The Information Agenda
A sort of tele-novel
by Michael Jon Jensen
A Note from the Author
In 1990, I heard about the Ted Turner Tomorrow Award, which was to award
a half-million dollars to a novel outlining a benign future
where social problems had been solved. I'd been in writing
seminars and graduate school for creative writing, struggling to prove
that science fiction could be literature. I'd left that world, and had
been involved in
computer technology since that time ("living science fiction instead of writing it," I said).
It was too perfect to pass up.
At that point, "Windows" was still a clumsy OS
competing with Geos, and the Internet was still a text-based arena
belonging to under
a few hundred thousand people at most, though for those people, the
limitless. I set
about crafting a viable "information society" novel where the
government put the Internet to
use as a vehicle for social good.
The model taken is that of a teleplay, a script that a Dan Rather- or
Ted Koppel-like character would have for an in-depth analysis of the
previous four years of a revolutionary-democrat president.
My framework posited a president who, via popular support acquired
from a ten-day series of brutally honest televised presentations,
initiated a program of heavy investment in digital technologies to
transform the country by enfranchising the disempowered, developed
digital libraries and distance education, used the Online Freedom of
Information Act to provide universal oversight of government agencies,
initiated a community-based expertise-bartering system, and funded a
programmer's consortium for the creation of socially beneficial software,
among other things.
It was set in 1996. Looking back over it now, it has
become a sort of "alternative future" screenplay. Parts of it are
dated, parts are still great. Most of it could still be achieved
It's utterly ironic that I'm now publishing
it on the Internet. I hope you enjoy it.
Michael Jensen, April, 1996
Jump to the beginning of The Information Agenda
For those of you short on time, section II and III have the
ideological meat of the "information agenda."
Issues at Hand: II--The Context of the Information Agenda: Williams' First Gamble
Issues at Hand: III--The Content of the Information Agenda: Williams' Big Gamble