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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited
For any of you who have not visited our "sister site" of the Internet Free Press, let me recommend that you do so. It is a great initiative, sponsored by the good efforts of our publishers, MCB University Press, and hosts a number of mainly independent start-up and established electronic publications. The address is: http://www.free-press.com/members/
As an appetizer, I thought I might bring you an excerpt of quite an interesting little discussion going on under the "talkback" heading on the site, about productivity; the question being: has the Internet increased our productivity?
One former student suggested that: "It has certainly provided me with an important tool for information storage and retrieval. During my degree course, we were actively encouraged to use the Internet whenever possible as it provided a great deal of useful, current material. My dissertation was based primarily on sources from the Internet, purely because it was outside the scope of most printed references".
Another correspondent: "[productivity] is a hell of a question. It has certainly brought us flexibility in terms of how we can work. It has certainly enhanced our access to people for conversations like this one, for networking, group discussions, international project teams and to sell things".
Another, on the topic of e-mail: "One has to be very disciplined about creating and responding to e-mail. I find it is a bit like a ringing telephone. I feel I "have" to look at my e-mails before anything else in the morning. Now is it more important than anything else? I am not sure that any of the above means increased productivity ... or just a faster 'merry go round'".
My own contribution was: "It has provided the opportunity for more flexible ways of working, although that is really an attitude rather than a technological issue. Remember Steve Shirley and F International and Xerox's outworkers back in the 1980s? You can do all that stuff without the Internet if you believe in true decentralisation. What I am doing now at 5,000 miles distance from (this discussion) I also did at 12,000 miles distance in Australia in 1990. I claim nowadays I could not do it without e-mail and Internet technology but that is only partly true I could not do it without because it has become expected by my client and me that I will do it this way... Is flexibility equal to productivity? It can be but it is not necessarily so. More communications are not always better communications".
Resources Review Editor Harry Bruce makes some really telling points in his opening words to the Resource Reviews section in this issue, Vol. 8 No. 3. Harry's opinion: "... it becomes clearer to me how little we actually know about Internet use and how much we assume about the benefits that will derive from these technologies as they confront us in the workplace and in our social and political lives. We assume so much. Many of our assumptions are based on the near-mythic status afforded to the information democracy narrative which has seduced us through the 1990s into believing that "good democracy" is about "good information", that availability equals accessibility and that when information flows freely, knowledge and insight float to the surface and are picked up and used by eager citizens. The emergence of high speed data communications networks has fanned the flame of this rhetoric, opening the Pandora's box of research questions which must be resolved as we set the social, information, communication, cultural, policy and technical agendas for ongoing development of the Internet".
We sometimes confront knowledge which then seems too much for us. Robert Oppenheimer's team of physicists who developed atomic weapons felt they did so. In Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein, the hapless Victor Frankenstein did so; creating a creature he had no idea what to do with. In the Internet, we have created something beyond our control; something bigger than we are. As Harry Bruce reminds us, we are now duty-bound to take our research and philosophical study of it eriously.
On a personal note, this will be my last issue in the editor's chair for Internet Research. As of the next issue, Dr David Schwartz, of the Graduate School of Business Administration of Bar-Ilan University, Israel, will be stepping in as Editor and I will be staying with the journal as Editorial Director and also, I hope, occasional contributor. David also serves as head of the Information Systems MBA program. His research interests include: business applications of the Internet; Internet search; distributed artificial intelligence; logic programming; and the use of management models for intelligent agent architectures. The latter two topics form the basis for his recently published book Cooperating Heterogeneous Systems (Kluwer, 1995). David holds a PhD in Computer Science from Case Western Reserve University, an MBA from McMaster University, Canada, and BSc in Computer Science from the University of Toronto.
I hope all the great support and enthusiasm for the journal which I have experienced since I took over editorship in 1995 will be shown likewise to David. As ever, we welcome your thoughts on any of the contributions in this issue, and any of the opinions expressed above. My e-mail is: email@example.com
John PetersEditorial Director