[This document is a part of the Asia Web Watch: a Register of Statistical Data (est. 1 Oct 1997)]

Asian Studies and the WWW:
a Quick Stocktaking at the Cusp of two Millennia

Dr T. Matthew Ciolek,
Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies,
Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia

To be presented at the
Pacific Neighbourhood Consortium (PNC) Annual Meeting,
Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan,
15-18 May 1998

Document created: 5 Apr 1998. Last revised: 12 May 1998

0. Abstract

Since the introduction of the WWW in May 1991, this new electronic publishing/communication tool has both revolutionised and complicated the Asian Studies scholarship and librarianship. This paper reviews the current role of the WWW in Asia as well as in Asian Studies. It also summarises major positive and negative developments, identifies emerging long-term trends and offers predictions for the period 1999-2005.

1. Introduction

This is an interesting afternoon. The reason is two-fold. Firstly, tomorrow marks a certain anniversary which is worth our attention and, if possible, some celebration. Secondly, we live in literally the last few years of a millennium. Another eye-blink or two, and we will find ourselves right in the midst of a realm hitherto belonging to science fiction.

So, in order to be slightly different on an occasion which is atypical, let me start with a reminiscence.

1.1. A short visit to CERN

It was the last day of August 1992, when I called on the WWW team at CERN, in Geneva. The impromptu meeting took place about 13 months before Marc Andreessen and his Mosaic Web browser catapulted the Web into mass use, etched it into popular imagination and gave it lasting planetary fame.

In summer 1992 there were only about 20 Web servers in the world (see Table 3), Gophers and WAIS databases were the undisputed rulers of the Net. The only people who would bother to ask about the World Wide Web system would be either those intrigued by its exotic hypertext capabilities (Berners-Lee 1992), or those with an inexplicable hunch that the world might be taking a fantastic new turn. I was simply an ignorant and hunch-less visitor. That the WWW might revolutionise our daily informational activities did not dawn on me at all.

Anyway, on that August day, I saw Robert Cailliau, the co-creator (with Tim Berners-Lee) of Web technology. When we finished talking about ways of setting up hypertext linkages, and about the newly conceived language called 'html', he took me on a visit to all of the public-access attractions of the European High Energy Physics Laboratory. During our walk, M. Cailliau, originally a civil engineer, embarked on a story about his hero, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59). Brunel, an English engineer, was best known for building bridges and railroads, and for designing the first transatlantic steamer and the first large iron steamship. Brunel was also the designer of London's Paddington Station (Grolier 1993).

Cailliau said that, as an undergraduate of the University of Ghent in Flanders, he once saw a facsimile of Brunel's memorandum. It was a letter, written in the late 1830s, to his Board of Directors. The remarkable engineer advised that, for their planned railroad network which was to span at least half of the UK, a commodious 7 ft (2.13 m) railroad gauge was better suited for the task then the standard gauge of 4 ft 8-l/2 in (1.44 m). A few weeks later the directors politely thanked Brunel for his proposal. They praised the idea and readily acknowledged all technical, economic and human-comfort advantages offered by the new standard. "However", they wrote back, "our company has laid over 1,000 miles of track built to the 1.44 m specification. Also, the existing steam engines operate satisfactorily. Therefore, it would not be advisable to act on your technical recommendation, recklessly forfeiting all the effort and investment made until now."

Cailliau paused for a moment, explaining to me the function of some huge piece of equipment, and then continued. "Well, keeping intact 1,000 miles of a network built to an inferior specification might be a reasonable short-term decision. However, the directors, by not wanting to forfeit an investment in 1,000 miles of a mediocre product had actually forfeited the full potential of 850,000 miles of railroads constructed since the 1830s. Therefore, the unique opportunity of setting up a proper railway system had been missed for ever."

My visit was drawing to an end, and we were approaching a bus stop. "You know", Cailliau continued, "one always needs to do a really good job. One should never get oneself locked into a solution only because of lower cost or greater popularity, or because some pundits like it better. A standard which does not address the likely needs of the future world, is not a standard, and is not worth keeping."

The bus arrived, we exchanged valedictions, and I left for Geneva's railway station and the remainder of my holiday voyages across Europe.

Very soon, barely a year later, an electronic genie was suddenly let out of a software lab (Reid 1997:1-23) and the Web took the world by storm (see Table 3), and since then - as the cliche has it - all we do online, is part of history.

1.2. The ritual of stocktaking

Tomorrow, on the 17th of May, falls the 7th anniversary of the day when WWW was applied for the first time to gathering our dispersed and fragmented knowledge. Due to the WWW technology our scholarly activities have changed immensely, and our perceptions of what is possible and desirable, and what is not, have also been irreversibly affected.

Moreover, another eye-blink or two, will find ourselves in a realm hitherto known from ambivalent Kubrickian dreams. The end of a millennium, as Van Doren (1991:110-111, 298) has observed, lends itself very naturally to all sorts of rational and irrational fears, ill-ease and meditative reflections. Some of them are fairly general and are about what we have done with our civilisation and technology so far (see, for instance, Swerdlow 1998). Others are more explicit, and deal directly with computers and the turn of the era.

For instance, on the 15th of April 1998, an Australian newspaper reported that "some of the 65 Soviet-made civilian nuclear plants scattered across the former Warsaw Pact countries could malfunction as their computers fall victim to the ... year 2000 glitch ... thereby shutting down crucial control and radiation monitoring systems." (Anonymous 1998a). A few weeks earlier, in a separate development, Arquilla (1998) gave a blow-by-blow account of the world in July 2002. His 'future scenario' described how the governance, communications, universities, supply of energy, as well as transport and banking of entire nations could be suddenly destroyed when hit (chiefly via the Internet) by logical bombs and viruses. His are not exaggerated concerns. It is sufficient to recall that, as early as ten years ago on the 2nd November 1988, a playfully released digital worm burrowed, for a day or so, through the Net, shutting down approximately 6,000 of the 60,000 hosts on the Internet (Zakon 1998).

So, the end of our epoch has its highly charged apocalyptic properties. In late April 1998, the Altavista database (Digital 1998) recorded no less than 286 English language Web documents containing the words 'end of millennium' and 37,724 documents dealing with 'new millennium'. Nota bene, the database also kept track of documents which spelled the word 'millennium' in a creative, albeit, incorrect, single-'n'-fashion: 119 documents which talked about the end of it and 9,814 discussing the new one.

So, maybe we too should take a part in this special ritual of human minds, and consider for a moment, who we are and what we do. So, I suggest that today, on the eve of the 7th anniversary of the WWW, we might want to look at our networked involvements. And, while we take stock of our electronic endeavours, we might wish to remember Cailliau's poignant anecdote. We too should attempt to tease out and separate short-term and local developments, from those which are best seen on a scale of continents and decades.

This paper will have five parts. Firstly, I shall draft a short history of the WWW. Next, I will touch upon the inflationary universe of the WWW, and the Internet as the emerging subject of Asian Studies research. The fourth part of the paper will address some of the emerging trends, as well as dangers and opportunities presented to our discipline as the new brave world of digital communication. Finally, I shall venture a handful of predictions for the next seven years of the Asian Studies online activities.

2. A Short History of the WWW

In January 1998, the Internet, the global network of networks, comprised 29,700,000 hosts, three quarters of which were located in the USA and Canada, 17% in Europe, 6% in Asia and the rest in other regions of the world (see Table 1). The term 'host' means here an interconnected computer, a machine housing software for person-to-person (as well as computer-to-computer) communication and global sharing of information.

