practice they
appeared more prepared to initiate the outsider into the regional
culture, to which they are part, such as finding the names of a County
Agent to people passing through than to expose the 'insiders,' the more
traditional elements of the local culture to the heterogenous, 'outside'
cultural values.


                  The Setting - Part II
                     Going to School
     
   The educational component varies in size from the Western Montana
College in Dillon, or the University of Montana in Helena, to the much
smaller schools in the small rural communities.  In fact, these most
rural schools are among the smallest remaining in the United States.
This once again has a lot to do with the local geography.  Around these
middle size towns, lies the vast landscape of broad valleys, mountain
ranges, rivers, and ranches.  The two counties near Dillon are said to be
larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, but to have a
population of less than 8000 people.  This low population density, and
the relatively difficult transportation through the mountainous areas
and across the broad, low land plain has encouraged the creation and
survival of a system of 'one-room schools.'

   These schools often have only one or two teachers, some 30 students,
and must teach a student body ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade
(primary school).  The graduating class of the K-8 school in Wisdom,
Montana included two students.  When there are two teachers, often one
teacher educator will teach the upper grades, 4-8 and the other will
teach the elementary grades.  While in some schools, such as that in
Lima, there can be several rooms and teachers, other times, as in the
case of the Polaris, Mont. school, located right before the entrance to
the Big Hole Valley on the Dillon side, there is only one teacher.
During the day, the teacher in such a school might have no other adults
with whom to speak on a regular basis.

   The importance of this schools might quite often be obscured by the
number of students actually in attendance.  While only two students
actually matriculated in the graduation ceremony in Wisdom, Montana
mentioned above, not counting the 5 kinder-gartner also 'graduating' to
1st grade, the commencement was attended by over 100 people (cf. Appendix
C).  Several teachers and members of the community told me that this was
far from uncommon.  Such numbers point to a complex role and presence
of the school in the local community.  The schools can also serve as
regional community meeting places.  They were places in which parents
meet parents, neighbors meet neighbors, and quite often they provide a
space in which more general community activities can take place.

   The schools were generally very 'modern' in appearance, and this was
in part due to the support from the general community.  They would have
good lighting, books spilling out of shelves, drawings made by the
students, as well as educational posters and maps, all on the walls.  And
all with usually ample room.  Outside, there were playgrounds.  The
school at Jackson, some twenty miles sought of Wisdom, had a small indoor
gymnasium, some 40 feet long, with a performing stage at one end.  The
name one room school was in a sense a misnomer in many cases since many
of these schools would have a number of rooms.  The students would
generally all learn in the same room, or else divided into two groups,
one lower school of grades 1-4, and the other upper, of grades 5-8, each
then with their own teacher.  The teacher would then provide lessons for
each of the grades in the same room.  In Jackson the 5th-8th grade group
consisted of 11 children, with 23 students in the school all together.
In Wisdom, there were a few more children.  With so many students
together in the same rooms, students in one grade could hear what the
other grades were doing, and could perhaps help or ask for help from one
another.  In Polaris, just before the entrance to the Big Hole Valley,
however, there were only some 8 students overall, with one teacher at a
very small school.

   Teachers found that the advantage of these rural schools to be the
small class size, and the fact that each student could get close
attention.  They felt, as did the parents I talked with, that their
children learned to be more independent since the teacher might be off
helping another student when they needed help.  There were two basic
disadvantages to such small schools.  The first would be the limitations
of the skills of the teacher.  If the teacher did not feel comfortable
teaching art, music, or some other subject, then the school board would
have to hire someone else part time to take over these subjects (which
they did).  Second, it was always difficult to field competitive sports
teams since there were never enough kids!  The sport activities generally
consisted of things like field activities including running, and in the
winter, including things such as skiing.  A good portion of a school
board meeting I attended in Jackson dealt with arranging skiing lessons
for the kids that coming Winter.  In a few special cases, a number of
different schools, such as Jackson and Wisdom, would field a single team
for a special event.

   Locally the schools are overseen by a school board elected from the
area school district.  Given the large physical expanse of the counties,
these districts could be much smaller than any individual county.  The
Big Hole Valley, all part of Beaverhead County, includes such school
districts as that of Jackson, Wisdom, Divide, and Wise River.  School
boards generally contain from three to five members, elected from the
community for generally two year terms.  The school boards meet from time
to time, or when expensive purchases need to be made.  These meetings are
usually open to the general voting public since the cost of the running
the school in large part is borne by the local taxpayers.  From time to
time the County Superintendent of Education will visit the school during
a school day, making recommendations, and making reports to the School
Board.  The county superintendent belongs to the educational system on
the municipal scale.  He or she is supposed to provide the teachers with
occasional new material and ideas, and to mediate as best she or he can
the disputes that might develop between a school board and a school
teacher.  His or her position in this sense is analogous to that of the
county extension agent to the surrounding ranchers and farmers, with
the exception that on occasion she must sometime intervene in real
disputes.

    The public school board meetings are where all (or most) of the
different sections of the community come together to talk about their
collective futures and to argue about the most expensive item in the
local budget: the school.  According to a former forest ranger from
Wisdom, "Attendance varied from very few, to nearly the whole community
if there was a 'hot topic' such as the new classroom or the purchase of
computers."  When I asked him about what size he meant by the 'whole com-
munity' he replied, "I would say that about 50 adults at the meeting
(with the entire community being from 100 to 150 depending on how many
dogs you counted) was a full house."

   Some school boards, such as in Wise River, Mt seemed to have a close
relationship with their teachers, while other districts, such as in
Wisdom, had a reputation for hiring and firing their teachers relatively
frequently (until their current teacher, who grew up in the valley and is
the daughter of one of the prominent ranchers in the valley).  Many
factors might go into this relationship.  In Wise River, the teacher
had grown up in the area, had gone to same school in which she taught,
and had known many of the ranchers in the area all her life.  They seemed
willing, she said in an interview, to listen to her ideas about what the
school might need to buy, or how the curriculum might need to be changed.
In Wisdom, on the other hand, the previous head teacher (there were three
teachers) had come originally from Pennsylvania in search of new teaching
opportunities.  She related a series of happenings in which her own
innovations were thwarted by the school board.  She said, for example,
that when she wanted to teach dancing after school (on top of all her
official school chores) to the general community, the school board
stopped her, allegedly citing 'insurance problems.'

   The school board itself is generally made up, my informants said, of
the ranchers themselves.  Exceptions had included a carpenter in Jackson,
and a hunting and fishing guide in Wise River.  A number of school board
members reported that it was a thankless job, since they were in fact at
the center of so many different local controversies.  During an
"election" in Jackson the day after one of my visits, there was only one
candidate, and that person had been drafted to the position when no one
else wanted to run.  A good number of the members of the board whom I
interviewed had children in the schools and gave that as one of the
primary reasons that they wanted to be involved.  Other members who
didn't have children in school spoke of their interest in education.

   It was the school board who had the power to hire and fire the
teachers.  In an interview with the County Superintendent of Education
for Beaverhead County, she told me that at best she only can make
suggestions to the school board.  Her position was simply to make sure,
from the State's perspective, that certain educational standards were
being met.  If they were met, then it would be up to the school board to
hire or fire a teacher.  Into this sometimes tense and awkward meeting of
different interests and people comes the promise of a new communications
system.


                 The Setting - Part III
                   A World of Change:
         Dillon, Mt and the Larger Communities 

   In the following section I will briefly look at some of the elements
of the Municipal level, particularly as it pertains to the Telegraph,
postponing a look at the 'Broader Community' of individuals and groups
from outside of the region until after I have been able to situate to
context of the Telegraph more fully.  At the municipal level in the
larger cities like Dillon (pop.  4000), there are larger scale merchants,
state officials, and different educational institutions.  While there are
many of the same social groupings as were noted above, social
relationships and activities are transformed by the difference in scale.
Mary Douglas makes the apt point that as researchers we cannot assume
that there is more (or less) social and cultural integration in a smaller
scale society than in a larger one. (Douglas 1986:21-30)  Larger scale
entities do include their own distinctive elements.  At a 'municipal'
level there was more concern for explicitly 'planning' changes in the
local, municipal, and even state or interstate economy.  Even in the
stores there was more talk about how to make up for the waning mining
income, how to keep the profits of what was produced in the state and so
on.  There were also more organization developed to address the social
needs of the larger region.

   Take the County Extension Agent.  This individual was supposed to act
as an intermediary between the agricultural departments of Montana
State University (MSU) and local ranchers.  It was unclear to what extent
this person in Beaverhead County, the county which includes Dillon,
Wisdom, and Dell, actually went into the field to persuade or enlighten
the ranchers and farmers about new developments in agriculture, with what
methods, with what directives, and with what respect or 'success.'  When
I asked one knowledgeable but non-rancher whether this county agent came
around often, he replied that he didn't think so, but that he heard him
on the radio early some mornings.

   In fact, when I interviewed him about new strategies and technologies
for rural development, and asked him in particular about setting up a
rural computer conferencing and communication system, especially designed
for ranching, and possibly making use of the facilities of Big Sky
Telegraph, he leaned back in his chair and pointed over to a large,
defunct piece of computer equipment in the corner of the room which he
said had been sold to him in a similar way as solving the 'information'
needs of the rural community.  This was one of the pieces of a proto-
computer network which had been designed a few years before to connect
ranchers and farms to a multi-state library of technical information.
The experiment had failed dismally.  However, as Dave Hughes, and other
pointed out, none of the ranchers ever needed this kind of information in
the first place.  As in the 'broadcast model' of one way information
flow, there had been no capabilities for the ranchers and farmers to
collaborate with each other, to share what they knew.  To people like
Hughes and Odasz, this was an example of starting with the alleged power
of the technology, not with the needs of the people.

   Following the lead of what he described as the model of the Statewide
Agricultural Extension service emanating from Montana State University,
there was an emphasis on satellite oriented distance education.  The
regional supervisor, who oversaw the entire Western part of Montana told
me that satellites remained an important way to get information out to
ranchers.  After all, most ranchers these days have satellite dishes, if
only to get distant television broadcasts, and so far as he knew only a
few of them had computer terminals.  On further query, he also pointed
out that Montana State University had made an expensive investment in a
'video production lab,' and that sending out programs was one way for
them to make use of their investment.  Other than that, a lot of the
interactive communication on the more local level was done, according to
the extension agents, by telephone.

   This is not to assess the real role of the County Extension Agent.
First, opinions differed on their efficiency.  At least the Agent in
town did reflect the values of the ranching community, even down to his
sense of skepticism!  He was willing to explore new products and crops,
such as the Cannola crop being touted as the new local crop for Montana's
farmers, and which is used to produce cooking oils.  Secondly, the
structure of just what the duties of an extension agent varied from one
part of the state to the next, according to the Agricultural Extension
people I talked with at Western Montana College.  In some places the Soil
Conservation Agencies took the lead in bringing new ideas to the field;
in other places, it was local agencies which had been specially set up
for this purpose.  In a kind of local ecology of services, different
groups would take up the challenges of bringing out new ideas.

   Finally, the service itself is in beginning to change more.  Rick
Williams, the regional director of the western 18 counties of Montana,
was trying to get local agents to get modems, and to attend a training
session in Bozeman the very month that I was out there.  However, when I
asked him just what these modems were supposed to connect to, what kinds
of services would be offered, and so on, he maintained that they had not
fully explored that yet.  He did suggest that they could prove useful in
helping extension agents to keep in touch with each other, and with new
ideas.  Such an use still seemed to follow more along the lines of
electronic mail.

   There were a other extension-like agencies bringing new ideas to the
rural areas, including the Agricultural Incubator Without Walls Project;
the Women's Resource Center; the Headwaters Resource, Conservation, and
Development Coop, which had offices in the seven SW Montana counties, and
which was particularly involved in economic development; the technical
education departments at Western Montana College; the Small Business
Administration; the Montana Office of Public Instruction; the Anaconda
Jobs Corps; and Wedgo, a Missoula based women's economic development
organization. I was able to talk to many of the individuals involved with
these projects.  Funding for these projects would come from a variety of
sources, such as from Carl Perkins grants, or from different agencies in
the government, groups in other words, from outside the municipal region.
One potent source of funding had came from the departing mining
corporation, Anaconda, as part of their attempt to stimulate the regional
economy following their departure from the Bozeman region.

    The director of the Agriculture Incubator was, according to Frank
Odasz supposed to actually go out into the field and show the farmers and
ranchers more directly how to use such tools as computer mediated
conferencing.  As it was, however, she spent much time studying the
Cannola projects in Billings with a group of socially progressive farmers
there, the Magpie collective, and not long after my interview, left to
work with them.

   Another group that might have used a computer conferencing system
more was the Headwaters Economic Development group, a seven county wide
organization interested in promoting economic development and increased
employment in the South West Montana region.  They even were provided
with an independent conferencing section on Big Sky Telegraph called the
'Headwaters Regional Conference.'  Each of the County Development
coordinators was theoretically online, and could potentially be
availability to interested business people locally and further afield.
One of the results of the online partnership between the Telegraph and
the Headwaters Economic Development group has been the creation of a
publicly accessible online database of South West Montana Development
information.  However, the database was also available in printed form,
and according to someone working in their offices, this was how most of
the requests for its information came in.  On the other hand, even if the
this resource were not being fully realized, it could perhaps encourage
the development of the skills needed to access such databases in the
future, and open the way for people from outside of the immediate Western
Montana region to begin to look into development opportunities in SW
Montana.

   Each of these groups was gradually gaining experience and direction,
while in the background the Telegraph was gradually forging a new strand
in the communication order of the region.  Frank Odasz, the director of
Big Sky Telegraph, claimed that all of these groups had been on the
Telegraph, and would sometimes use it (Odasz 1989b, Append. A).  A
resource may have been developing, but its utilization was taking place
very slowly.

   The Women's Resource Center, however, which I will also discuss later,
deserves special mention.  It provided one of the most penetrating views
on the region.  They would get funding, often project by project,
primarily to aid the women in the region to get new jobs, to learn new
self esteem, and to protect women and their rights.  In fact, to a great
extent the use of the Telegraph took off first in the general community
in the hands of women, and the kinds of issues this center addressed
revealed why.  Indeed, most of the rural teachers were women.

   For one thing the Center reached out to help 'Displaced Homemakers.'
This latter term was meant to be gender free, and was a program to help
with retraining and re-skilling of single parents, people who had lost
their jobs, and so on.  The actual definition relates to the loss of
income.  The Center, which had some 4 individuals working full time, and
a part time staff made up from a general collective, would also handle
other issues, such as providing general legal and other kinds of support
to abused spouses, rape crisis, health support, etc.  From the
perspective of the Telegraph, one of the more interesting aspects of the
Center was that they did in fact, as part of their job training activ-
ities, teach courses in 'computer literacy' (open to men as well as
women), and have several computers which they were able to loan out for a
limited amount of time.  And as an online resource, they included a
number of individuals who could answer or give people directions for
more complicated health and social issues.  When I visited a woman ran
her connection to Big Sky Telegraph from the Lima Stop 'n Shop gas
station which she and her husband ran near the Idaho border, it turned
out that that computer had been loaned to them by the Women's Resource
Center.

