[Net-Gold] Re: Change or Die: Scholarly E-Mail Lists, Once Vibrant, Fight for Relevance

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[Net-Gold] Re: Change or Die: Scholarly E-Mail Lists, Once Vibrant, Fight for Relevance

David P. Dillard
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Date: Thu, 2 Jul 2009 15:21:19 -0700
From: Richard Hake <[hidden email]>
Reply-To: [hidden email]
To: [hidden email]
Cc: [hidden email]
Subject: [Net-Gold] Re: Change or Die: Scholarly E-Mail Lists, Once Vibrant,
     Fight for Relevance



If you reply to this long (24 kB) post please don't hit the reply
button unless you prune the copy of this post that may appear in your
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************************************


ABSTRACT: Jeffrey Young in his "Chronicle of Higher Education" report
"Change or Die: Scholarly E-Mail Lists, Once Vibrant, Fight for
Relevance," investigated the validity of historian T. Mills Kelly's
argument that the "time of scholarly e-mail lists has passed as
professors migrate to blogs, wikis, Twitter, and social networks like
Facebook."  Young concludes, on the contrary,  that email lists
remain "a key tool that just about everyone opens every day. As long
as that's true, the trusty e-mail list will be valuable to scholars
of all stripes."  Young's conclusion is consistent with (a) "Academic
Discussion Lists: Faculty Lounges, Collective Short-Term Working
Memories, Or Academic Journals?" [Hake (2009a)]; (b) "Over
Two-Hundred Education & Science Blogs" [Hake (2009b)]; and (c) "Over
Sixty Academic Discussion Lists: List Addresses and URL's for
Archives & Search Engines" [Hake (2009c)] I have copied Young's
valuable essay into the OPEN! archives of AERA-L.


************************************


Both Rick Froman (2009) and Christopher Green (2009) in TIPS
(Teaching in the Psychological Sciences) posts of 30 Jun 2009 called
attention to Jeffrey Young's (2009) "Chronicle of Higher Education"
essay "Change or Die: Scholarly E-Mail Lists, Once Vibrant, Fight for
Relevance." As of 2 July 2009 13:09:00 these posts had stimulated 12
responses, accessible on the TIPS archives at
<http://www.mail-archive.com/tips%40acsun.frostburg.edu/>.

Young wrote [bracketed by lines "YYYYY . . . . "; my inserts at ". .
. . .[insert]. . . . "]:


YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

Once they were hosts to lively discussions about academic style and
substance, but the time of scholarly e-mail lists has passed,
meaningful posts slowing to a trickle as professors migrate to blogs,
wikis, Twitter, and social networks like Facebook.


That's the argument made by T. Mills Kelly. . . . .[
<http://chnm.gmu.edu/history/faculty/kelly/>]. . . . , an associate
professor of history and associate director of the Center for History
and New Media at George Mason University. Naturally, he first made
the argument on his blog. . . . .[ <http://edwired.org/> and
especially "The End of H-Net? (Kelly, 2007a,b,c)]. . ., and he has
mentioned it on the technology podcast he hosts with two colleagues.


A close look at some of the largest academic e-mail lists, however,
shows signs of enduring life and adaptation to the modern world.


Mr. Kelly is not swayed, though. He says he was once an enthusiastic
participant in several scholarly e-mail lists, mainly ones run by the
H-Net service. . . . .[<http://www.h-net.org/> sponsored by MATRIX. .
. . . . . .  <http://www2.matrix.msu.edu/> ]. . . . , which offers
e-mail lists on various topics in the humanities. He even moderated
one of them. But he says one of those lists shut down for lack of use
in 2005, and the activity on the others sputters along with little
useful information.


"As more and more people become comfortable with blogs and Twitter,
e-mail lists will become increasingly irrelevant," he said. "They're
just a much less dynamic form of communication."


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


I pitched the story to my editors, who loved the headline "Death of
the E-Mail List."


But then a surprising thing happened. I started to hear passionate
defenses of e-mail lists from other people in my digital network,
even those who are just as plugged in to the latest trends.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Perhaps e-mail lists will occupy a space like radios did in the
television age, sticking around but fading to the background.
Although people are fond of declaring the death of e-mail in general,
it remains a key tool that just about everyone opens every day. As
long as that's true, the trusty e-mail list will be valuable to
scholars of all stripes.


YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY


I agree with Young that email lists remain "a key tool that just
about everyone opens every day. As long as that's true, the trusty
e-mail list will be valuable to scholars of all stripes."


