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A few of us SCREEN-L folks have been working on real-time
Internet-based discussions on topics of interest to film/TV educators
and students.  We haven't worked out all the kinks (like finding a
good time for everyone worldwide), but that hasn't stopped us from
having weekly chats Monday night at 9:00 p.m., Central Daylight Time
(see below for other timezones).
 
Next week we're tentatively planning to gab about Australian film/TV
as some of the most active chatters have been a group of folks from
the University Wollongong (near Sydney).  Coming soon:  a general
discussion of screenwriting--featuring a guest screenwriter.
 
The method we'll be using is a variation on Internet Relay Chat (IRC).
A chat session on the Internet is when computer users gather at a
virtual location and type messages back and forth to one another.
Unlike e-mail, the interaction is immediate (or as immediate as those
bits and bytes can travel along the wires between the computers). The
screen of a chat session looks something like this:
 
*** marg ([log in to unmask]) has joined #TCFchat
<Jeremy> hey there marg
<marg> jeremy! this seems to be working!
<Ned> Hands across the ocean and all that!
*** Kate ([log in to unmask]) has joined #TCFchat
<Ned> Welcome back, Kate.
<Jeremy> Yeah, welcome back!
<Kate> Hello all!
 
As participants type in messages, they scroll up the screen--often
interrupted by notices of who's coming and going. The lines are
identified with their chat "nicknames." Nicknames are chosen when one
begins a chat session and may be changed during the session itself.
 
Chat Rooms and Channels
 
The "space" online where participants gather to chat is commonly known
as a room or channel, and is devoted to some specific topic. For
example, SCREENchat hosts discussions on film/TV studies.
 
Chat rooms have long been one of the most popular features of
commercial online services such as CompuServe, Prodigy and America
Online. And, separately from these services, the Internet has
developed its own form of chat named Internet Relay Chat or IRC. In
IRC terms, a discussion area on the Internet (the equivalent of an AOL
chat room) is called a channel. To access an IRC channel and join a
discussion you do not have to subscribe to CIS, Prodigy or AOL. All
you need is access to the Internet, and software that taps into IRC.
 
There is a ton of information about IRC out on the World Wide Web. And
there is free or cheap IRC software for all manner of computers:
Windows-based, Macs, Unix-based, etc.
 
SCREENchat
 
SCREENchat uses the technology of *both* IRC and the World Wide Web to
facilitate discussions about film/TV studies. There is no charge for
this service and as long as participants are willing to adhere to a
few basic rules, everyone is welcome.
 
Okay, So How Do You Start?
 
There are two ways to enter SCREENchat:
 
  1.  Using a World Wide Web browser that can handle Java
      applications (e.g., Netscape Navigator 2.02+, Microsoft
      Internet Explore 3.0.).  If your browser doesn't do Java, then
      you cannot use this method--but you could upgrade to a (free)
      browser that does do Java.
 
      Connect to http://www.tcf.ua.edu/chat/ for more information.
 
  2.  Using an IRC client (e.g., PIRCH for Windows and Ircle for Macs)
 
      Connect to irc.tcf.ua.edu (port 6667), join channel #SCREENchat.
 
      Note:  Unlike "regular" IRC, this channel will only work if you
      are connected to the IRC server at irc.tcf.ua.edu.
 
Next Week's Meeting Time(s)
 
Monday
  7:00 p.m., Los Angeles
  9:00 p.m., Tuscaloosa, Alabama (and, say, Chicago)
 10:00 p.m., New York
 11:00 p.m., Buenos Aires
Tuesday
  3:00 a.m., London and, I believe, GMT
  4:00 a.m., Paris, Stockholm
  5:00 a.m., Cairo
 10:00 a.m., Beijing
 11:00 a.m., Tokyo
 12:00 noon, Wollongong, Sydney
 
Suggestions/Comments?
 
Kate Bowles (University of Wollongong, [log in to unmask]) and I have
been the prime instigators of SCREENchat.  If you have any thoughts or
questions about it, please drop us a note.
 
----
Jeremy Butler
mailto:[log in to unmask]
SCREENsite: http://www.sa.ua.edu/SCREENsite/
Telecommunication & Film/University of Alabama/Tuscaloosa
 
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