   A deeper issue, and one difficult to assess without much more specific
field research, was the fact that quite often it was the women on the
ranches who were the first to even use computers, let alone think about
using them as part of a regional network.  For one thing it was
traditionally the women who did the financial accounts on the ranches.
They were therefore quite interested in getting what might be perceived
as a labor saving device.  They had the skills which could make use of
part of the resources of the computer right away.  Secondly, at this
historical juncture, it was often middle aged women who were most open to
new opportunities when the ranching incomes declined.  It was as if when
the ranchers and farmers had to spend more time and energy keeping their
ranches and farms intact, or trying to get them back, the women were able
at the same time to explore how the occupational sphere had changed.  As
Jody Webster, the program director of the Women's Resource Center said to
me:

   I'll tell you what, I think there is something that's
   happening with middle aged women right now, and I'm
   including myself in middle aged women.  I think it's
   because we are learning, living longer.  I know so
   many people are just ready for information.  They're
   just enthusiastic about all kinds of things, and I
   don't know if people are late bloomers or blooming
   again.  

   I was privileged to meet a number of women, who, with their children
grown, had now taken an active interest in a variety of social and
cultural causes.  One women, Carla Hanson, after going back to school
herself, had encouraged all of her friends to get their equivalency
exams.  While two men had started with her effort, it was six of her
women friends who finished, and successfully passed their exams.  Since
Carla didn't get any money for this effort, all of the women got together
and made her a special quilt which Carla proudly showed me.

   Western Montana College in turn was situated at the meeting point of
different kinds and scales of education.  What's more, Western
represented another kind of meeting place.  Jody Webster taught one of
her non-credit computer literacy courses at night up at the College.
While Western Montana College's mission was primarily to train teachers,
there were on its faculty and among its students many individuals from
the ranching community, as well as from the local educational and service
communities.  There was, for example, a limited extension project from
the College into the more rural areas, but at the time of my research it
was open to people from ranches and farms to come in to the physical
space of the College; they are not prepared to send people out to these
areas.  While the two or three people connected with this rural education
center were originally from ranches themselves, the emphasis of even this
group appears to be to provide training for teachers, to extend the world
of the teachers, as it were, and only secondarily to intervene outside
the immediate school system.

   This was in keeping with the official mandate of the College itself
which has had a tradition of providing education and support to the
teachers of Montana, as well as in the area states.  It was founded in
1893 as the State Normal College with the sole purpose of preparing the
teachers for the schools of the State and the Northwest Territory.
Said one Professor there, John Rogan, "Although other institutions of
teacher education grew up around the state in later years, the College
has continued in its main role as a teacher education center for more
than eight decades." (Rogan 1989)  While the University of Montana was
well endowed and generally well known nationally, Western Montana College
(WMC), like Eastern Montana College, was one of those smaller, local
colleges, 90% of whose students (in the case of WMC) came from the state
itself.

   The College, however, reached a turning point in 1969.  At that point
it reached a peak enrollment of one thousand students.  With the decline
in teaching opportunities during the early 1970s, the student body
dropped to 600.  From that time until 1984, the student body didn't rise
above 700.  A title III educational grant in 1985 helped to modernize the
physical plant and educational programs.  Still, in 1987, faced with a
depressed economy, the State Legislature demanded that the Board of
Regents come up with some money saving measures.  The Board responded by
attempting to eliminate duplication, programs were cut statewide, and WMC
lost all its degree programs except for those directly related to teacher
education (Rogan 1989).  At the same time, "the State reaffirmed
Western's mission as focusing on teacher education, with special
responsibility for rural education."

   The Big Sky Telegraph entered the scene precisely at the beginning of
this period of enforced reexamination at WMC.  It is really too soon to
say how the Big Sky Telegraph will serve in its way to expand the
offerings of the College, as well as to expand their 'mission' to the
teachers, and to reaffirm the very necessity of teaching oriented towards
rural education, since it had been online only a relatively short time
before I was able to undertake my research.  However, in some ways, the
Big Sky Telegraph would appear to have become part of the College's very
fight for independence.  The fight has been very successful.  Enrollment
has risen back to 1000, with 37 full time instructors.  When I talked to
a few of the students on the campus during my field research, most said
that one of the important reasons they came to Western Montana College
was that on top of their innovative rural education programs, that they
had heard (in very general terms, however) that the College had begun to
investigate the ways in which computers and telecommunications could be
used in education.  And since the College was so small, many of the
incoming students spoke of the teacher/class ratio's were much better
than at some of the much larger schools.  People were choosing to come to
WMC over the main University of Montana campus.


                 The Setting - Part IV
               The Outer and Inner World:
             A History of Big Sky Telegraph

   The initial concept of setting up a "conferencing system" owes much of
its inspiration to Frank Odasz, now an Asst. Prof. of Computer Science at
Western Montana College.  He approached Dave Hughes of Colorado Springs,
Co., a nationally known proponent and expert of computer conferencing for
community development around 1987 with an idea about setting up a
conferencing system in Western Montana.  Over a period of several months,
Dave Hughes taught Frank Odasz online at 300 baud on a very simple
system, how to set up and organize a regional computer conferencing
system, and both began to draw up additional plans about how the system
might be expanded to take into account additional communicational
activities which might make use of a regional computer conferencing
system in an area as relatively isolated and sparsely populated as
Western Montana.

   Frank Odasz had originally come from around Caspar, Wyoming, not too
distant from Dillon, Montana.  However, at the age of 11 in 1963, he
moved with his folks to Los Angeles, and then at 12 to San Francisco, CA
where his father was to have an Engineering position.  He stayed in San
Francisco area until 1970, including the 'Flower Power' years.  After
attending a community college, where he met Reggie, his wife, he went on
to the University of California at Davis where during the late 1960's he
took a degree in Psychology, while Reggie took a degree from Davis in
English.  They then returned to the Rockies, and after a series of jobs
including working on a dude ranch in Wyoming, Frank went on in 1981 to
return to school to get a Masters in Instructional Technology.  It was at
this point that Frank got interested in Computer Conferencing, having
heard of Dave Hughes' Chariot BBS in Colorado Springs.  Frank said that
such a use of computers was new to him, even though he had a degree in
instructional technology and there had been personal computers around
for some time.  As he says, the computer science program at his
university didn't 'do micros' or smaller computers.  As far as he could
see, they were missing out on the advantages and potentials of the new
technologes, advantages which books such as Naisbitt's Megatrends (which
came out at the same time, and which he mentions reading at the time) had
so clearly posited.  While more popular books of the time were beginning
to speculate on the telecommuting, interactive, distance education, and
trends towards decentralization, the degree granting educational
institutions were still working out the advantages and ideas of a
previous era of massive mainframes acting as centrally organized and
controlled databases.

   Reggie, Frank's wife, has also been involved in many of the everyday
details of getting the Big Sky Telegraph online, and has served has
helped coordinate some of its distribution of materials, including course
outlines, books, and software.  As an English instructor, she has also
been involved in experimenting with teaching English composition online.
She has also been very active in answering or coordinating the daily flow
of messages.  Indeed, together they have been involved in a metamor-
phosis in 'instructional technology' away from simple 'broadcast
paradigm' of 'providing' information, via video disks and satellite
downlinks, and mainframe oriented databases, to something more
interactive.  Perhaps we could call this the emergence within the
educational field of the 'communications professional,' and relate it to
two facts: first, that education is being conceived as something that
occurs not in one formal setting at just one point in an individual's
life; and secondly that the variety of so-called 'instructional
technology' has increased to the point where individuals can specialize
in different media.

   Dave Hughes, the technical mentor of Big Sky Telegraph, and
co-visionary of its early stages, combined both the background of a
'communications specialist' with that of a professional educator.  A West
Point graduate and instructor, he had not only been a Major in the army,
with a large staff under him; he had reputedly been a very unusual one,
promoting a degree of lateral communication and initiative.  He had
been a college english instructor as well.  At the point when he retired
from actively involvement in college instruction and the military, he
began to explore the possibilities of one medium in particular, computer
mediated conferencing.  As he explained, he now could get more done
online and in a shorter amount of time!

   For Dave Hughes, the new medium was computer mediated communications,
and with it will come, if we pursue the possibilities assiduously enough,
new forms of electronic democracy and interpersonal communication,
provided we safeguard our liberties.  He has also long argued for what he
has called, the 'Highways of the Mind' proposal, seeking to establish a
nationally funded, public computer network, on the same principles as the
interstate highway systems.  Dave Hughes had already received some
national recognition for his successful efforts to get the town council
of Colorado Springs 'online' with each of the members of the council
having a computer with a modem, and also providing public access places,
where the public who might not ordinarily have access to a computer with
a modem could at least offer their opinions about council actions and
other items of interest.  The idea was not to create some kind of instant
electronic voting system, but simply to provide a forum where often
heated discussions could take place.

   One of his early coups was working successfully to defeat a local
incumbent over the telecommunications issue. (Hughes 1988).  He went on
with his 'electronic city hall' idea so that read only city news,
listings of city jobs, electronic mail, and so on could be added to
interactive discussions.  According to Hughes, the movement towards new
forms of interactive communications, "not just one-way press and media"
represented and will increasingly represent, a new phase in
representative democracy.  Said the Deputy City Manager of Colorado
Springs, "now we can put out information the way we want to," meaning,
Hughes claimed, "not just the way the press chooses... I will be able to
get it [information] from the City - and [the] elected official's *full
text* as well as 'according the press' which will let me make better
decisions in the end." (Hughes, 1989:top3:5).

   What struck Hughes most about the Big Sky rural schools, he said in an
interview, was that they already had computers, remnants of the era
(circa 1982) in which educators had felt that computers should be
included to every school.  They had been granted apparently with State
and Federal money.  All one needed to do, both he and Frank Odasz agreed,
was to add a modem, a central computer to switch the calls, and hopefully
a way to keep telecommunication costs down.  While Frank Odasz had come
up with the idea, and had apparently discussed it with some of the rural
teachers, Dave Hughes sought to involve the broader community in an
effort of rural self-development.  His idea was not to bring specific
ideas to the area (other than interactive telecommunications), but to
provide an augmented means by which the rural communities could acquire
and exchange their own ideas and resources, beginning with the rural
teachers.  The Big Sky Telegraph represented an extension, thereby, of
his own online efforts.

   Initial funding for the project came from grants from the M. J.
Murdock Charitable Trust of Vancouver, Washington and the Mountain Bell
Foundation of Montana, each for about $50,000.  The Mountain Bell grant
was to cover some of the telecommunications costs by providing for an 800
toll free telephone number for instate teachers.  Mountain Bell, the
regional representative of US WEST, has been interested in the Big Sky
Telegraph from the beginning, and while they did not rush in head over
heels with funding, they quietly increased funding in the system over
1988, and into 1989.  According to Hughes, he was instrumental in getting
the seed money grant from US WEST approved:

   One little effective electronic end run that Chariot was helpful in,
   was a Mtn Bell Grant they had applied for... [It] was being held up by
   some grumbling skepticism by the Big University types who just couldn't
   believe that 'lil old Western Montana College could do what they said,
   when all the Big Mainframers had trouble getting a suitable economic
   level of participation in things such as AgNet, and the state level dial
   up systems. Tony Sees-Pieda, the Denver-located Mountain Bell Public
   Relations guy who moderates a 'regulatory public policy' conference on
   Chariot, paid for by Mountain Bell, saw the obstacle and lobbied Montana
   Mountain Bell Foundation to approve the grant it went through!  The main
   contact between Tony, (Denver), Frank (Montana), and me (Colorado
   Springs) was on Chariot!

   In order to attempt to 'de-mystify' the technology, when Dave Hughes
initially brought the physical components of the conferencing system to
Dillon around Thanksgiving, 1987, he did whatever he felt he could to
stay out the way.  Teachers were encouraged to assemble the hardware
themselves.  With the exception of Dave Hughes, none of the educators
involved with the project had extensive background in computer science
(and even his knowledge was self-taught).  He stated that he wanted the
teachers to be in 'control' not just of the messages they sent, but of
the system sending and coordinating the messages as well.  Hughes felt
that if this was a system which the teachers wanted, they would try to
learn how to use it (with the organized help of other teachers.)  If a
local teacher, for example, did not have the necessary equipment or
know-how to access or make use of some part of the conferencing,
messaging, or database facilities, then he or she should be able to draw
upon the help of one of his or her 'peers.'  And if a teacher knew
something of what the capabilities of the equipment 'might be' (since the
definition of a medium as we have seen is in social flux) then he or she
might suggest something new.  The emphasis was supposed to be on
collaboration and collective experience.

   Big Sky Telegraph was originally set up on a generic 16 megahertz 386
microcomputer running the SCO Xenix 386 operating system, assisted by 8
(or 7) modem ports, expandable to 32 ports capable of handling thousands
of users.  The Telegraph used FoxBase Plus as its database software (db
III compatible), and a customized version of the Xbbs conferencing
software, with all software and hardware costing less than $15,000.  The
technical reason for using Xenix over, say, DOS was to ensure flexible
multi-tasking.  In fact, Dave Hughes, customized the configuration of the
Xbbs software so that the system could run several 'BBS's simultaneously
on the same machine.  This movement towards both creating different BBS
systems and finding ways to share resources between them was possible in
Xenix, an IBM oriented variation of the Unix operating system.  Before
not too long, Hughes had customized the system so that at the initial
login prompt, one could enter 'bbs' to enter the teachers bbs, and 'hrn'
to enter a bulletin board system of the "Headwaters Regional Network" to
access the more business oriented computer conferencing and database
section.  And both bulletin board systems could share the same data bases
(via the Foxbase Plus).  (cf. Odasz 1988a:1; Hughes, EIES, C685:153:279).

   As Hughes proudly exclaimed, there was no local DP ("data priest," an
unaffectionate term for systems operators who run their complex computer
systems according to arcane rules and access schemes) on this system,
the constant, and lordly presence in the era of main frame computers.  He
saw in Frank and Reggie ordinary people (at least as far as computers
were concerned) who were quite unfamiliar with more advanced computers.
"I noticed that *every* person involved in that small town's 'computer
culture' [where it might be found!] was at the Apple II, low end MS DOS,
'community college type' level of educational computing." (Hughes, Ibid.)
He noted that their assistant sysop, or 'systems operator,' Elaine
Garrett was a hunting and fishing guide by profession who was called into
the project because she was one of the few people who had had some
experience with an IBM computer.

   The system began to take off as soon as it was online, making use of
pre-existing communication networks between the teachers, and their
communities.  According to Hughes, "In the first 40 days of it being up,
it has been called 1,612 times by people - 75% of whom are total novices
- all over that rural dispersed state of Montana.  They have left 975
messages which is a message-to-call ratio of over 60%. *That* meets my
standard for 'user friendliness' of a dial up system." (Hughes, EIES,
C685:153:275, 2/19/88)  Further, the system was not designed solely for
educators.  Said Hughes:

   There is an important point though, reflective of the way these
   technologies *ought* to evolve over time.  That is, as in many small
   towns in America, the concept of 'community' is so strong, that nothing
   is 'just' school, or government, or business, or private group. Schools
   are frequently a social center, a place where other elements of the
   community can do their own thing so long as the kids are educated and
   the school gym is available for the basketball games scheduled.

      So without any great intellectualizing - because it is a perfectly
   natural extension into the 'electronic society' - Big Sky has warmly
   welcomed anyone to log on, free. And [it] has sections where the local
   Women's Resource Center 'hang out' electronically, where a Medical
   Clinic's professionals chit chat in the 'Wellness' section - besides the
   specific educational 'resource' activities, and the current principle
   activity goes on - a formal, for credit, one room-school teacher
   recertification course in Telecommunications goes on. (Hughes, Ibid.)

