Dissatisfied with American media's coverage of the Gulf war, some members of the Harvard community have turned to an international computer network as their source of information about the Middle East, according to N. Edwin Aoki '92, director of corporate communications for the Harvard Computer Society.
Students, professors, and staff can communicate with people around the world through the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) computer network, Aoki said. IRC can be accessed through the Harvard Arts and Sciences Computer Services (HASCS) system.
The system provides more information than television or radio reports because participants contribute different views on the issues, rather than the single perspective provided by the media, according to Aoki.
"Because the system links people from around the world, it really gives the user a global perspective," Aoki said.
Though many nations are connected to the system, "access to nations such as Jordan, which are directly involved in the conflict, has been restricted," Aoki said. "Most of the IRC users in the Middle East are in Israel."
"What makes it incredible is that there are real people in the Middle East sitting in front of their computers," said Jason A. Topaz '93. Instead of taking shelter, "they are typing in what is going on around them. It is really exciting."
Topaz, who was instrumental in connecting the system, said that approximately 300 people around the globe use the "discussion line" at any given time. But only a handful of Harvard students have used it since it was introduced last week, he added.
One Harvard student has spent much of the last week conversing with other participants. Steven E. Brenner '92 said he has used the system thirty or forty times in recent days.
The system is implemented through the husc8 and husc9 paths of the HASCS system. Users enter the IRC system by typing "warirc" at the husc prompt. Then they enter one of the two forums by typing "/INFO" or "/DISCUSS", which connect the user with the information line and the discussion line, respectively.
Although IRC is accessed through the HASCS, it is not affiliated with the University. It is an independent network, and HASCS reserves the right to discontinue the service if it is abused, Aoki said.