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Hypermedia Online Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal

2.2.5 Areas of application

Having developed their theory in all its richness, Kaufer and Carley apply it through a series of simulation models to a range of areas involving author-reader interaction: print in general, print and the professions, print and academe, and intellectual migration. The first three of these contribute insights for the research questions of this thesis.


Their analysis suggests that given the right preconditions, print can "speed diffusion, stability, and consensus" [Kaufer&Carley1993, p. 291]. They contrast these results with what they characterise as the Strong Print Hypothesis, based on the idea that print has a range of unconditional effects: extension of author's reach beyond oral communication, origination of an awareness of societal reach, creation of stability and consensus by encoding information. They regard this as far too absolute an idea. Perhaps the strongest statement to come from their own analysis is a fairly bland one about print enabling wider communication through speed of transmission.


In the case of the modern professions, they argue for a necessary role for print [Kaufer&Carley1993, p. 311] in the sense that large diverse professions need to be structured around printed texts. Print is merely a supporting technology, not a deterministic one. The nature of professions depends on the characteristics of a group and not the medium through which they communicate. Like the later technology of electronic mail, print increased the reach of individuals within a profession and thus supported a wider geographical spread of members. Print also bound the members of a profession more closely together through shared experiences of common printed materials in the forms of journals and newsletters.

Using simulation models, they argue that a constructural analysis of the impact print confirms the following hypotheses [Kaufer&Carley1993]:

  • Efficiency hypothesis: print, though multiplicity, can move information faster and bring about more rapid stability and consensus (pp. 318-323).
  • Expanding Member hypothesis: print makes the expansion in the membership of professions possible (pp. 324-329).
  • Expanding Culture hypothesis: print allows a profession to have a larger culture yet still reach consensus and stability as effectively as a smaller non-print using profession (pp. 324-329).
  • Weak Integration hypothesis: print reduces the need for cultural integration of a profession by mitigating the consequences of initial minimal integration and reducing the reliance on co-presence (p. 330).
  • Strong Specialisation hypothesis: print increases the ability of a profession to be specialised by sharing information more effectively (pp. 330-335).


In their analysis of academe, they find all these hypotheses also confirmed. They also discuss the scientific journal as a particular print artefact. They argue that in diffusing new ideas journals are simultaneously faster than book publication or face-to-face interaction (due to their frequency of issue and increased reach respectively), and slower than newspapers (due to the gatekeeper function of peer review). The obvious question is whether the current system is too fast or too slow. The consensus according to Kaufer and Carley is that many scientists regard the speed of journals as too slow, particularly in very fast-moving fields. They refer briefly to electronic journals as a possible solution.

Last modified: Monday, 11-Dec-2017 14:39:48 AEDT

© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * http://andrew.treloar.net/ * andrew.treloar@gmail.com