America Online just wrecked any sequel to the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan hit movie "You've Got Mail." In a business arrangement with Kodak, AOL's Internet service now allows users to send and receive photographs as simply and easily as e-mail. It's a great feature.
In the movie, the action revolves around a classic theatrical technique - the audience knows more than the characters do.
Two beautiful people meet in a computer chat room through e-mail and begin to share personal concerns. They can't see they are beautiful. Of course, they develop an interest in each other. Neither knows that Hanks is going to drive Ryan out of business by opening a megabookstore in the same Manhattan neighborhood where her family runs a children's bookstore.
The audience knows these two are going to fall in love, be competitors, fall apart, reconcile, and live happily ever after, all to the ubiquitous auditory refrain (and AOL marketing department's delight) of "you've got mail."
Another drama involving AOL is playing itself out now as well. This time, it isn't on the silver screen but the computer screen and in the courtroom. It is safe to say the outcome will have just as happy an ending as the movie.
The issue is providing access to the online world of entertainment, commerce, and personal communication for handicapped individuals (see article right).
Just as the directors of "You've Got Mail" could make a movie knowing the broader culture in the United States would resonate with the use of e-mail, we can rest assured that the broader culture embraces the value of greater access and reducing limitations for physical and mental handicaps in cyberspace.
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