While the network was down, Lee Felsenstein gave his keynote speech about the computer as a tool for democracy, emphasizing the quality networks can provide for local communities. In the early afternoon Captain Crunch opened a videophone link with the USSR, which will be discussed in one of the reflections later. We saw Russians on the screen waving at us. In the afternoon several alternative networks were demonstrated. Michael Polman from Antenna demonstrated and spoke about the fact that networks ultimately remain people-to-people networks which have to be orchestrated as well. Jeremy Mortimer of Greennet demonstrated Greennet, Peacenet and Econet and emphasized that computers are sometimes the only way to export reliable information from certain countries that are in trouble like South Africa, Nicaragua and China. Tjebbe van Tijen showed the university network and the sysop from the radical political BBS de Zwarte Ster from Rotterdam, Xythar showed the way politically sensitive information and political discussions take place on their system run completely by volunteers. Lee Felsenstein demonstrated the 'community memory' project in which people can leave messages for other people in their own neighbourhood. This was the first time I realised that mediated presence could be appreciated when people are actually sharing their natural presence by also being in the same place at the same time.
In his account of these demonstrations Rop Gonggrijp reported that the amazing feature of these networks is that people, who are directly involved, report about their experiences and perceptions without being mediated by news agencies (Gonggrijp 1989, 23). At the time this was a new feature in the media landscape: to be able to share news made by lay people that is not subject to censorship, propaganda and commercial media networks. In my experience and in many other people's experience this is one of the most amazing aspects of the Internet, the fact that lay people share information, locally, internationally and across borders that are otherwise closed. The fact that these networks were shown, and 'live' communication took place on the big screen, made this awareness resonate with the audience, including the many journalists present. The fact that people collectively witnessed the 'mediated' presence of others who were physically present somewhere else, but who were clearly communicating 'live' with us in Paradiso without being hindered by formal institutions or laws, accelerated this awareness to the point that there was a perceptible 'magic' in the air. The potential of people to people networks inspired many Internet evangelists to promote these technologies in the decades to come.
In the afternoon several workshops took place about how to make an independent computer network, about viruses and viral networks, about ecological implications of the computer industry, about artificial intelligence and the way computers may change our way of thinking. In the evening of that first day the film 'Brazil' was shown, and then Paradiso closed, while hackers in the small auditorium wanted to continue to 'hack'. As Rop Gonggrijp remarked in his report "When Paradiso closed, hackers were upset because they were just getting into it. The normal day rhythms of the GHP audience (with or without jetlag) were so diverse and the connections with the rest of the 'global village' had become so close, that Dutch local time seemed to lose its significance." (Gonggrijp 1989, 26).
The orchestration of 'global' time lines is a very hard to conceive issue (Achterhuis 2003), Especially when bio-rhythm's, which can not be active 24 hours 7 days a week, are to be respected. When inside the networks, local context loses its significance. Being in mediated presence can annihilate the awareness of natural presence. While reading a book or being immersed in entertainment this can happen as well. What is interesting about Rop's remark concerning social interaction, is that he emphasizes that every person also lives in a personal time zone, even when present in the same physical space. Some live at night, some get up at eight. The rhythm of Paradiso was different to that of the hackers, the rhythm of the hackers was different to the rhythm of the politician, the rhythm of the politician was different to the rhythm of the nurse, and so forth. Natural, mediated and witnessed presence impact on these personal time zones. People in Wellington, New Zealand, woke up when we went to bed, the Americans were having lunch when we had dinner and so forth. The rising of the sun in the different parts of the world determines the day-to-day social rhythms and these influence how people will be able to interact socially. When engaging in mediated presence with another person, the natural context of the people who are going to interact socially influences their mediated presence. When to log on and be able to meet is one of the first issues to be solved. The Wellington connection to the GHP stayed up all night to be able to communicate with us in Paradiso during our daytime. The hackers in Paradiso did not want to leave the building because in other time zones people were awake whom they could communicate with. The hackers preferred to change their personal time rhythm to be able to communicate (and I have seen many people do this for many years).
The possibility of mediated social interaction has even more deep consequences for personal time zones when people work in, or with, companies that do global business. Today in 2006, workers in Indian call centres synchronize their rhythm with American office hours, for example, which triggers certain food sellers to serve food in the middle of the night, which triggers some sorts of transportation to be made available, which means that the children of the taxi driver have to walk to school by themselves, and so on. Also, the way people interact in the morning is different to the way people interact at the end of a work-day or late at night. The synchronization people need to be able to connect in mediated presence, has an impact on their natural presence and their natural environment as well. Just as the natural presence influences the kind of mediated presence one is capable of carrying out. When interacting globally this is an issue of concern because the consequences of these kinds of adaptations of personal time zones in a 24/7 economy reach further than is easily discernable. But in 1989, at the GHP, the hackers had to leave the building of Paradiso that night.