F r o m
t h e
D e s k
t h e
E x e c u t i v e
D i r e c t o r
Kornbluh [email@example.com], 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
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.