   As time went on, different conferences had different successes.  The
Wellness section was later dropped, while others, such as a Writing
Conference added, only to be later replaced by other another conference
later on.  By August, just 8 months later, the over 7000 messages had
been exchanged between 300 people, and more than 30 teachers had
completed the accredited formal online training.  It is hard to estimate
the time and effort that both Frank and Reggie put into this project.
They were certainly constant friends and companions to most of the people
there, ready to fine tune the system.  Messages like the following were
quite common:

   No. 194  08/01/88   21:46:18
   From: Frank Odasz               To: Ruth Carlstrom
   Subject: (R) (R) (R) (R) Scie
   Message class: Public       Message base: CoffeeShop

   Go for it with the Sciencelab conference Ruth, I'll
   create a Science files area for uploading and down-
   loading too. Did you know we have 150 very special
   science essays from Walt Robertson?  They are listed
   in the files file area as science and scienceb.
   Telegraph is the first time they are being made
   available to the public. We are working on a U.S space
   foundation link also.   ;-)

Notice that the presence of something we might call 'soft publishing' in
which signed articles, in this case by a Walt Robertson are being widely
shared ultimately nation wide, directed to specific audiences in many
cases, and yet they may have never actually seen the wrinkle and creases
of physical paper.  What's more something of the constant sense of
innovation about being online at the Telegraph comes through.  The Coffee
Shop conference was a general conference, or message exchange area where
people would send public greetings or share announcements with each
other.

   One of the main technical problems of the system comes through on this
message as well.  I will call the problems of 'message threads.'  There
was a decided inability to keep the same conversations going for some
time in any conference since all messages in a particular conference
would simply follow one after the other, only to be distinguished by
whether they were public or private, or by their title.  The problem was
that if someone were to make a comment at one place, a number of
unrelated responses might soon intervene disrupting conceptual
continuity.  One can try to follow the titles, but they can get obscured
(cf."Subject: (R) (R) (R) (R) Scie" above), or the titles of a responses
belonging to the same message chain may begin to differ.  The reason was
that the Xbbs conferencing software which they had chosen in part because
of its compatibility with Xenix did not have either the ability to allow
specific topics areas to be branched off from the main discussions, or
some way to link the different responses of the same topic together.
Computer conferencing software designers and users commonly debate how
best to organize the generation of distinct topics, such as whether each
user should be able to start a 'topic,' or some moderator, or anyone
else. On a number of other Unix/Xenix comparable conferencing softwares
like Participate (eg, as once run on the Source), PicoSpan (run on the
WELL), or Caucus II (run on MetaNet) there is considerable flexibility to
the discussions that can be generated because they can be organized by
topic, and not just by conference.  It would appear that the lack of this
kind of logical organization will preclude for now deeper topical
discussions.  When I asked Frank Odasz about this he replied:

   Most online messages on the system now are not 
   in discussion mode; if they are, they would be
   between a couple individuals and they happen to
   leave it public which maybe a third or a fourth
   might come in for a very short discussion. There
   have been no real ongoing discussions as such
   mainly because the format at this point is more
   hodge-podge messaging, and I'll admit that.

What's more, it is not clear when this problem will be addressed for two
reasons.  First, much of the important energy has been going into
managing the continuing accelerating expansion of the use of the system.
Secondly, as both Frank Odasz and Dave Hughes have said to me, changing a
user interface is serious business since it involves training ones users
to do new things.

   Even still, the Telegraph continues to expand.  According to Hughes
and others involved with the system, this is because of the inherent
appreciation for the importance and difficulty of rural communication.
Said Hughes,

   153:294) Dave Hughes             2/20/88 15:03
   ... As I began to suspect about 5 years ago after
   travelling to Regina, Canada, Alaska, rural Colorado,
   and now Montana -there is a distinct possibility that
   the *rural* areas of the world will become far more
   'telecommunications literate' faster, than the Urban
   centers. Because rural people know the necessity, and
   costs, of 'communications.'  Now it remains to be seen
   whether those in the Power Centers of America accept
   the necessity for publicly supported Highways of the
   Mind - as they did the Homestead Act, Rural Electri-
   fication, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Inter-
   state Highways System, the Federal supported Air Port
   and Sea Port System. Or whether they miss the future
   entirely....  (Hughes 87-89, EIES, ported to MetaNet
   Old Salon)

While there are policy issues yet to work out, such as whether there
should be a publicly supported data network (Hughes' "Highways of the
Mind" or privately supported system, "Data Toll Roads"), these have not
slowed the Telegraph's progress since most of the data for my research
was compiled.  Recently, on June 5, 1990, for example, Frank Odasz gave a
laptop demonstration of the system to a Native Americans from 7 different
reservations in Montana, such as Assiniboine-Gros Ventre, Crow, and
Blackfeet, showing, he reported, how telecommunications could link
communities together (Hughes, WELL, Telecom, Top679:184).  According to
Hughes, the Native Americans in attendance in Great Falls, Mt expressed
considerable interest in setting up a their own computer conferencing
system, one which in turn would be linked with the Telegraph.  Many new
organization have been joining the Telegraph, including the National
Diffusion Network organization (450 teachers nationwide), the Office of
Public Instruction, and the Montana Associated Students, the Telegraph is
being itself linked up to other existing, national and international net-
works, expanding both its access to the rest of the world, and beginning
to permit easier access to it from the outside world.  The Telegraph has
been gated (opened) to the international UUCP/USENET network with its
8000 systems world wide, and some 250,000 users.  An experimental
system is just beginning to link even more remote, local bbs systems,
which have been encouraged by the Telegraph, first to the Telegraph, and
then via a link there to the international amateur computer FIDO computer
network, with its some 10,000 systems world wide.  By October, 1990 two
of the 4 'outlying-area' systems were already online (5 more were
expected in the near future) and were in turn to be connected through the
Big Sky Telegraph Fidonet Gateway both to the International FidoNet,
and via its own gateways, potentially to other networks such as UseNet,
and potentially at some point in the future, using gateways on FidoNet
and UseNet to the InterNet (or NSFnet), JaneNet, EARN, JunNet, and other
networks worldwide.  One of these local nodes was the Russell County BBS
in Hobson, MT set up for Native Americans, the very BBS proposed by the
Native Americans only some 2 months before.

   The importance in undertaking research is obviously not in cataloging
alleged successes, or cataloging possibilities, but in getting at the
sense of resistances to change, to how new technologies get to be
inflected into a culture.  In balancing too close to the 'system' or
'medium'-centric view, we lose sight of greater context within which new
media fit.  For a system to grow equitably, it takes more than the simple
stringing together of new inter-mediated groups since the presence of one
group might well serve to curb its acceptance by other social or cultural
groups.  What research can do, then, is to give voice to the
dissatisfaction and worries of different groups constructing the presence
and accessibility of a medium.  It should work so that their concerns and
worries can be given voice and addressed.  It should serve to deepen our
understanding about the social, and to a more limited fashion, the
cultural implications of the media.  And, taking advantage of the scope
of such initiations of new media, it should recover and illuminate
something of the process by which new media are defined, accepted,
supported, and used.

                           ***********************

                            - Chapter 6 -
                        Ethnographic Analysis
                The Telegraph in the Community - Part I
                   Rural Teachers and the New Medium

   Implicit in this research has been the issue of grassroots, the
means by which the different social, cultural, and gender communities can
take new tools such as these into their own hands, defining them and
redefining them in ways that would empower themselves and their neigh-
bors, and so as to connect themselves in strategic ways to the many other
changes around them, changes in the ethnoscape, technoscape, finanscape,
mediascape, and ideoscape.  To get at this issue I first attempted to
find out how the teachers had found out about the Tele-graph, what
impact they felt they could have on its organizations, both online and
off, what changes they would like to see, and what expectation they had
that these changes would take place.

   Overall, many teachers with whom I spoke mentioned that someone from
Western had contacted them first, often during some kind of orientation
they had had at Western Montana College.  Once online, however, they
quickly would meet other people, especially other teachers.  A less
frequent, but upcoming path of transmission follows from the direct
instruction of another teacher, often from the same school, as in Wisdom.
The teacher-teacher path will undoubtedly become more active as more
teachers get online.  In one district, the school board had first told
the teacher about the Telegraph during her initial job interview.  One
teacher, Theresa Murdoch at the Jackson School joked, "Actually my eighth
graders taught me about it, because they know more about it than I do!"
In fact she learned the Telegraph from all three sources.  Responding to
the question how she first learn about the telegraph:

   When I came to Jackson.  Actually when I came for the
   interview they told me about it.  They said they were
   hooked up to the Big Sky Telegraph.  I wasn't sure
   exactly what they were talking about.  They kind of
   explained it to me.  And then when I got the job,
   and... the other teacher has been here for a few years
   and she was telling me about it.  And then the girls,
   the 8th grade girls showed me how to do it, some.  And
   then I talked to Frank Odasz and went to the College
   and talked to him so I could understand it a little
   better.  And that's how I really got going.

Two other teachers said that their older students were able to translate
a general skill with the logic of consumer electronic devices, including
education oriented computer games from school, into skill about how to
make the most with computers and computer mediated communication.

   Since all of the teachers worried about the phone expense, and, to a
great extent, they in many ways still saw the network as something to be
used sparingly anyway, they did not feel that they had the technical
expertise, nor the time or money to deeply influence what was going on in
Dillon.  Many of the teachers did in fact have some decided preferences
about how they would like to see the Telegraph change.  Patti Monaco, the
head teacher in Wisdom during my second visit, said that she had asked
Frank to several times change some of the prompts, set up some
conferences that were oriented specifically for the different areas of
the curriculum:

   I made some suggestions to Frank as to how I would
   change the menu selections.  And I would love to see
   him change the menu selections just so the simplicity
   would be there.  And what I think it could is help
   someone.... let's take math, and you are trying to
   teach multiplication, and you need a new innovative
   idea, because Johnny is not getting it.  And what I
   suggested is to have different subject areas listed,
   and under mathematics to ask if anyone has an idea
   about teaching multiplication, or a book, or a
   computer program...

   Indeed, several teachers mentioned that when they did have problems or
questions they weren't sure in which conference or section into which to
put their questions.  When I forwarded Patti's concern above to Frank
Odasz, he reflected on the kinds of 'resources' which the Telegraph might
have available, and suggested, in perhaps a lapse into more 'broadcast'
paradigm of information dissemination, that Patti or someone like her
could simply e-mail Otis Thompson, a mathematics professor at Western
Montana College, and ask questions directly.  Such a direct communication
could be construed as demonstrating the importance of the Telegraph in
establishing new connections between people.  What's more, Frank was
concerned that if too many separate conferences were created, then the
traffic, the amount of messages in any one conference might drop to
almost nil, and other users, not expecting much to be changing in that
conference, wouldn't read it regularly.  The only problem was that Patti
and others appeared to be looking for a way to share their concerns
publicly.  Patti had immediately realized the importance of conferencing
as a shared medium, and I think she really wanted a shared public space,
and was lamenting that she was limited to trying to upload ideas to a few
predefined conferences which she didn't feel reflected her way of
dividing her problems up.  As for the problem of micro small conferences,
most conferencing software will sweep through all of the conferences to
determine where there might be new mail.

               The pathway to finding out about how to get online, and
what it meant to be online, was generally not a verbal or written
description of some sort, but physical hands on demonstration.  It is not
enough to hear about being online; someone has to physically demonstrate
it.  This was something with which Dave Hughes, Frank Odasz, and nearly
all the people who had been on the Telegraph agreed.  You can talk to
people all you want about what telecommunications and computers might
mean together, but it isn't until you actually get out, open a laptop or
some already hooked up computer, make the connection to a BBS, and go
through the different conferences, file sections, mail sections, and so
on, that people realize just what you have been talking about.  For Dave
Hughes, this is part of what he sees as the importance of having a laptop
computer.  His initiation stories which he has written up in many online
forums, follow a recurring rhetorical strategy of playing up the
ignorance, the boredom, even the open naivete of the people he is talking
with, to be met in turn by the sudden flash of enlightenment as he turns
on his laptop or demonstration desktop and begins to log people into some
distant city, followed by a burst of enthusiasm and new ideas as a pent
up desire to communicate with people is released.  The problem is that
his analysis does not lead to any real sense of just what this original
ignorance consisted or how it was constituted, and must stoop to being
too amazed at just how readily people take to his new technologies.

   Still, teachers, forest rangers, and members from all the 12
social/cultural categories outlined above who had worked with computer
conferencing stressed the need for someone to actually go step by step
through a demonstration before they really understood the nature of the
medium, which is to say, before they could construct possible uses.  One
of the problems appears to be that there are no ready cultural archetypes
about what being online might mean, no reservoir of shared
understandings.  My interviews revealed that most of the ranchers,
teachers, and general members of the community usually had their first
experiences with 'computers' in terms of finance or word processing
packages.  The possibility of linking computers up together was seen in
terms of 'electronic mail,' a fusing of images of normally delivered
mail and perhaps being on the telephone.  This lack of a variety of
images, of ready concepts about Computer Mediated Conferencing could well
explain something of the general lack of interest by social science
researchers into public CMC as well.  At this point, one might generalize
that CMC simply exists in pockets where a physical hands on transmission
of skills and orientation has already taken place, except for a few hardy
individuals, who like ham radio operators, are ready to pioneer new
communications technologies as the are developed.

   The more recent Sears/IBM initiative to establish for a nationwide
Prodigy computer service initiative proves interesting in this context
and clarify further some of the issues of here.  Such highly capitalized,
national computer information services may begin to add to the general
reservoir of concepts and images about what CMC might be, how it might be
used, with what difficulty, by which people, and at what approximate
cost.  Overall, it would appear that Prodigy has been stressing  concepts
connected to the ease of getting interactive access to services,
primarily data bases.  From the perspective of the ecology of
(communicative) technologies outlined above, this can lead to a paradox.
If the potential users in general are satisfied (and more confident) with
their existing ways of getting airline reservations, and other such
services, they will not want to incur the dubious expense of time and
money involved in trying to do the same thing through a Computer Mediated
Communication system.  On the other hand, there may be general and
otherwise unanswered interest in getting involved in national conferences
centered on topics of interest, but the nature of this medium might not
really be clear until one has already gone online!  As Bonnie Conley, of
the Agricultural Incubator Project said:

   I thought it would be innovative to have computer
   workshops, to kind of follow through [with the
   questionnaires sent out to the ranchers].  They can't
   understand it unless they get onto the network and use
   it.  I didn't [understand what being online meant]
   until I got on the network... what benefits there
   were... it's not something to be scared of.. using a
   computer is easier than riding a tractor, as far as
   I'm concerned, and I think once they understand
   that... big steps, and then once the neighbor sees how
   they are using it, you [will] get more people on the
   network.  

   At this stage in the project much of the innovative animus or force
behind developing the form of the project still appears to be coming from
the project originators, although ideas could come from anyone online.
Does this compromise the 'grass roots' nature of the project, and other
projects based on this example?  What about the $50,000 provided by US
West to subsidize phone costs?  How can we even call it 'grassroots' when
so much of the funding, know-how, and enthusiasm seems to come 'from
above' or 'from outside?'

  Herein lies one of the paradoxes of grassroots activism.  While I found
that much of the impetus of the project came from the outside the
immediate social and cultural worlds of the 'local' and municipal levels
which I examined, from the inspirations of such 'activists' as Dave
Hughes, and Frank & Reggie Odasz, as well as from the intervention of US
West, at the same time there was a high degree of diffused re-invention
occurring.  This reinvention, I would argue is just what the diffusion
of innovations theorist, Everett Rogers, finally came to identify in his
'decentralized diffusion model,' and which I see as the same thing as a
grassroots effort.  When people understood something of the new medium,
then they would use existing social and cultural networks to reinvent the
medium.

