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based on communications paths and direct connections between
distributed information sources rather than upon technologies that
mechanically or electronically select information from a store. New
paradigms of interaction appropriate for multimedia distributed
systems will be the focus of new technologies, and automated,
intelligent search agents will be found that help consumers as well
as providers to find and use what is important and real.
New technologies, combined with the concept of
reference-connected sets, may offer another potential solution to
the management of the communications process among different
institutions in collaborative networks. Future research on
community networks should be focused on the operational level
rather than the administrative level by linking users of
information from the "bottom up" and by searching through
communications paths rather than through the content of the
information that is stored in distributed databases. This would
give communities an opportunity to assess the role of the NII
without large investments in technology and would allow
participating organizations to gain the economic benefits of the
network only in so far as there is a need to collaborate.
An approach is presented here that does not attempt to guide
users through the vast domains of information that will be
available through the NII. Instead, it helps them to find quickly
the others user within their community of interest that may have
the information they are seeking. This approach could provide the
protocol needed to link national, local, "on-line," off-line,
public, nonprofit, and private databases for increased access to
collaborative networks. It could also enable providers of health
and human services to work together to aid patients medically,
psychologically, and socially in the most beneficial ways. It is a
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