	Table 1
	Number of Internet Hosts in the World since Jul 97*
	Region               Jul 97              Jan 98
	Nth America      12,519,457 (64.0%)   21,462,773 (72.3%)
	Europe            4,424,604 (22.6%)    5,139,495 (17.3%)
	Asia              1,433,853 ( 7.3%)    1,778,786 ( 6.0%)
	Australasia         863,289 ( 4.4%)      834,744 ( 2.8%)
	South America       127,656 ( 0.6%)      184,549 ( 0.6%)
	Africa              123,414 ( 0.6%)      128,389 ( 0.4%)
	Central America
	  & The Caribbean    45,814 ( 0.2%)       56,832 ( 0.2%)
	Pacific Ocean           849  (0.0%)        1,642 ( 0.0%)
	World TOTAL**    19,540,325 (99.7%)   29,669,611 (99.6%)***
        Source: Asia Web Watch (Ciolek 1998d)
	*  Host data from the Network Wizards (1997, 1998)
	** including hosts (.net, .org) not linked to any specific country
	*** 52% growth between Jul 97 and Jan 98
The WWW is one of such specialist software tools. As Table
2 shows, it is a fairly late development in the long history of
innovations aimed at securing convenient and speedy access to digital
information scattered in various parts of the globe.

        Table 2
	Introduction of major e-publishing/e-communication tools
	Date            Tool
        1976            Email (a)
        1976            Usenet news groups (a)
        1980 Jun        Telnet (b)
        1981            Listserv mailing list software (a)
        1985 Oct        File Transfer Protocol (FTP) (c)
        1988            Internet Relay Chat (IRC) (a)
        1990            Archie FTP semi-crawler search engine (a)
        1990 Dec        WWW (prototype) (d)
        1991 Apr        WAIS search engine  + full text databases (e)
        1991 Apr        Gopher (f)
        1991 May 17     WWW (production version) (f)
	1992            Veronica Gopher crawler search engine (a)
        1992 Jul        Lynx ascii WWW/Gopher browser (g)
	1993 Oct        Mosaic graphic WWW browser (d)
        1994 Feb 14     Labyrinth graphic 3-D (vrml) WWW browser (h)
        1994 Apr        Aliweb WWW semi-crawler search engine (i)
        1994 Oct 13     Netscape WWW browser (j)
        1995 Apr        RealAudio narrowcasting (k)
        1995 spring     Altavista WWW crawler search engine (l)
        1995 Jun        Metacrawler WWW meta-search engine (m)
        1996 Apr        Alexa WWW intelligent navigation adviser (n)
        1996 Jun        Internet Archive full text database (o)
        Sources:(a) Zakon (1998); (b) Postel (1980); (c) Barnes
	(1997); (d) Cailliau (1995); (e) St.Pierre (1994); (f) La Tour (1995);
        (g) Grobe (1997); (h) Reid (1997:175); (i) Koster (1994); 
        (j) Reid (1997:33); (k) Reid (1997:69); (l) Digital Co. (1998); 
        (m) Selberg (1997) (n) Kahle & Gilliat (1996); (o) Anonymous (1997).
Strangely, the WWW had a slow and unauspicious start. Although it was a new and very attractive concept, it suffered from a double handicap. Firstly, its prototype browser software provided by CERN was sluggish, awkward and non-intuitive. Secondly, the Internauts' attention was already captured by the extraordinary possibilities offered by thousands of FTP archive sites, as well as by the emergence (in April 1991) of two brand new pieces of electronic publishing software, which were called Gopher and WAIS. 
The literature on these early tools is not extensive. Moreover, most of the factual information dealing with FTP sites, WAIS databases and Gophers exists solely in electronic format, and gradually, despite the valiant archiving efforts of Brewster Kahle and his Internet Archive colleagues (Cunningham 1997) gets overwritten, altered, or, most commonly, irrevocably destroyed. Some references, therefore, might be in order. They are listed here in an alphabetic order: Anonymous (1998b); J. Barnes (1997); R. Cailliau (1995); P. Deutsch et al. (1995); G.C. Kessler and S.D. Shepard (1997); A.M. La Tour (nd); J. Postel (1980); M. St. Pierre et al. (1994) and, finally, G. Wolf (1994). Also, technical information on practicalities of setting up various electronic services can be found in Liu (1994). 
What follows, however, is my own account, without explicit references to these materials. 

2.1. File Transfer Protocol - the Pathmaker and Storekeeper

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) archives were the Internet's first attempts at global electronic publication of reusable information (e.g. texts, data, software, images). Archives were built in the form of a collection of multiply-nested directories on a host with an FTP server. 
Access to these materials was simple but awkward. It would involve five sequential steps: (a) typing a couple of commands to connect to a machine with a public access FTP archive (there were also FTP archives which were not open to the Internauts at large); (b) login via a generic name "anonymous" and a generic password such as one's email address; (c) browsing through the names of directories and files; (d) copying a selected file (or group of files) to one's own computer; and (e) logging out. On rarer occasions one could also electronically deposit with an FTP archive one's own files. FTP archives were meant to be used anytime, anywhere and by all. And so they were. 
In the late 1980s, the world of the Internet was small, and most of the information about its intellectual content circulated by word of mouth, or via email. However, in the early 1990s there were already several hundred anonymous FTP sites. A few years later, in 1995, throughout the Internet there were over 950 anonymous FTP archive sites (Deutsch et al. 1995) containing some 5,700,000 files comprising over 94 Gigabytes (94,000 Mb) of data. Therefore, in order to track their contents, a master catalogue, or better still a database, had to be built to tell a user what could be found, how and where. This service was eventually provided in 1990 by an innovative Telnet-based search engine called Archie. Archie was the brainchild of Peter Deutsch of MacGill University, Montreal, Canada. 
There, once a month, on the basis of a manually compiled list of all known FTP archives, Archie would automatically dial-up each of the registered sites, collect information on their directory structure and files and catalogue the intelligence. Should an Internaut wish to find, say, an electronic copy of an English-Tibetan dictionary, s/he would invoke (via Telnet) either the main Archie database, or one of its many mirrors, and send to it a series of keyed questions in the hope of stumbling on a file which would contain in its name (no more than 11 letters for a DOS file, or 31 chars for a Macintosh file) matching strings of characters such as "tib" and/or "dict". Once the matching name was located the file could be looked up in the appropriate FTP archive. Sometimes such a document would contain an irrelevant material, while at other times the name of the file would be fairly indicative of its content. Success in finding cogent materials would depend on any of the four factors: the freshness of Archie's intelligence; the persistence and imagination of an inquirer; pragmatic naming conventions practiced at the given FTP site; and, finally, sheer good luck. 
The FTP system was, on the whole, reasonably simple to establish and maintain. At the same time it was fairly easy to use. It was the last of the technologies (i.e. itself and Telnet) in which both producers and users of information had to be skilled info-technicians. However, it was a practical starting point for several scholarly information services. For instance, Coombspapers, the world's first Asian-studies FTP site, was established on 3 December 1991 by the Coombs Computing Unit, ANU (Ciolek 1997d). It continues to operate today. 
The next two developments constitute a stage in the development of the Internet, where only a producer but not the user, had to be a seasoned programmer (the case of WAIS and Gopher). This was eventually followed by a stage where both producers and users could be amateurs (the case of the WWW and Mosaic). 

