Utne Reader Visionary: Denise Caruso

We need a truly free world wide web and a transformed capitalism

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A crusader for civil liberties on the cyberfrontier, Denise Caruso has been interpreting and critiquing the new digital technology since it first began appearing in the public consciousness. As Digital Commerce columnist for the New York Times and executive director of the Spotlight Conference on Interactive Media, an annual industry confab sponsored by InfoWorld Publishing, Caruso combines an insider’s knowledge of the industry and its players with a vigorous sense of the potential of high-tech for both promoting and retarding the democratic impulse.

“One of the things that’s so wonderful about the world wide web—and so terrifying about legislation that uses fear of kiddie porn and terrorism to restrict its freedom—is that never before in history has it been possible for so many people to get their point of view out to other people. A lot of it is home videos and What I Did on My Summer Vacation—this is my world, this is what I see in my world, this is how I feel about my world.

“I would like to see the web crack the model of commerce we have in this country—the idea that the end goal of capitalism is to create huge, monolithic companies (that then have to break up!). I want us to be able to prosper in a world where there are lots of people doing things that are similar. I think people would like to compete in a free market system that didn’t demand that they eat all of their competitors and continually, mindlessly increase profits.

“We have to make it easy for other people to exist on the planet with us—whether that be in business, in our personal lives, or in our spiritual practices. Inspiring yourself by setting up competitors, enemies, fall guys—that’s not a long-term win. It’s so much easier to realize that there's enough room for everybody.”