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Orts 42, 1997

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The extent to which email and the internet, in the past year, have supplanted the traditional forms of communication at a distance, is almost beyond belief. Few of us had realised how our specialist interests can blossom when a form of world-wide communication becomes available which reproduces the situation in a neighbourhood special-interest club, where members communicate informally with one another several times a week. The MacDonald Society's web site has not yet started to flourish, but that is only because J. J. Flynn who manages it, has been seriously ill. We wish him a speedy recovery. There is, however a flourishing web site plus a daily MacDonald email bulletin several pages long, established by our member Mike Partridge and described elsewhere in this issue. This has already some thirty or more active members, world-wide, who contribute comments on the matters currently under discussion and can read the responses the next day. By contrast, a person contributing a comment to Orts has to wait at least three months for a response from anyone other than the editor. We had not realised how constraining and unnatural this traditional method is. The internet and email, used sensibly, is no more expensive than television, and of vastly more practical use. It has obvious perils, of course. Like television and the motor car, more than 90% of its use by private individuals will undoubtedly be as a worthless but dangerous toy. However people who value MacDonald's understanding of the human being should be better able than most to avoid this pitfall. Specialist newsletters, like Orts, are important until the internet is widely used, but it is not easy to envisage a positive function for them after that time.