Between 1986 and 1989, I was involved as a graduate student in two on-going research initiatives in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto: the Native Computer Communications Network Project and the York/Habitat Networking Initiative. Though they were quite different in their approaches, they shared the common goal of network building for the purpose of social change.

Out of these involvements came a desire on my part to combine the two approaches in the form of Habnet, a computer network for the human settlements field. Between April 1988 and May 1989, I facilitated a small group of core members of the York/Habitat Networking Initiative in using the capabilities of Web, the computer communications system which hosted Habnet, to allow them to exchange information via electronic mail, file transfer and computer conferencing. I also attempted to increase the size and improve the effectiveness of Habnet by promoting it to other people with an interest in human settlement issues.

This document is a review of these three projects as well as a discussion of the lessons derived from each. Insofar as I would like others to learn from our mistakes, this paper generally moves from the descriptive to the prescriptive. Three bibliographies and numerous appendices are also included to provide those who follow in my footsteps with further information and resources.

I wish to thank all of the people with whom I worked on the three projects during those three years: the NCCN - Mary Bernard, Mike Clarkson, Paul Shields, Kenn Pitawanakwat, Leslie MacGregor, Bob Holota and Sandy Lockhart; the York/Habitat Initiative and Habnet - David Morley, Yvo DeBoer, Phyllis Eleazar, James Stark, Shirley Lewchuk, and Dwaine Plaza; and Web - Michael Jensen and Kirk Roberts. I would also like to thank two of my mentors - Jerry Durlak, for his willingness to impart his visions of the new technology and to involve me in them, and Dallas Smythe, for making me feel the struggle is worthwhile. Gerry Carrothers and Jack Craig, my faculty advisors, rank high in my esteem, too, for the good advice they have given me. I also must mention my appreciation of the members of the Electronic Networking Association and the APC for their dedicated and excellent work in the advancement of computer networking for the betterment of the world.

I especially would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my good friend Lynne Nagata, for her support and forbearance. Without her, it wouldn't have been half as much fun ;-).

Rory O'Brien

December 1989

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