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The Political Nature of TCP/IP

The Political Nature of TCP/IP

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Rebekah Larsen. Originally submitted for Senior Thesis at University of Pennsylvania, with lecturer Ann N. Greene in the category of Computer Sciences & Information Technology
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Rebekah Larsen. Originally submitted for Senior Thesis at University of Pennsylvania, with lecturer Ann N. Greene in the category of Computer Sciences & Information Technology

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/24/2014

 
The Political Nature of TCP/IP
 
THE POLITICAL NATURE OF TCP/IP
ABSTRACT .............................................................................................. 3PROLOGUE ............................................................................................. 4INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................... 5TCP/IP: A SHORT TECHNICAL PRIMER ...................................................... 8METHODOLOGY .................................................................................... 20HISTORY: THE EVOLUTION OF TCP/IP AND ITS ASSOCIATED POLITICS ....... 24B
EGINNING
B
ACKGROUND
(1960
S
)....................................................................27I
NVENTION
/F
ORMATION
(1973 - 1983)..............................................................35C
OMPETITION
, P
OPULARIZATION
,
AND
P
OLITICS
(1983 – 1992)....................................41TCP/IP D
URING
T
HE
I
NTERNET
E
XPLOSION
 
AND
C
OMMERCIALIZATION
(1992 – 2000
S
)..........50T
HE
M
ATURATION
 
OF
 
A
S
 YSTEM
(TCP/IP T
ODAY 
)....................................................55CONCLUSION ....................................................................................... 65GLOSSARY ............................................................................................ 67BIBLIOGRAPHY ..................................................................................... 68
2
 
A
BSTRACT
Despite the importance of the Internet in the modern world, many users andeven policy makers don’t have a necessary historical or technical grasp of the technology behind it. In the spirit of addressing this issue, in this thesis Iattempt to shed light on the historical, political, and technical context of  TCP/IP. TCP/IP is the Internet Protocol Suite, a primary piece of Internetarchitecture with a well-documented history. After at technical overview,detailing the main function of TCP/IP, I examine aspects of the social anddevelopmental record of this technology using STS theoretical approachessuch as Hughesian systems theory, Social Construction of Technology(SCOT), and Langdon Winner’s brand of technological determinism. Keypoints in TCP/IP technical evolution, when viewed from an STS perspective,illuminate the varied reasons behind decisions and development of thetechnology. For example, as detailed in this paper, both technical andpolitical motivations were behind the architectural politics built into TCP/IP inthe 1970s, and similar motivations spurred the rejection of OSI protocols byInternet developers two decades later. Armed with resultant contextualunderstanding of previous TCP/IP developments, a few possible directions(both political and technical) in contemporary and future Internetdevelopment are then explored, such as the slow migration to IPv6 and themeaning of network neutrality.
3

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