on techniques and methods, many of which are over a century old. That is, while the content of chemical knowledge has advanced dramatically in the last 200 years, the organization of chemical research and education has remained relatively constant. By contrast, other disciplines race to embrace change, such as physicists' invention and rapid adoption of the World Wide Web and the widespread use of the Web for data dissemination among biomedical scientists. An apt metaphor to describe the challenge of the Internet for chemistry is Paul Gauguin's masterpiece (Figure 7.1), Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

In the title of his painting, Gauguin evokes the fear and uncertainty that accompany the transition from the past (Where do we come from? ), through the present (What are we?), and into the unknowable future (Where are going?). The style and content of the painting also underline Gauguin's personal status as a bridging figure between impressionism and modernist schools, such as cubism and fauvism. While Gauguin was captivated by the impressionists early in his career, and worked and showed with them, later in his career he broke away and defined a new kind of art, often labeled post-impressionism. In this later work, Gauguin experimented with the use of color and symbolism in a way that paved the way for those who followed, including Matisse, Picasso, and Munch. Therefore, at many levels, this painting represents the tension of being caught between familiar traditions and the birth of new ways.

Chemists confront a similar tension between tried and true practices from the past and unknown alternative practices made possible through advances in information technology. In this sense Where do we come from? is a question about the traditions and conventions that have defined chemistry, especially with regard to the organization of research and education. The question What are we? offers an opportunity to reflect on the present state of the Internet, while the question Where are we going? forces consideration of the various new paths that Interact-mediated chemistry might follow into the future. The “Gauguin problem," then, is a statement about the difficulty any community faces when past and current success precludes full examination or experimentation with potentially transformational practices and approaches. In chemistry, the Gauguin problem can be framed as the enduring legacy from innovation at the dawn of modern chemistry in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the mixing of inherited tradition with capabilities provided by the Internet that is occurring today, and alternative views of the future defined by new uses of the Internet.

Figure 7.1

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Paul Gauguin, 1897. Tompkins Collection. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.



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