Imagine a village with a hall, that’s been there for years - it’s the heart of the community.
Used by around 5000 people for meetings and events, as a space to exchange information, they come together to share and support each other. Some only use it occasionally, whereas others will participate in everything that goes on. New residents find it a useful resource that provides them with a rich source of new contacts and networks.
The community of users may change with time, but the village hall is a constant. A trusted, reliable resource in a transforming world.
But you won’t find this village hall on the map. It exists online – it’s the JiscMail community.
Fostering the sharing of knowledge
JiscMail is a trusted, national service that supports open discussions and knowledge exchange among peers, subject experts and partners, both in the UK and internationally. The service has been operating since 1990 and hosts over 8000 mailing lists covering a range of topics.
Martin Dodge, senior lecturer at the University of Manchester is the owner of one of the largest JiscMail lists dedicated to human geography.
With over 5000 subscribers, his mailing list is used as a tool to broadcast information. It provides a sense of what’s going on in human geography; what’s being organised, conferences and jobs. Martin recommends it to his PhD students to reach people where they don’t have an established presence in the field.
The list fosters a sharing of knowledge, which benefits people at different stages of their career.
This list is self-supporting, when people send out a request – they get a response. There’s a real sense of a community where everyone is welcome.
Building communities, for free
Martin believes that the service is good for the community – it’s just there, it just seems to work, and it’s very robust.
Martin described the service like electricity - it’s only when there’s a power cut that you realise how much you rely on it and people notice it for its absence.
The value of the mailing list is that messages hit people’s inboxes every day, but according to Martin, that’s not an issue, you can delete the stuff you’re not interested in and take what you need.
For Martin, it’s important that JiscMail is free to use - you don’t need to give your age, date of birth and your credit card details, you can join or leave at any time. Martin has considered using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for information sharing, but commends JiscMail for being a free service, remaining advert free, and not sending endless requests to fill things in.
A mailing list is just a very simple thing, and nothing beats free.
How you are using JiscMail
It’s clear that whether you’re teaching, providing support, researching or learning, JiscMail mailing lists provide supportive and collaborative communities.
Gregory Connor, senior laboratory technician, Hautlieu School (Jersey) says:
“[JiscMail] has been a great source of knowledge, but also has a wonderful sense of community. There have been quite a few questions which the list has answered which have been really helpful.”
For Verity Tarsa, student support, funding and systems officer, Queen Mary University of London, their involvement in the community has evolved over time. She said:
"[JiscMail] has provided invaluable help in the minutiae of detail about my job. It has also allowed me to raise my profile within the sector as I have become more of a helper and less of a helpee.”
Demonstrating that the mailing list community is really making a difference to our members and beyond.
As for Martin, and the human geographers of the world, their JiscMail mailing list is their village hall, it’s a way for them to stay informed, keep up to date and access new networks.
The technology behind JiscMail is email, it’s simple and does what it needs to and doesn’t try to do anything flashy. The active community of human geographers value the rich vein of information it provides them with.
JiscMail relies on people like Martin to set up and create networks to bring people together as a community, enabling collaborations, without barriers or restrictions.