____________________________________________________________ THE INTERPSYCH NEWSLETTER AUG-OCT, 1994 ____________________________________________________________ SECTION A: EDITORIAL THE SKY IS FALLING OR THE GROUND IS RISING - PERSPECTIVES ON CHANGES IN THE INTERNET - Over 20 years ago what is today the Internet was born out of a U.S. Defense Department network called ARPAnet. Deemed to be unsuitable for defense purposes due to concerns over security breaches, the network was turned over to the private sector. Since this time, it has blossomed into a worldwide aggregation of information and people that has redefined the way information is used and disseminated. Already electronic communication has changed and shaped the world. During the soviet coup in 1991, coup leaders were un- able to restrict access to information after seizing control of media outlets as soviet citizens used e-mail and fax machines to communicate with the outside world. While the Internet's impact has already been enormous, great changes in its accessibility and makeup are occurring that will reshape the role of the Internet in our lives. Concurrently, we must begin the process of redefining not just what the Internet is, but what it can be. To date, the Internet has been marked, and in fact defined, by an overall lack of planning and organization that has made finding information difficult to impossible. The amount of information currently available on the Internet is stunning - from complete transcripts of all Monty Python episodes to images taken from weather satellites within the last hour. Although no one disputes the wealth of information available, problems have existed finding and accessing this information. In the past, information was often found by word of mouth, by reading extensive lists, or by simply stumbling upon it. More recently, software has been developed allowing Internet applications to be run on the desktop as opposed to mainframe terminals. One such application is NCSA's Mosaic, a World- Wide Web client which permits hypertext searches. One of the reasons Mosaic has been so immensely popular is the relative ease with which one can navigate through the net. With the advent of this and similar software, information is both ex- panding and becoming more accessible. Consider that current- ly, in part due to the lack of user-friendly interfaces, most people's Internet literacy is limited to electronic mail. As navigation of the Internet becomes more straightforward for the lay person, the way we communicate and share information and the Internet itself will be radically altered. In addition to changes in the ease of accessing information, the makeup of the people on-line is also changing. Previous- ly, the Internet was dominated by experienced net-surfers and new users, or "newbies", were treated as such and initiated into the ways of the net. Daily more locations gain access to the net and computer prices drop, and the number of users grows almost exponentially. Imagine taking a city of 2 million people and adding 10 million! While it is clear this will irrevocably change the Internet, it also presents tremendous opportunities. As the Internet changes from being a novelty to being an important part of everyday communication, we must strive to create new and innovative uses for the Internet. Suddenly communication is not limited by distance or time. Instead of the latest clinical information being discussed in letters and brief reports in journals, people have access to electronic mail groups, such as the many that have been organized on InterPsych, and can confer with colleagues around the globe instantly. Imagine how the Internet can change the everyday life of someone with mental illness. Whereas previously someone living with manic depression in an isolated, rural area would have an impossible time finding a support network outside of friends and family, now that net- work is available on his or her desktop. The effect that this type of cultural cross-fertilization will have on disciplines such as mental health and the world in general is inconceivable. As a new generation of users is introduced, our goal should be to promote the utilization of the Internet in ways never even imagined. The Internet was designed to be a system that has nothing to do with the way that it is currently used. For this reason, it often appears disjointed and chaotic (in fact, it is). Sadly, it is one of both the banes and the beauties that so little organization and regulation exists. As the Internet grows, so its unbridled manner will shrink. Currently, there is a strong resistance in the Internet community to change. On the threshold of a new era in usage, we must be pragmatic about planning for the future and encourage the growth of the Internet. In addition to changes accessibility, we face a time when NSF will start charging for access to backbone, accounts will need to be licensed to ensure accountability, and restrictions will be imposed on what information can be transmitted. For better or worse, these changes are inevitable, and to ensure that they are for the better, we must decide not only to embrace them but to shape them as well. If we plan for the future, we will find the future is now. [SPS] SECTION B: INTRODUCTION TO IPN ________________________________________________________________ DON'T KILL ME - I'M USEFUL! The InterPsych (IP) enterprise is an astounding phenomenon: Few if any lists on the information superhighway have been able to accomplish so much in terms of recruiting members, productivity in discussions, and proliferation of information in the field of mental health within such a short time frame. The InterPsych Newsletter (IPN) has evolved out of the IP and - after a pregnant-productive pause - presents itself to the IP- based and larger "virtual audience" now with a new staff, format, and mission. This section is devoted to explain you the crux of its objectives. With the advent of IP, you might notice more people - previously not connected to such a powerful medium - proudly remark that they've returned to 20-500 messages in their mailbox after a short absence. While this has been a fad for quite some time in other fields, the IP has been a key player in awarding many more mental health professionals this credential of social and academic reputability. Informational overflow presses each one of us to make rapid decisions on which messages to acknowledge, which ones to peruse, which ones to ignore. Most messages that are killed are boring, unrelated to one's own activities, annoying or deleted simply for lack of time to read (or think). Like mainstream social sciences are committed to convey complex information in a few aggregate numbers, information explosions on "the net" have led to lists, exclusively devoted to reporting developments on the internet as a whole or zooming in on specific facets, like ascend groups, the world-wide web or gophers. There are also possibilities to monitor the emergence of new lists and to request automatically compiled summaries of a day's communication on a given discussion forum. The newly established InterPsych Newsletter devotes itself to reduce some of this complexity, while providing readers with additional insights from more analytical perspectives and a landscape view of the world of electronically delivered information as it relates to research and practice of mental health. As we believe that compiling lists of topics and resources will be too simplistic and pasting substantial information on mental health - real or virtual - too long, we have opted for a healthy mixture of digests, news, information and original contributions. The Charter of the InterPsych Newsletter follows. As the IPN is chiefly delivered in e-mailable format and produced by voluntary efforts, restrictions had to be made with regard to length of contributions. However, the IPN strives for highest quality and the same depth as comparable hardcopy parallels, while adding to bandwidth, precisely because it relies on electronically based resources and a highly committed, enthusiastic staff. It is the IPN's endeavor to provide you with time-saving summaries, up-to- date information and metaperspectives on voices from the net. Still, readers of the IPN may be initially appalled by overall size, but do keep in mind that it spares you from going through several thousands of lines instead and multiple messages. In the interest of making reading easier we have sent sections as separate files so that readers may access sections they want to read or delete those they do not want more quickly. Also, we suggest printing IPN for easier reading. So do bear in mind for forthcoming IPN issues: Don't reach out for the delete-key too quickly - I'm useful. [SK] ________________________________________________________________ *InterPsych Newsletter Charter* The mission of the InterPsych Newsletter is to facilitate the formation of an international, multidisciplinary community committed to advancing research, theory, and practice in the field of mental health. It is our aim to inform and to promote discussion among professionals in all mental-health-related fields in the belief that the electronic-network-based delivery of information and cooperation of sundry disciplines will contribute to advancements in the field. To this end, the newsletter aims to promote: 1) involvement in Interpsych and its continuing development, 2) dissemination of health-care information world-wide, 3) international discussion and collaboration, 4) utilization of current resources on the internet, 5) creation of new and innovative uses of the internet, 6) theoretical and empirical research.