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 Post subject: This forum - purpose, objectives, membership, etc.
PostPosted: 19 Aug 2007, 14:33 
Site Owner

Location: Münster, Germany
Purpose:

The objective of the Ancient Mesopotamia Forum is to provide an online communication portal for the members of the international scientific community dealing with Ancient Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, above and beyond the possibilities of the individual email.

In a forum of this type, members can interactively discuss individual topics, present and respond to ideas, seek and give advice, make announcements, store and reference useful information – all pruned to the specific needs of the Ancient Mesopotamian disciplines.

While the various websites dedicated to different aspects of Ancient Mesopotamian Studies present valuable information to visitors, due to the properties and design of those sites, they cannot provide any means of communication amongst visitors, except perhaps for a contact email addressed to the site owner.

That is the gap this forum can fill. However, neither can nor does the Ancient Mesopotamia Forum wish or strive to replace or usurp existing internet resources. Quite the opposite. Its purpose is to provide a central location for accessing those resources, as well as being a discussion and information board, a sort of a mix between a 'Grand Central Station' for Ancient Mesopotamian scholars (with bulletin boards, meeting areas, discussion corners, etc.) and a hallway or lobby outside a symposium conference room. It will not be a site for publishing articles, book reviews, databases, findings, etc. That should be done by publishers and individual websites. The forum is also not any form of association. It is a website for online community communication. The term "membership" refers simply to the group of forum users who have registered and received a user account.

For instance, on the forum, members can announce a symposium, provide a link to that symposium's website, and perhaps field a few questions from forum members. Since such an announcement is not be an individual email, it can be accessed by all members at any time and members can respond. All data related to the announcement, e.g. any changes in dates, locations, or other details, can be updated by the members themselves without having to involve the board operators.

The same principle applies to almost any subject. Members can start discussions on topics pertaining to Ancient Mesopotamian Studies, be they seeking assistance, or purely out of curiosity as to what other members think about a certain subject. Members can also start discussions on topics dealing with academic matters: books, computers, classes, excursions, etc. Whatever. Besides that, an "off topic" area provides space for more or less any subject matter at all, from travel tips to chicken soup recipes. Instead of sending emails to individual recipients, members can address the entire international community at one time, with one post.

There is a special Students' Corner, where students can seek assistance from fellow student members in preparing classwork, researching and writing reports, reading foreign language literature, etc.

There is also a Publishers' Corner where publishers can announce and present new books. The same principle applies here as with the rest of the forum: since old posts aren't deleted, the publisher's forum should provide a good current and retrospective view of relevant publications.

Since posts are sorted by general categories and stored in individual topical threads, members can see at a glance which topics meet their own interests. Special colored buttons signalize if additions have been made to any certain discussion since a member's last visit to the board.

Posts can be augmented with pictures, links, specially displayed quotes, etc. Since the pictures are stored on the internet, they don't clutter up the members' computer space.

As well as communicating with the whole board in a thread, members can also communicate with each other on a 1:1 basis using 'private messages.' A private message can only be read by the individual recipient. It will also be possible to set up private rooms for special research groups whose members are spread out over distant locations.

An important aspect of the forum is that it is very simple to use, and is more or less self explanatory. For those members unaccustomed to such forums there will be a step by step tutorial. And it's all free of charge or obligation!

Limitations:

The internet being what it is, one of the major weak points of many specialized forums is the global accessibility by all internet users. This has ultimately forced many forums to close down, having been inundated by "kiddies and crackpots" who often enough end up dominating discussions, causing the target membership to lose interest. Therefore, the Ancient Mesopotamia Forum has chosen to be a strictly "by invitation only" forum**, active membership being restricted to the core members of the Ancient Mesopotamian scholars' community, including university faculty, students, other researchers, and various associate members. While most of the forum will be open for all internet users to view, active participation (i.e. the ability to start and respond to topics, post announcements, etc.) will be limited to registered members. This restriction will help assure the quality of board discussion, making the forum more appealing and useful to its intended members. While any visitor can initiate the registration process
by clicking the registration link, user accounts must be activated by the board administrators. Admission to membership (= account activation) is subject to approval by the forum editorial board.

While many internet forums use cryptic names for their members, the Ancient Mesopotamia Forum asks all members to use their real names, quote their general academic standing, and, where applicable, their academic affiliation. This is more or less the same situation one will find at any symposium, where those participating meet face to face. However, any personal information (email and street addresses, etc.) a member chooses to present in his/her user profile is hidden from non-members, providing safety from spammers, etc.

Since every subject has to have its boundaries, the scholarly topical scope of the forum will be focused solely on matters pertaining to Ancient Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, including all 'cuneiform languages.' Topics concerning the Levant, Biblical matters, Ancient South Arabia, Egypt, etc. can certainly be addressed, but this should be limited to cases which are directly connected with Ancient Mesopotamia. The internet is immense and other topics can be dealt with on other forums.

Please join:

The more members of the Ancient Mesopotamian scholars' community who participate in the forum, the more useful it will be for all. Although certain aspects may be unfamiliar to some, we hope it will all catch on rather quickly.

This form of forum is currently becoming very popular on the internet, for good reasons, as will surely become evident once the board gets started. We are happy to be able to provide the international Ancient Mesopotamian scholars' community with their own online board and look forward to it becoming a valuable resource.

Tim Doherty (site owner), Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert (co-founder, forum editor)


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