controlled than radio and television, and more capable than the telephone or stand-alone fax machine of supporting large distributions. At the same time, networking (especially with networks tied to other networks) quite often involves multiple entities that may have different operating policies and procedures; in this regard, networking is unlike using more traditional media that tend to operate under more uniform and centrally formulated policy guidelines.

Using electronic networks, people share experiences and activities that bind them together (Box 1.1). Although long-distance transportation systems, telephones, and broadcast media have led to the formation of many geographically dispersed communities that are defined more by shared interests than geographical location (e.g., professional societies and nationwide clubs), networks provide a medium that transcends distance and further enriches the possibilities

Box 1.1 Some of What People Can Do with Networks

  • Write an electronic message and send it through an electronic mail system.

  • Receive and reply to an electronic message, forward copies to other people who are connected to the network, and clip out parts of the message for inclusion in a report.

  • Browse the catalogue of a digital library and scan the contents of abstracts or full documents, and transmit selected documents to one's computer for later reading or for incorporating into other documents.

  • Locate, download, install, and run software in network-accessible software libraries.

  • Compose an article or newsletter and send it out to thousands of people on an electronic distribution list.

  • Join on-line discussion groups that bring together people with shared interests, composing and reading messages that form a continuing conversation among potentially tens of thousands of "fellow travelers."

  • "Telecommute" to work from a personal computer and engage in business with fellow co-workers, customers, and suppliers.

  • Enroll in a program of study at a remote school, and then receive assignments, submit work, and interact with faculty through the network.

  • Scan consumer catalogues and order goods and services.

  • Connect to on-line entertainment centers and join other people in an electronic fantasy game.

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