2.2. WAIS - the Prophet and Universalist

WAIS, which is an acronym for a Wide Area Information Server, was a visionary tool invented in April 1991 by Brewster Kahle of the Thinking Machines Co. A few years later, Kahle was instrumental in setting up an archive of the contents of the entire Web (Cunningham 1997) and in building Alexa, the intelligent WWW navigation tool which provides instantaneous information, rating and advice about visited sites (Kahle & Gilliat 1996). 
In 1991 WAIS was a program for indexing, storing and, retrieving information about the contents of collections of full-text documents. Unlike other databases, it was a free format tool. A WAIS database could be queried in casual, unstructured, everyday language. The results would be returned in a descending order of their relevance. The most cogent findings would be given a score of 1000, the least relevant documents would receive a score of 1. The score was generated by a clever algorithm which weighted (a) an overall number of keywords in each of the documents; (b) their placement within the document's structure (i.e. keywords in chapter titles would receive a higher rank than those in section titles); and (c) the size of the analysed text (three keywords from a 200 word document would score higher than the same three keywords in a 250 word document). 
Additionally, the Macintosh implementation of a WAIS browser provided an iterative 'relevance-feedback'. This enabled efficient location of not only documents matching the required keyword(s), but also documents whose structure and language resembled most closely the supplied example. When a search was successful, complete copies of the document(s) meeting the query criteria would be displayed on the screen. Within each of the documents all relevant keywords would be highlighted. 
WAIS was a futuristic tool in two ways. Firstly, it could easily pinpoint a proverbial needle in a haystack, regardless of how big (from a fraction of a kilobyte to an astounding 200 Mb) these haystacks were. Secondly, and more importantly, WAIS was conceived as a global (hence its name) information retrieval tool. Short descriptions of a new database could be emailed to the WAIS HQ in San Francisco for listing in the so called 'server-of-servers'. This registration procedure was the keystone of WAIS' success. Any time of the day, any person in any part of the networked world could pose any question to his/her own WAIS browser. This question would be automatically routed to the 'server-of-servers' in San Francisco and answered with a list of WAIS databases which were likely to hold an answer to the query. Once identified, these databases could, in turn, be interrogated one at a time, or jointly, in a quasi-parallel fashion. 
However, the WAIS system also contained five initially minor or simply invisible weaknesses, which were ultimately lethal to itself. 
Firstly, although WAIS could handle huge masses of plain-text (ascii) information, at any time it could only locate a maximum of 45 pertinent documents. Secondly, each of the newly created databases, in order to be useful to other people, needed to be manually described and annotated by their creators. Thirdly, and similarly, registration with the server-of-servers was a manual process. This meant that many of WAIS' databases operated but remained unknown. In this fashion the global system gradually fragmented, and rendered ineffective. Fourthly, the actual creation of a WAIS database was a very complicated and technical task. It was certainly a task for a fully trained programmer, and not a typical scholar or typical librarian. Lastly, however splendid WAIS was, it was a self-centered creature. It knew and cared only about itself. It was oblivious to the existence of FTP system which predated it, as well as being indifferent to any linking with its contemporary, the Gopher. 
However, for a while, between 1991 and 1994, WAIS did very well indeed. In May 1992, the first 'Asia-related' WAIS database, with bibliographical notes on the Thai-Yunnan region, was published by the Coombs Computing Unit at the ANU (Ciolek 1997d). It was followed by another five databases produced by that Unit in 1992, 25 databases in 1993 and 28 in 1994. In mid-1994, in the last days of WAIS' ascendancy on the Net there were about 650 formally registered WAIS servers and perhaps another hundred or so unregistered ones. Their world was brave, self-contained and quick and nothing hinted at their not-so-distant day of reckoning and demise. 

2.3. Gopher - the Integrator and Cataloguer

The tool named Gopher was a radically innovative idea too. Gopher was created in April 1991 at the University of Minnesota Microcomputer, Workstations & Networks Center (La Tour 1995). Initially, the system was a help service for computer questions, then it started acting as a campus wide information system, and soon grew to a world-wide network as universities and governments began using Gophers to interconnect hitherto separate pockets of their digital information. 
Gopher was electronic glue which put together hierarchical sequences of screens. Each screen could contain a menu of up to 18 lines of links. Each link could lead to a full text document, or to an FTP archive of documents, or to a WAIS database. Moreover, it could also lead to other Gopher screens on the same or a different machine, as well as to a Telnet connection, thus linking readers with various Telnet-based databases such as library catalogues and Archies. In other words, Gophers could integrate in a simple friendly manner all scattered sources of digital information. 
Importantly, the user did not need to know anything about Internet technology. All s/he needed to do to locate the required nugget of information, from anywhere in the world, was simply to move (via a cursor) from one Gopher menu to another and from a menu item to a resource and back. The global 'gopherspace', nowdays known as the 'cyberspace', that is, a vast archipelago of electronic information accessible via meandering sequences of one-way pointers, had been suddenly established. It was a massive, unplanned and convoluted labyrinth of data and connections, a true maze in which one could easily get disorientated and lost. 
Therefore it was fortunate that within a year of the appearance of the first Gophers, the contents of that gopherspace became tracked and catalogued by Veronicas. These were searchable global registers of all online resources which had a link from at least one Gopher in the world. They were operating very much like their predecessor, Archie. They too launched a primitive version of robot software, which would ceaselessly crawl through the gopherspace and report back all pertinent discoveries. In late 1993 there were about 9 Veronica servers established at various places in the world. These were databases provided by: NYSERNet, USA; PSINet, USA; SUNET, USA; Tachyon Communications, USA; U. of Bergen, Norway; U. of Manitoba, Canada; U. Texas, Dallas, USA; U. of Koeln, Germany and U. of Pisa, Italy. 
Also in the late 1993, the hard working Veronicas were supplemented by a handful of Jugheads. These were local gopherspace registers: that is, devices for keeping track of data and links known only to single, usually large-scale, Gopher. The other difference was that Veronicas kept records of links to all resources. Jugheads, on the other hand, were more selective and faster to use, as they dealt only with information at the subdirectory level. The most famous of the Jugheads was the one which operated at Washington U., St. Louis, USA. 
The virtues of Gopher have already been stated. However, it is important to remember its three basic drawbacks: Gophers were unable to display visual information; their links could be set up or modified only by a trained programmer; and, thirdly, such links could not be adequately labelled or annotated. But for a while, for three years, actually, very few people felt that such a handy and efficient system might even need to be improved on, let alone abandoned for yet another miracle of information technology. 

2.3. WWW - the Meta-Integrator and Intellectual

The World Wide Web made its entrance on the world stage within a month of the launch of WAIS and Gopher software, yet the early days were quite unremarkable. The interest in the Web system was mainly cerebral and the growth, slow. However, the WWW had three intrinsic advantages over earlier technologies: 

2.4. Mosaic - the Facilitator and Catalyst

Finally, in September 1993 these three requirements were suddenly met. The
unexpected (and uncalled for) assistance came in the form of a
browser program conceived and designed by Andreessen
and his colleagues at NCSA in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

The software, baptised "Mosaic", was excellent, and available
for all major platforms: X, PC/Windows and Macintosh, and,
importantly, was free.
The Mosaic browser proved to be an instantaneous hit. In a seven
month period between September 93 and April 94 some 340,000 copies
were acquired (from an FTP archive, accessible via Gopher and
Web, as well as from a dedicated WWW hypertext link) and put to
immediate use by the curious Internauts. Mosaic and her
descendants - the Netscapes and Explorers - have been repeatedly and energetically
downloaded and installed ever since (Reid 1997:33-68). The world of the
WWW was becoming an intensively navigated and closely watched place.

It all started with intellectual developments, and  followed by innovative
technical solutions.
On 21 September 1993 the first WWW Virtual Library to be
established outside CERN, was built by Dr. Lynn H. Nelson at the
University of Kansas (Nelson 1998, Secret 1996). It dealt with History.
Soon it was followed by other intellectually orientated Web sites and
new technical refinements.

