Reporter 455, 25 September 2000

Academia’s w.w.wake-up call

Academic journals and conferences may soon become things of the past, according to communications studies lecturer David Gauntlett (pictured). In a new book, he argues that the explosive growth of the Internet is making traditional means of academic communication increasingly redundant.

"Why let an article go out of date by two years waiting for a journal to publish it? Put it on the Web today," Dr Gauntlett urges in the editor’s introduction to Web.Studies: Rewiring media studies for the digital age (Arnold/OUP).

The book is itself very much a product of the new media age. The editor announced his proposal on a single e-mail discussion list and within a month, he was choosing the final 24 chapters from 140 proposals.

Dr Gauntlett said the subsequent discussion and fact-checking was all conducted by e-mail and website browsing – so most of the chapters are by people with whom the editor has never exchanged a spoken word or a conventional letter.

He believes that media studies had entered a ‘middle-aged, stodgy period’ during the 1990s and that the emergence of the Web explosion has given the discipline ‘a much-needed shot in the arm’.

The book considers ways of studying the Web, and examples of how the medium is used in everyday ways to create new cultural phenomena and interact with existing ones.

A third section looks at its commercial dimensions and how established media are adapting to the challenge of the Web.

Further chapters outline its use for political and social purposes, such as building global networks of activists or ethnic groups.

The author – creator of the award-winning website – has, predictably, set up a website about the book, where he even urges users to buy it at a knock-down price from online bookshops.

The book also includes a chapter on the use and abuse of the Internet in last year’s Kosovo conflict, by Professor Philip Taylor, director of the Institute of Communications Studies, and a discussion of the Internet and democracy by Dr Stephen Lax, lecturer in technology at the Institute.

More Gauntlet.Doc in WEB 455
communication studies

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