The present discussion of the forum "Cultural Exchange via Internet - Opportunities and Strategies" is one of the most valuable I have come across during my travels through the Internet. Therefore I do agree with Olu Oguibe that the Net provides the chance for improving cultural exchange to an unprecedented degree.
Yet, while all of this is very encouraging, I do feel that there is no reason for too much optimism about the fundamental glories of the Net. All the hype about the Internet being the fulfillment of individual freedom makes us forget that the pre-history of the Internet is deeply buried in military research during the Second World War and, especially, the Cold War. The Internet is not only the biggest machine humans ever created but also the biggest military machine. It may be a machine for creation for some of us but it also is a machine for destruction. While it is clear that the Net contains fantastic chances for liberation and emancipation it also enhances the opportunities for control and suppression to unbelievable extremes.
As a historian, I think, that the Internet may have introduced revolutionary changes of secular proportions, comparable to the introduction of the printing press. Those in power already now more and more control nearly all the information that keeps them in power. And there is no reason to assume that these efforts will not be strengthened. Some years ago, Umberto Eco has mentioned the urgent need for a semiological guerilla. If present and future historians, artists etc. still want to analyze, understand and criticize those in power then the logical conlusion can only be that they will also have to become "hackers". Together with some colleagues, I am in the process of founding a working group "History and Internet", which will deal with some of these problems. While the forum will be centered at the University of Salzburg, the Internet gives us the chance to cooperate with colleagues all over the world. Contributions will be most welcome.
Greetings from a snowy Salzburg,