Donna Hoffman:

I think it's very difficult to predict how the Web will evolve over time. I think it's clear that it will become much more interactive and dynamic. As larger numbers of people come online, the Web will become more mainstream and this evolution into a mass medium with a remarkably varied set of users will change the Web in unknown and potentiall exciting ways.

If we look at some of the ways in which the Web is already transforming our lives, we might get some idea of what lies ahead.

Let's consider how the Web is transforming higher education:

  • The Web is changing how research is disseminated

    • anyone can publish their own research and achieve virtually instantaneous and broad distribution across a truly global network of colleagues;

    • You can also get a much more accurate measure of scholarly impact because the Web allows accounting of who is coming to the web site.

    • This has the consequence that paper journals will over time, become less important and seriously out of date and to survive will need to evolve a decidedely different role for themselves in the scholarly process.

    • this is already having profound implications in disclipines like physics

    • An interesting debate is thus developing over the dualism/dichotomy surrounding the value of a publication and what it means to produce a credible piece of academic research.

      • What is better for establishing the crediblity and impact of a piece of research? A manuscript peer-reviewed by 2-4 scholars and an editor which then appears in print in a journal (many months after the research has been completed) and is forever immutable.

      • Or a manuscript that is self-published to the Web and immediately and continuosly reviewed by hundreds if not thousands of individuals, some scholars, some not, with commentary, discussion, and ongoing revision?

      • Eventually, mechanisms will evolve to formalize this collaborative peer review process. In much the same way that movies are being collaboratively reviewed experimentally at MIT and Bell Labs, such processes may form the model for our new online journals.

      • In this case, reputation becomes a very important corollary to credibility; not surprisingly, some of the hottest work going on now in the development of infrastructures in cyberspace to enable commerce and communication are focused on how to build reputational information into the Internet.

  • The Web Breaks down the barriers that have existed between universities as ivory towers and the outside world.
    • People on the outside can now look inside universities (through the web sites) and see what is going on.

    • One consequence of this is that this creates opportunities for things like, distance learning. Which will be a reality very soon once the bandwidth is there.

    • Look to see the place you can get a degree on the Internet. Virtual university.

      • Virtual Summer School at UK's Open University - students of cognitive psychology use the Internet for videoconferecning and a arnage of other communications technologies to participate in tutorials and practical lab activities.

      • La Canada high school class of 1976 in California is having a virtual reunion

      • I heard recently that the University of Memphis is launching a virtual program in Journalism

      • Extends the university community by making it possible for alumni to stay in contact and allows the university to continue offering services to its alums, efficiently and deeply.

  • The Web is revolutionizing teaching.

    • For example, a number of Owen faculty put their syllabuses and course materials, including lectures, up on the Web. This not only allows for continuous updating of course information, but is globally accessible, thus dramatically increasing the reach if not the impact of the Universities scholars.

    • The more this is done, the easier it becomes to approach true integration of disciplines, either across campus, or across countries.

    • And it means that teachers can practice just-in-time management principles in the teaching of their classes to ensure the latest possible information is delivered to my students. For example, in my MBA course on Marketing on the Web, I bring in guest speakers to guest lecture, who often, as, busy executives and professionals, arrive on short notice and it s possible to easily switich around the lecture days and reading materials because everything is online, hyperlinked, easily edited and most important, easily accessible by my students 24 hours a day at their convenience.

Another way is one you are certainly familiar with!

By turning traditional models of communication upside down, the Web is dramatically shifting the balance of power and giving voice to those who were not heard before.

The result is that individuals have a voice in ways previously impossible.

In 1960, the brilliant A.J. Liebling observed that freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

While still remarkably true, the Web has changed the dynamic wildly and radically, because anyone with a Web server - which due to is low cost is accessible to individuals, not just major corporations and conglomerates, now owns his or her own printing press and the Web is quickly making publishers of us all.

Never has this been brought home more forcefully than in the events of this past summer, which have come to be known as the Cyberporn Debate.

An undergraduate in EE at CMU with an apparent political agenda wrote a highly sensationalistic, inflammatory, and methodological incompetent paper on the apparent amount and type of pornography on the Internet.

Through skillful manipulation of the mass media and events too byzantine to detail here (but see our Cyberporn Debate Page for details), he was able to secure a place for his paper in the Georgetown Law Journal and cut an exclusive deal with TIME magazine who then turned around to publish an equally sensationalistic, inflammatory and irresponsible cover story on cyberporn.

The study and the Time cover story were used as ammunition for conservative special interest groups, lobbyists and elected officials in their quest to regulate and censor content in cyberspace.

But because both the Rimm study and the Time cover story contained serious conceptual, logical, and methodological flaws and errors, we felt it was important that the people become aware that the flaws and errors are sufficiently severe that neither the Rimm study nor the Time cover story should be taken seriously by policymakers when debating these issues.

Subsequent to the publication of the TIME cover story, Mike Godwin, Tom Novak, and I prepared a series of detailed critiques of both the TIME cover story, the study itself, and the process by which this information flowed from the hands of a clever con artist to the mass media.

Our objective was to provide a forum for a constructive, honest, and open critique process and debate about these issues. The critically important national debate over First Amendment rights and restrictions on the Internet and other emerging media requires facts and informed opinion, not hysteria.

In one stunning display of how misinformation, when propagated, begets even worse misinformation, Senator Grassley on June 26, 1995, waved a copy of the Time cyberporn cover story around on the Senate floor and proceeded to misquote and misunderstand deeply what the study itself actually did. And Senator Exon made further remarks about the Time cover story, all of which were read into the Congressional Record.

In the old days, that is, perhaps a year ago, not much would have been done either with or about our criticisms, since despite the veracity of our voices, we owned no printing press.

Yet, working only with a set of Web sites and the WELL, an online community, we were able to disseminate an alternative point of view, which was able to carefully discuss these issues and question the accuracy of the study, which ultimately led to a formal discrediting of the bogus research and what amounted to the closest thing we will see to a full-page retraction by TIME magazine.

The point is that all individuals potentially have a voice in society through the distributed computing environment represented by the Internet.

In essence, the Net can level the playing field when the mass media gets it wrong.

Brainstorms Tomorrow Mind to Mind