   Rogers might loosely be said to have theorized about three different
paradigms, although he is best known for his second.  The first,
developed by Schramm, Lerner, and others, was called by revisionists the
'Dominant Paradigm.'  It sought to formulate steps in the process by
which presumably more efficient, perhaps healthier, technologies or
practices could be enrolled into the practices of local behavior- the
long, straight road to ourselves.  Rogers revision of this perspective,
termed the 'New Paradigm' (1976) offered a varied and substantial
criticism of the use of a Euro-centric historical model for developing
countries, of capital intensive solutions to local development problems,
a recognition of the extent to which global political economic interests
are involved in local development undertakings, and in ways which are
often not obvious, a criticism of the equation of economic growth with
national development.  In turn he offered encouragement to make use of
more local input into organizing and implementing large scale
technological substitutions and transformations.  However, this stress on
trying to encourage 'local involvement in planning' still did not address
the problem that the central goals of development all too often were set
out by central planners.  'Local involvement' often meant trying to
enlist local sponsors to figure out how to implement goals formulated by,
and quite often in the interests of, a few central planners.  (cf.
Uncapher 1990)

   In a much more recent work, he has begun to criticize even these
notions of the diffusion of 'centralized' innovations, suggesting that
often the actual means by which innovations were picked up and defined,
involve numerous individual redefinitions of the skill and object to be
'diffused.' In turn, this can reset of the final goals to which these
objects or skills were to be used.  As he himself states:

   during the late 1970s, I gradually became aware of
   diffusion systems that did not operate at all like the
   relatively centralized diffusion systems that I had
   described in previous publications.  Instead of coming
   out of formal R&D systems, innovations often bubbled
   up from the operational levels of the system, with the
   inventing done by users.  Then the new ideas spread
   horizontally via peer networks, with a high degree of
   re-invention occurring as the innovations were
   modified by users to fit their particular conditions. 
   Such decentralized diffusions systems usually are not
   run by a small set of technical experts.  Instead,
   decision making in the diffusion system is widely
   shared with adopters making many decisions.  In many
   cases, adopters served as their own change agents.

   Gradually, I began to realize that the centralized
   diffusion model was not the only wheel in town.
   (Rogers 1986)

Rogers here finally seems to be admitting that 'diffusion' involves a
process of re-invention, which in turn renders a simple scheme of
tracking local 'decisions' about the worth of a technology problematic.
It is within this latitude wherein local redefinition of the goals and
nature of the technology serving to empower individuals within and across
peer networks can occur that I would call grassroots.

   Frank did in fact do what he could to implement what he felt the
conferencing software and hardware was technically capable of achieving-
and using what little time and funds he had free to accomplish his
outreach!:

   Then the plan was to serve as a coop for whatever
   groups were interested- to try and design some medium
   where they could have a piece of the system, like a
   'conference'- and I am somewhat limited by the
   software that we have running.  I could give them
   their own conference, like the 'Women' for the Women's
   Center, and then they use that until they really get
   going and start to want file transfers.  Then I could
   give them a file area.  Then, when they are ready,
   then give them a complete partition.  The thing being
   that it is expensive, too expensive for me to create a
   complete partition, with all features for six to use
   occasionally.

The separate 'partition' he mentions here would be a separate bulletin
board system using the same computer and telephone numbers, and
potentially the same data bases and files, but having its own login,
conferences, files, general messages, and so forth.  At the initial login
prompt, instead of typing 'BBS' to get onto the teacher's partition, one
could potentially type HRN (Headwaters Regional Network) to get into a
separate, business oriented area.  And the same for any additional area
that might be created.

   Two points are central here.  First, notice that new conferencing
areas are expected to grow out of the old.  That is, at that moment in
the development in the organization of the Telegraph, a ranchers
conference would be expected to grow out of the teachers conference.  As
a business conference develops, then a more agriculturally oriented
section would be expected to grow out of that section.  This pattern of
organization serves to assure that a new conference won't have too little
traffic, since it could count on synergy with its neighbors to keep new
ideas flowing in and through the fledgling conference until it can have
its own partition, that is, independent electronic bulletin board system
within the overall Telegraph system.  A possible feeling of es-
trangement between the new subgroup, a business conference within a
teaching bulletin board system, or later a ranching conference within a
business oriented bulletin board system, however, cannot be overlooked.
Will the ranchers simply dismiss an overall educationally oriented
bulletin board system as something belonging to the teaching community
before they can learn enough, and give enough energy to the conference to
in turn give it enough traffic and interest to warrant its own file areas
and even its exclusive partition?

   Secondly, notice that his work involves a degree of interpretation and
activity.  The Sysop, the Systems Operator who manages the bulletin board
itself, and who edits what conferences are where, must decide to a great
extent how to organize the limited resources of the Telegraph.  Given the
relative limitations in the resources Frank sought to provide some clear
guidelines.  For example:

   O.K. So I have a group size that determines what I do
   with software.  On the other hand, part of it has been
   the challenge to stay organized, and stay on purpose; 
   you know, not get too diffused, since a lot of these
   failed systems, like AppleLink- though I don't know if
   it is officially failed or not- they tried to be
   everything to everybody, and they end up being nothing
   to nobody. 

   And this business, 'we have games, we have a dating
   service'-  that is going in the opposite direction of
   answering needs.  So, as much as possible, we have
   tried to stay as close as possible to the actual
   needs.

   What does a rural teacher really need?- resources,
   lesson plans, contact with other teachers, contact
   with libraries and resource providers.  Ok, and some
   means of social contact...

Frank Odasz was able to make use of an existing social network to which
he had immediate access, that of the rural teachers, in part through the
'prestige' and connections of his position at the College, and the fact
that he had spent time learning 'educational' technology.  He likewise
had the ready support of other people around him in the College, and
indirectly, a number of people beyond the College to help him to
negotiate this social network, and to put him in a position that he
becomes a co-facilitator with the forces within that social network which
can further define it to meet its needs.  And indirectly, as an educator,
he could begin to penetrate into a number of closely related communities,
such as might be made available in part through the auspices of the
Women's Resource Center.  The concern of a broad number of women in
'further education' would appear to lead them to investigate the general
educational community.

   However, when Frank and the Telegraph begins to make the next step
into the general business, and agricultural communities, he didn't have
the same degree of initial success.  This would appear in part because
both Frank and Dave begin with identifying the abstract possibilities
of the 'medium,' such as avoiding the problems of 'telephone tag,'
'having access to central data bases' rather than identifying how these
needs had been met in the past, and the degree to which the old solutions
made sense to people.

   Frank envisioned that one of the deeper reasons why individuals do or
do not join a network was a matter of the degree of development or nature
of one's 'consciousness.'  There seems to be two strands in this
perspective.  Firstly, a change in consciousness can be seen as part of
a larger paradigm shift in how to organize and locate skills.  One of the
most remarkable insights which Kuhn (1962) showed in his work on
scientific paradigm shifts is that a new scientific paradigm often does
not begin with greater explanatory power than that the old way of seeing
a problem.  In fact, when people began using the Copernican heliocentric
way of thinking about problems of celestial dynamics, the results of this
system were not greater than those of the Ptolemaic system, simply
because the epi- and epi-epi-circles of the older system had been refined
enough to provide a relatively accurate system of observation and
prediction.  For Frank, the leap of faith reorienting one's communi-
cational skills to accommodate CMC is a leap of faith, a conceptual leap
reorganizing tasks and expectations.

   Secondly, in a McLuhanist manner, Frank concentrates on a shift in
'consciousness' as occurring because of something specific to this
medium, to the way by which ideas can be jointly created and evolved,
perhaps experienced.  Online ideas and stories don't even have to follow
one another; they can be jointly edited and augmented by individuals who
never are able to meet face to face.  Shifting around the many online
tasks and obligations involves a transformation in consciousness itself,
and that even getting online reflects a kind of change in consciousness:

   It's more a consciousness thing than anything else. 
   And I'm in the business of teaching new ways, new
   levels of thinking, new levels of intellectual
   interaction.  Communicating with a person in writing
   seems to be unfathomable to many of these people...
   who know business letters, but know nothing about the
   written word beyond the business letter.  And a
   business letter is stodgy.  You are limited.  You've
   got to be kind of conservative.  Whereas online tends
   to be a pretty different animal- being more folksy,
   more intimate in a hurry, more mind to mind; and I
   leave spelling mistakes in.  Sometimes I do. Just for
   the heck of it. 

   So as I think about this more and more, at East
   Germany and Russia, and... and what I'm doing, and
   it's like consciousness. Not hardware or software, not
   purposeful communication, so much as consciousness of
   new possibilities.  And that's what the computer seems
   to open up, is literally new levels of conscious,
   interactive... new levels of interaction for con-
   sciousness for partnership.  

   When I e-mail with Dave, or when I e-mail with you,
   that is more consciousness than any other single
   thing.  So we are not just computer networking, when
   you and I share comments back and forth. It's in a
   context that to me is much more a consciousness thing. 
   It's literally, as I have said tongue in cheek before,
   working as an electronic analogy for telepathy.  I
   don't even think that's right.  I think it's something
   more. I think, in a sense, it is shared consciousness.

It does not lie within the scope of this thesis to unpack this second
perspective.  The logic of this concept does not submit to Popper'esque
rules for scientific, positivistic proof, at least not as it is stated.
One question will have to be asked even now: How medium specific is this
transformation?  In concentrating on one medium, such as writing, we can
see that on some level it is possible to see all people participating
with or with it as sharing 'consciousness.'  As each new person learns to
write, they gain access to a new world, to a new consciousness.  How
far can this metaphor or perspective work?  The extended quotation above
are the reflections of someone thinking at the level of a medium reified
into a thing, where each medium can be seen as an enveloping,
self-subsistent link between people by itself.  Consciousness begins to
be used as an explanatory device as to why or why people do not go online
in the first place.  Such an explanation spirals away from the correlated
question of how do people obtain this consciousness, or not obtain it?
How is consciousness formed or bestowed: naturally? in the context of the
consciousness formed by other media?  or by the nature of what is going
on in the communities socially, culturally, and economically.  In
unfolding and getting at even as transcendental an explanation as this, a
deeper investigation of the social and cultural communities themselves is
called for.


                        Ethnographic Analysis
                The Telegraph in the Community - Part II 
                The Rural Community and the New Medium

   Despite its interest in regional economic development, the Telegraph
appears to have not yet to make any specific efforts to become a service
to the ranchers themselves.  The 'RuralNet' proposal, authored by Dave
Hughes, Frank Odasz, and Gordon Cook (cf. Odasz 1989b) speaks of merging
the interests of the educational, business, and civic cultures in rural
society for economic and social development.  However, they have failed
to adequately take into account that the business community cannot be so
easily condensed into one entity.  The business ventures that they speak
of seem to represent more of the interests of the small towns,
interested in tourism and attracting new industries, than of the ranchers
and farmers.  Could the ranching 'partition' gradually develop as a
conference out of a general business partition?

   In general, as might be expected, I found that few ranchers knew about
either the Telegraph or computer conferencing in general, unless they
were on the school board and had learned about it from the teacher there,
or from their kids who were in school.  And even if the School Board had
to approve the expense of the connection to the Telegraph after an
initial free period, still the expense was so small that the Board did
not feel they had to become too involved in knowing all the details.
There did not appear to be many general media representations or
narratives about CMC either.  Where ranchers had heard about it, or when
they were first trying to understand the Telegraph or computer
communication and conferencing, almost always its image was quickly
conflated with that of 'computers' in general, and with the more general
computational model of computers.  This computational model sees
computers as time saving devices in the computing, storing, and
manipulation of data, especially in the West, data about ranch or farm
finances and resources.  Computers were not seen as communicational
devices.

   With the issue of computer communication quickly seen as a question of
'computers' and not of 'communications,' an array of relatively
established attitudes and narratives became manifest.  The concern for
'independence,' manifested itself as a worry about becoming dependent in
their daily work on any new devices which they could not fix.  There was
also a concern about losing older, more useful skills in the face of a
limited, fragile few.  One more colorful example of this comes from a
rancher in Wisdom:

   Technology's great if you happen to have somethin' to
   go with it.  You still gotta have some brains.  The
   fuckin' world ain't going to run on buttons.  Some-
   body's gotta dig the post holes, and plant the
   corn....  When we got the road built, then it will be
   fine, but we haven't got the road built yet.

For some, then, new technology is seen as a new dependence. Elsewhere
the computer screen itself is associated with TV, and hence with a kind
of cultural dependence.  If someone can play music, why simply listen to
it on the radio:

   I mean, if we've got a golden ear, we've gotta figure
   somethin' out, ourselves.  Let's not wait for some
   shows on the fuckin' screen. Let's be able... I mean
   its nice to have the choice to do it on the screen. 
   It's wonderful.  And I think it's great. But what I'm
   saying let's don't depend on that sonafabitch screen. 
   What I'm saying, let's be able to do this for our-
   selves.  You understand what I'm sayin'?

As Shoshona Zuboff (1988) has noted in her study of the introduction of
information technology into the work environment, there is a decided fear
that with this new dependence on a few new devices will come a loss of
old skills:

   Like I say, my grandkids... course they live in a
   different environment, but, shit, they know two
   things.  They know them computers and baseball....
   yeah, they couldn't load a twenty-two rifle or kill
   the gopher, or pound a nail, or, well they just can't! 
   And who's goin' to drive the nail and [garbled] to
   build the house, you see.  The computer isn't going to
   do it. I mean it's fine to know how to punch the
   button to tell you where to drive the nail, but you
   have to know how to drive it after the computer tells
   you how.

Another rancher said in another colorful exaggeration that he didn't want
to be dependent on the calculator industry.  Even in the citations above,
there is an implicit acceptance of the introduction of computers and
associated mechanisms.  However, the concept of 'work saving' must be
balanced against being truly 'productive' in the long run.

   In the end, this appeared as a case of exaggerated, acted out
skepticism since all the ranchers accepted, as was examined above, that
the Big Hole Valley was changing.  They said they were willing to learn
new things to keep up with these changes.  They had no choice they felt.
They had seen too many of their fellow ranchers go out of business, some
for changing their businesses too fast, others for changing it too
slowly.

   When I asked about whether they were going to be learning about
computer conferencing, the topic generally shifted to computers, and then
to their children:

   Maybe,  I don't know. it'll be a long time coming. 
   Older ranchers I suppose are like I am, with the
   knowledge of computers.  These younger kids that are
   coming back from school now will be computer oriented. 
   Like the kids here, they're starting out right away,
   first and second grade. They'll be more at home with
   them.  When you start getting those kids back into
   ranching there will be naturally a lot more use. Older
   ranchers right now are probably too busy to learn
   about them and don't have the interest.  And don't
   have the knowledge to get into anything like that.

   I'm sure that it is something that will be increasing.

When I asked about the extent of computer use among the parents, the
teachers felt that there were few users and reported that a number of the
parents had in fact joked that they were waiting for their children to
learn about things computers (and related activities like being online)
so that then they would in turn learn about it from them.

   For the few computers that I did find in the field, the two most
common initial uses as might be expected were accounting and word
processing.  Jody Webster of the Women's Resource Center had noted that
it was often the wives who had traditionally done the accounting for the
household, and that they were often the ones to argue for getting
computers in the first place.  The other common route of word processing
also served to initiate the families into other uses, migrating to other
uses such as households finance, children's entertainment, the same as
probably occurred in most American families.  When it came to being
taught how to use them, or who corrected their mistakes many of the
ranchers cited grown children, their spouses, or other family members
that had taught them.  The difference here from many other families is
that usually there was no computer supply store for hundreds of miles
around, no salesperson that could stop by easily, no school nearby with
night classes, few friends who had computers, and little exposure to them
even in the retail stores in town.

