Not Just a Matter of Time: Field Differences and the Shaping of Electronic Media

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Date
1999
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Rob Kling Center for Social Informatics
Abstract
The shift towards the use of electronic media in scholarly communication appears to be an inescapable imperative. However, these shifts are uneven, both with respect to field and with respect to the form of communication. Different scientific fields have developed and use distinctly different communicative forums, both in the paper and electronic arenas, and these forums play different communicative roles within the field. One common claim is that we are in the early stages of an electronic revolution, that it is only a matter of time before other fields catch up with the early adopters, and that all fields converge on a stable set of electronic forums. A social shaping of technology (SST) perspective helps us to identify important social forces – centered around disciplinary constructions of trust and of legitimate communication – that pull against convergence. This analysis concludes that communicative plurality and communicative heterogeneity are durable features of the scholarly landscape, and that we are likely to see field differences in the use of and meaning ascribed to communications forums persist, even as overall use of electronic communications technologies both in science and in society as a whole increases.
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Keywords
social informatics, social shaping of technology (SST), High Energy Physics, Molecular Biology, Electronic Publishing, convergence
Citation
Kling, R., & McKim, G. (2000). Not just a matter of time: Field differences and the shaping of electronic media in supporting scientific communication. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 51(14), 1306-1320.
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Working Paper