The Labyrinth WWW browser, released by Mark Pesce in February 1994,
provided access to the virtual reality of three-dimensional objects
(artefacts, buildings, landscapes) which readers could ambulate
through and view from all possible directions, as well as  use for
hypertext connections with other 3-D or 2-D (i.e. ordinary)
portions of the Web.

In March 1994 the Coombs
Computing Unit at the Australian National University constructed a
series WWW Virtual Libraries to verify, chart and
annotate the fast growing archipelagos of online resources for
(Ciolek 1998c), and separately, for Social Sciences. The latter of the WWW VLs was subsequently to be hosted by the University of Florida and edited by Dr Gene Thursby. Another important event took place in April 1994, when Martijn Koster launched his badly needed Aliweb database of Web sites. Aliweb was a semi-automatic/semi-manual precursor of all subsequent generations of WWW search engines. Finally, in October 1994, a new browser called Netscape (another M. Andreessen product) intertwined hitherto separate worlds of WWW and email communications. All these mutually reinforcing developments made the WWW cyberspace into an adventurous land, a great testing ground for ideas, an informational frontier which, with every week, was even more intensively traversed, explored, improved on and extended. The number of newly installed WWW servers rocketed from 130 in July 1993 to over 2,700 in July 1994 and the explosion in Web-based information continues till today. The WWW technology, which combined two major elements, http - hypertext transfer protocol and html - hypertext markup language, when, handled by the Mosaic browser, was able to offer the networked public a rich array of elegantly integrated features. These were the already mentioned (a) meta-integration of all major extant information tools and (b) hypertext linking between items of information. However, the Web/Mosaic marriage offered additional attractive features such as: (c) a method (supplied by the http software) of identification of all individual items of electronic information via unique sequences of protocol-, network-, computer-, and finally directory and page details, the so called URL; (d) a typesetting and page make-up capabilities (provided by the html language); (e) a self-launching and intelligent browser system (offered by Mosaic) (e) an intuitive point-and-click interface for document acquisition and display (Mosaic's contribution); (f) a simultaneous display of both alphanumeric and graphic material (again, Mosaic);
and finally another of the Mosaic's crowning achievements (g) a fruitful symbiosis with other computer programs, most notably with PC-based word-processors which would serve as html authoring tools, and, as in the case of Netscape's integration of the email software, as communication tools. In other words, Mosaic gave an ordinary person all digital production and publishing powers which until September 1993 resided only in the hands of a few programmers trusted with access to the innards of a mainframe host. As a result, the world of digital information was freed from its initial technical and organisational constraints. This meant, in turn, that the creation of globally accessible/globally generated documents could finally be moved from the seclusion of a computer lab to the office, home, and even an Internet-cafe.

3. The Inflationary Universe of the WWW

So, the Web, provided with such a fertile environment speedily
multiplied, grew, spread and took roots everywhere. Above all,
the Web thoroughly permeated popular imagination and entered
everyday language. This can be observed from a query to the Altavista
database. The query reveals that of all Web documents with various
Internet-related keywords, the ones with a reference to the WWW are the
most common:

	Table 4
	The number of WWW documents with select keywords
        wais 			220,000
        listserv 		852,000
        gopher 			911,000
        telnet 			988,000
        ftp 		      4,167,000
        email                30,995,000
        web                  54,924,000
        Altavista (Digital 1998), 4 May 1998.
Within the four and half
years since the launch of Mosaic, the WWW grew from a mere handful
of Web sites (see Table 3) publishing a couple of hundreds interlinked
pages to a vast informational nebula (see Table 5) comprising approximately
275 million WWW documents hosted (as of March 1998)
on over two million servers.

Another look at Table 5 reveals that, in addition to the continuing
strong growth of WWW servers (with a 52% increase in the six months period since
July 1997), there is also another pattern.

Hosts with WWW servers are taking an increasingly larger share of all
networked computers. During the last six months, the ratio of hosts
with Web servers to hosts without such servers seems to have temporarily stabilised
around the value of 1:16. This figure puts things into
perspective. It acts as a reminder that, while the WWW is the most
spectacular and most talked about development on the
Internet, it is but a fragmentary aspect of it.

	Table 5
	WWW servers and Web pages, Jun 97-Mar 98
				Jun 97        Nov 97         Mar 98
	WWW servers (a)      1,203,096    1,553,998       2,084,473  *
	WWW pages (b)      100,000,000  125,000,000     275,000,000  **
	Pages/server             83.1          80.4           131.9
        Source: Asia Web Watch (Ciolek 1998d)
	* Servers: 73% growth in 9 months
	** Pages: 175% growth in 9 months
	(a) Zakon (1998)
	(b) Bharat & Broder (1998a, 1998b), Lawrence and Giles (1998).
	Note that in Feb 97 Altavista kept details of 31 mln pages
	derived from 476,000 servers (65.1 pages/server), and in Sep 97
	details of 31 mln pages derived from 627,000 servers
	(49.1 pages/server) (Ciolek 1997a).
Numerous non-WWW hosts do also exist and are put to other uses. Some of
these uses may contain a seed for a tool, which could, in the future, make
the Web look as unaccomplished as the systems it displaced so
effectively since 1993. This, in turn, means that our main energy should
be directed towards development of better online information, 
as opposed to building better Web containers for such information.
An old adage proclaiming that "systems come and go, but the
data remain" has not lost its validity at all.

3.1. The accelerating growth of the WWW

Table 5 provides several useful data. Firstly, it gives an estimate of
the likely number of hypertext pages in existence world-wide. In March
1998 there were no fewer than 275 million of them.  Secondly, the
table indicates that while the number of WWW servers  grows at the
astonishing rate of 8%/month, the speed with which Web-based
information is added to global cyberspace is even greater, and
currently is about 18%/month. This also means that each of the Web
servers keeps accumulating around itself an ever growing mass of
hypertext-based information, about 80 Web pages per server from
Jul-Nov 97, and about 132 pages in March 1998.

3.2. Networked information from Asia

These are global figures. So,
if we focus on the Asian continent (Table 6) we notice
another sequence of patterns.

Firstly, in January 1998 the whole of Asia was a source of 8.8 mln Web
documents. This suggests that in January 1998  Asia's share of the
global hypertext cake was  around the 7% mark. Also, we can notice
that the  geographical distribution of Asian-based WWW servers and documents is
uneven. It is strongly  skewed towards the three best wired geographical regions:
East Asia (87% of Asian Web pages in Jan 98), South East Asia (7%) and
the Middle East (6%). At the same time, South Asia, Central Asia
and the Caucasus, in terms of the production of online information,
tend to remain underdeveloped.


        Table 6
        Estimated  Numbers of Asia's WWW Servers and Pages, Jul 97-Jan 98
	Region                    Jul 97              Jan 98
	                     servers  pages*     servers    pages**
	Middle East           5,709    474,418     6,040    485,616
	Caucasus                 44      3,656        46      3,698
	Central Asia             86      7,146        90      7,236
	South Asia              406     33,738       576     46,310
	South East Asia       7,989    663,886     7,318    588,367
	East Asia            74,275  6,172,252    95,730  7,696,692
	Asia TOTAL           88,509  7,355,096   109,800  8,827,919
        Source: Asia Web Watch (Ciolek 1998d)
	* Computed from host data from the Network Wizards (1997, 1998) and
	assuming 16.2 host/web ratio
	**  based on Jul 97 WWW pages/server ratio -  83.1
	*** based on Jan 98 WWW pages/server ratio -  80.4

These figures assume an additional meaning if they are contrasted with data on
the global volume of hypertext information made available about
Asia (Table 7).