   The communities in the small towns in the Big Hole Valley, as well
along the Red Rock River to the south of Dillon (Dell, Lima), and nearby
(Polaris, Alder, Twin Bridges, Sheridan) did not appear to have much
acquaintance with the idea of computer networking or the Big Sky
Telegraph, unless they had learned about it via some pathway leading
usually to the children at school (their own, a friends, etc.).  This is
not hard to fathom, as there were few public computer bulletin boards
operating in all of Montana, or in nearby Idaho or Wyoming.  Mike
Jatczynski, a forest ranger stationed now in Dillon had recently set up a
second computer bulletin board in Dillon called Montana Gold
(1-406-683-6285), but it was still little known, had little traffic, and
only some 30 users (including myself), all of whom, as far as I could
determine from reading their online list of users at Montana Gold, were
also on Big Sky Telegraph.

   There was a half dozen or so specialty computer bulletin boards
elsewhere in Montana, but they tended to be located in the larger cities,
such as Missoula, home of the University of Montana, Hellena, the state
capital, Billings, or in Bozeman. I was told that the computers at the
University of Montana still tended towards the older large main frame,
centralized style of computing, and therefore did not encourage its users
to learn about the velocity of information exchange occurring online.
One board called BikeNet in Missoula (1-406-549-1318) has maintain a
national presence as a well known bicycle oriented board by using the
FidoNet amateur network.  While some users could call Montana directly,
most would have their messages relayed to it via FidoNet. (6)  A number
of other boards have appeared only to disappear not to soon after.  One
computer BBS called HomePort BBS was run from over a gun shop in the
small northern Montana town of Poplar, Montana.  It ran on an almost
improbably powerful machine for that part of the world, 386 computer, at
33 mhz, with co-processors and a cache, making it more powerful in terms
of processing speed than Big Sky Telegraph itself (demonstrating that the
physical components of the Telegraph are not beyond the reach of many
communities!).  After a few months, however, this board lapsed into
dormancy.

   The online world out in Montana has gradually been changing.  I did
hear stories of a number of people who had moved into the state with
relatively advanced computer networking skills, and were now trying to
work at home for example.  I was told by Helen Andres, a historian in
Dillon, about Dan Andrus who had moved to Montana with his wife and
children on account of his allergies and had set himself up in the rural
site of Melrose, near Glendale.  As Helen Andres put it, Dan already had
some "computer skills" and could, as he had told her, work anywhere.  She
believed that he was using a modem to keep in touch with people.
However, she admitted that she liked to tell this story "since it's so
unusual."  Another more notable case is that of Dave Martin in Deer
Lodge, MT who had set up a nation wide recreational data base on the
CompuServe network.  This effort had proved so phenomenally successful,
he had had to buy a much larger computer (a 'mini' computer as opposed to
the desktop or laptop 'micro'), and hire a permanent staff.  As Frank
Odasz put it, Dave Martin was an information pioneer in Montana.

   The problem is that cases like these are hard to find out about.
Being online doesn't leave any obvious trace in one's everyday
activities, and thus more and more people can be going online unbeknownst
to one another.  An underground 'Survivalist' group just over the Idaho
border near Pocatello probably has a computer network operating since
that has been the pattern of a number of other survivalist groups (eg.,
Ken's Survivalists' BBS in St. Louis, 314-821-2815, 8N1, 3/12/2400 baud).
The only person in the area who was selling or servicing computers in the
Dillon area, and might be in a position to estimate the extent of
computer penetration, was just starting out (enthusiastically, I might
add, 813-683-6179), and still got much of his own preliminary hardware
and software via mail order.  The few other people who had their own
computers, and didn't get them mail order, went to the Computer World
shop in Bozeman, quite a distance away.

   The exceptional, and in some ways exemplary rancher who was online,
and used networking extensively was John Morse, the ranch manager at the
Japanese owned Zenchiku Ranch.  Although his father had been a medical
doctor in Billings, the family had taken an interest in ranching, and for
a number of years had had their own ranch not far from Dillon.  Even at
that time Morse was known for using a number of very innovative
techniques, and had, I believe been online at that time.  However, with
the downturn in land prices at the beginning of the 1980s, Morse had
found himself overextended and lost his ranch.  He was later to be hired
to run a ranch that a Japanese firm had bought during the late 1980s.
Both the size of this ranch, also known as the old Selkirk ranch, and
consisting of the 'whole side of a mountain' near Dillon, and the fact
that it had been bought by the Japanese made it unusual.  I was told that
their were a few other, smaller Japanese investment properties in the
area, but that this was the one which they were using to 'test' the
waters.  They had bought the property so that they could provide 'hormone
free,' lean meat directly to Japan.

   Given the backing of their capital, Morse was able to not only keep in
constant touch with Japan via modem, he was able to expand his operations
to Malaysia and other areas around the Pacific rim, apparently offering
managerial advice, as well as coordinating his activities online with the
rest of the group around the rim.  Since the Japanese way of business has
been to 'make good neighbors,' and to encourage friendship with their
business associates, they have been quite open about their operations at
the old Selkirk ranch.  While I was in Dillon, John Morse in association
with the Beaverhead Chamber of Commerce, gave a presentation entitled,
"Report to the Community," which I attended.  During it, he outlined the
progress of the ranch, and presented a 25 minute video about the Zenchiku
(in Japanese) which had aired on Japanese television in 1989.  The video
featured scenes of Dillon, its people, the surrounding area, a "rancher
round up," and the sometimes hilarious adventures of two Japanese
office workers who had been tapped to become 'ranch trainees' in Montana.
The presentation, which stressed more the fact that the ranch had been
bought by the Japanese than any particular technical innovation was well
received by those who attended.


                        Ethnographic Analysis
              The Telegraph in the Community - Part III 
          Telegraphing Groups Among the Municipal Community

   Big Sky Telegraph had already begun to overtly reach out to become
more a part of the business and civic communities in Western Montana
during the time of this study, trying to explore ways of connected with
both the economic and health care development on the region, and it was
clear that it would continue to do so.  As was explained above, because
of the flexibility of the actual conferencing software, simultaneous
'partitions' or bulletin boards can be established online independently
of one another.  One of the first such partitions to be established for
the business community, was seen as potentially including the
agricultural community.  Among the groups which were represented online
were, as was mentioned above, the 7 county Headwaters Resource,
Conservation, and Development Group, which tended to specialize in
economic development; the Agricultural Incubator without Walls Project,
several Women's centers state wide, and so on.

   There had apparently been more initial enthusiasm for the project than
during when I was doing more research.  As Jody Webster of the Women's
Resource Center replied when I asked her about when and why she first
went online at Big Sky Telegraph:

   when I saw that the teachers were online... and there
   are two teachers in Madison county, and there were
   five or six that were pretty active in Beaverhead
   county, I saw this as another way to do outreach. Not
   to replace the outreach- we don't do enough as it is-
   but, I thought this would be another in addition, too.

   I didn't work out quite the way I had it planned.  I
   know, Willard, everybody's busy, but I did have one
   teacher, where it kind of worked the way that I
   thought that it would.  She had a single parent that
   had concerns.  And she said could you get this
   information back to me by Friday, by Parent-Teacher
   day, so that worked.  And that's they way, part of the
   way I had pictured it working. 

   Otherwise I saw it as a way to put out information so
   that people would know what different programs we do
   have going on, up to date, and... and maybe they would
   share it, the ripple effect.  Maybe you are the
   teacher, and you need it and you would go home and
   tell your spouse about it or you tell your sister
   about it.  You know, just little things like that.

   But it hasn't worked as strongly as I had wanted it
   to, that way.  That was one of the initial reasons.

Other administrators echoed this sentiment.  They had hoped to use this
online medium to extend their out reach programs, but had found that it
was not achieving the penetration they had desired.  Failing this, they
continued with their traditional means of outreach, whatever they might
have been.  Frank Odasz wished that some of these individuals who had
initially expressed such interest would stay in more direct contact,
instead of, as happened in a number of cases, using their secretaries to
see if their were any new online messages for them.  The secretaries were
continuing to serve traditional roles as information intermediaries.  The
disappointment lay in the fact that where secretaries were introduced
into the chain of communication, there could be lost immediate input back
into the medium.

   One crucial factor which might be identified here is the problem of
critical mass.  'Critical mass' is a concept that has been used for a
long time in connection with computer mediated conferencing (Hiltz &
Turoff 1978; Hiltz 1984; Steinfield & Fulk 1988; cf. Mueller 1989).  The
problem is that people won't join a new medium unless there are other
people to communicate with, but if they don't join, then other people
won't have anyone to communicate with, and they in turn won't join.  The
way to break out of the vicious circle is to devise some way to get a
minimum number of people to join, to become active in the medium so that
other people in turn will want to join.  As has been said about the
telephone, with each new user on the telephone network, the value of the
network as a whole increases.  The minimum number of people needed to
make the reaction, the desire to join the network self-sustaining has
been called the 'critical mass.'

   Since the Telegraph was in its infancy, it was still getting to point
of critical mass.  Many of the services were indeed being offered online,
but inconsistently, although there were a few exceptions.  Special indi-
viduals like Jody Webster continued to plug away to answer questions, to
encourage people.  Much of her outreach still took place over the
telephone, in courses she set up, at the Center, or in visiting people as
well.  Others were more reticent.  The director of the Agricultural
Incubator would post her monthly field schedule on the Telegraph, but did
not appear to be overly active online.  When I questioned her about this
she replied, "It needs more than just a few people.  On the regional
network right now there are not enough people to make it worth while, for
those who use it."

   A second problem with getting more municipal level and business
involvement with the Telegraph was a technical one, which might have been
fixed most any time, but never was.  As was explained above, there can be
a number of different 'partitions' on the Big Sky Telegraph, the
Telegraph itself properly being only the rural educational partition.
It is only in either the online notices, or in the offline public
literature (which I only saw during hands-on lectures by individuals
connected with the Telegraph), that one learned that there were other
options one could choose.  When one first connects to the Big Sky
Telegraph at the time of my research one was faced with the following
prompt: Type 'bbs' in lower case bigsky!login: The problem was that if
you took the advice, indeed the apparent command and typed bbs, then one
immediately entered the Big Sky Telegraph partition which was devoted to
the rural teaching community.  At that time, one could type at this login
prompt, 'hrn' to get into the business partition.  Now consider a rancher
or business person who had never before been on the system, and who had
little experience with computer mediated conferencing anyway.  Given the
instructions to type, bbs, most would, and would then suddenly find
themselves, uncomfortably for many, on a rural teacher's network.  If
they did find the right login command in the initial bulletins, they
would still have to disobey the initial injunctive.  For those who had a
personal login, either by having paid $10 a month, or having been of
special help to the Telegraph, they would get the approximately the
following screen:

   Type 'bbs' in lower case
   bigsky!login: willard
   Password:

   Make yourself right at home, the company is casual,
   but polite.


                      BIG SKY'S MAIN STREET
   1)Rural Teachers' Resource Services
   2)Headwaters Regional Network
   3)Community Support Services
   4)AKCS - Advanced Global Conferencing, members only.
   5)Logoff from this system (hangup)


   Since the 'default' board was still the "Rural Teachers' Resource
Services BBS," the overall board appeared to be dominated by and directed
to the symbolic presence of the teaching community.  A number of people I
talked with complained about this problem.  For example, for a while,
there was a paid classified ad section in the "Community Support Services
BBS" section.  The problem was the number of steps one would have had to
go through to even get to that section!  The solution to this problem
would have been to find some way to include this Main Street menu at the
initial login prompt.  The general proposition here is that if there are
too many intervening steps between the initial login and the information
one desires, there will be an attrition in individuals using the system.


                         Ethnographic Analysis
                The Telegraph in the Community - Part IV
         Crossing Borders: Collaborators, Outsiders, and Power

   The following section will briefly consider something of the broader
context into which the Telegraph as a whole might fit.  I will consider
primarily forces immediately 'connected' with the Telegraph, but we must
realize that at this interfacial level Big Sky Telegraph becomes a
different kind of commodity than it had been before- it begins to acquire
a new range of semiotic values and abstractive qualities which attract
and repel a new range of narratives and ideological allegiances, and so
begins to play in even more complex environment of capital, politics, and
imagination.  It is impossible, therefore, to identify all the different
circles into which the Telegraph as imago is drawn, except as these
involvements become public and explicit.  I will, however, begin to make
a preliminary assessment of some of the trends.

   Despite its relative youth at the time of my research in  Fall, 1988,
Big Sky Telegraph had already apparently reached one stage of success.
It was becoming known both to the outside world as showing the
possibility of a grassroots intercommunication and had generated interest
among people concerned with the cause of rural development.  According
to Frank Odasz and Dave Hughes, the initial reaction to the project by
potential sponsors and by other people acquainted with rural information
projects was apparently fairly negative and skeptical.  One such project,
according to them, consisted of a regional multi-state library effort
attempting to link six regional, multi-state libraries to an online
computer for the support of rural education.  The initial grant
application to US West was nearly turned down in this context as an even
more underfunded project than the previous library scheme, a scheme that
had burned such people as John Maki, the Beaverhead county extension
agent in Dillon.  However, Dave Hughes concluded, "no one bothered to
start with the substantive material that would be delivered.  The
'system' was everything."  It is unclear just how prominent this failure
really was, since I have not had a chance to talk to any of the other
funding agencies, but the sense of the outside perspective was, as
presented by Odasz and Hughes, that if a well endowed computer aided
project failed, why should one which demanded so much less money, and
which did not official computer experts actually succeed.

   However, despite allegedly dire predictions, the Big Sky Telegraph
system maintained its vitality.  Frank Odasz' 'demonstration' to 15 'key'
members of the Montana Governor's Task Force on Telecommunications was
apparently well received.  When the two major candidates for Governor
in 1988 were in the region, they stopped by, and soon began to laud this
initiative as being very significant, and began to wonder why larger
institutions like the University of Montana with its large computers
weren't doing something like this.  Big Sky Telegraph evoked images with
strong political themes or hooks: high technology, education, family,
grassroots, and a kind of rugged, popular, local individualism.  One of
the gubernatorial candidates was apparently so impressed by the
demonstration, or by the idea of it, that he "broke three later
appointments to stay and absorb what was going on, online!  Then at a
dinner that night [he] praised Big Sky, which was echoed by all the
subsequent speakers, while the [Western Montana] College President
beamed." [Hughes 1988a: Metanet 153:303].

   In so far as the Telegraph is successful, it begins also to acquire
the 'critical mass' to get other groups involved, groups that might have
in fact wanted to start up their own computer conferencing system.  As
Hughes later reports, "according to Frank... there were some hunched down
college presidents in the audience when the Governor's Candidate at
dinner asked 'Why aren't all the Montana Colleges doing this?" (Hughes
1988a: Metanet 288:3).  It is one of the paradoxes of the online
environment that a local group at one of the other Colleges could set up
their own network, and then have its messages ported or sent to the
Telegraph, much as content on public broadcasting stations can be
produced by member stations.  A somewhat moribund agricultural network at
Northern Montana University ("they didn't look to needs" F. Odasz) can be
swung back into orbit by getting some of the message flows and increasing
general computer networking skills and direction from the Telegraph,
inviting new kinds of collaboration.

   Nor was the apparent success of the system lost on US West itself.  As
the Regional Bell Operating Company (RBOC), one of the 7 "Baby Bell"
companies created by the divestiture of AT&T in 1982, US West was left
with some of largest operation problems.  While it might appear that
having the largest land coverage of any of the Baby Bells was an
advantage, in fact this has meant that on average each new subscriber
would need wires strung out over a greater distance.  New subscribers to
the overall telco network thereby are costing US West on average more
than in any of the other RBOCs.  This in turn has led US West to consider
more creatively new ways to justify any line expansion.  One such way is
to introduce information services over the their lines.

