Steven Carlson on Fri, 8 May 1998 05:08:18 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> The Power of the Medium

by Steven Carlson

developing Internet markets
in Hungary, Europe and beyond

  The Hungarian Internet is finally becoming interesting in media
  terms. This week several different threads are converging into an
  interesting story.

  For starters, the Hungarian national elections takes place in four
  days time. The local Gallup office is publishing daily election poll
  results on the net, despite a ban on publishing such information in
  the eight days leading up to the vote. Gallup argues this law does
  not apply to the Internet medium. See: <>.

  Gallup's action has generated controversy on the sziget-l discussion
  list, created just two weeks ago. Sziget, which means "island," is
  an invitation-only list bringing together professional Hungarian
  Internet developers. (I described the birth of sziget-l in my last

  Meanwhile, the Internet has disappeared from Hungary's yearly
  computer fair, IFABO. Two years ago the Internet was a novelty at
  IFABO, and a handful of companies were making big noise. This year
  the Internet is such an integral part of the computing industry that
  it has receded quietly to the background. This is good news, because
  it indicates the focus of the local net is moving away from Internet
  access toward the question of content, in other words: media.

*** Growing up as a Medium

  The events of this week signal a shift that is taking place in the
  Hungarian Internet. The net is growing up, becoming a proper medium.
  The Gallup affair might even turn out to be a defining moment in
  this development.

  Most of my readers are aware the story of US President Clinton's
  sexual involvement with Monica Lewinsky first appeared on the
  Internet. This event was a powerful demonstration of the Internet's
  potential as a publishing medium and a signal that the Internet is
  well on the way to becoming mainstream in the US.

  It's still too early to tell how large an impact the Gallup story
  will have on Hungarian public perceptions of the net. The story is
  only just breaking. The first round of the election takes place on
  May 10, and the second round on May 24. If Gallup continues to
  publish its polling results, and if the Electoral Commission decides
  that these results have influenced the vote, then the Commission may
  decide to declare the election invalid. However most observers agree
  this is unlikely.

  The National Electoral Commission already has determined that
  Gallup's action is illegal. Yet a well-respected constitutional
  scholar, Andras Sujo, has taken a stand in Gallup's favor, arguing
  the law does not specifically mention the Internet. In any case, the
  Electoral Commission has no power to sanction Gallup for defying the

*** Learning the Power of the Medium

  Ironically, Gallup may wind up losing in the court of public
  opinion. Gallup's activities have generated heated discussion on the
  sziget-l discussion list, created just two weeks ago as a forum for
  Hungary's commercial Internet community. With few exceptions, most
  of the sziget-l participants think that Gallup is breaking the law,
  and should stop publishing the poll results.

  Sadly, much of the sziget-l debate over the Gallup affair has been
  characterized by snide remarks and personal attacks. This kind of
  behavior is not only unprofessional, but completely
  counterproductive. I think this is due, in part, to how the list is
  set up. I'll discuss this topic in more detail in a later message.

  In any case, sziget-l can easily claim a significant share of
  Hungary's "Internet elite," which means the discussion list is now
  an important forum of opinion. Included among the sziget-l
  participants are the very journalists who report about the Internet
  in radio, television and print. Not surprisingly, the coverage given
  the Gallup case in the "offline media" closely reflects the opinions
  being expressed in sziget-l.

  Thus, within two weeks of conception the sziget-l list is already an
  intriguing demonstration of the power of this medium.

  I'll have more to say when I know more. I'm interested in any tips
  or opinions you'd care to volunteer.

!  Steven Carlson is Chief Strategist at iSYS Hungary Kft
!  Copyright (c) 1998. Steven Carlson <>
!  reserves the right to be identified as the author of this work.
!  Forward freely with this notice attached.
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