A new student group promises to produce an electronic newsletter that organizers say will someday be available to subscribers around the world, despite skeptics who say the plan will never work.
The group, Digitas, announced its founding over the electronic mail system on Monday. Its founders said they created the group to study the latest developments in technology and electronic communications, from virtual reality to networking.
Jeff C. Tarr '96, a Digitas co-president, said the group hopes to publish the newsletter bi-monthly, beginning sometime this semester.
The new newsletter, Elektra, will be accessible to students around the world through the World Wide Web and personal computer channels.
"Elektra's totally electronic and interactive," Tarr said. "We'll deliver it directly to [students'] electronic doorsteps."
Tarr said wants to set up a Harvard-based World Wide Web server so students can access it through ethernet connections.
Digitas could represent a challenge to the Harvard Computer Society, the dominant computer group on campus. Tarr and co-president Ishir Bhan '96 are both former officials of the Harvard Computer Society, according to James S. Gwertzman '95, the society's former president.
The two founders quit the society, Gwertzman said, because of apathy in the organization and because they wanted a new platform to launch the newsletter.
But Computer Society member John A. Stafford '96 said that the technology the newsletter would use is so new, and that the group in so poorly organized, that the success of Digitas is a remote possibility.
"It's like if I were to start a magazine like Time or Newsweek from my dorm room and just got out my word processor and sent out a press release," Stafford said.
"I don't have any notion that this is actually going to get done--these are just two guys looking for publicity," he added.
Another Computer Society member, Joev G. Dubach '94, also expressed concerns about the credi- bility of Digitas.
"I'm not rushing to jump on the bandwagon," hesaid. "There wasn't even an issue of the HarvardComputer Review put out last term, and Ishir andJeff were both very active on that--and I don'tunderstand why this wasn't done as part of theestablished computer society."
But Harvard Computer Society President EugenceE. Kim '96 said he saw contrasts between his groupand the newsletter club.
"I see them more as a recreational club wherepeople can get together and screw around," hesaid. "The Computer Society is an actual resourcefor Harvard."
But Digitas' leaders said they have a plan fordeveloping the program.
The newsletter will be put together using aMacintosh Windows program, according to Bhan.Instead of pages, the newsletter will havesequences of words which can be highlighted andthen accessed. The words would than open up intointeractive articles and graphics, Bhan explained.
"We'll be exploring multimedia functions andusing technology in new ways," Bhan said.
In their e-mail message, Digitas cofoundersasked students to join their effort. Tarr said hehas already gotten e-mail replies from about 30people.
"Our goal is to bring about a grater awarenessof technology at Harvard," Tarr said.
Gwertzman, said the electronic newsletter is a"very interesting" idea.
"It makes a lot of sense to have one," he said."You can put things in that you can't in anordinary magazine, like audio and video clips."
Williams J. Ouchark, systems manager for theFaculty of Arts and Sciences Computer Services,said there is a need for campus groups thatpromote technology-based activities.
"It's great," Ouchark said. "It's essential[that] students seize the opportunity to use thetechnology available to them."
Bhan said Digitas would also help studentsinterested in working on technology-basedprojects, such as animation or communicationsacross computer networks. "We're leaving itopen-ended," he added