3.3. Networked information about Asia

Data for the period July 1997 - January 1998 show that all regions of
Asia, except for East Asia, produce fewer pages (and one might
conclude less information) about themselves and the rest of world,
than is being researched, written and electronically published
about them. In other words, of all regions of Asia, only  East Asia
appears to be (Table 7) the net exporter of electronic information.

Table 7
The number of WWW pages from/about Asia, Jul 97-Jan 98
Region                    Jul 97                      Jan 98
                   from the   about the     from the        about the
                    region*    region**      region*         region ***
Middle East          474,000   2,141,000      486,000        672,000
Caucasus               4,000     156,000        4,000         28,000
Central Asia           7,000      89,000        7,000         24,000
South Asia            34,000   1,441,000       46,000        463,000
South East Asia      664,000   3,732,000      588,000        676,000
East Asia          6,172,000   5,977,000    7,697,000      3,189,000
Asia TOTAL         7,355,000  13,536,000    8,828,000      5,052,000

Source: Asia Web Watch (Ciolek 1998d)
* Computed from host data from the Network Wizards (1997, 1998) and
assuming 16.2 host/web ratio
** Computed from Table 003, Ciolek 1998d, using Sep 97 data, assuming 49.5 pages/server
and obtaining the world total by multiplying Altavista values by factor 1.6
*** Computed from Table 003, Ciolek 1998d, using Dec 97 data, and obtaining the world
total by multiplying Altavista values by factor 1.4

3.4. East Asia and the WWW

Of course, the term 'East Asia' is a broad category. In this paper it refers to countries and territories such as China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, North and South Korea, Siberia and the Russian Far East, Taiwan, and finally, Tibet. Not surprisingly, not all of those places have an equal place in the world's cyberspace. 
Table 8 shows clearly that Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are exporters of electronic information. This can be judged by the fact that each of these countries puts online more WWW documents than the total number of pages about each of them. In the case of Japan, for every page about Japan there are nearly three pages created in Japan itself. In the case of South Korea and Taiwan, the ratios are even more impressive: 6:1 and 9:1 respectively. In other words, these three countries seem to be actively engaging the world. 
On the other end of the spectrum, there are provinces and territories, such as Siberia (and the RFE), or Tibet, which do not have a separate political existence and hence no separate country address on the Net. Yet, for one reason or another, their existence attracts from elsewhere the creation of large volumes of electronic material about them or on their behalf. 

        Table 8
	Number of Internet Hosts and WWW pages in East Asian
        Countries in Jan 98*
	Country              Hosts  	      from     	   about
	China        	     16,322         81,000       323,000
	Hong Kong            66,617        331,000       593,000
	Japan             1,168,956      5,801,000     1,991,000
	Korea North               0             -         47,000
	Korea South         121,932        605,000       104,000
	Macau                   151          1,000         7,000
	Mongolia                 13             -          8,000
	Siberia/RFE             n/a             -          6,000
	Taiwan              176,836        878,000        96,000
	Tibet                   n/a             -         14,000
	East Asia TOTAL   1,550,827      7,697,000     3,189,000
        Source: Asia Web Watch (Ciolek 1998d)
There is also another group of East Asian places, such as the PRC, Macau and Hong Kong which, again for a variety of reasons, are analysed, discussed and talked about more than their entire domestic digital output warrants. In the case of PRC, for every electronic document produced on the Mainland there are four documents produced elsewhere. The case of Macau is even more drastic. There the ratio is 1:7. Hong Kong has settled around a more favourable, but still negative, ratio of nearly 1:2. 

4. Internet: The Emerging Subject of Asian Studies Research

The distinction between information producing and information consuming countries can be seen in other Asian contexts as well. 

4.1. Asian Studies and the WWW - the spatial dimension

The next table, Table 9, looks at the number of Web sites explicitly concerned with the social sciences research related to Asia and her regions and countries. 
Table 9
Location of  Asian Studies Web sites and their geographic coverage
as recorded by "The Asian Studies WWW Monitor" (Nov 96-Sep 97)
Location of                      Region dealt with
the WWW site       Asia  ME  Cauc. CA   SA   SEA  East A.    TOTAL
Europe             17    1    -     8   14    7    22          69   15%
Nth America        28    3    4     8   36   22    84         185   40%
Sth America         -    -    -     -    -    -     1           1    0%
Australasia        29    -    -     -    5   14     9          57   12%
Middle East         -    4    -     -    -    -     -           4    1%
Caucasus            -    -    2     -    -    -     -           2    0%
Central Asia        -    -    -     1    -    -     -           1    0%
South Asia          1    -    -     -   18    -     2          21    5%
South East Asia     8    -    -     -    -   51     2          61   13%
East Asia           4    -    -     -    1    1    57          63   14%
TOTAL             87     8    6    17   74   95   177         464  100%
Src: Ciolek 1997a.
These data reveal several things. Firstly, more information about Asia seems to come from regions situated outside the continent than within it. Secondly, certain Asian regions are more productive in digital Asian Studies than other regions. For instance, according to Table 6, South East Asia and South Asia contain only 6% and 0.5% of the continent's WWW servers respectively. However, as Table 9 shows, they, nevertheless, contributed respectively 13% and 5% of Asian Studies online information resources. In other words, while in those two regions the WWW infrastructure is being put into place very slowly, it is being used very intensively. It is as if the need to publish one's research results was stronger there than elsewhere. 
The third phenomenon is related to the locus of attention among the countries which pursue Asian Studies research and teaching. Yes, it is true that the overwhelming majority of South Asian resources are about South Asia, that the great bulk of South East Asian resources deal with South East Asia itself, and that East Asia appears, at least in our sample, to be concentrated chiefly on East Asian matters. However, one could additionally ask whether researchers in those regions are also interested in a broader picture and in making generalisations from results of their specialist involvements. 
Table 9 shows that this is not always the case. There appears to be strong regional differences: one out of 21, or 5% of the Web activities emanating from South Asia are about Asia as a whole. Similarly, four out of 63, or 6% of East Asian Web sites are also about Asia in general. However, it can also be seen that no less that eight out of 61, or 13% of South East Asian sites deal with such 'large-scale' approaches. What makes South East Asian researchers and librarians more interested in the affairs of the whole of the continent than their South or East Asian colleagues is not known at the moment. However, an interesting trend is already visible, and can be systematically investigated if one wishes to. The point I want to emphasise is that the nature of one's uses of the Web is influenced but not necessarily dictated by the size of a country, its natural wealth, its demographics or the mere number of computers and communications hardware. 

4.2. Asian Studies and the WWW - the cultural dimension

This view is confirmed in Table 10. The table combines two sets of data. Firstly, there is information on WWW pages, which come from over the globe, linked to the world's largest catalogue of Asian Studies online resources, the Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library (Ciolek 1998c). Next, Table 10 provides information on the country of subscribers to two major mailing lists disseminating information relevant to Asian Studies research, teaching and librarianship. 

