chapter  5
From the Water Cooler to the World Wide Web: Race and Audience Commentary on News Stories On-line
Pages 23

Media history makes it clear that with the introduction of every new form of media technology there is a mixture of hope and fear that permeates society. Fisher and Wright ( 2001 ) explain that the utopian and dystopian views of the Internet are no different than the outlook surrounding earlier media technologies like the telephone, radio or television. They note, “Over time most communication technology has been perceived as both harmful and harmless in their social effects” (p. 5). In its earliest days of mainstream use, many viewed the Internet as a utopian technology that would allow people to expand beyond their real world boundaries and communicate across geographic and cultural borders. As Fisher and Wright write, “The Internet has been said to be as powerful if not more powerful than older technologies” (p. 5). Theoretically, no longer would people be limited by where they lived or by race or gender. This new environment would allow people to communicate in an anonymous fashion potentially with a global audience. But anonymity had a flip side.