Are virtual communities part of a last hold out from the commodification of media culture, a place of resistance and autonomy and self-empowerment? A place where we have a chance of seeing reality for what it is, so that we can refuse to accept the present and try to change the future. Or are they disinfotainment in the guise of antidisinfotainment? Is it another way to amuse ourselves to death? We temporarily have access to a tool that could bring conviviality and under standing into our lives and might help revitalize the public sphere. The same tool, improperly controlled and wielded, could become an instrument of tyranny. The vision of a citizen designed, citizen controlled worldwide communications network is a version of technological utopianism that could be called the vision of “the electronic agora.” In the original democracy, Athens, the agora was the marketplace, and more—it was where citizens met to talk, gossip, argue, size each other up, find the weak spots in political ideas by debating about them. But another kind of vision could apply to the use of the Net in the wrong ways, a shadow vision of a less utopian kind of place—the Panopticon. Will citizens use the Internet to influence the nations of the world to become more democratic? Or will our efforts be ineffectual or even work to amplify the power of state or corporate autocracies? All other social questions about the impact of life online are secondary to this one.