After Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA executive director for practice, set the stage at the townhall meeting discussion of the converging Internet culture, National Public Radio's White House correspondent Mara Liasson moderated a panel of experts on many facets of that new world--commerce, ethics, politics and community-building.

In addition, with instantaneous polling devices, townhall participants were able to provide input through the program on the trends and issues.

Below are highlights from that discussion. Other panelists were:

  • Paulina Borsook, journalist who has published in Wired, Newsweek, Salon, Mother Jones and other publications.

  • Bette-Jane Crigger, PhD, Editor, Hastings Center Report.

  • Andria McClellan, Dot-Com entrepreneur who has launched "CriticalMass," a networking group for young professionals in the high-technology world.

  • Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA executive director for practice.

  • Phil Noble, President, Politics Online, an information provider for political professionals.

  • Mark Resch, President/CEO of CommerceNet Consortium, a cyber-based association of companies and organizations who do business online.

On the limitations of the Internet:

"The Web to me is like the world's biggest used book store....It's got wonderful stuff but you can't predict any one particular thing will be there....I worry about people coming of age continuing to rely on this as if nothing else is of value."

--Paulina Borsook

On the new generations and the Internet:

"We have a generation now, that when they instant message each other, they scream or laugh, or have a lot of fun. They are not seeing the same keyboard and computer as we see when we look at them. I think they have a qualitatively different experience. And their expertise in the technology and their facility with adapting to changes in technology are significantly different."

--Mark Resch

On a world of connectedness that's never existed before:

"There is another bigger change that is coming....Half the world has not even made a telephone call yet....But with the price of technology dropping so quickly and it becoming so ubiquitous, all of a sudden, in a very short amount of time, we are going to have hundreds of millions of new people coming into the modern world, if you will, via the Internet."

--Phil Noble

On Internet political nastiness:

"Anything that you can do in the streets, you can do online.... I grew up in the Deep South....We have had race-based politics for you to hear and see and all sorts of nasty stuff. Well, some of the nastiest stuff I have ever heard I got in email in the South Carolina primary....It was awful. The Internet is just a mechanism to do those nasty things they have always done. You can just do if faster, cheaper, smarter and quicker."

--Phil Noble

"Although I would say that in politics, it's even more dangerous, because it doesn't necessarily go to tens of thousands of people. It only goes to [perhaps 1,000 people].... If we put an ad like that on TV... my colleagues are reporting on it. It takes a little longer to find out about it when something has been sent to just the 5,000 [on a particular get-out-the-vote list.]

--Mara Liasson

On young adults involved in dot.com companies:

"There is a very twisted reality, a reality based on stock options...a reality that says that if you have not gotten your venture capital funding, then you must be a failure.

--Andria McClellan

On helping older professionals and others understand the new world:

"We are professionally trained observers of behavior....Any new emerging area can't wait until a body of research has developed before you can do anything. This emerging area ain't waiting for nothing...while it is happening, I think we have an obligation, given the skill that we have, to be doing that kind of observation and monitoring and analysis...and do some training and educating about it.

--Russ Newman

On what the new generation wants from therapists:

"From that perspective of delivering explicit information about office hours, finding a therapist to begin with, I find everything online, and if you are not listed online, I am not likely to go find you. To be available at strange hours, to be available for some correspondence via e-mail, that sort of thing, I would find very efficient."

--Andria McClellan


And responses from the audience:

During the townhall panel discussion, the audience of several hundred responded to questions through hand-held electronic polling devices at their seats. Results were immediately displayed on overhead screens. Some of the questions and answers:

How often have you encountered clients for whom the Internet was a problem, (i.e., clients spending too much time on the Internet?)

How often have you encountered clients who have been helped by having access to the Internet?

How much of your skills and training as a psychologist could be applied to the issues arising from the convergence of the traditional and Internet cultures?

Frequently--3 percent
Sometimes--41 percent
Rarely--31 percent
Never--25 percent

Frequently--35 percent
Sometimes--40 percent
Rarely--15 percent
Never--10 percent

A lot--38 percent
Some--34 percent
Not much--11 percent
None at all--4 percent
Don't know--14 percent