In my opinion T. Mills Kelly's blog essay "The End of H-Net?" does
NOT imply  "The End of Academic Discussion Lists?" -  see e.g.:


1.  "ACADEMIC DISCUSSION LISTS: FACULTY LOUNGES, COLLECTIVE
SHORT-TERM WORKING MEMORIES, OR ACADEMIC JOURNALS?" [Hake (2009a)].
The abstract reads:


***************************************


ABSTRACT: Should Academic Discussion Lists (ADL's) be like faculty
lounges, collective short term working memories, or academic
journals? Here is an edited and expanded version of a post of 18 May
2009 to AERA-H wherein I argue that ADL's might best serve as BOTH
faculty lounges and collective short-term working memories. The
inclusion of the latter would justify the academic protocol that
characterizes communications such as this one, even though such
protocol may chill those who prefer faculty-lounge-type conversations.


***************************************


2. "OVER TWO-HUNDRED EDUCATION & SCIENCE BLOGS" [Hake (2009b)]. The
abstract reads:


~*~*~~*~*~~*~*~~*~*~~*~*~~*~*~~*~*~~*


ABSTRACT: This compilation, an expansion of the earlier "Over Sixty
Education Blogs," lists over two-hundred education and science blogs,
providing for each blog: the author's name and background; the blog
title, focus, and URL; and (where available) the Technorati Authority
[TA] and the Blogged Rating [BR]. APPENDIX A DISCUSSES THE ACADEMIC
DISCUSSION LIST SPHERE (ADLSPHERE) AND THE BLOG SPHERE (BLOGOSPHERE),
INDICATING THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF EACH. Appendix B considers
the ADLsphere and the Blogosphere as harbingers of a collective
short-term working memory. Appendix C discusses the International
Edubloggers Directory, Technorati, Blogged, ScienceBlogs; other blog
directories and lists; and other social networking sites. The
REFERENCES contain over 100 general citations to open access,
internet usage, the ADLsphere and the Blogosphere.


~*~*~~*~*~~*~*~~*~*~~*~*~~*~*~~*~*~~*



3. "OVER SIXTY ACADEMIC DISCUSSION LISTS: LIST ADDRESSES AND URL'S
FOR ARCHIVES & SEARCH ENGINES" [Hake (2007)].




Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
24245 Hatteras Street, Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands.
<[hidden email]>
<http://www.physics.indiana.edu/~hake/>
<http://www.physics.indiana.edu/~sdi/>
<http://HakesEdStuff.blogspot.com/>




REFERENCES


Froman, R. 2009. "Change or Die: Scholarly E-Mail Lists, Once
Vibrant, Fight for Relevance." TIPS post of 30 Jun 2009
05:23:47-0700; online at
<http://www.mail-archive.com/tips%40acsun.frostburg.edu/msg29893.html>.


Green, C. 2009. "Change or Die: Scholarly E-Mail Lists, Once Vibrant,
Fight for Relevance - Chronicle.com," TIPS post of 30 Jun 2009
07:30:26-0700; online at
<http://www.mail-archive.com/tips%40acsun.frostburg.edu/msg29895.html>.


Hake, R.R. 2007. "Over Sixty Academic Discussion Lists: List
Addresses and URL's for Archives & Search Engines," online at
<http://www.physics.indiana.edu/~hake/ADL-L.pdf> (640 kB), or as ref.
49 at <http://www.physics.indiana.edu/~hake>. This will soon be
updated so as to include TeamLearning-L, TrDev-L, the new address for
TeachEdPsych, and a pointer to lists on H-Net.  See the ADDENDUM for
a critique of academic discussion lists.


Hake, R.R. 2009a. "Academic Discussion Lists: Faculty Lounges,
Collective Short-Term Working Memories, or Academic Journals?" online
at
<http://hakesedstuff.blogspot.com/2009/05/academic-discussion-lists-faculty.html>
with a provision for comments.


Hake, R.R. 2009b. "Over Two-Hundred Education & Science Blogs," 30
March; online at
<http://www.physics.indiana.edu/~hake/Over200EdSciBlogsU.pdf> (2.6
MB). ). The abstract is also at
<http://hakesedstuff.blogspot.com/2009/03/over-two-hundred-education-science.html>
with a provision for comments.  (Please disregard the 13 commercial
comments from "fdfdf".)


Kelly, T.M. 2007a. "The End of H-Net?" blog post of 10 September ;
online at <http://edwired.org/?p=204>, along with 19 responses as of
2 July 2009.


Kelly, T.M. 2007b. "The End of H-Net? (cont'd)" blog post of 20
September ; online at <http://edwired.org/?p=214>, along with 2
responses as of 2 July 2009.


Kelly, T.M. 2007c. "The End of H-Net? (cont'd)" blog post of 24
September ; online at <http://edwired.org/?p=219>, along with 4
responses as of 2 July 2009.