Table 10
The Provenance of Asian Studies WWW Links and Subscriptions to Mailing Lists
                  No of hypertext links    No of subscribers to
                     to AS WWW VL*    H-Asia** asia-www-monitor*** HA+awwwm
NORTH AMERICA		535  (53%)    1670 (72%)  240 (41%)     1910 (66%)
CENTRAL & STH AMERICA     7  (1%)	14 (1%)	    4 (1%)        32 (1%)
AFRICA		   	  2  (0%)	 4 (0%)	    0 (0%)         6 (0%)
PACIFIC		   	  0  (0%)	 0 (0%)	    1 (0%)         1 (0%)
EUROPE                  202 (20%)      267 (11%)   96 17%	 363 (12%)
ASIA                     66 (7%)       218 (9%)	   67 (12%)      285 (10%)
MIDDLE EAST              12 [18%]        6          5             11  [4% of Asia]
Israel 			  6		 3	    3
Turkey                    6		 2	    1
Saudi Arabia              0		 1	    1
CAUCASUS                  0		 0          0
CENTRAL ASIA		  0              0	    0
SOUTH ASIA                1 [2%]        17          4             21 [7% of Asia]
India			  1		15	    3
Nepal                  	  0		 2	    0
Sri Lanka		  0              0          1
SOUTH EAST ASIA           6 [9%]        34         32             66 [23% of Asia]
Singapore                 4		14	   13
Malaysia                  1		 8	   10
Thailand                  1		 6          4
Brunei                 	  0		 3	    1
Indonesia                 0		 2	    2
Philippines               0		 1	    2
EAST ASIA                47 [67%]      161         26            187 [66% of Asia]
Japan   		 29		80	   15
Taiwan                    9	        35	    3
Korea                     7		 8	    3
HK                        2		30	    3
China                 	  0		 6	    2
Macau                 	  0		 2	    0
AUSTRALASIA      	115 (11%)      144 (6%)   110 (19%)      254   (9%)
OTHER (a)		 73  (7%)       n/a        60 (10%)       60   (2%)
Total                  1000 (99%)     2317 (99%)  578 (100%)    2895 (100%)

Source: Asia Web Watch (Ciolek 1998d)
*  Altavista, 31 Mar 1998 (Digital 1998)
** H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu, 1 Apr 1998 (Conlon 1998)
*** asia-www-monitor@coombs.anu.edu.au, 5 Apr 1998
(a) net + org domains

The patterns of use of the three resources, one based on  WWW
technology, and the other two built around email
communication are rather intriguing. The predominance of North
America-, Europe- and Australia/NZ-based hypertext links, as well as
subscribers to mailing lists, is not surprising at all. After all, the
three facilities  are built in the regions with the greatest share of
networked computers, are managed mainly by westerners, and they use
English as their operating language.

What I mean by an intriguing pattern, is the fact that while Asia's
interest in Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library (7% of links to AS WWW
VL) and in electronic communication (an average 10% of subscribers to
both lists) is quite on par with Asia's share of Internet hosts (7% of
the world's total), the continent also shows major inter-regional
differences. For instance, Middle Eastern users are more likely to
establish Web linkages (18% of Asian links to the AS WWW VL), and less
likely  to subscribe to a mailing list (4% of subscribers from Asia)
than  their colleagues in South and South East Asia (2% and 9% of
links, 7% and 23% of subscribers respectively). Simultaneously,
residents of the East Asian region do not favour either technology.
East Asians use both tools less intensively (67% and 66% respectively) than their high
overall share of computer infrastructure (87% of Asian hosts in Jan
98) would suggest.

4.3. Asian Studies and the WWW - the chronological dimension

When we look back at the available records, they show how various Asian
Studies WWW sites came into being and how they grew, flourished,
declined and vanished off-line. Then, we slowly realise that there is also a
chronological dimension which underpins our digital discipline.

Table 11 shows us a glimpse of information which can be extracted from
archived materials such as registers of subscribers to  mailing lists, or,
as in the case below, from the past issues of electronic magazines. Of
course, the sample presented in Table 11 is far too small for making firm
generalisations. However, it constitutes a good
bridgehead for launching more substantial investigations.

Table 11
Geographic coverage of an Asian Studies Web site and the date
of its announcement in the "The Asian Studies WWW Monitor"
Subject of         No. & (%) of announced  resources
WWW site      	      1994     1995      1996      1997      1998    TOTAL
Asia in general	    1 (100)   4 (36)   11 (20)	  10 (14)   7 (12)    33
Middle East         -         1 ( 9)    3 ( 5)     2 ( 3)   4 ( 7)    10
Caucasus            -         -         1 ( 2)     -        1 ( 2)     2
Central Asia        -         1 ( 9)    2 ( 4)     1 ( 1)   8 (14)    12
South Asia          -         2 (18)    7 (13)    13 (19)   9 (15)    31
South East Asia     -         2 (18)   12 (22)    14 (20)   6 (10)    34
East Asia           -         1 ( 9)   19 (35)    30 (43)  23 (40)    73
TOTAL               1(100%)  11(99%)   55(101%)   70(100%) 58(100%)  195
Source: Asia Web Watch (Ciolek 1998d)
The data suggest that over five sampling periods (Apr 94, Mar 95, Mar 96, Mar/Apr 97 and, finally, Mar 98) the Monitor's announcements of new/improved resources displayed three trends: 
First of all, there seems to be declining interest in the construction/improvement of sites dealing with Asia as a whole. Secondly, in 1998 there seems to be an increased interest in Central Asian affairs but very little networked activities prior to that year. Thirdly, during the years 1995-1997 there was interest in South East Asia, an interest which clearly waned in March 1998. One could only hazard a guess about the relationship between this set of numbers and the numbers related to the economic prowess among the so-called Tigers of that region. The apparent electronic decline of the South East Asian region is also corroborated by data presented in Table 7. 
Clearly, a lot can be learned about Asia from the electronic offerings. 
What are the factors underlying all the uncovered trends, patterns, permutations and shades of differences? We do not really know, yet. We can try to analyse the numbers, to guess and extrapolate. However, what we do know already is that we can subject the Web and its informational holdings to a systematic study. It is so because the Web, the carrier of information about a myriad of things, is also a carrier 'par excellence' of information about itself. 

5. Asian Studies and the WWW: a Quick Stocktaking

The advent of Web and email technologies has deeply affected our relationship with data, information and knowledge as such. Also, it has presented Asian Studies with unprecedented opportunities as well as with a number of worrying problems. 
An informal poll which was conducted in early March 1998 among my academic colleagues (Ciolek 1998b) generated a number of observations. Let's look at them briefly. 

5.1. The Sunny Side of the Web

If we consider the Internet as a medium for electronic publishing and inter-scholar communication, there seems to be a number of welcome changes. My colleagues - some of whom are taking part in this conference - are positive that the Internet, as it currently operates, means: 
(a) Enhanced, round-the-clock and speedy communication between scholars; 
(b) Spontaneous growth of long-distance collaborative networks involving researchers, students, librarians and interested laymen; 
(c) Enhanced access to information, whether in the form of data, analyses or opinions; pooling and cataloguing of scattered research materials; 24 hrs/7days access to information not previously accessible in a given location; access to any type of core and supplementary information (this access is available, in principle, to anyone, anytime, anyplace, anyhow); 
(d) Increased scope for intellectual stimulation, exposure to other viewpoints, serendipitous cross-fertilisation of minds and constant access to fresh ideas; 
(e) Speedy, timely and world-wide dissemination of data sets and research documents, however large or small, complete or preliminary they are; 
(f) Emergence of an ethos which favours global thinking and a planetary frame-of-mind. 
(g) Finally, there is a trend (Rutkowski 1994) towards the flattening and deconstruction of pre-existing professional hierarchies, and speeding up decision making processes. 
Alas, even after the mere seven years of our online endeavours we can see that not all is well with us, or the Net. 

