The Message Is the Medium: Online All the Time for Everyone

By Tom Koch | Go to book overview
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3
Everybody's Resource: The Knowledge Center

There is no information highway. Even the idea of the "databahn" is a misnomer, an inappropriate metaphor, and an engaging lie. Highways link distant places, but in the world online there is no distance. One does not surf across the links of a network or hunt between its various computers. In the online world, distance is a foreign concept, and so the idea of a physical highway linking disparate sites is spurious. To be in one database is to have potential access to all of the databases online. From the perspective of the user, any two points in the digital world are separated, perhaps, by a few seconds wait. It is like the time between floors defined by the elevator's hushed travel. But in the world of electronic data, the user does not move between floors. Wonderfully and magically, the resources on those metaphorical floors come to you.

In attempting to imagine this evolving medium, think of the best reference library in the world surrounded by an enormous conference center. Either the library or the conference center can be entered by one of a number of doors, magic portals that are available to anyone with a computer. (See Figure 3.1.) Each door has a name: Internet, Dialog, CompuServe, LEXIS-NEXIS, America Online, Prodigy, etc. Through these doors you can instantly find groups of experts-- lawyers, physicians, scientists, politician--or simply people interested and involved in issues that may be of concern to you. Many people in

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