Young, J.R. 2009. "Change or Die: Scholarly E-Mail Lists, Once
Vibrant, Fight for Relevance," Chronicle of Higher Education, 29
June; online at <http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i40/40college2.0.htm>;
copied into the APPENDIX of this post.  As of 2 July 2009 15:18:00
there had been 14 comments at
<http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php?topic=61387.0>.




XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX


APPENDIX [I have copied Young (2009) into the APPENDIX of this post.
My inserts at ". . . . .[insert]. . . . ." Such copying is in accord
with "fair use"of copyrighted material as provided for in section 107
of the US Copyright Law. In accordance  with Title 17 U.S.C. Section
107, the material is distributed without  profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving the  included information for
research and educational purposes. For more  information go to
<http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml>.]


<http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i40/40college2.0.htm>


COLLEGE 2.0


CHANGE OR DIE: SCHOLARLY E-MAIL LISTS, ONCE VIBRANT, FIGHT FOR RELEVANCE


By Jeffrey R. Young


Once they were hosts to lively discussions about academic style and
substance, but the time of scholarly e-mail lists has passed,
meaningful posts slowing to a trickle as professors migrate to blogs,
wikis, Twitter, and social networks like Facebook.


That's the argument made by T. Mills Kelly. . . . .[
<http://chnm.gmu.edu/history/faculty/kelly/>]. . . . , an associate
professor of history and associate director of the Center for History
and New Media at George Mason University. Naturally, he first made
the argument on his blog. . . . .[ <http://edwired.org/> and
especially "The End of H-Net?" at <http://edwired.org/?p=204>]. . .
., and he has mentioned it on the technology podcast he hosts with
two colleagues.


A close look at some of the largest academic e-mail lists, however,
shows signs of enduring life and adaptation to the modern world.


Mr. Kelly is not swayed, though. He says he was once an enthusiastic
participant in several scholarly e-mail lists, mainly ones run by the
H-Net service. . . . . [<http://www.h-net.org/> sponsored by MATRIX.
. . . . . . .  <http://www2.matrix.msu.edu/> ]. . . . , which offers
e-mail lists on various topics in the humanities. He even moderated
one of them. But he says one of those lists shut down for lack of use
in 2005, and the activity on the others sputters along with little
useful information.


"As more and more people become comfortable with blogs and Twitter,
e-mail lists will become increasingly irrelevant," he said. "They're
just a much less dynamic form of communication."


After hearing Mr. Kelly's striking thesis recently, I began asking
around about whether other scholars are clicking "unsubscribe" so
they can spend more time blogging and Twittering.


When I posed the question on my Twitter feed, a few tech-forward
scholars heartily agreed. "In the last month, i unsubscribed from 4
academic lists," wrote David Silver, a professor of media studies at
the University of San Francisco, abbreviating his comment to stay
within Twitter's 140-character limit on all messages. "Thru other
means, mostly Twitter, don't feel like i'm missing much."


"I find that I almost hate e-mail now," wrote Kimberly Gibson, an
instructional designer at Our Lady of the Lake University. "It feels
so slow and outdated. Thus, I'm not really reading my scholarly lists
anymore."


Even a participant on the scholarly e-mail list about scholarly
communication agreed when I posed my question there.


"While I am still on a few Listservs, it is mainly because they give
me no other option for receiving information," wrote Kay Cunningham,
an electronic-resources librarian at the University of Memphis. "I
find them increasingly annoying - even those with digest options, and
for the most part I delete them unread."


I pitched the story to my editors, who loved the headline "Death of
the E-Mail List."


But then a surprising thing happened. I started to hear passionate
defenses of e-mail lists from other people in my digital network,
even those who are just as plugged in to the latest trends.


"I'd venture that academic librarians would not be able to function
without e-mail mailing lists!" wrote Lorena O'English, a
social-sciences librarian at Washington State University, when I
posted a question about the issue to my Facebook profile.


Researchers and administrators from a range of disciplines joined
that chorus. Eran Toch, a postdoctoral fellow in computer science at
Carnegie Mellon University, said that all of his colleagues use them,
too. "Not everybody has Twitter/Facebook accounts, and social
networks are too public for most of the content flowing through
mailing lists," he wrote.


It turns out that the audiences for many academic mailing lists are
actually growing - though even some organizers admit that the lists
are less likely to contain the spirited debates that once thrived
there. Administrators at some of the largest academic lists say they
are beginning to upgrade their services for the Web 2.0 era.



SUBSCRIBERS UP, MESSAGES DOWN

Listserv . . . . . [by LSoft
<http://www.lsoft.com/products/listserv.asp>]. . . .  , a trademarked
software for running e-mail lists whose name is often used to refer
to the lists themselves, was once a "killer app" . . . . . .[with its
very powerful search engine and great archives it's STILL a "killer
app"]. . . . that tempted many professors to try the Internet in the
first place, back when many established scholars were skeptical of
computers that and a Chronicle article nearly 15 years ago proclaimed
the exciting new world of academic e-mail lists, calling them "the
first truly worldwide seminar room."


