From the mailing list masthead:

NetDynam is an email list started in October of 1995 by the late Matt Merkley M.D. for the purpose of examining the online experience. Dr. Merkely’s original vision for the group was as follows:

This is a list dedicated to an examination of online group dynamics: the purpose will be to examine the process itself of writing through listservers — perceptions of the other participants, the dynamics of flame wars, power and persuasion, what is effective communication and why….

This will ideally be done in an atmosphere of mutual support and trust but it — emphatically — will not be group psychotherapy. The purpose of the list will be the search for dynamic principles of online mailing lists in general.

Dr. Merkley died in the spring of 1996. However, Netdynam continues. The list has evolved into a bit of an anomaly in the Listserv world. Netdynam neither provides its subscribers with a constant flow of useful information, nor does it provide a forum for the kind of discussion that contains itself within a particular set of assumptions and terminologies.

What Netdynam does is examine and report upon the psychological, social, philosophical and aesthetic experience of being part of an internet community. The learning that goes on at Netdynam lies largely in the experience of becoming part of the group itself. Thus, one must keep common expectations regarding email groups in abeyance, and reading the list for a period of time prior to introducing yourself to the members is highly recommended.

Much of the conversation on Netdynam is associated with the fields of psychology and group dynamics; however, members do not expect concepts taken from those disciplines to be accepted uncritically. Subjects that have occupied the group in the past include:

  • Fantasy, projection and regression in online communications
  • Narcissism in posting behaviors
  • Community building in the electronic forums
  • Applicability of the work of Wilfred Bion to the behavior of online groups
  • The nature and development of online personal relationships
  • Linguistic and semiotic models of online communication
  • Psychoanalytic theory and its relation to online behaviors
  • Jungian typology and its effect on online behaviors.

Although intellectual and analytic discussion of the above issues occurs with some regularity, much of the activity involves members reporting upon their very personal reactions to the group and the people in it. The group does not value scientific detachment above other more subjective approaches, and the links associated with this page are as likely to lead to poetry as to academic analysis.

Those who have experienced Netdynam have reported it as being anxiety provoking, intimidating, boring, navel gazing, addictive and educational at a gut level. Should you choose to join Netdynam, you may have one, more, or none of these reactions. It is not for everyone, but for some it becomes a worthwhile and long term experiment in the study of email culture.

– compiled and written by Orrin “Simon” Onken
– November, 1996

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