Jane Jacobs, when asked about the potential negative effects of computers on communities and neighborhoods, replied that the opposite may be true; that navigating the Web shows people how networks function and how to think in a more non-linear fashion:
[There is] a very persuasive argument that the computer, in the form of things like the World Wide Web and the Internet, is actually [giving] people firsthand experience with use of a Web and making virtual changes in a Web-like way. This is not real. But after all, quirks and quarks and atoms are not real, for all we know. But thinking of them, picturing them and seeing the world with these things, really illuminates our understanding. It may be untruthful and it may be wrong, but usually, each of these things gets a little nearer the truth. So this Web-thinking in the place of the mechanical, cause/effect kind of thinking is certainly closer to the truth. The use of the computer [may be] indispensable to this, both for the complications we have to understand and have begun to understand and also because of a different notion this gives people. You know it’s always been available to people that they be hermits. But think of how few of them have been. So, no, I don’t think the human race will suddenly be smitten with an overwhelming urge to become hermits because of a new machine.
I’m on a bit of a Jacobs kick right now, reading Dark Age Ahead and poking around online for essays and interviews I’ve missed.