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"The danger from computers is not that they will 
 eventually get as smart as men, but that we will
 meanwhile agree to meet them halfway."
                                - Bernard Avishai

During the past two years there has been a lot of hype surrounding the intersection of computers and telecommunication. Internet access is easy to get and the companies and individuals pushing the hype claim the internet will profoundly change the way people live. It's very probable that they're right.

Communication technology has always shaped culture in a very fundamental way. From the development of speech to mechanical printing presses to 2.1 televisions per household, Western civilization has been the history of communication. A change in the way people communicate is something to get excited about, and to consider carefully. However, in the case of the internet, I don't think due consideration of the medium has taken place.

The primary method of communication on the internet is electronic text. Whether the application used is e-mail, gopher, the World Wide Web, or real-time chat, e-text is the medium. Considering the central role of electronic text in an impending net-centric society, relatively little research on the properties of e-text is available.

The reason for this research gap is likely found in the interdisciplinary nature of the question. As Richard A. Lanham points out in The Electronic Word, the digital revolution is pushing the arts and humanities together in an unprecedented manner. However, the traditional view of the arts and humanities as separate fields of inquiry lingers. Academics too often focus on what falls neatly into their department's jurisdiction. An rich understanding of e-text will only be available when concerted efforts are made to bring together studies in all disciplines of the humanities and arts. Research is much needed from all sides, from cognitive psychology to literary theory.

This field of inquiry needs some introduction, though. I hope that this site will provide such an introduction, and I'll take the liberty of putting forward some hypotheses on where this research may lead.

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Created by Jonathan Stade, 1996.