33 Gould St.
West Roxbury, MA 02132 USA
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.
I hope this helps you further your goals.
Please let me know if and how you intend to use it.
PS — Note the paragraph I have appended to your “Copyright License and Warranty.”
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.
Kidnet — networks in education
In addition to person-to-person correspondence and newsgroups, a huge number of free electronic publications flow daily over the Internet. You can get chess magazines, science fiction fanzines, and scholarly journals, which in content and style differ little if at all from what you might find in print. In many cases the distribution list is automatically generated and maintained using software known as LISTSERV. One simply sends a mail message to the right address in the right format to get added to or deleted from the list of subscribers.
As a variant of that approach, some electronic “publications” are all- inclusive and unedited, consisting of electronic correspondence on a common topic that has been gathered automatically or by a moderator, for redistribution to a list of “subscribers.” In some cases, individual messages are redistributed separately rather than combined.
Kidnet, started by Professor Bob Carlson at the University of Pittsburgh, uses this capability to resend to everyone who has asked to be put on the list any message sent to the main Kidnet address. These same messages are also posted as a newsgroup (for those who prefer to read them that way rather than as mail). In practice a huge community has grown — K- 12 teachers and students all over the world sharing useful tips and the wonders they have uncovered in exploring the vast and rapidly growing resources of the Internet.
A community of enthusiasts from a wide variety of academic disciplines, Kidnet participants on a typical day might include a high school teacher from New Zealand getting his students involved in a weather project; a biology teacher from England looking for courseware she could use on a Macintosh; or a third-grade teacher in Detroit looking for electronic penpals for his class. They tell how to use the Internet to freely access the catalogues of major libraries around the world or how to log in to public files at NASA in Huntsville, Alabama. They also promote the projects of their students, who are starting their own electronic newspapers or need practice writing in foreign languages.
The enthusiasm and the diversity of interests is awe-inspriring, and the volume of the messages (an average of about 50 a day, some of which can run many pages) is simply too much for any one person to absorb.
Projects overlap. One effort helps another. People who run large computer centers let their machines be used as repositories for information and software and provide free and open access to anyone on the network anywhere in the world.
For example, many of the world’s greatest books are now in electronic form, sitting in open files, intended for anyone who wishes to copy and redistribute them anywhere, at no cost. In about two minutes you can copy the entire King James Bible from a computer on the other side of the continent.
The most orderly and disciplined effort to make great works readily available in this form to libraries, schools and individuals is known as the Gutenberg Project. Their selections include the 1990 Census, Roget’s Thesaurus, and the 1991 CIA Book of Facts, as well as such literary works as Moby Dick, Paradise Lost, and Wuthering Heights. Other systems have the complete works of Shakespeare. New books are being input and carefully proofread every month by dedicated individuals who donate their time and effort to this cause.
This project is near to my heart. “Why?” my son asks. “What good is it?” The people running the project say they want to have over a 1000 great books in electronic form, so they can be provided free over the network or for negligible cost on compact disk to libraries everywhere. More immediately, I could imagine a high school English teacher giving everyone in the class a floppy disk with Wuthering Heights and asking them to rewrite a chapter or two. Or I could imagine a drama teacher using an electronic copy of Hamlet to edit it down for a two-hour high school production and print out copies for the whole cast.
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 Viet Nam War, and a contemporary novel, Sandcastles. He lives in Boston with his wife and four extraordinary children.