   One consideration which must be taken into account while examining
just how US West sees Big Sky Telegraph, is Judge Greene's March 1989
revaluation of the Modified Final Judgement which allows the RBOCs the
opportunity to create information highways, now called gateways.
BellSouth opened its first gateway in Atlanta November 1988, and both
PacBell (through San Francisco) and US West (in Denver) have begun their
final stages in organizing their gateways.  Bell of Pennsylvania opened
its gateway in Philadelphia in January 1989.  This is only a small
accounting of the many gateways in operation or about to begin operation.
Clearly US West would see such an expansion as part of the next phase in
the integration of information services and telecommunications, and Big
Sky Telegraph was not only a proto-typical information 'gateway' it was
one that has been obtained a degree of local success.

   As early as 1988, Big Sky Telegraph figured in both US West's 1988
Annual Report, as well as in their corporate magazine.  When I talked to
the head of the Educational Programs for US West, their general funding
agency, Tony Seese-Pieda of Denver, Co spoke highly of just how quickly
and effectively he saw the Telegraph expanding.  He also mentioned his
interest in the ways in which the Telegraph was beginning to merge the
Educational, Business, and Civic communities.  He spoke of their
billion dollar capital investments fund which US West has in reserve for
US West's own investment portfolio, ready for most kinds of investment,
'provided that they don't contravene Judge Greene's telco line of
business restrictions,' as well as 20 million dollars designated for
local economic and social development.

   While it lies outside of my immediate research time frame, just as I
was leaving Western Montana in November 1989, US WEST granted the
Telegraph $250,000 expansion grant (from the second fund noted above) to
be used to provide circuit riders to go into the communities, new
equipment in the field, to better support the Telegraph's administrative
staff, to provide the ability for the Big Sky Telegraph project to
include more business, social, and educational projects, and to further
consolidate the extension of the project into Wyoming, Colorado and
Idaho.  Even still, US West has said, according to Frank Odasz, that this
was to be their only funding of a large BBS system.  Perhaps this
appeared to them as a proto-rural information gateway, the kind of
gateway which the telephone company itself could administer, and the idea
of funding many small conferencing and communication systems, in which
many individuals would provide their own services seemed to lead the
process out of their hands.

   Finally, a survey of the broader connections to the Big Sky Telegraph
cannot overlook that the Telegraph has assumed a virtual place in a realm
loosely designated by William Gibson (1984) as Cyberspace.  While this
term is coming to signify visual and tactile, three dimensional
interfaces as well as the verbal (cf. Benedikt 1990), it is still meant
to include a metaphoric, visual resonance of this 'immense region of
virtual meeting places,' an electronic intermediated network consisting
of "thousands of nodes in the United States, ranging from PC clone
hamlets of a few users to mainframe metros like CompuServe, with its
550,000 subscribers.  They are used by corporations to transmit memoranda
and spreadsheets, universities to disseminate research, and a multitude
of factions, from apiarist to Zoroastrians, for purposes unique to each."
(Barlow 1990).  The Telegraph had and is still becoming a destination of
sorts, reachable by a variety of electronic highways and pathways.

   The Telegraph was already linked to the international UUCP Unix
Network, a network with some 9,700 hosts on 5 continents, and an
estimated 265,000 users (Todino 1988; Quarterman 1988:91), a system over
twice the size of the 'academic' BitNet/Internet network.  At the time of
the research, such a connection consisted mostly e-mail traffic since
access was confined to more advanced levels of the Telegraph.  A FidoNet
node, called TinySky and gated to Big Sky Telegraph would be introduced
later.  And of course there was always direct dial connection.  Not only
did the Telegraph accept and send traffic from the Network, it also came
to represent something about telecommunications and rural development.  A
number of large computer nodes around the country discussed its progress,
a real experiment unfolding virtual connections worldwide.

                      *************************

                          - Chapter 7 -

          Conclusion: The Changing Technoscape - Part I
                 Changing Cultural Flows

   The Big Sky Telegraph, then, fits into and acts on a profound set of
social, cultural, and economic relationships, and to understand how a
new 'technology' enfolds and is redefined, anticipated, and postponed
involves unpacking these relationships.  It has been the intention of
this research to provide a general strategy more advanced than the
traditional 'diffusion of innovations' paradigm with its simple
narratives of introduction, testing, and rejection/acceptance.  The
'global cultural flows' paradigm augmented by specifications in the
analysis of the technoscape elicits a variety of new ways to assess these
interrelationships.

   In terms of the ethnoscape, one of the most profound aspects of change
in Western Montana, which was almost always referred to first by long
time residents of the state, and has been explored above, was the
diaspora of people from Montana.  Inversely, this generated the desire to
find ways to capture new jobs, both to keep children in the state, as
well as to provide new wealth for those already there.  In so far as the
Telegraph is seen as addressing this issue, and it certainly has tried to
in its business portion, it found at least qualified support even from
the most conservative elements of the population I interviewed.  One of
the more compelling images beginning to be elaborated among supporters of
the Telegraph is, in the words of such popular writings like those of
Toffler (1980 & 1990) or Naisbitt (1984) that of the 'Electronic
Cottage.'  With the Electronic Cottage, individuals can work at home and
commute electronically to where their services of expertise might be
needed.  When I raised the issues of dangers of spread of underpaid piece
work (cf. Robins & Webster 1988), I was told by Jody, Frank, and others
of the 'municipal intentional change agent' categories that the first
order of the day was to get more jobs, and that the fight for adequate
compensation would just have to be part of that struggle.

   At the same time the physical beauty of the place continues to attract
new people into the region.  As Jody Webster said, people are will to
exchange "wages for life style."  Along with this tentative influx of
people comes new skills and this introduces new interdependencies into
the technoscape.  As we saw above, one new tenants to the region who came
to Montana on account of allergies has apparently continued to do his
work online.  The beauty of the land, and the abundance of game and fish,
campsites and wilderness trails also brings in a seasonal flux of
tourists.  One of the first attempts of the Big Sky to set up a separate
partition, or quasi-independent BBS, was to provide a tourism oriented
exchange center.  In it hotel operators and trail guides could give
rates, tourists could give reviews, and tourist agencies and operators
could provide an ongoing calendar of events for the region.  Different
from a normal travel agency, the idea was that a tourism BBS could act as
a cooperative, with many people sharing information.  In the end the
problem of critical mass intervened and the space, while still present,
has gone into dormancy: not enough people knew the number or could reach
it yet.  Once again, however, we have a change in the technoscape, in the
development of online conferencing and the development of databases,
being used to take advantage of, to consolidate, changes in the
ethnoscape.

   The regional finanscape follows a similar trend.  We have seen in the
sections above, an increasing investment by outside interests in the
resources of Montana, for example in the Zenchiku ranch outside of
Dillon.  With that investment has come an interest in maintaining close
informational and managerial ties with rural localities, and this has
apparently introduced an improved acquaintance with information
technologies, such as networking and financial accounting practices.
Along with this has come the desire to have a work force with competent
information processing skills.  Whether this will lead to an increasingly
subservient role of local investment properties, and the exploitation of
piece workers, as critics on the left would probably argue, or whether
new information skills could lead to an increasing regional empowerment
as it learns to manage global networking access and increasing
dis-intermediation from middle people in reaching global markets is far
from settled.

   New information skills leads also to new consumption of information
products, and it has not been surprising, of course, that US West has
shown increasing interest and support for the Big Sky Telegraph.  As was
argued above, US West could foresee expansion of the Telegraph as part of
the next phase in its integration of information services and
telecommunications, with Big Sky Telegraph serving not only a
proto-typical information 'gateway,' but as having already successfully
settled on and expanding in, valuable information real estate.  Even if
US West does not end up with some kind of de facto control over a
Telegraph rethought as a gateway, it stands to gain from the increasing
viability of regional businesses, educational projects and
institutions, and their new habits of information consumption.  An
official with US West said to me that whether or not US West itself
became value added information provider, it stood to gain from greater
business stability and information traffic.  He admitted that this was
why US West was willing to invest in local projects which were not
immediately related to information 'services.'  With the acceleration and
increasing density of business and personal transactions will increase
the traffic and necessity for and revenue from telecommunications.

   The interrelation of the media and ideoscapes to the Telegraph and its
reconfiguration of the technoscape is not as obvious.  One of the
problems discussed above was the lack of a viable image which captured
and expressed something of the nature of networking to people who were
not already familiar with it.  Being online is not at all captured by the
image advertised by Sear's Prodigy information service of a middle
american mom or pop surprised and happy at the ease with which they can
make airline reservations over the telephone using their computer screen.
Most people, myself included, would just as soon use the telephone, or
talk to a travel agent for more complicated travel agendas.  Being online
is still a craft that it is generally taught one-to-one.  As always,
there are a few souls who, like amateur ham radio users, feel challenged
to pioneer a new form of communication.  However, as yet, there is no
obvious momentum driving the average non-users to go to the book store to
pick up a book on electronic networking.  Those that do often already
have computers and are trying to find some way to find additional uses
for it.  Only in a few instances, such as the Grateful Dead conference on
the WELL in San Francisco, have online forums proved so compelling, and
unavailable in any other medium, that they obliged interested people to
go out and buy computers and/or a modem, and to get linked up.

   The promoters of this new form of communication, this new
configuration of the technoscape, have not been afraid to employ powerful
images and narratives from the media- and ideoscapes.  The mythos of
'electronic democracy,' for example has been particularly powerful, as it
was with the telephone before it, and with other new means of
communication before even the telephone, using what James Carey has
called the rhetoric of the 'technological sublime' (Carey 1989a. cf. Pool
1983; Staudenmaier 1985; Marvin 1988).  Says the anonymous 'Rough Writer'
in an essay found in the Telegraph files section:

   Just what is this mystical power of "being online"? It is something
   that must be experienced directly to be understood. One person cannot
   give his wings to another in this regard. It is for each of us to take
   this experiential step toward a true, global, participatory democracy.
   Being "online" means it is now possible for each of us to have a
   meaningful impact toward effecting positive change. The humblest of
   messages can be heard around the world.

   The rules change when information technology allows convenient
electronic mail access to elected representatives. Instant access to
legislative updates means near immediate response to actions on the floor
by the representative...who formerly had only his voting record, after
the fact, to defend.

And so on.  As Carey notes, "Despite the manifest failure of technology
to resolve pressing social issues over the last century, contemporary
intellectuals continue to see revolutionary potential in the latest
technological gadgets that are pictured as a force outside history and
politics... In modern futurism, it is the machines that possess
teleological insight. Despite the shortcomings of town meetings,
newspaper, telegraph, wireless, and television to create the conditions
of a new Athens, contemporary advocates of technological liberation
regularly describe a new postmodern age of instantaneous daily
plebiscitory democracy through a computerized system of electronic voting
and opinion and polling." (Carey 1989b:192).

   The point is not to dismiss computer networking as not being an
empowering technology, and one that will have a decided impact on the
nature of democracy- however, as Carey and other have examined, such
change will not occur by virtue of something intrinsic to one medium or
another, but in terms of the social conditions out which these
technologies are used.  Where new access has opened up to people, new
means and designs of privacy and control have likewise been formulated.
And where one party with less power has seen the new technology as a
means to gain access to those with more power, often a new technology
comes to be used by those with more power as a means of intrusive access
to those who previously had had more privacy.  Put imperatively, it would
appear the most aware position is not to simply dismiss or accept a new
technology on its own terms, but to insist on renewed vigilance on how
the terms of access are being changed.  While the potential of computer
networking for 'electronic democracy' have not yet been realized, neither
have the premonitions of the 'electronic nightmare' been fully realized
either. (Wicklein 1979; however, Uncapher 1991)  The stress on different
aspects and potentials of a communication technology occur within
configurations of the social context, a social context which this
research has sought to investigate.


           Conclusion: The Changing Technoscape - Part II
                         Changing Definitions

   When I asked each of the 12 groups what they thought of the potential
problems of surveillance and socially incongruous online meetings between
people, the problem was usually dismissed.  It was felt that either the
medium had not progressed far enough for such dangers to be a problem
yet.  What might be the occupational problems of having the school
superintendent online along side teachers who were revealing their
problems and misunderstandings? I had the feeling that I was also
defining the problem for the first time, designating the categories I was
then trying to interpret.

   For those who had been on the Telegraph saw it as a cooperative, and
issues of internal conflicts were considered premature.  While Frank
Odasz admitted that if the County Superintendent of Education were to
finally come online, there might be fewer public exchanges on some
issues, he felt that the problems would be out weighed by the positive
benefits of more direct and constant communication.  Others echoed this
position.  One teacher, who had come to Montana from another state,
suggested to me that the Telegraph could be used to unionize the
teachers, an intriguing idea!  She pointed out that the teachers only
made from 11 to 13 thousand dollars a year.  The low wages, she said,
stemmed from the fact that the teachers could never act together.  Here
was a very interesting issue.  If the teachers began to unionize over the
Telegraph, would the school board which granted a de facto permission to
join still be so supportive?

   I brought this issue up with several teachers, 'intentional change
agents,' women's organizers, and others who were comfortable online.
Their answers revealed unresolved issues.  They did not seem
particularly worried with online organizing jeopardizing offline
cooperation.  Said Frank, referring to a paper I had written on the
relation of social and communication change in Iran:

   And as the 1880s telegraph provided a market for Mullah
   opinions [in Iran], so could the 1980 Telegraph provide,
   or redefine the political structure of education in Montana.
   Yeah, I think that potential exists.

   And so I wonder sociologically how to really get
   people to take notice of Telegraph and particularly of
   the advantages it offers.  And there are a number of
   different tacks along the lines of that rural teacher
   network, legal services banding together.  I could see
   where that [would be] the reason for teachers getting
   on telegraph...  Is it that they are forming a legal
   services group to protect rural teachers from getting
   screwed.  Or something like that.

   The theme of rally together- nothing works better in a
   diffuse system than a crisis. And that's why many wars
   have been created because [someone] falsely accuses
   somebody else as being the enemy because their power
   is weakening and they know that as soon as there's a
   common enemy people will rally together.  And that
   gives them a pivot point to strengthen their own
   political views.  So, with Telegraph the way to make
   people really rally around it is to identify a common
   enemy or need or problem.  And then let that become
   the focus.

Are we then to forge ahead, letting the chips fall where they may?  But
then Frank goes on to admit that the teacher's position is tenuous, and
that they will not want to have open conflicts with the board or the
community:

   WU:
   If they're empowering themselves, and using it for
   recourse for legal services, then it seems like it
   won't be the 'official' system, but it might be a more
   unofficial one the teachers are using to get in
   contact with each other.

   FO:
   I definitely picked up a lot of hesitancy.  Teachers
   are cagey about the school board.  When they decide
   that you're going to be asked to stay, they come back
   next year.  And there are a lot of things which do go
   wrong in rural communities and anybody that's been a
   rural teacher for a year knows that.  They've seen
   people take the fall. 

   So, something like, 'the school board not really
   comfortable with the long distance.'It's like, 'You're
   right, Frank, you may be right, but if my school board
   doesn't see it, I'm not going to be the one to put my
   head on the line,' on the chopping block, just to say
   what's right.  'What's right may be right, but I don't
   want to lose my job, being the one to say it, but
   that's not what they [the school board] want to hear.


The problem of controversy was seen as an online problem which has the
potential to actually create the critical mass necessary to get the
system as a whole moving!  If there is to be a problem, the argument
went, let's *have* the problem, and deal with its consequences.  Others,
among them the 'intentional change agents' realized that there were many
potential conflicts.  The resolution of this paradox went unresolved.

