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Jon Kohl'S Informationsphere

Published in the Campus Section of the The New York Times 4-28-91

At Last, a Paper Students Put Out Without Paper

Hanover, NH -- Environmentalists and technical wizards at Dartmouth College have joined forces to produce a new student publication that is paperless.
     The bimonthly, called Sense of Place and devoted to environmental issues, is designed, produced, and finally, read on computer.
     “This is the most energy-efficient way to put out a paper,” said its publisher, Lynn Rainville, a sophomore history and anthropology major from Evanston, Ill.  “There’s no transportation needed for distribution, no printing, no office, no overhead.”
     While other student publications depend on alumni subsidies to meet costs, Sense of Place piggybacks on the college’s existing computer technology for all its needs.  Relying on the unusual arrangement with the Apple Corporation and the college’s own programmers, the campus houses a network of Macintosh computers equipped with electronic mail.  About 85% of Dartmouth students own a Macintosh, and the rest have ready access to campus operations.

Sight-and-Sound Production

Through Blitzmail, the electronic mail software developed by the college, students can hook up to library data bases, call up professors’ lecture notes and even turn in papers.  And since the first issue of Sense of Place was published last September, they have also been able to log on to a display of computer graphics, scanned photographic images and text describing the latest environmental news.
     On Feb. 8, Sense of Place produced an issue about the Persian Gulf war.  When readers with top-of-the-line computers called up the newspaper, their screens erupted with the images and sounds of warfare, from gunshots to water dripping from an oil-soaked cormorant.
     Sense of Place attracted a diverse following, “It lures people interested in glitzy layout,” said Matthew Williams, the publication’s programmer, who is a junior from Sarasota, Fla., majoring in computer science. “Until I started with the paper, my only environmental experience was recycling my cans.”
     James Hornig, director of the environmental studies program, said:  “It’s a brilliant innovation in the publishing business here.  I subscribe to it, and in my class I try to persuade students to join the staff.”
     Barry Hurwitz, a senior from Newton, Mass., who is majoring in religion and psychology, said he read the material regularly.  “It’s very easy to read,” he said.  “You just move the mouse around the screen and click on which article you want.”

Required Reading for Some

The publication is now required reading in environmental studies courses on campus and in computer science classes.  The college’s computers have undergone some interesting transformations.  Mr. Williams created a program that replaces Macintosh’s well-known trashcan, used for discarding files, with a recycling bin.
     Each issue approximates 16 8.5-by-11 pages, which can be called up with the press of a button, and includes four features written by students, as well as a calendar of events and environmental news items from regional or national newspapers.  A recent issue on “sustainable living” featured articles exploring whether Dartmouth could buy more organic produce or use more alternative energy and a piece on conventional light bulbs compared with energy-saving lamps.
     Sense of Place was started in 1989 as the Outing Club’s newsletter, then printed on paper.  But students’ concern over wasting resources led to the idea of a tree-saving electronic distribution.
     Now, if readers even try to print out an article from the paper, they are greeted by the proclamation:  “Can’t print that.  Must save the trees!”  Instead, readers are encouraged to copy each issue onto a floppy disk.
     But what about all that electricity that goes into zapping Sense of Place into 800 computer mailboxes?
     “Well, one of our grand visions is to all have solar laptops,” says its editor, Clay Fong.  “That way we can edit while sitting outside on the green.”