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Networks and Social Imagination (from "The Net Effect" by Thomas Streeter)

Networks and Social Imagination (from "The Net Effect" by Thomas Streeter)

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Published by NYU Press
or a limited time only, read an excerpt from Thomas Streeter's fascinating new book, The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet (Critical Cultural Communication), at Scribd.com.
or a limited time only, read an excerpt from Thomas Streeter's fascinating new book, The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet (Critical Cultural Communication), at Scribd.com.

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Published by: NYU Press on Dec 13, 2010
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93
 
Networks and the Social Imagination
One can take issue whether the technical designs that emerge out o that [collab-orative] process are the best possible, but it is ar more important that they actu-ally come into existence by a process that is open—architecturally open, politicallyopen, that new people come in regularly, that the results are distributed ree o charge around the world to everybody. Te enormous power o those very simpleconcepts is very hard to convey to people who have not experienced them.
1
—Steve Crocker
when can a prso usig  omputr b sid to b tig lo,d  r ty tig it otrs? At rst gl, strig t  mooromsr d typig r ommds to ot to d itrt ovr  torkis rdly dirt rom ogurig  sprdst o  Appl II. Bot ivolvsotri itrtio it  mi d ld tmslvs to  obsssiv bsorp-tio; bot  v t t o rmovig o’s tttio rom t pysillyproximt prso i t xt room. But, i t Uitd Stts i t 1980s, ortos rro irls o idividuls ivolvd i vrious stgs o t rly dvlop-mt o t itrt, tr r ky dirs bt tir xpri d txpri o t millios o r outrig miroomputrs, d tosdirs lt tmslvs to dirt possibilitis or rtiultio it lrgrvisios. I usig  std-lo miroomputr i t rly dys lt itsl to lig o Lok utoomy rom otrs, usig  omputr tork ould vsomtig o t rvrs t; orkig o  omputr trmil otd to tork, prtiulrly ovr tim, orgrouds t soil otios mbdddi t tology. Ayo o s d to itrv i  disussio list or i t room to kp tigs goig smootly—by, sy, givig til dvi to bi or by ourgig  fmr to modrt tir to or t sk o grouprmoy—s d  smll tst o tis t.
Attention becomes directed towardsthe social mechanics o interaction within a system
.O ould’t v ko it t t tim by rdig
Time
or
Fortune
, but, look-ig bk, it is o lr tt t 1980s s  tim o grt dvmts i om-putr torkig. Wil t U.S. mistrm s romig t trprur-il tl o t std-lo miroomputr i t 1980s, outsid o t limligt,mjor dvlopmts r tkig pl it rtr dirt politil oot-
 
 
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Networks and the Social Imagination
tios. By 1980, pkt sitig s stblisd s  prtil ms o ommu-itio bot o t xprimtl itrt d t orkig X.25 torks ttotd bks d rsr lbs. Etrt (s ll s omptig tok rig dARCNE) lol r torkig tology bm ommrilly vibl, dt bsi udrlyig protools or tody’s itrt, CP/IP, r put ito pl,tstd, d vily dvlopd. Commril omputr torks lik Compusrvd Prodigy r lud, smll omputr bullti bord systms strtd tosprd, d my uivrsity omputr sitists bg to ommuit ovr tlo-ost Ust systm. Fr ld t orld ito osumr us o omputrtorks it its tioid Miitl systm, lud by t Fr post o,tt llod milig d lookig up iormtio o trmils i t oms o itizs. For  substtil sgmt o t ommuity o omputr girs, t-orkig s r t tr o tir tttio i t 1980s.Bus ts vts did ot tr t brodr publi y i t U.S. util dd ltr, ovr,  brod disussio o t ppd i t 1980s ourrdoly tr t t. Ad, s popl v lookd bk to gur out r tismzig tig lld t itrt m rom, t ort bm  opportuityor mu giogrpy d ot  littl politil mytmkig, bot ittiold ot. For xmpl, i rspos to t ommo (i bsurd) mid-1990s bito ttributig t ris o t itrt to t r mrkt,
2
Mil d RodHub publisd  sris o rtils d  book tt md  strog s tt tris o t itrt s du to timrkt, ommuitri priipls osisttit t 1960s N Lt. Hord Rigold d otrs i Strt Brd’s irlgrtd omputr torkig oto t N Commulism. Ad umrous pot-td istoris d timlis o t itrt pprd i prit d o t itrtitsl, ot rftig vrious politil ilitios i tir sltio o dtils.Si ts rly orts, t disussio s mturd, d  mor srious is-toril litrtur o t volutio o t itrt d omputr ommuitios pprd. Works by Jt Abbt, Pul Cruzzi, d Jms Gillis d Rob-rt Cilliu v providd mu r dtil d rul lysis.
3
But o o tstrikig tigs bout tis r litrtur is tt, il it is rul ot to rus toimpos politil ssumptios oto t istoril dtil, politil qustios kprsurig. T impt o t itrt s b so lrg, d its origis so dis-tit, tt o ot lp but odr bout t implitios o tis ours o vts or udrstdig politis d soil rltios.Hr I ill ous o  , illustrtiv pisods i t volutio o torkigi t 1980s, it  y o t mks tm politilly uusul d troritriguig. Prvious ork s dmostrtd svrl importt poits. First, titrt most rtily s ot rtd by to guys i  grg, by smll tr-prurs oprtig i  lssi r mrkt. It s dvlopd isid Hugs’s
 
 
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Networks and the Social Imagination
militry-idustril-uivrsity omplx—t  momt  tt omplx sudrgoig sigit gs. Tis t lo srvs  importt rjoidr tomrkt udmtlists d librtris. But it is lso importt tt t lrgrdvlopmt rmork s tt stblisd by Vvr Bus. Privt orpo-rtios r ivolvd i t itrt rly o d r or t most prt lysimgid to b trl to tvr orm t tology ould tk s it mturd;t simpl t tt rly itrt dvlopmt s udd by tx rvus dosot by itsl orm, sy,  N Lt positio it rgrd to orportios.Sod, prt o t distiguiss t rly itrt dvlopmt rom ltr-tiv torkig orts i t 1980s is  uusul ultur o iorml, op,orizotl ooprtio—tt vry distit st o prtis tt r iompltlysummrizd tody udr prss su s “roug ossus d ruig od,”d “d-to-d dsig.”
4
T rol o ts prtis i t istory o t itrts bom somtig o  politil ootbll; blssd by tir glogil rl-tio to o o t mjor tologil suss storis o t ttit tury,ty r limd s supportig vid by lssi orport librls, librtr-is, dmorti soilists, d rists lik. It is importt to gt byod tsimplisti vrsios o ts ppropritios. Frd urr s md t importtpoit tt ridly orizotl ollbortio mog girs is rdly by itsl gurtor o politil dmory brodly ostrud, d it is i t istorillyosistt it utorti d igly opprssiv politil struturs, lik t oldr orts o t 1950s. Ad t istory is lr tt, to t xtt tr is  poli-tis to itrt dvlopmt, it is ot somtig tt  b rd o o t politi-l ors o prtiulr girs; rigt- d lt-igrs, ks d dovs, llmd importt otributios, ot i ooprtio it o otr.Tis ptr rfts o to ists o   d uusul st o prtistt mrgd roud 1980, ys o soil d tologil orgiztio tt irtrospt sm rltivly politilly stisyig d prtilly tiv. First, itlooks t t dvlopmt o  ip dsig mtods i t lt 1970s, i ldto VLSI (Vry Lrg Sl Itgrtio) miroprossors i t 1980s. Wil otlys listd i t i o dvlopmts tt ld to t itrt, t VLSI ipdsig pross s ky to mitiig t momtum o Moors L d st toditios or t prd o vr-improvig miroprossors d grpis ipso top o i t itrt s built. For my purposs, it ily illustrts tdisovry isid omputr girig o t sr til vlu o tttio tosoil pross d to op, torkd, orizotl rltios. Sod, t ptrdisusss t mu mor lrly politil oomi momt durig i tARPANE orts r split o rom t militry d quitly trsrrd toNSF udig. Wt is distit bout tis rmrkbl momt is, ot just tspirit o opss, but t us o tt kid o op ollbortio to rully

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