Perils, Promise of 'Net Publishing Discussed

Perils, Promise of 'Net Publishing Discussed

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

World Wide Web piracy, the rapid dissemination of scholarly work and changing institutional priorities were among several aspects of electronic publishing cited at a panel discussion which highlighted the University's annual Faculty Technology Day event on May 16.

Brendan Rapple (left) and Arthur Kroker at the May 16 panel discussion on electronic publishing. (Photo by Mike Mergen)

Sponsored by the Office of the Academic Vice President, the annual event introduces faculty to new technologies and their potential use in teaching and research. In addition to the lunchtime panel discussion, faculty had the opportunity to attend seminars and workshops on technology-related matters in several campus locations.

Panelists at the discussion, which was held in Gasson 100, said the Internet holds both promise and peril as a medium for higher education.

"Electronic publishing has changed everything," said panel moderator University Librarian Jerome Yavarkovsky. "It has broadened to the point where the medium is becoming the message."

Visiting Professor Arthur Kroker (Sociology), who edits the online journal, said, "There's no question that electronic publishing is the future of scholarly communication."

Referring to the Internet as a "global mind," Kroker said that the key benefit technology offers scholars is an opportunity to ply their scholarship in new ways. Kroker displayed on a screen and discussed some of the details of the site.

"It used to be just about text," he said. "Now there's so much more you can do."

Collection Services Librarian Brendan Rapple offered some empirical evidence to suggest that Internet publishing may provide a serious challenge to traditional academic journals. Rapple reported that the average subscription price of an academic journal rose 270 percent from 1985 through 1999. During the same period, he said, the number of journals declined by 6 percent.

"Libraries are paying more and getting less," said Rapple. "This has serious implications for the dissemination of your scholarship."

Prof. Walter Haney (LSOE) and Assoc. Prof. Jeffery Howe (Fine Arts) discussed their varied experiences with Internet publishing.

A founding member of the Art Historian Web Masters' Association, Howe began publishing on-line in 1995 to supplement his courses. He has compiled an archive of more than 3,000 digital art images on-line and has received attention from around the globe.

In one remarkable instance, he said, administrators from Oxford University called Howe after seeing his site and asked him to serve on a committee to judge a student's doctoral work in art history. Howe said his section on architecture has convinced more than a few visitors that he is an expert on the subject.

"I've even had people ask me to help them choose houses," said Howe. "People assume you know more than you do."

But the exposure provided through the Web can carry a potential risk, Howe noted. He explained that when a section of the site was bootlegged and reproduced by someone in China, nothing could be done to prevent it nor was there any practical legal recourse.

"Sometimes you just have to accept the 'shareware' notion behind the Web," he said.

Haney credited the Internet with helping him receive an unprecedented reaction to his analysis of education reform in Texas under George W. Bush, a study he published on the Education Policy Analysts Archives World Wide Web site during last year's presidential campaign.

In 10 days, Haney said as many as nine anonymous reviews found their way into his e-mail box. Soon afterwards scores of journalists, legislators and education policy experts contacted him about the findings. "That was unheard of before," Haney said, referring to the volume of attention his work had received.

Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael Smyer offered a policy perspective on electronic publishing at BC. He said the Internet's impact on teaching and research is becoming a key factor in faculty development.

"I think we're still figuring out [the implications]," said Smyer. "I don't think the criteria will change, but they will expand."

Smyer noted that the policy considerations also raise questions about how BC should allocate resources.

"In the future, on-line publishing may be the only way, but right now we have to ask how should we devote Information Technology, technology consultant and library resources?" said Smyer. "And do we, as a University, have a choice anymore?"


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