The Information Society


Letter from the Editor-in-Chief Rob Kling
11(4) 1995

The Information Society (TIS) 11(4), is the second since I became its third Editor-in-Chief. TIS was founded in the early 1980s by a visionary, Joseph Becker, who unfortunately died in July. Joe saw that information technologies had enormous possibilities in altering social life, and that key issues went far beyond the design of technological systems, such as the now popular information infrastructures (aka, infobahn, information highways). He developed TIS as an interdisciplinary and international forum for sound studies and lively articles that examine the social character and consequences of new information technologies. Joe's successor, Bob Anderson, continued to build the journal as a high quality, reliable publication. 

I am exploring formats for organizing debates about key papers and topics. TIS has occasionally published debates. Ted Sterling's paper, "Democracy in an Information Society," served as the focus of a major debate in 1986 [TIS 4(1/2)]. The October 1994 TIS issue 10(4) includes a debate between Abbe Mowshowitz and Geoff Walsham about the nature managerial control and worklife in virtual organizations. I believe that these high quality debates help readers better understand key issues about information technology and social change. 

This issue, devoted to Scholarly Communication and Electronic Journals, includes a lively debate by Stevan Harnad and Steve Fuller about the possibility of having all scholarly journals rapidly become completely electronic. I anticipate that many future issues of TIS will include debates and diverse commentaries. One new format for debates and short position papers is the Forum, a section devoted to shorter papers. You can learn about forthcoming debates by checking The Information Society's home page. 

I also welcome readers' commentaries on TIS articles and debates. I anticipate posting these, with authors' replies, on TIS home page. Those discussions that raise significant issues may also be published in subsequent issues of TIS. 

TIS is primarily a paper journal insofar as it circulates issues in paper, and is funded through paper-based subscriptions. However, I am exploring to use electronic media to help better connect authors and readers in synergy with a paper-based journal. In my experience, some of the strategies for working with electronic media, such as electronic submissions, primarily displace costs from authors to editors and reviewers. I have been experimenting with electronic submissions on a case-by-case basis and find that I have to spend considerable time re-formatting electronically submitted manuscripts for review or subsequent publication. In some cases, I have not been able to effectively extract good text from electronic submissions. Part of the dilemma comes from the diverse electronic formats in which mail systems encapsulate texts (MIME, binhex, etc). 

In some cases, such as the debate in this issue between Stevan Harnad and Steve Fuller who are based in England, sending texts back and forth electronically was specially efficacious. Even so, their final manuscripts required some reworking for paper publication because the formatting styles that work best for some electronic text formats (such as ways of linking WWW addresses and explicitly quoting text in ASCII) require reworking for paper publication. 

On the other hand, paper publication can be slow and rigid. A TIS issue is mailed to subscribers about four to five months after I send materials to Taylor and Francis. For example, I have decided not to include the Call for Papers for TIS special issue on Electronic Commerce in this issue because people who depend upon this paper issue to learn about it will have missed the deadline for submitting a paper. Consequently, Rolf Wigand and I are relying upon other means to announce this special issue: posting on selected LISTSERVs, distributing paper flyers at conferences, and linking the paper call to TIS' web pages. 

The articles in this issue focus on one key aspect of electronic publication -- readers having rapid access to the full electronic text of articles that have been accepted for publication. I see many other aspects of electronic publication in addition to access to full text, and will be exploring them for TIS. 

I hope that this collection of innovations will help make TIS a journal that many more scholars and professionals feel that they must read routinely to keep up with the best studies and high quality commentaries about new information technologies and social change. These innovations are experimental in many of their details, and I welcome comments from authors and readers about your views of these innovations and with alternative possibilities. 

This new spate of innovation would also not be possible without the help and enthusiasm of many people. The new editorial board members are acting as ambassadors for TIS by advising about the journal's new formats and by soliciting lively papers as well as serving as reviewers. Carolyn Cheung is acting as Managing Editor and handles the flow of manuscripts, reviews, and diverse correspondence. 

Financial and production support from Taylor and Francis, space and resources, UC-Irvine's Center for Research on Information Technology and Organizations, and computer support from UCI's Department of Information and Computer Science make these TIS innovations possible. 

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