NOEMA Home SPECIALS › The Net and Netizens
Tecnologie e Società
I. Preface
II. Introduction
III. Netizens'
Uses of the Net
IV. Conclusion
V. Appendix


The Net and Netizens:
The Impact the Net has on People's Lives

Michael Hauben


This is a draft, originally in text format, which would have led to the book Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet, by Michael and Ronda Hauben, published by the IEEE Computer Society in 1997 and which also appears in an online edition. "Netizen" is today a common and widespread term. We can find it on many occasions, debates, articles, essays, art exhibits, political acts (like the Netizens Protection Act introduced by the U.S. Congress against online spamming in 1997)... search engines can show about 100.000 instances of this word. The "Netizen" concept involves a new and extended vision of our society, which we are hardly shaping and redefining with many social, ethical, political, cultural issues to be aware of.

Michael Hauben, who coined the term "Netizen" and gave it a meaning, posting his research on Usenet just ten years ago, died suddenly in New York on June 27, 2001, at 28. His research, starting from the origins and development of Usenet to the diffusion of the Net (he participated in online communities since the early 1980s), is fundamental for understanding the current information society, from sharing information to online communication and participation, from the rising and diffusion of the Internet communities to the net policies. He is one of the pioneers who can envisage the future and help us to find the way. With Michael we believe in a vision of the online world as a powerful and positive place.

We greatly thank Ronda Hauben for the permission to republish this draft and the help in this Noema issue on the Netizen idea.

Pier Luigi Capucci, Noema director


We are seeing a revitalization of society. The frameworks are being redesigned from the bottom up. A new more democratic world is becoming possible. According to one user, the Net has "immeasurably increased the quality of my life." The Net seems to open a new lease on life for people. Social connections which were never before possible, or which were relatively hard to achieve, are now facilitated by the Net. Geography and time are no longer boundaries. Social limitations and conventions no longer prevent potential friendships or partnerships. In this manner netizens are meeting other netizens from far-away and close by that they might never have met without the Net.