"This is the academy of the 1990s, where 'being connected' has taken
on a whole new meaning," the 1994 article went on. "Attending the
right graduate school and being published in prestigious places are
still important, but establishing a name for oneself online has
become the newest way to win recognition."


But now collaborating online with colleagues is so accepted that
scholars are trying new tools that are easier to use and, well, a
little more exciting. When was the last time someone enthusiastically
recommended a new e-mail list to you?


That fact is not lost on the organizers of H-Net, one of the largest
networks of academic discussion lists. H-Net now runs about 180
lists, which together boast more than 120,000 subscribers, according
to Peter Knupfer . . . .
[<http://www.history.msu.edu/view_profile.php?id=111>]. . . . ,
executive director of H-Net and an associate professor of history at
Michigan State University.


He says the numbers of subscribers to the lists rise each year.
"Rumors of our impending demise," Mr. Knupfer said, "are therefore a
bit premature."


But the total number of messages on the system has declined steadily
each year since 2000, he admitted. Which means that Mr. Kelly is
probably right that the lists are less vibrant than they once were.


In many cases, the way the lists are used has changed, explaining the
dip in message traffic. Some lists now have less discussion and
instead focus on notices of upcoming conferences, job ads, or other
announcements. Perhaps that is because so many of the lists are now
so large that discussions become unwieldy. When a few dozen or even a
hundred colleagues dash a few notes back and forth through e-mail
messages clearly marked by topic, it's usually easy enough to follow.
But get a thousand or more subscribers on a list, and the volume and
noise can become excessive, even with moderators on duty.


The H-Net service's most valuable items are its book reviews, written
by volunteers on each list. Mr. Knupfer says more than 1,000 new
reviews are posted to the lists - and simultaneously to the H-Net Web
site - each year.


And don't forget the elegant simplicity of e-mail. E-mail lists are
easy to use and can be accessed from even the slowest Internet
connections, said Mr. Knupfer.


One sign of the audience's dedication to the e-mail format is that
when H-Net asks subscribers to make a small donation to keep the free
service running, people open their e-wallets.


"This year we brought in about $45,000 or so," said Mr. Knupfer,
noting that typical donations are about $45 each.


"Listserv is going to be with us for quite a while," he predicts.
"It's remarkable how durable and how popular that particular medium
remains."


Even so, the organization is working to offer new social-networking
tools alongside its venerable lists. Last year the H-Net leadership
voted to add blogs and other services to its mix, and a pilot version
of new services is expected in the next six months or so.


We've always thought of H-Net as an organization of networks rather
than an organization of e-mail lists," Mr. Knupfer told me. "The
limitations of Listservs are obvious to everyone."


He said the new system will enhance the service's Web site, which
already offers searchable archives of the lists and links to related
Web resources. The hope is to let users create their own profiles and
post files to their H-Net accounts to share with other scholars. "We
don't allow attachments on our lists, but we do want people to share
documents and sound and video," he said.



EMBRACING NEW TECHNOLOGIES


Similar changes are under way at the Linguist List, which - with
about 29,000 subscribers - could be the largest single academic
mailing list out there.


Helen Aristar-Dry, who has helped run the list since it began in
1990, is co-director of the Institute for Language Information and
Technology at Eastern Michigan University.
"The linguist list is actually kind of a big deal in linguistics,"
she said, reporting that its audience is growing each year. The list
also asks its subscribers for donations to support it, and this year
it exceeded its $60,000 goal by $10,000.


The list has tried to embrace new technologies as they have emerged,
even as organizers kept the list going. Ms. Aristar-Dry got a grant
from the National Science Foundation many years ago to set up a
searchable Web archive of the lists. More recently, the organizers
set up RSS feeds for the list so scholars can follow it on Google
Reader, Bloglines, or other software designed to keep track of blogs
and Web sites (H-Net has set up a similar service).


Like H-Net, the tenor of the Linguist List has evolved. "It used to
be a discussion list, but it's not that so much anymore," said Ms.
Aristar-Dry. "Now it's mainly job announcements, conference
announcements, and book reviews."


"I think that community discussion has been largely replaced by the
blogs," she said.


Perhaps e-mail lists will occupy a space like radios did in the
television age, sticking around but fading to the background.
Although people are fond of declaring the death of e-mail in general,
it remains a key tool that just about everyone opens every day. As
long as that's true, the trusty e-mail list will be valuable to
scholars of all stripes.


College 2.0 explores how new technologies are changing colleges.
Please send ideas to <[hidden email]>.


_____________________________________



<http://chronicle.com>
Section: Information Technology