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Promises, promises....

Posted By: Kelvin Seifert on May 21, 2002
Vrasidas offers a great summary of the promises of electronic scholarly communication! For that, I am appreciative. But I am not convinced that I am seeing the whole story in this article.

In particular, Vrasidas does not deal fairly with the usual criticisms of electronic communication. Near the end of his introduction (p. 4 on my browser--BTW, imprecision in finding a spot in the text is common problem with elect. communication!), he lists several problems: conservative politics of print media and academia, lack of access to the net, etc. Mostly he just lists this, without analysis, leaving the impression that the primary problem is the thick-headedness of non-technology-minded folks.

This hardly seems fair. There ARE good reasons to avoid electronic communication in certain circumstances, and I would like to hear more about what they are. Knowing when NOT to rely on an electronic "community" of practice would actually help to determining when it IS powerful to rely on such a community. Implying that electronic communication is good for everything verges on implying that this format has no identifiable contribution to make.

Vrasidas has indeed identified certain problems--e.g. overuse of the "multimedia" potential of electronic communication. But there are others that may be even more fundamental. For example, the "distributed" quality of the net, for example, can (paradoxically) create monopolies over information and "shallow" diversity, just as easily as it can create more profound and truly democratic diversity. And electronic communities seem to work best when they are based on a traditional bottle-neck, the building of prior face-to-face communities. A thoughtful consideration of these problems can be found at .

I'd be interested to hear what other readers think about these possible limitations of electronic communication--not because I want to "pick a fight," but because I want to ferret out the best of this format, and use it well.

Kelvin Seifert
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 Promises, promises.... by Kelvin Seifert on May 21, 2002
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