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Innovative or improved ways of doing things; More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Creation of new ideas, products, or services; Technology transfer
I work for Digital Equipment Corp., as a senior communications consultant in Corporate Employee Communications. But this article was not written for work and does not relate to my experience in work.
The attached article is 3450 words — far longer than your maximum. But I believe it will help you accomplish your stated goals.
The attached article shows my individual perspective on the value of the Internet. It does not involve any organization or project.
This was translated into Russian and published in the Oct. issue of ReNews, an electronic computer magazine put out by RELCOM in Moscow. I’m still trying to get it published in the U.S.
SCANNING FOR GOLD — EXPERIENCES IN THE GLOBAL ELECTRONIC ENVIRONMENT
By Richard Seltzer
Today, many people at universities and high tech companies work and play in a vast interconnected electronic environment. As a writer, I am fascinated not by the whiz-bang technology that makes this possible, but rather by what people do with it and the kinds of relationships people build with one another as a result.
Soon these resources should become available to the general public. The vast, government-subsidized network — Internet — is going to be privatized and eventually opened to individual consumers. Already, some people are investing in expensive alternatives that provide some of the same kinds of services. Perhaps a few anecdotes, based on my experience on the Internet, can help show how these new capabilities can be useful and fun, and what this change in human relations might lead to.
Frontier Spirit: Women in Math, a Recipe from Nepal, and a Rabbi in Norway
The electronic environment today is very much like the frontier a hundred years ago. People naturally share with one another and go out of their way to help strangers, with no expectation of payment or reward.
On the Internet, one of the forms this sharing takes is through “newsgroups.” Like notes files, newsgroup software makes it possible for individuals with common interests to post their messages to a group rather than an individual. This group correspondence builds and maintains a sense of community among people who happen to be geographically scattered. Newsgroups are also useful for scanning the latest news about subjects of concern to you and immediately following up on opportunities that surface. In addition, they serve as an important resource when you have an obscure question and need an answer quickly.
A few personal examples:
- My daughter, Heather, needed to write a paper for school about a woman mathematician. She had no names to start with, and librarians were stumped by the request. I posted the question in the newsgroup sci.math; and within two days, I received replies from 60 individuals from around the world. Many of the people who answered were in universities; some were professors. They provided the names of over two dozen prominent women mathematicians, brief bios of many of them, and very complete bibliographic references.
- The daughter of a friend at work had to get a recipe from Nepal, as a school assignment. I posted the question in soc.culture.nepal. (Yes, the Nepalese have their own newsgroup). Within a day, I received a recipe from a Napalese student at the University of Western Australia, and the phone number of a student from Nepal who was attending MIT.
- A friend of my wife’s works for the U.S. office of a Norwegian fish company. They were finding that sales of salmon to restaurants in the Boston area were hampered by the fact that the fish had not gone through kosher inspection at the point of origin. She wanted to locate a conservative Orthodox rabbi who could perform such inspections in Norway. I posted to soc.culture.jewish and also to a Digital Notes File called BAGELS and within a day I had the name and number of two individuals who could do the job. One works out of New York and flies around the world; the other, who lives in Norway, now does the inspections for them.
But the real source of my enthusiasm is far more impractical. I like to look up at the shelf above my personal computer and know that in those floppy disks I have Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Aesop’s Fables, The Heart of Darkness, The Federalist Papers, The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. Somehow, irrationally, I sleep better at night knowing that electronic copies of works like these are scattered throughout the world, and that they can be sent in seconds to thousands of new destinations. It gives me a sense of comfort to think that as long as there are free and open international computer networks, book burning is a futile exercise.
Richard Seltzer is an employee communications consultant for Digital Equipment. Before that, he was editor of such technical trade magazines as Electronics Test. A graduate of Yale (’69), he has an MA in comparative literature (Russian, French, and German) from the U. of Mass. His historical novel, The Name of Hero (set in Russia, Ethiopia, and Manchuria in 1900) was published by Tarcher/Houghton Mifflin. He successfully self-published a satirical fable The Lizard of Oz and a collection of children’s stories Now and Then and Other Tales from Ome. He recently finished a screenplay, Spit and Polish, which deals with reservists during the Vietnam War, and a contemporary novel, Sandcastles. He lives in Boston with his wife and four extraordinary children.