5.2. The Murkiness of the Web

My Asian Studies and Social Sciences colleagues have commented also on the emergence of many dysfunctional or even destructive trends (Ciolek 1998b). These include: (h) adverse cultural processes; (i) technological shortcomings; (j) emergence of restricted-access systems; (k) information overload. 
(h) Adverse cultural processes 
A steady increase in the number of so called 'infotainment' and 'edutainment' sites. This is further compounded by the steady erosion of distinction between facts and opinions, as well as between information which is merely urgent and that which is important. 
Continuing 'dummification' of the Web. Much of the information dealing with Asian Studies, especially in the form of guides to electronic resources, is haphazardly conceived, poorly structured, badly annotated, irregularly updated, and worst of all, prone to duplicate identical resources built by other people in other places (Ciolek 1996, 1997b). A parallel development, especially on umoderated mailing lists, is the increase in chatty online socialising. 
Spamming of the email networks by advertisers with their massive mailout campaigns; 
Balkanization, first commented upon by Siegel (1995), of the originally integral World Wide Web into incompatible sub-Webs evolved around a particular type of technology, such as a particular brand of browsers, special plug-ins, Java applets, and exotic extensions to html. See also a note below on restricted-access systems. 
(i) Ongoing technological shortcomings 
The question of the 'linkrot' (dead hypertext connections) has not been, so far, properly resolved. Existing software for testing links can only spot a troublesome link, but not fix it. Hence human intervention and frequent manual repairs continue to be vital to the integrity of a scholarly information system. This is not conducive to steady, cumulative growth of networked knowledge. 
Despite great progress in the speed and capabilities of Web search engines, there are still major problems with locating a pertinent set of documents within the Web's huge electronic haystack. None of the existing primary databases, or meta-search engines, are able to simultaneously cover all sources of information and filter out all irrelevant materials. However, new initiatives, such as XML (Bray, Paoli and Sperberg-McQueen 1997) revisions to the HTML language, and Alexa intelligent navigation software (Kahle & Gilliat 1996), are said to redress the problem. 
(j) Emergence of restricted access systems 
Within such online systems only a certain class of readers (e.g. students of a given university, subscribers to an electronic magazine, members of a professional body) are entitled to view and use information otherwise denied to outsiders. This, in turn, means further splintering of the Web and the birth of two categories of networked information, with the first category behaving like a parasite, which feeds on and exploits the rest of the Web. The first group of sites is that of data and documents whose authors are remunerated for their efforts. The full scholarly usefulness of these products is, however, frequently dependant on and augmented by free and unimpeded access to digital resources residing in public domain. The second group is made of public domain resources themselves, whose authors continue to operate as unpaid volunteer online teachers, researchers, librarians and information brokers to the world at large. (k) Information overload
There is a widely shared perception among my academic colleagues that the volume, frequency and diversity of information - regardless of whether it is already filtered and pre-formatted, or whether it comes in a ceaseless, verbose and multifarious heap - is simply overwhelming. As a result, those with access to the Net resort more and more often to a number of stratagems aimed at stemming the digital flood. Milgram (1970), in a different but not too dissimilar context of a megalopolis, noticed uses of the following techniques: i. allocation of less time to each input. For instance, in the case of dedicated Internauts, their email communication seems to be evolving gradually towards a series of mono-syllabic exchanges. ii. disregard of low-priority inputs. For instance, electronic messages from strangers may be disregarded, regardless of their actual content. For example, Tim Berners-Lee's autorespondent software issues the following email reply: "I have added your address to a spam filter, as you seem to have sent me unsolicited mail. I will not get mail you send. If this is a problem, please mail my assisant [sic - tmc]. Tim BL http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee." (Berners-Lee 1998). iii. shifting a portion of the burden of a transaction to another party in the exchange. For instance, announcers of new Web resources are encouraged by the 'Asian Studies WWW Monitor' (Ciolek 1998e) to prepare their own summaries of their information systems. iv. blocking the input prior to its entrance into a system. For instance, mailing lists are gradually being reconfigured from open-access facilities, to access-by-approval, to access-by-invitation systems. v. weak and superficial involvement with the input. For instance, Nielsen (1997) observes that people on the WWW do not read, they scan. He found, in an experiment, that 79 percent of his test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read it word-by-word. vi. creation of specialised institutions to absorb input which otherwise would swamp the individual. For instance, scholarly mailing lists resort to employing moderators, who intercept, filter, sort, summarise and standardise postings to the list. One could add to this a list of complementary techniques: vii. progressive neglect and abandonment of other tasks. For instance, a March 1998 survey of the professional uses of the Internet shows that "on average, during 1997, scholars [...] spent approximately 43% of their office hours on working on the Net, and 57% on paper-based and face-to-face activities." (Ciolek 1998a). This clearly suggests a dramatic departure from the forms of work as practiced before the release of the Mosaic browser in September 1993. viii. progressive lengthening of one's working hours. The survey also indicates that about 7% of scholars work on the Net more than 46 hours a week. This online work is carried out, presumably, in addition to other, non-electronic, work obligations. ix. subdivision and splintering of one's large-scale tasks into small and quickly manageable procedures. These can be interrupted, with no major adverse affect, at almost any instant and can be freely interleaved with other micro-procedures. x. acceptance and tolerance of minor, non-factual errors. These could include general acceptance of clumsy page formats, inconsistent punctuation, poor handling of dates and diacritic markers, as well as the acceptance of typos and grammatical infelicities - even though they are still unacceptable in handwritten, typed or printed communications. This convenience-based largesse compounds, of course, previously mentioned dummification of the digital information.

5.3. The Seven Trends of the Web

At a more general level, the hypertext information developed and placed for global circulation across networks, seems to be subject to a number of long-term transformations. Within the seven years of its inception the Web witnessed the following trends (first noted in Ciolek 1997c): 

