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by Mark Kornbluh [hnet3@mail.matrix.msu.edu], Executive Director, H-Net

A major new initiative for H-Net, the H-News newsletter is designed to span the full range of H-Net activities and build bridges between various parts of the H-Net community. As of November 2001, H-Net is composed of 127 discussion networks, over 500 volunteer editors and well over 100,000 subscribers. H-Net networks span the world--from American studies to Southeast Asian studies---span time--- from mediaeval Islam to modern America-span disciplines-from political science to sports literature, and bring together diverse audiences from the academe, educational community, and broader public. The breadth and scope of the H-Net community challenges us to envision new ways to link together our diverse intellectual communities to facilitate the cross fertilization of discourse and academic resources.

H-Net, from the outset, has been about using the Internet to build bridges. Begun in 1993 when email was still a novelty for most humanists and social scientists, H-Net was designed from the start to bridge space and to attract an international community of scholars. The tyranny of distance, which isolated scholars from across the world and made communication expensive and irregular, could be bridged in a moment with electronic communication. Internationalism remains a central feature of H-Net. We have editors from over twenty countries, participants in over 90. H-Net publishes in English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese and is continually looking for ways to broaden its language base.

When H-Net's first international discussion lists were launched they were focused within one discipline-History. Very quickly, however, they attracted interdisciplinary participation and readership. Much to our pleasant surprise, the departmental boundaries that characterized universities and plagued print publications did not hold in cyberspace. In response to our subscribers and editors, H-Net rapidly translated itself from History On-Line to Humanities and Social Sciences Online. Today, many H-Net networks are fundamentally interdisciplinary, and even the most disciplinary-based networks have a multi-disciplinary cadre of participants.

Similarly, when H-Net was first launched, our focus was strictly research and scholarship. Within the first six months, however, it was clear that discussion lists were a valuable media to discuss teaching as well as research. H-Teach was launched in the Fall of 1994 and a wide range of networks devoted specifically to teaching have followed. Today, almost all H-Net networks cover teaching as well as research and seek to bridge the gap that often separates the two in professional lives.

Perhaps, the most surprising aspect of the development of H-Net, has been its spread beyond the professorate. Originally launched as a vehicle for advanced scholars to communicate. H-Net rapidly attracted a much broader audience than its editors every expected. Graduate students, k-12 teachers, archivists, librarians, lawyers, journalists, indeed a broader educated public worldwide subscribe to our networks. In a very real sense, the fluidity of the Internet has broken down ivy covered walls. H-Net editors and participants on most of our networks have found an audience and are building a dialogue that extends beyond the academe.

Building bridges-international, interdisciplinary, between teaching and research, and between the academe and a broader public-is at the core of H-Net. Unfortunately, the push technology of H-Net networks, which gives them their immediacy and so much fo their appeal also makes if hard for communication to occur across networks. The vast majority of our subscribers participate in only one or perhaps two H-Net networks. In building the H-Net website, and developing web-based tools to compliment our discussion lists, we are trying to use the technology of the web to enhance the connections across our vast and diverse communities. H-News is designed to compliment these efforts and highlight the best of what H-Net and our diverse networks have to offer.

Humanities & Social Sciences OnLine
Humanities &
Social Sciences Online
in cooperation with MSU Department of History
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