   In its way, then, this kind of unresolved paradox ran through most of
the definitions and assessments of what being online might mean, and what
the Big Sky Telegraph was all about.  As I went to the different social
groups and tried to elicit responses on similar potential online
conflicts as a way to get at how the telegraph as a tool was being
understood, I found that my initial hypothesis that the social conflicts
would intervene in how the new medium was defined was not particularly
operational, in part because the social tensions offline were not as
polarized as I might have expected.  The ranchers seemed willing to learn
from the teachers, although often it seemed that the information might
have to go along some indirect pathway, such as via the children, so as
to avoid embarrassment of trying to do something new such as working with
the computer and the network, and not being able to manage it well.

   Where the individual had not been online, the Telegraph was quickly
conflated with other technologies or more general skills.  Whenever I
talked about the computer mediated communication, especially with Ran-
chers, the conversation would quickly turn to the more general topic of
computers, or even the still more general topic of 'button pushers'
(usually only with the oldest ranchers).  Where the new medium was
accepted as an important thing to learn, it was quite often initially
seen as a tool of empowerment.  For individuals like Sue Roden who had a
kind of public access terminal to the Telegraph from her gas station in
Lima, there was hope for a new job, a second income.  When people had
been on the Telegraph for a few months, it was seen more readily in
immediately practical terms.  It could be used to make use of specific
services, such as getting a book or piece of software from the online
circulating library organized by Reggie Odasz.  However, it should be
noted as well that such a stress on 'usefulness' served a strategic
purpose vis-a-vis the school board- these are not teachers who are
wasting their time on some kind of entertainment.

   The ranchers who knew about the telegraph, considered it primarily as
a medium for teachers.  It was phrased as an educational device,
something to do with distance education.  They really had no need to get
in touch with circulating software for kids.  Frank Odasz said that he
had distributed literature about the business uses of the Telegraph in
Wisdom, but that there had been little enthusiasm.  The existing
self-definition of the Telegraph on one level appears to be relatively
open: it is simply a tool for mediated cooperative activities, and
individual access to stored materials.  (Odasz 1989b)  If it is to be
defined as a business tool, a ranching tool, or something in between,
then it would have to, as I have been arguing in the 'theory of media or
technological ecology,' displace similar means of doing the same things.
And since such a shift in practices would involve many new uncertainties,
including the long term stability of the new medium, the nature of its
control, its reliability, the time it would take to learn the necessary
skills, whether there really would be other people online to talk with,
it would demand some real thoughtful consideration before ranchers and
farmers might use it.  Whereas for the promoters of the Telegraph,
shifting its definitional 'mask' from educational to business might be
seen as simply putting business or ranching terms where once there had
been educational or teaching terms, for those in business and
agricultural enterprises, such a redefinition involves a reassessment of
their own daily practices.  Better to leave it as an 'educational'
technology for now, or a 'city' technology (ie. 'button pushers'), until
there is time or clear and present need to make such a reassessment of
practices.

   The politics of definitions is thus intertwined with the ecology of
technological practices.  What kind of tool something is, what kind of
skills it needs, and what kinds of mistakes one might be subject to
making, are all questions which involve not just an assessment of a
'thing' out there, but an assessment of one's self and practices as well.
To shift the limits of whether or not the Telegraph belongs to the
educational or even business communities involves deep issues.  Within
the rural teaching community, computer networking can have a range of
definitional qualities... so long as the Telegraph is seen as a
non-threatening, practical tool with potentially visionary
applications.

   If the way one make one's definitions of things 'out there' reflects
back on one's self assessments, then redefining things involves many of
the deepest forces in one's own psyche.  As runs the classic gnostic
apothegm from the Apocryphal Acts of Peter XX-XXI, 'Talem eum vidi qualem
capere potui' ("I saw him as I was able to receive him"; cf Corbin
1960:91-92).  The 'Theory of Paths,' has already touched on the issue
that access, including access to change itself, must be constructed.  And
the most salient access into the psyche was the issue of self-esteem.

   The question of self-esteem, of the estimation of self, was brought up
many times with people I interviewed.  Developing the skills and
practices involved in using a new tool draws on one's self esteem.  Just
as success can raise one's self-esteem, so failure, or the risk of
embarrassment can serve to lower it.  As Jody Webster at the Women's
Resource Center so admirably put it:

   Some of it is attitude.  All your skills aren't the
   physical skills, like typing or shovelling.  A lot of
   it is  attitudinal skills. [wu: 'social skills...'].
   yeah. communication skills: how to ask for a raise, or
   how to ask for a job or not ask for a raise; the fact
   that you need to sell yourself; the difference between
   self-esteem and conceit.  When I grew up a lot of the
   things would have been immodest or conceited, and now
   you can say the same things in a different way, and
   you are simply letting people know something about
   you.  You didn't say 'I'.

Learning to define something 'out there,' to relate to it, involves
setting up a complex of empowering relationships.  Relating to a
'thing' involves relating to other people as well.  For example, one has
to learn how to ask questions:

   I don't know anyone with too *much* self-esteem.  And
   I think they sometimes don't want to bother anybody. 
   I heard my online students saying that time was such a
   factor.  The closer I got to the problem, and I know
   that Frank and Larry are real encouraging, and they
   know people have to ask questions - they [people
   online] don't know that they need to ask questions. 
   They don't know what question to ask.

The issue of 'computer literacy' or 'network literacy,' then, involves a
lot more than simply learning or not learning a few rules.  It involves
establishing certain kinds of relationships, many of which do not at all
directly relate to the computer, the network, or whatever tool or
practice one is to acquire.  These relationships are bound up in the webs
of power and trust.

   In the rural situation changing these equations and balances of power
and trust, of self-esteem and self-empowerment can involve other
inspiring or explosive situations.  When I asked Frank Odasz about some
of the difficulties I had heard about the roles of women in these rural
areas, he commented:

   There's a lot of wife abuse, violence, real hard luck
   stories, and I run into women with very low self-
   esteem, very often.  And it's kind of strange, because
   I don't get a sense that the men have very high self-
   esteem either.

In a world with so much unforseen displacement, much of the sense of
anxiety can be internalized.  Frank gave his own situation as such an
example:

   And that it's a literacy thing, self-concept, today's
   part in what you know.  I have had a number of people
   who have been my students, that were carpenters and
   could no longer make it as carpenters, so now they are
   driving buses part time, doing things like this...

   When Reggie and I went back to school, I had a UC
   degree in Psychology, but I also had been through oil
   rigs, self-taught carpentry, dude ranching, and, then
   ended up unable to get work in my own home town at the
   age of 30, with all that experience and a four year
   degree.  I could not get work in my own home town. 
   That threatens your ego, pretty seriously!  So with a
   lot of patience I went through a whole master's
   program and then I still couldn't get work.  So I
   spent a whole year in Walden, Colorado with my wife
   supporting me, reading InfoWorld, online with Dave
   Hughes, meditating, expanding my mind...

   All of sudden you have this whole new role to get
   into.  And, so I... it was pretty tough on the self-
   confidence. Course I know, patience always sees you
   through. But it was a real self-confidence issue.  A
   real test for me.  I knew I would make it eventually,
   but I know that a lot of people are in situations that
   are similar, perhaps without the personal resources to
   eventually transcend.

And I met many teachers, for example, who told me more than their share
of real hard luck stories.  One teacher's husband had been blinded in a
mining accident at Anaconda, only to get hardly any compensation from the
mining company.  With their seven children, they then attempted to start
a farm, and the very day of the bringing in the first crops, her husband
died of a heart attack. Even still, she continued to develop those
personal resources 'to eventually transcend.'

   To define something is to set oneself in relationship with that thing.
To define it as approachable, do-able, in turn makes demands on oneself.
I have been arguing that these definitions are not in some Aristotelian
fashion simply attributes of a thing; they are part of what that thing
actually is.  When some intentional change agent comes in from afar with
a new tool, he or she has already mastered a set of skills and attitudes,
not just physical in nature, but experiential and semiotic as well.
Together they will make that tool part of a stable repertoire.  A new
tool or practice arrives with more than one function, and with more than
one result.  To get at these functions and results, it is necessary to
grasp something of the pathways of change, and the technological ecology
into which the thing, skill or practice will come to defined and
redefined.


              Conclusion: The Changing Technoscape - Part III
                         Changing Paths and Roles

   People belong simultaneously to several cultural groups.  A teacher
might belong to a prominent ranching community, be a parent, and have
once had a job in town or another state.  As such the path differentials
between general communities of 'ranchers' and 'teachers' will carry from
one region to the next, depending on the arrangement of these
contingencies.  Even still I found a more open relationship between the
rural teaching and ranching communities than initial impressions might
have indicated.  Still, as neither group was changing much more quickly
than any other, tensions could not be assessed.  Since the Telegraph did
seem to be putting the teachers in the lead in informatizing the
community, their positions had not been overly exposed yet.  Whether this
will change remains to be seen.  As Jody Webster said when I asked about
the potential from problems if the ranchers and farmers had to learn
their skills from the teachers:

   I don't know if that was a concern.  I don't think
   they thought of it that way. I don't think they
   thought of it as empowerment. Probably just because
   they simply didn't have enough information on it, they
   might have said this is not a legitimate expense, or
   whatever.  I don't think they, and I could be wrong, I
   don't think they saw it as an empowerment issue:  "We
   don't want women to have this power, or teachers to
   have this power when the ranchers don't." 
 
   One of the new pathways which appeared to be opening up where ever I
looked was among women, many of the middle aged, and often from different
backgrounds, seeking to empower themselves.  There was a sense that there
were new local organizations still being created.  The last I heard of
Carla Hanson of Dell, she was trying to get people interested in what was
trying to get her friends and acquaintances interested in a 'computer
sewing machine.'  And she and some of the other women with whom I talked
in that area said that they intended to get online sometime soon.

   At other junctures, the pathways appeared blocked, but it was not
clear whether the reasons were structural or social.  For example when I
asked Frank why he didn't send more people beyond the teaching community
to explain the Telegraph and computer networking, he said that he didn't
have the time nor funds to really undertake something like that:

   I haven't gone back and pushed and pushed and pushed
   the one room teachers that did not respond initially. 
   Instead, as soon as I've got a full class, I just
   start teaching those teachers, whether they're from
   two, three, or four room schools or whatever. And
   that's to get the network going.

When it came to talking to ranchers, Frank Odasz said that he had hoped
that some of the other groups in the community, such as at the
Agricultural Incubator Project, the Headwater's Regional Conference, or
eventually the County Extension project would take up some of the load.
Frank Odasz said that when they finally got more grant money, he would
love to send out 'circuit rider.'  Even still he saw these circuit riders
as having the primary mission of getting the teachers online.  I
therefore could not clarify if it was a problem of structural or one of
social distance.

   As it was, technical support in the rural areas came along at best
contingent, unstable pathways.  In Wisdom, some technical computer and
networking help had come from Mike Jaczynski, then in the Wisdom Forest
Rangers office.  He would go over to the school to offer help now and
then.  Another support path lay within the families themselves, primarily
where people had family members who had learned about computers
elsewhere.  The septuagenarian town historian in Dillon, who possessed
the only MacIntosh computer I came across in Western Montana, learned
about them from her son-in-law who sold computers as a living and
recommended them for desktop publishing.  ("But I only had two lessons.
He sells them.  I only called him twice.  And there are some good
books.")

   Along with new technologies, comes new social roles, and new ways for
both the technical system and for the society to reproduce itself.  One
of the original ideas behind introducing the teachers to computer
conferencing was that they in turn, being so centrally located in their
communities, could introduce the rest of the community to new ways of
gathering, processing, and exchanging information and ideas.  Dave Hughes
and others had seen the teachers as being traditional information
resource people in the community.  The problem with this idea was that
implicitly it would invest the already overworked teachers with new
responsibilities.  As Marsha Anson, a minister's wife in Wise River and
who was studying to be a 'school librarian' noted:

   They [the teachers] are overworked to start with, and
   then to become information people for an entire
   community is too much to expect for what they are
   making, and for the time they have.

   The development of the role of 'change agent' involves the evolution
of new patterns of communication, meaning, and domination within the
community.  But lest there be any misunderstanding here, a number of the
teachers with whom I spoke during my research already spoke of them-
selves as embarking on new roles as 'information specialists' to the
whole community.  Many saw their role as informing not just the children,
but the whole community.  I was constantly meeting teachers who would go
out of their way to provide new courses, new ideas, and new input not
just to children but to community at large.  But they still complained
about low pay, their vulnerability, and lack of time.  Part of the
problem of vulnerability comes up from misunderstandings.  One teacher
mentioned that she was getting complaints from parents over her use of
computers for writing.  The problem was that writing with a computer
didn't generate enough homework, since the students were correcting their
essays as they were writing them. "My parents are worried that I am not
sending enough homework home, and the parents don't know what they [their
kids] are doing.  And they want you to have corrected it.  And the
parents are worried that their kids aren't getting attention.  And yet
they want computers."

   Marsha Anson is a good example of how local conceptions of roles
have been changing, especially in terms of newer information oriented
occupations:

   Well, I went back to school the first time- when I
   first started- before I took Ed. Tech- I felt like I
   needed to do something, my kids were both in school. 
   And I only have a two year degree.  But I didn't know
   what I wanted to do.  So I thought I would take
   children's literature since I can pick books for my
   kid and find out what's out there, what's available. 
   And then I started thinking about being a librarian. 
   It would be fun to work with kids and not have to be a
   teacher.  The advantage of a librarian is that you do
   not have to mess with the parent...

Perhaps a new kind of public librarian, resource position will evolve in
the community, although it is unclear under whose aegis, or in what form.
Marsha Anson saw her potential position as evolving towards something
like that, and did hope that she could actively 'evolve' it from within
the contexts of the rural school.  So Marsha was working with her ideas
about 'educational technology,' including plain old books.  Frank Odasz
had likewise found his calling indirectly while he was getting a masters
degree in 'educational technology.' From Marsha and other people's
perspective, there would be new information occupations in rural areas.
But she also noted that for now the teachers themselves would be too busy
to take direct charge of the new responsibilities.


     Conclusion: The Changing Technoscape - Part IV
                  Changing Technoscapes

   A new technology or skill enters into a landscape already full of
solutions to the perceived problems.  As I outlined earlier, the basic
idea of the theory of the ecology of technologies is that new
technologies, practices, media, techniques, and perspectives enter a
scene by displacing something else, some other means of production or
conveyance, and in so doing disrupt or displace many other associated
relationships and practices.  What's more, the impulse to change in the
technoscape does not come as a distinct, self-contained elemental force,
but as part of a set, a bundle of other related forces, including flows
and transformations in the ethnoscape and finanscape.

   After inquiring as neutrally as possible, after what the individuals
knew about the Big Sky Telegraph, what changes they saw occurring in the
Valley, and all the rest of the questions found in the survey outline, I
would begin in a somewhat more engaging manner to present some of the
possibilities of computer networking which other people in the field had
suggested to me.  Several people, for example, both in the local, rural,
areas, and in the municipal region suggested that an agriculturally
oriented network could help coordinate temporary employment:

   If I were to do it for ranchers the first thing- once
   they had logged on would be...  maybe, a big title,
   RANCHERS, and then, employment needs, or mechanical
   needs, or sales, or... and have it titled so that.... 
   and maybe you could link up with an employment office. 
   And those things I think would be wonderful.  But it
   would be a matter of making a program simple e-
   nough....    

One of the facts of ranching and farming is that there are certain times
of the year when it is important to hire temporary help, such as during
haying season.  Could a computer bulletin board be useful to have
different employers post availabilities, for ranchers to request people,
and so on?  Perhaps:

   A neat place to start if you were interested in
   Ranching would be employment.  I could see that being
   a real positive thing.  But could you get an agency to
   link up with an employment agency... or would that
   pretty much replace their job?  Because you could just
   load in who needs a job, but then does your agency
   become obsolete.  

