Challenges in Researching Portals and the Internet

Challenges in Researching Portals and the Internet

Greg Adamson (University of Melbourne, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0336-3.ch019

Abstract

The portal is a point of convergence for many uses and users. Along with the Internet itself, the portal crosses or combines many traditionally separate areas of research, each with its own perspective or perspectives. Such a combination creates a challenge for researchers on how to combine these various perspectives in examining portal and Internet use. This paper examines the methodological challenge by combining five perspectives: historical, technical, media, regulatory and business theory. The paper provides examples of the misunderstanding found regarding concepts that are fundamental and widely understood within a single field, but unknown or misunderstood outside of that field. This misunderstanding between business, technologists, media theorists and regulators contributed to the gulf between Internet investment expectation and the 2000 to 2001 results, the US$4 trillion ‘tech wreck’. Avoiding them will be important to the effective implementation of portal-based business solutions.
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History

Assembling the information necessary to understand the development of the Internet requires an historical approach using the tools of historiography, the study of history. The Internet is young in historical terms. The impetus for its development, the 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, is still within living memory of many people. With some notable exceptions many of the key participants during its technology development since the early 1960s remain alive and professionally active. The main historical methodological challenge is examining issues so soon after the event when historical significance is measured in decades rather than years:

The important effects of the printing press era were not seen clearly for more than 100 years. While things happen more quickly these days, it could be decades before the winners and losers of the information age are apparent. Even today, significant (and permanent) cultural change does not happen quickly (Dewar, 2000).

This is separate from a related debate in the study of history described by Fischer (1970, p. 141), ‘that a history of ongoing events ought not to be attempted, because objectivity is impossible, evidence is incomplete, and perspective is difficult to attain’. Fischer himself suggests that these same problems relate to all study of history.

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