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Hypermedia Online Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal

10.6 Final thoughts

If one considers the current state of electronic scholarly communication, it displays many of the characteristics of the early explosion in the diversity of life on earth. The new ecological niche is that of online publishing, free from many of the constraints of the print world. The analogy should probably not be pushed too far, but in a moment of whimsy one might think of the first e-journal as being a little like the first lungfish pushing its way arduously up some primeval beach on its way to start the colonization of the land.

It is certainly true that the last decade has seen a great diversity of forms of electronic scholarly communication: ftp-based journals, mailing lists, journals on CD-ROM, Web-based journals, MUDs/MUSHs/MOOs as collaborative and publishing spaces, and proprietary SGML-based journals. We are starting to see some of this diversity being narrowed down as particular forms are abandoned and as the scholarly world standardises on a subset of these early experiments. Early proprietary experiments like the OCLC Guidon interface have been abandoned in favour of open standards like the Web. Many electronic publishers are choosing to standardise on Acrobat for parallel print/electronic delivery, or where the formatting requirements make HTML problematic.

In terms of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, it appears that we are in the middle of a punctuary jump after the stasis of the last century (at least) of print journal publishing. New species of communication artifacts are emerging to fill the new online niches. Existing players in the scholarly communication ecology are changing their roles and evolving within the new environment. If the analogy with punctuated equilibrium holds, then a new period of stasis should be anticipated. The prediction of this thesis is that the overwhelming majority of print scholarly journals will have completed their transition to an online existence by 2010 and we will then see another (although perhaps shorter, due to the pace of technological change) period of relative stasis. In the move to this new online status quo, there is the potential for new stakeholders to emerge and existing stakeholders to redefine their roles. This thesis has served to illuminate some of this change.

Last modified: Monday, 18-Sep-2017 03:27:37 AEST

© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * *