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"Distance is no longer an obstacle for cooperation"

When Finland entered the Internet age in 1988, the web was primarily used by institutes of higher education and scientific communities, initially for e-mail correspondence between researchers.
"Newsgroups can be seen as a precursor to the current social media", says Professor Hannu-Matti Järvinen of TUT’s Department of Pervasive Computing.
"Newsgroups can be seen as a precursor to the current social media", says Professor Hannu-Matti Järvinen of TUT’s Department of Pervasive Computing.

It was no longer necessary to route messages from computer to computer by means of e-mail mapping and mainframes, since messages could now be sent directly to recipients as far away as the United States in mere minutes.

"Newsgroups were also important parts of the Internet. They were public forums for exchanging information on current events around the world that circumvented the official information distribution channels. Newsgroups can be seen as a precursor to the current social media", says Professor Hannu-Matti Järvinen of TUT’s Department of Pervasive Computing.

"For example, the news about cold fusion that shook the scientific world in 1989 spread effectively through newsgroups. And when the United States attacked Iraq in 1991, people at TUT followed the events through newsgroups."

Eternal September lives on in social media

Newsgroups also created all sorts of incidental phenomena. When an American operator expanded the Usenet service outside academia, forum discussions began to take on negative aspects. The phenomenon was dubbed ‘Eternal September’.

"It referred to the beginning of the semester at colleges and universities when freshmen have not yet learned the proper etiquette. Disruptive behaviour has remained a steadfast element of online discussions and continues to flourish in social media", Järvinen says.

No more waiting for messages

E-mail messages gradually supplanted traditional letters, making correspondence between researchers easier than ever.

"Another massive change was the possibility to download software off the Internet onto university computers by means of FTP arrangements."

"Before this, we ordered software from the United States by sending a letter containing a cheque. The software was sent on magnetic tapes with no installation instructions, so the process was never as simple as you would think", Järvinen describes.

WWW was created for physicians

The foundation for the current Internet was created in 1991 with the release of the World Wide Web. It is based on the Hypertext Markup Language HTML created by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Caillau to increase the efficiency of the cooperation between physicists at CERN and help them to share research results. The general public began to gain access to the Internet in the early 1990s with the introduction of the first web browsers and search engines, Yahoo and Altavista.

Hannu-Matti Järvinen points out that the Internet did not revolutionise the processes of scientific communities overnight. New methods have been adopted gradually as older ones begin to fade into obscurity.

"One of the key benefits of the Internet is that distance is no longer an obstacle for cooperation. Today, researchers can use cloud services to collaborate on articles in real-time wherever in the world they are at the time. This is a revolutionary development."

Not everything can be electronic

It is difficult for a researcher to work without the Internet, but according to Järvinen, there is an area where old traditions still persist: scientific conferences.

"Networking with colleagues and social interaction remain extremely important. It is much easier to contact people and propose collaboration if you have met them in person at least once.

I haven’t even considered attending online conferences. I don’t think I could stare at talking heads on screen for very long."

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News submitted by: Mika Puonti
Keywords: science and research, services and collaboration, information systems, working at tut, image and communications,, domain