6. Asian Studies and the WWW: Seven Predictions for the Next Seven Years

It is time for this essay to end. So, in the spirit of the last days of an epoch, it might not be out of place if I indulge in the ancient custom of prophesying about the future. On the basis of my seven year exposure to the Net, I am tempted to offer the following predictions for the next seven years of Asian Studies and the WWW. 
6.1. Firstly, during the years 1999-2005, the problem of information overload will not be resolved at all. 
None of the advanced technical solutions (see Prediction 5) in the form of intelligent agents, programmable filters, reputation-managers (such as the already mentioned Alexa), digest-compilers, personalised information services and so forth, will be able to manage the problem adequately. The Web will continue to be inundated with both relevant and irrelevant information (see Prediction 6). 
Therefore, it will become common practice among scholars to disconnect themselves fully, from time to time, and for periods lasting from hours to weeks, from all Web and email and other electronic entanglements so that they can do their work without distraction. 
6.2. Secondly, the number of separate, subscribers-only 'docu-islands' will grow extensively. 
Their proliferation will be stopped only by the emergence of effective techniques for micro-billing (Nielsen 1998) of all Internet users for useful pages they visit, and the payment of micro-royalties to all Internet authors. 
6.3. Thirdly, the balkanization and fragmentation of the WWW will continue unabated. 
Two major developments will be taking place in Asian Studies: 
(a) Increased divisions along language lines will mean that English, currently the dominant language of the Internet, will serve as the language of information provided for external consumption. At the same time, the vernacular will be used for internal consumption. In addition, in some authoritarian countries, interpretations of the same set of facts or numbers published by a given site will vary on that site, according to the language used for publication. 
(b) The Web will undergo a series of organisational changes. A number of Asian Studies sites will cease to operate for lack of volunteers or lack of foresighted Web-using policies, while other systems will spring into existence. A large number of sites will also enter strategic alliances and coalitions, and will start operating under a common banner or theme. The large-scale integration of scattered knowledge will not be complete. Around the year 2005 there will be a half dozen massive Asian Studies projects, each of them claiming to be the sole official representative of, and spokesman for the discipline. 
Moreover these sites will not only replicate each other's work, but will try to develop their own particular 'in-house' style in which information is labelled, annotated and located on a page. Also, criteria for meta-data tagging and site evaluation will drastically vary from place to place. The net result will be a situation not too different from 19th century Australia, where "the colonial parliaments imposed customs on the goods of other colonies, or discriminated against them with differential rail rates" and where the flow of people and goods was hampered by the fact that "New South Wales adopted the standard [4 feet 8 and a half inch - tmc] railway gauge, Victoria the five feet three inches, and Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia the three feet six inches" (Clark 1986:162). 
Needless to say, these digital equivalents of mediaeval baronies, fiefs, and marches will be in constant states of hostility with each other. They will be encroaching on each other's areas of expertise and will try to poach each other's clientele of steady users. These rivalries will end, but only as a result of a cataclysm, which will leave only a handful of digital survivors. This cataclysm will take the form of an outbreak, accidental or deliberate, of an Internet virus or a logical bomb which will catch many of the Web sites unwary (i.e. with no regular backup policy, no offsite storage for archival electronic materials, and no emergency recovery procedures). In that swift manner several Asian Studies virtual baronies will be blasted out of existence. 
6.4. Fourthly, there will be a schism in the Asian Studies community. 
It will be an intellectual and organisational rift which will run as deeply and seriously as that of 1054 which developed between Western and Eastern Christianity (Tarnas 1996:477). 
This new schism will evolve between the 'traditionalists', that is supporters of Asian Studies centered on the use of paper-based information, and the 'Digital Young Turks' favouring the discipline based solely on the flow of electronic information. Traditionalists will tend to be senior heads of departments and research institutes who have control over the purse strings. They will view the electronic media of communication and e-publishing with a healthy dose of scepticism. The Young Turks will be younger, more numerous, less bound by demands of face-to-face conventions (Goffman 1967) and in faster touch with each other. 
The old school will stay more thoughtful, more original and will generate research of traditionaly good quality. However, their work will be less visible, less 'sexy' and thus less 'relevant' to the needs of the commercialised mass societies of the 21th century. These societies will be kept informed by the Young Turks and their impatient, hasty but good looking 'deliverables' in the form of topical (and disposable) Web sites, virtual reality constructs, trendy e-bulletins and the edutaining and infotaining multimedia CD-ROMs. 
Even the ravages of a Web virus (see Prediction 3b) will not alter the eminence of the Young Turks, who eventually, with the passage of time, will become the sole custodians of the discipline. Also they will initiate a new branch of Asian Studies: a systematic research on the anthropology, demography, politics and economics of production and movement of information in the region. In due course, these studies will become as important to our understanding of Asia and the Pacific, as the earlier established research on the numbers, distribution, and flows of people, goods and money. 
6.5. Fifthly, there will be further momentous improvements in tools for electronic publishing and communication. 
Technological standards will be constantly improved and software products will look, 'feel' and behave in a standard, consistent, user-friendly manner. There will be a happy and stable marriage - brought about by a new generation of browsers - of hypertext, word-processing, imaging, databases, spreadsheet, radio, telephone, TV and email applications. Browsers will become de-facto operating systems for a whole range of computers, starting with palm-held knowledge assistants to heavy duty mainframes. However, despite these strides, the Web will remain a place roamed by people with all types of equipment and software. Therefore, both the Low- and High-end approaches to information acquisition and dissemination will co-exist. 
Interest in electronic materials originating from the early phases of the WWW (and hence data about the Internet itself) will not emerge until most of these palimpsest-like materials gets updated (and obliterated). Web archiving projects, such as that by Brewster Kahle (Cunningham 1997), will become sites for electronic pilgrimage, nostalgic reflection and getting in touch with one's 'intellectual roots'. 
6.6. The sixth prediction is that digital information will continue to be produced and disseminated, whether it is necessary or not. 
The number of terrabytes comprising the planetary information soup will proliferate without halt. Information will be available in all possible formats, on all possible times, places, people and topics (see Prediction 1). Some of it will be worthwhile and most of it not. Moreover, there will be multiple copies of the same groups of documents, snap-frozen at various stages of their revisions, growth and decay. These materials will be kept - just in case - at various databases, archives and mirror sites. 
A portion of this information will be indexed, catalogued or interlinked. Also, some of this information will be stored away and forgotten, by authors, and by readers but not by Web crawlers who will append information about these digital fossils to the never used sections of mammoth WWW databases. 
Moreover, there will be no agreement whatsoever among the academics and other knowledge managers on the basic ingredients (component parts, layout, organisation of a document) of a useful and trustworthy electronic document or resource. Under the banners of intellectual rivalries, academic freedom, cultural diversity and so forth, everyone will proceed with electronic endeavours as she or he pleases (see also Prediction 3b). 
Thus all the technological wizardry of the Internet will further the bewildering variety of shapes and flavours of online resources. 
6.7. The final and seventh prediction says that our descendants and inheritors will be quite impressed by and amazed with our energy, inventiveness and the eagerness with which we embraced the new medium for information storage and sharing. 
Also, young undergraduates, educated by the Young Turks (see Prediction 4) will sporadically locate, in remote parts of the Web, dusty copies of memoranda from directors of various councils, boards and steering committees of various universities and research institutes. 
These letters will invariably advise all anxious Isambard Brunels of the late 20th century, that their concerns about the general lack of standards for the production of high quality electronic information have been noted by the respective committees. 
The directors will write to those Brunels, politely but decisively: 
"... over the last few years our organisation has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and staff salaries on authoring and world-wide dissemination of hundreds of thousands of WWW pages which are badly organised and/or intellectually mediocre. We agree, this is not an ideal situation. 
However - in view of the overall volume of documents already placed online - this major investment cannot be recklessly forfeited. Therefore, the suggested overhaul of our publishing practices is out of the question. " 

7. Acknowledgments

Since no one can be a prophet in his own country, I am grateful to the Pacific Neighbourhood Consortium and to the Academia Sinica for the opportunity to read this paper in Taiwan. 
Also, I am indebted to Drs Frank Conlon, Bob Felsing, Thomas H. Hahn, Gerald Jackson, Apurba Kundu, Marilyn A. Levine, Gavan McCormack, Kent Mulliner, Lynn H. Nelson, Merle Ricklefs, Susan Whitfield, and Christian Wittern who kindly agreed to share their views regarding the problems and opportunities the Internet presents to their scholarly work. 
Thirdly, I am grateful to Olaf Ciolek, Ann Andrews and Abby Zito for their insightful comments on the earlier versions of this essay. 
My thanks finally to Sean Batt, Karen Ewens, Rob Hurle, Gavin Longmuir, Helen Walker and Douglas Whaite for their friendship and level-headed professionalism. We worked together at the Coombs Computing Unit, ANU, between June 1985 and November 1996, that is until the Unit, the most innovative and hardest working of all ANU computer groups, was restructured (i.e. dismantled), and its staff dispersed. 

8. About the Author

Dr T. Matthew Ciolek, a social scientist, heads the Internet Publications Bureau, Research School Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Since December 1991 he has been responsible for making the RSPAS' electronic research materials available to the Internet community via FTP-, WAIS-, Gopher-, Web- and email-based technologies and is one of the world's pioneers in electronic communication regarding the Asia-Pacific region. Since June 1994 he has been a designer and editor of an electronic journal "Asian Studies WWW Monitor" (coombs.anu.edu.au/asia-www-monitor.html) and a number of online guides to the Internet, including the influential Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library (coombs.anu.edu.au/WWWVL-AsianStudies.html). He also serves as a co-editor of the H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu electronic forum, and as a member of the Provisional Committee of WWW Virtual Library Project (vlib.stanford.edu/AboutVL.html). His work and contact details can be found online at http://www.ciolek.com/PEOPLE/ciolek-tm.html 

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