The Internet: Its Impact and Evaluation

By David Nicholas; Ian Rowlands | Go to book overview

Conclusions

The forum provided a physical and powerful demonstration that the Internet was proving to be a multi-lane knowledge bridge between disciplines. Through its study and investigation researchers from a wide variety of-previously estranged disciplines-were brought together and engaged easily and profitably with each other. The cross-fertilisation that occurs in such circumstances provided a heady brew of ideas and suggestions. The Internet proved to be the common currency through which researchers could trade their ideas, methods and approaches. It was interesting how researchers readily understood each other's perspectives and how this understanding informed their own. It was fascinating to see how quickly and readily participants dismantled, what were plainly proving to be dated disciplinary boundaries. The major reason, of course, was a dawning that this mammoth-the Internet-could only be tackled by taking an interdisciplinary, wide-angle and team approach. What proved frustrating though was that, while the forum proved a jump-spark for ideas, 'hard' data itself could be pooled but not cumulated because of definitional and methodological problems, and that plainly there needs to be mechanisms for doing so. The Web undoubtedly has a contribution itself to make here, although to date it is largely proving to be a mechanism for the dissemination and exchange of even greater volumes of data.

Speakers were encouraged to address, beyond their different perspectives, a common theme that is the impact of the Internet and how to investigate it. The original intention was to try and discover commonalties among them. At least one common trait was identified. Most presentations featured an intersection of two spaces. A real, or analogue, one (i.e. people and their perceptions, government, university, newspapers) and a virtual, or digital, one (the Internet). Even though the latter was in fact taking a variety of forms and thus possible 'definitions'. In view of the specificity of the respective discourse with regard to the first space, not much was demonstrated in the way of unity, instead a wealth of considerations and stimuli were offered. By way of summary

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