From Now On: A Monthly Electronic Commentary on Educational Technology Issues
Vol 5, No 6 -- February-March, 1995
Perhaps it goes without saying. But bandwagons have a way of distorting reality and swaying behavior. All of a sudden the world is rushing willy-nilly onto the Information Highway in a dash to explore just about any topic and any question. It's as if they believe the NET can illuminate any subject.
Well, it s time we set the record straight and point out the weaknesses of conducting research on the NET. When is a BOOK the best place to turn? When is the NET the best source? When will a CD-ROM encyclopedia or periodical collection outperform them both?
1. When it comes to history and complex issues . . .
A student recently asked me where was the best place to learn about the Cuban Missile Crisis on the Internet. I dashed onto the Net full of confidence, having recently located the VIRTUAL LIBRARY for HISTORY. I thought I had a wonderful list of sources which would return hundreds of valuable documents. Not so! More than an hour later I was still wandering around with almost no information to show for my efforts.
I stepped off the highway and pondered my failure. Why was there so little about the Cuban Missile Crisis on the Net?
I began with profit as a hypothesis. People who study something for thousands of hours, collecting and reviewing hundreds of documents, usually try to sell their work to a publisher. The publisher then tries to make money by selling a book. I could find references to such books on the Net, but the books themselves were still in hard copy formats. No one had rushed to place free electronic versions on the Net.
Carefully synthesized information is still a valuable commodity in our society. One pays for such information, either by purchasing a book or subscribing to pay-per-view data services such as DIALOG.
It reminded me of my first glimpse at Internet versions of magazines offered in the Electronic News Stand. I rushed to open a few of these free documents and found they were little more than Tables of Contents or teaser introductions to lead articles. If you want the real stuff, you subscribe.
The highest quality free information on the NET is generally the governmentally funded studies which have been conducted by university scholars and scientists who have filed them for global sharing on their gopher sites.
Historical work on issues like the Cuban Missile Crisis is in generally in short supply.
A VERONICA search across gopher sites turned up a dozen documents, the majority of which were either e-mail messages between amateur historians debating the crisis or were documents which refused to open because their file server was not operating:
Search GopherSpace by Title word(s) (via PSINet): Cuban Missile Crisis
1. Cuban Missile Crisis (fwd).
2. Re: Cuban Missile Crisis .
3. Re: Cuban Missile Crisis (fwd).
4. Kruschev/Cuban Missile Crisis.
5. Cuban Missile Crisis.
6. Re: Cuban Missile Crisis .
7. Re: Cuban Missile Crisis (fwd).
8. RE: Cuban Missile Crisis (fwd).
9. Cuban Missile Crisis.
11. COLD WAR: CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS