Daniel Paul O'Donnell

Published On


Page Range

pp. 183-206

Print Length

23 pages

8. Critical Mass

The Listserv and the Early Online Community as a Case Study in the Unanticipated Consequences of Innovation in Scholarly Communication

In this chapter, O’Donnell considers the state of ‘revolutionary stasis’ in today’s scholarly communication by examining LISTSERV and the early online community as a case study. Beginning with a brief history of the early online community (with the rise of email and the LISTSERV mailing list distribution utility), O’Donnell goes onto distinguish two approaches to the design of online, email-based communities: to act as a computer-mediated representation of an existing academic form, as well as to treat mailing lists as an informal, conversational space. O’Donnell engages with Patrick Connor’s discussions on the importance of para-academic social practices over more formal scholarly elements and argues that we are looking for change in the wrong place – our work practices are changing not as a result of digital technology innovations replacing our previous methods, but by supplementing and building on them. O’Donnell argues that it is the expansion of informal channels that has revolutionised in-group para-disciplinary communications. The chapter ends with O’Donnell’s thoughts on where currently emerging innovations can lead us.