The role of the employment people in Dillon and elsewhere turned out to
be much more complicated than simply sending people out to the ranches
and farms; it involved remembering and matching needs and special
requirements.  Helen Andres, the Dillon historian pointed out:

   Have you been to the job service.  We have quite a
   good job service here.  You should talk to them.  And
   they advertise over the radio everyday.  And they help
   people.  If you hire young people they will pay 50% of
   the salary to get them trained.  So you should go
   there.

In fact, the employment group also did some job skills training and
already used the media of radio, television, telephone, and periodic
face-to-face contacts.  Certainly they might begin to add a kind of
interactive service over a computer network if the demand were there, but
this probably wouldn't be a driving force to get people online in the
first place.  Might the ranchers want to get in touch with friends of
theirs, to avoid 'phone tag' by simply leaving messages online, to meet
new people?  Replied one rancher:

   I suppose something like that could work here, if
   there were enough computers: talk to the local
   ranchers, neighbors and find out what they were doing
   and what their advice was.  Most every night we
   telephone now, or visit...

And what would it mean to 'go online' and not pay one's neighbor a visit
at the end of the day, or not to spend some time chatting on the
telephone?  Even if a network were to come in there was no firm consensus
about how things would change.  Sometime people end up doing the same old
things with new technologies, I was told.  In connection to questions
about change, one rancher told me a story about a family that liked to go
to the movies every saturday. "When televisions came in they got one, and
they never went to the movies again, but now everyone would come over to
their house to watch TV together."

   A computer network could offer some unique opportunities, just as
changing from going to the movies with friends to watching programs at
home would create a new communicational connectedness between that group
and the rest of the world. Changes in the rules of the banking
industries, the need to reach foreign markets quickly, the need to
consider and act collectively in relation to changes in the Federal Lands
Management objectives, a desire to deal with problems in health care,
re-employment, child care, their own land management, and the simple
sharing of skills and concerns- all pointed to unmet needs.  The question
is how would a match between these needs and possibilities evolve.  When
the ranchers felt they needed to organize against the Federal Land
Management Policies, they had done so, forming the Big Hole Ranchers
Association.  Such skills of organization were already imbedded in the
community.  How these skills could 'migrate' from one medium,
face-to-face meetings, to another, computer conferencing, is a complex
issue.  Might computer conferencing replace public, physical debate, or
serve as an adjunct to it.  I would suspect the latter.

   Some computers and ideas about networking had been accepted in the
general rural and municipal communities at the time of my research, often
via the mechanism of 'context shifting' discussed in the theoretical
sections above.  Computers which had been acquired for one purpose proved
useful for something else.  Said one teacher in answer to whether many
parents had gotten computers or been interested in computer networking:

   So far in my school everyone's afraid of the computer. 
   They respect them, they want their kids to use them
   and a lot of them are waiting to buy them for their
   business until their kids know how to use them.  This
   is true.  This has been discussed.  Several families
   are looking into computers.

   The parents are not comfortable with them, but they
   see their necessity.  They are very conservative. 

Several ranchers who had gotten computers reported that they had first
gotten them simply for word processing, and that after they had gotten
comfortable, they went on to find new uses, such as managing their books,
and now potentially going online.  With a tool in place, uses begin to
shift over it.  Ranchers, and extension agents agreed that the rural
adaption of satellite television had been quite rapid after 1981.

   The Big Hole Valley, Western Montana, and other rural areas are in a
period of unaccustomed flux right now.  Sudden changes in land values,
the difficulty in even passing down property to one's children because of
high inheritance taxes, the continuing change in demographics, including
the large number of local children who have had to leave for regions far
away, the overall population decline, the influx of new investment money
from people who often do not seem to understand the nature and special
qualities of the land, or of the way people out here depend on each
other, the shifts in markets, the increasing demands for efficiency, the
loss of land productivity, even sudden transformation in the very image
of the rancher, the farmer, or the teacher have prompted an array of
blame and solutions.  Some solutions come with a sense of desperation.
One person spoke of Fundamentalist Christians coming into the Wisdom
area, "The people that support them feel that Wisdom is a mission field.
So they come... it's not always the same group... one group will come in
and they will get a big following and [hold] their Wednesday night
services, and that will peter out and then another group will come in,
and do the same thing."  Another person who lived in Wisdom said he
hadn't heard of any Fundamentalists.  Others, felt that the move towards
larger cattle on the part of the ranchers, seemed to hold real promise,
only to see it lead to a crash in cattle prices.  Some saw the use of
computers to keep a better inventory of their cattle and crops as a key,
only to find that it was not worth the effort and time to enter all the
weights and prices and of cattle and feed which the programs they bought
demanded.  Others began to see promise in getting access to distant
computer databases.  But was it worth the connect changes and the cost of
the equipment?  Still others saw benefits in setting up a computer
conferencing system for the ranchers.

   Big Sky Telegraph, even at this early stage, offers an important look
into the actual dynamics of change within technoscapes, and provides an
important look at some of the benefits, problems, and opportunities in
rural use of computer mediated communication and conferencing both in
other rural areas as well as in developed and developing countries and
regions.  This research has attempted both to suggest and outline a
framework with which to analyze such transformations in skills and tools,
and to direct attention away from more medium-centric conceptions of
computer conferencing to consider the social, political, economic, and
cultural configurations and dynamics out of which such transformations
occur.  With changes in knowledge, and the ways by which knowledge is
formed and information exchanged, come changes in the conventions and
expectation of privacy, power, and trust.  To learn how to best utilize
the new tools of communication, as well as the new uses of the older
media, to identify and protect ourselves from their dangers, as well as
to spread the knowledge of their best and most exquisite uses, all will
involve an examination of how media come to be inflected and indigenized,
defined and used in distinctive and idiomatic ways in different regions.
One of these technologies which will address the problems of which Hudson
and Parker have identified as the "information gaps in rural America"
(1990) will surely be the broadening reach of interactive computer
networking.  And one of the clues to what this developing medium can look
like as it penetrates more deeply into global communities and landscapes
will be found in the communities of Western Montana.

                                ###
 
                             Footnotes

 1. An example of this occurred during the Chinese government's siege
of Tiananmen Square when all over the world, chinese students began
exchanging information and interpretations about the events then
occurring over the international Usenet network.  When students would
find out new information about what was then happening, often by
telephone conversations with individuals inside the Republic of China,
they would share or 'broadcast' it out over the networks.  The
information was often so up to date, the news networks began to borrow
from it.

 2. An example of this occurred in November 1988 during a communications
class at the Annenberg School of Communications (its name at that
point) in which I was a teaching assistant for Prof. Robert L. Shayon.
With the direction of visiting lecturer, Dave Hughes, we attempted a
live, simultaneous, completely interactive, online link between the
Soviet Union, Japan, and Philadelphia (our class), a link designed to
demonstrate the possibility of relatively ordinary individuals meeting
each other over such vast distances and sharing information and ideas
without the mediation of news agencies or other such heavily capitalized
industries.  As it was, we were not able to get all the people together
at the same time, but the problem was more a logistical rather than
technical one.

 3. I say 'informally' here since research limitations, primarily on the
amount of time I could spend in the field, the number of people I could
talk with, would limit my ability to operationalize and test these sub-
thesi.  Such limitations do not eliminate the importance in clarifying
the nature of paths if we are to come to a better understanding of the
activities and nature of the technoscape.

 4. To paraphrase Gregory Bateson and other systems theorists,
unassimilated information will be regarded as 'noise' within a system,
until it reaches a point that it begins to overpower the initial signal.
At that point it might become thematized directly becoming information.
William Irwin Thompson (Pacific Shift, 1989) explores this idea, arguing
that until recently global pollution had been regarded as 'noise' within
the conceptions of productive capacity and organization and only
recently, as the full extent of the ecological deprivations are becoming
unavoidable, they are becoming 'information,' part of the calculations
and conceptions of global productive capacity and organization.

 5. Per Braudel, the primary level would be that of the village, and
material reality, the secondary level that of markets and more immediate
exchanges, and the tertiary level that of the capitalism and investment
capitalism.  Each level would have its associated institutions supporting
and maintaining the functions of that level.

 6. FidoNet is the most well known of a series of amateur computer
networks which relay (or 'echo') messages entered on one BBS conference
to all other members of that conference.  Logistically, users will enter
their messages to their local computer BBS, thus occurring minimal, local
phone expense.  Then at a joint mail hour, all the boards will
automatically close down to the public and phone each other, bundling and
exchanging all the messages together. Since FidoNet is global in extent,
there are internationally, in fact, three different mail time zones. For
more about the history of FidoNet, see Quarterman 1988; Uncapher 1988.)

                        *********************

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**************************
 
Computer Networks Cited
 
Big Sky Telegraph.  Dillon, MT.  406-683-7680 (data 1200/8N1);
406-683-7683 (data 2400/8N1, hit breaks several time)

Chariot, Denver, CO. 1-719-632-3391 (data 24/1200 7E1)
 
Meta-Net, Washington, DC.  202-243-9696 (data 1200/7E1); 202-243-9697
(data 2400/7E1)

Montana Gold BBS, Dillon, MT.  406-683-6285  (data 8N1)

Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link. Sausalito, CA. 415-662-3201 (data 1200/7E1);
415-332-7217 (data 2400/7E1)


                         *********************

                             Appendix A

                          Survey Outlines

1. Perspectives on Change in Montana & Local Area
   a. How has this area been changing in the last few    
       years?
   b. What are the threats of change?
   c. What are the possibilities of change?
   d. How might new jobs be secured?
   e. How has the role of women changed?
   f. Questions on info and media use:
      1) What is your main source of information?
      2) Where do you tend to meet your friends?
      3) How do you get info on: markets, employees, etc.

2. Perpectives on Change in Education
   a. What are the children in school doing right now?
   b. What kind of support do they get?- from parents,
       the school, the community?
   c. What are they going to be doing in the next couple
      of years?
   d. What do they need most?

3. Personal Background 
   a. Where did you come from; how did you get (here)?
   b. What role do you feel you have locally?
   c. What role would you like to have?
   d. What constraints do you feel on your occupation?

4. Knowledge about Big Sky Telegraph
   a. What is Big Sky Telegraph?
   b. How did you find out about it?
   c. How do you think others found out about it?
   d. What role do you see it playing?
   e. Who do you think uses it?
   f. Do you know anything about any other BBS?

                            *************

                             Appendix B

                              - Maps -

[Not included in e-verson.  Maybe we should vote for Napls, at a minimum,
 until we  get a better broadband, graphic standard!  Anyway, imagine the
 Big Hole Valley narrowly extending up through the Rockies, to the West &
 North of Dillon, and far to the South West of Montana.  Most of the work
 here takes place in the vallies and terrain of the Rockies.]


                        ******************

                            Appendix C

From Dave Hughes:
  
Below was the brief "Commencement Address" by Frank  Odasz,  Asst 
Professor of Computer Education of Western Montana College at the 
one-room Wisdom Montana K-8 School, Friday night, May 27th, 1988.

There  were  exactly  2  graduating  8th  graders  in  this  tiny 
town of less than 75 in the middle of remote ranching and farming 
country   in  extreme  southwest  Montana.   Over  100   parents, 
grandparents, school board members (of the 5 Kindergarteners also 
'graduating'  to 1st grade) showed up.  The faces in the audience 
were right out of Norman Rockwell.

Frank was invited to speak by three teachers,  and one  assistant 
teacher (she played the piano),  of the school who had all logged 
onto  Big  Sky Telegraph from their one Apple Computer and  taken 
the  teacher recertification course entirely online from  Western 
Montana College February to April, 1988.

Knowing  these facts,  the name of the town and school - Wisdom - 
is more than ironic.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
                        GRADUATION SPEECH

Good evening, I'm Frank Odasz, director of Big Sky Telegraph at
Western Montana College.
   
It is an honor to share in the celebration of the achievement of
Wisdom's student pioneers of the future.
  
The pioneer spirit has always been focused on positive change.
  
Most of us can accept that change is necessary if the quality of
our lives is to get better. This year we've seen our students
change in new and exciting ways.
  
In our rapidly changing world it is becoming increasingly
important to keep up with the changes that are occuring around
us, if for no other reason than to protect ourselves from
potential dangers of those changes.
  
We seek the wisdom to know what should change and what shouldn't.
We do need better economic conditions but there are many aspects
of the rural lifestyle that we want to preserve and not change. .
Education itself can be described as the process of acquiring the
knowledge and skills for creative adaptation to change. If change
results in better opportunities for our kids' success, then it is
generally welcomed.
  
Change can be a threat to our independence. A hundred years ago, 
there was a self-sufficient rancher who laughed at the suggestion
that he might benefit from a new technology called the telephone.
  
With a successful ranching operation underway, in an
understandable common sense sort of way he reasoned; why would he
possibly need to talk to someone a hundred miles away? What
effect could that have on his ranching and, why change if the
ranch is successful?
  
Eventually, the rancher's first benefit from use of the telephone
might have been checking auction prices in Billings. This
eventually came to be viewed not as a dependency, but as an
economy enhancing additional freedom, literally another tool in
the rancher's toolbox. Today we use the telephone without giving
it a second thought, and without worrying if we understand the
details of how the phone company makes it work. The same is true
for the microcomputers. We need to know only how to put these
tools to work for our benefit. 
  
This (hold up laptop) has introduced change in my life. As a
former roughneck, carpenter, and duderancher who never touched a
computer before the age of 30, this notebook-sized microcomputer
has given me access to worldwide information. This "laptop" is a
new way to gather economic and educational information from any
location, at any time I might find convenient.
  
Telecommunications technologies hold great promise for allowing 
rural communities to enhance their economic options while
preserving the cherished rural lifestyle. Big Sky Telegraph at
Western Montana College, is a rural education project funded by
the M.J. Murdoch Charitable Trust and the Mountain Bell
Foundation of Montana. 
  
Using modems, microcomputers and common phonelines, select rural
educators are able to access educators statewide and exchange
written information at a rate of four pages per minute, ten times
the information possible via a voice call. This is the most
efficient and cost effective means of resource and information
sharing available in Montana.
  
Four teachers from right here in Wisdom, more than in any other
single community in the Montana, have volunteered to pioneer a
new trail toward Montana's educational frontier using this new
form of communication. They have established a link from Wisdom
to WMC to provide Wisdom students with access to over $10,000
worth of quality educational software. In addition, they have
established fingertip access to the librarians and resources of
the WMC library, all for as little as $5.00/week. 
  
Just last week pen pal messages between Wisdom students and 
students from Deep Creek School near Glendive,(600 miles away) on 
the  other side of the state,  were exchanged electronically  via 
the Big Sky Telegraph system.  We have only scratched the surface 
of   the   potential   benefits   to   Wisdom   residents   using 
telecommunications.  These teachers and students saw the benefits 
to the community of beneficial change.
   
Montana is faced with the realities of an increasingly global
economy. The independence of Montanans, with new communications
tools can bring benefits from far away to those here at home.
Global marketing information and contacts have the potential to
breath new life into Montana's ranching businesses. Talented
business and resource persons across Montana now have the
potential to better share ideas and strategies despite distance
or schedules.
  
Your kids will soon be the ones to use these tools to create a
brighter future for residents of the Big Hole Valley.
   
This short speech will be sent electronically to networks on both
coasts this evening to share the word that the trail to the
future of education in this country is being blazed by the
teachers and students here in Wisdom, Montana, as much as 
anywhere else.
   
In a world that is changing more all the time, our students bear
the promise that what we all value most, the opportunity for a
quality education, will not change.
   
Thank you.
  
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