We enter the debate about the possibility of collaboration and of rich exchanges among physically distant individuals by offering a literacy perspective on communication to show how the dimensions of writing enable the development of scientific communities. We illustrate this perspective with an analysis of the correspondences of one philosopher and one scientist – Descartes and Emilie du Chatelet, as well as with a description of one of the most prominent communities of scientists and philosophers in Europe, the Republic of Letters. Our findings show that writing is essential for the expression and exchange of ideas, abstractions, complex thoughts, demonstrations, arguments – in sum, for the entire scientific enterprise. We discuss the implications of the literacy perspective and of our findings for the current understanding of online intellectual communities.
Orality and Literacy; Scientific Communities; Online Communities; Letters; Organizational Communication
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