Internet – Synthesis – On Newness

The question of what, after all, is so new about the internet has run through the introductory and summary posts in this series. It is a divisive question. Some proclaim the revolutionary, worldchanging emergence of the internet a wholly unique phenomenon. Others describe its continuity with older forms of media, communication, technology, or ideas. And each vein has its proponents and detractors of the internet’s cultural effects, which seem ubiquitously manifest, though not unequivocally ethically or morally valenced. Since we are concerned, here, with not just cultural effects but also cultural conditions for today’s internet, though, we cannot neatly reduce our approach to any of these positions.

Each position here assumes that the internet is an historical phenomenon -- as opposed to an event, for example -- and that it has an ethical valence, if not necessarily a political one.
Ethical valences for interpretation of the internet as an historical phenomenon
Instead, we can find another way of asking the question – a way that rests implicitly in the same discussions and arguments about newness. That is, we can ask, what is historically significant about the internet? This minor switch allows us to explore slightly different avenues than those commonly traversed by humanities and social-sciences research. Instead of “new media,” in particular, we can focus more precisely on the internet as such. Further, by stripping the newness from our central questioning, we avoid freighting our inquiry with ontological assumptions. In so doing, we are better able to determine what is new and what is old, in greater detail.

So, we are faced with a series of comparisons and contrasts.

Continue reading


Internet – On the Histories

This series digresses here to review and consider internet history. This includes, of course, the well-documented series of events and interactions and innovations and and and … that led to what we see when we go online these days. It also includes the conditions under which those events and interactions and innovations and so on took place, to inform ongoing research into internet development in other parts of the contemporary world. And, these posts stemming from the skeptical position of cultural scholarship, it also questions who gets to write the history of the internet, and with what sources. This line of questioning leads us back, cautiously, to the major themes of the semester.

Continue reading