Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

The Scholar and the Web: Electronic Resources for the Scandinavian Scholar on the World Wide Web

Academic journal article Scandinavian Studies

The Scholar and the Web: Electronic Resources for the Scandinavian Scholar on the World Wide Web

Article excerpt

There is a revolution taking place in information technology that might prove some day to be as far reaching and significant as Gutenberg's discovery of moveable type. The electronic transfer of information and texts has shrunk our world and knitted us together in ways inconceivable but a few years ago. Despite all the hyperbole surrounding the "information superhighway," ways of communicating across the globe and retrieving vast stores of information using methods that are both easy to use and almost instantaneous are, nonetheless, at our fingertips. The impact of this revolution on scholarship and pedagogy has been profound. Rarely does a professional conference in any field not contain many demonstrations of World Wide Web resources. Classrooms everywhere are being rewired not just for sound and video but for data transfer as well. The scholar's ability to access and retrieve resources from the Internet is fast becoming as essential a skill as good bibliographic and editorial techniques. Not only must teachers learn the protocols necessary to navigate this electronic sea, but they must also train their students to use the electronic resources essential in their respective disciplines. In the future, students and scholars are likely to spend as much time seeking information at their terminals as they are thumbing through tomes in the library.

This technological revolution is having a fundamental impact on Scandinavian scholarship as well. Two years ago, I observed that the Internet was growing so fast that accurate statistics were almost impossible to come by, that "there [was] no complete compendium of the Internet services and [that] the network [was] so vast, chaotic, and ever-changing that no single scholar could ever hope to know but a small fraction of the online materials" (Coffey, 3). In retrospect, I understated the case. What has driven the astronomical growth of Internet in the past few years has been the development and popularization of the Word Wide Web (WWW or "the Web").

This article will attempt to review the electronic resources on the WWW of special interest to the Scandinavian scholar. I will trace the development of the Web, describe the tools needed to access it, and the resources available to the properly configured computer. The new SASSlink World Wide Web server will be described and future plans suggested. SASSlink will provide unprecedented, high quality services and a link to Internet resources of great value in Scandinavian studies.

For background, I refer the reader to my article "Electronic Resources for the Scandinavian Scholar," (1994 Directory of Scandinavian Studies, pp. 3-32). This article gives a general overview of the Internet and explains the complexities involved in using e-mail, news, gopher, ftp, telnet, listservs, and other protocols. Some of the information is dated now or eclipsed by the recent developments on the Web, but most of it is still applicable and worth reviewing. The present article will not cover that same ground but focus on recent developments on the WWW.


The Web began at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland in March 1989 (Kochmer 1995). Scientist were looking for ways of sharing resources in formats other than plain text. These physicist needed to transfer graphical images, video clips, audio files, and texts more complicated the 128 characters of the simple ASCII font standard could support. Many documents required complex mathematical tables and formulas, international font sets, and most importantly, quick links to other online documentation or resources. It was out of these needs that the hypertext transport protocols (HTTP) were developed at CERN and the Web was born.

The WWW remained the exclusive domain of the specialist during the early years. The software needed to access the Web (Web browsers) was at first crude and only written for the high-end UNIX workstations favored by scientists. …

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