The internet is the first big communications network to make group communication a native part of its repertoire...[and] the internet does not know what it's being used for."Prior to the advent of the Internet, communications methods - at least those available to the average person - were primarily one-to-one and designed with one specific purpose in mind (i..e., letters, telegraph, telegram, telephone, etc.).
Shirky, chapter 6, p. 157
One-to-many methods required significant time (sending holiday cards) or significant money (owning a newspaper company) or both. And many-to-many methods were pretty much non-existent.
Because the Internet allows (at least in theory) any one or group to connect with any other one or group at any time and using any form of technology or communication it supports, it has removed most of the significant barriers to experimentation, innovation, and group organizing.
That allows some pretty powerful stuff to take place (for instance, all the technologies I've profiled on Mondays for the past 2 1/2 years), but it's also causing some pretty powerful shifts in our world (for instance, removing co-location as a necessary precursor to relationship).
Understanding the social and interpersonal shifts that are taking place is critical for those of us in the "YAY, technology! YAY, Internet!" camp to be able to connect with those who are more suspicious. Why is that important? When's the last time your boss, board or CEO wasn't interested in the great new idea you were sure was going to be the "killer app" for your association? 10 minutes ago? Until we can listen and understand where the people who aren't rushing into this new world with open arms are coming from, we'll continue waste time pointing fingers and arguing over who's right rather than coming together to focus our attention and energy on creating a better world for our members, professions, and industries.