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[ih] New Republic Article - "How We Misremember the Internet’s Origins"

One last set of comments before I get on a plane for 6 hours...

On Fri, Nov 1, 2019, 8:08 PM Noel Chiappa <jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu> wrote:

> I've read it numerous times over the day, trying to work it out, and I
> focus
> on the last para, where she says:
>   "But even the most ad hoc of these events occurred in a particular
>   ideological context. What is the result of ignoring or blithely denying
> that
>   context? Lo and behold: It looks a lot like 2019"
> which sounds like she's unhappy that we didn't think through how it would
> be
> used, and do a better job to pre3vent, or at least influence, that.

I disagree with this. What she is saying is that latter day technologists
and historians deny the context in which the internet was created, and that
gets us to our current problems.

An earlier
> para seems to agree with that:
>   "But perhaps the most enduring truth of the internet is that so many of
> its
>   foundational moments and decisive turning points emerged from ad hoc
> actions
>   and experiments undertaken with little sense of foresight or posterity."

> But then there's this:
>   "But this is another recurring theme seen in the many moments of ad hoc
>   internet history: By emphasizing the technical innovations (and obsessive
>   dedication to them) as more important than the political and economic
>   contexts in which they were germinated, the graybeards of internet
> history
>   .. perpetuate the illusion that technology magically exists outside of
>   politics, rather than existing in a constant dialogue with it."
> which sounds more like she's saying that contemporary politics played a
> large
> role in making the Internet look like what it is.

She uses the phrase "internet history" because she is critiquing the way we
historicize the internet. Her thesis is that contemporary politics played a
large role in making the internet look like what it looks like, *even if*
the decisions in the moment were ad hoc. As John pointed out earlier, even
ad hoc decisions were made by humans out there in the world with their own
political leanings. But the tech industry in particular pushes a narrative
of political neutrality *today* that is projected on the internet of the
past, one that is not true. It is in the title of the essay even: this is
an essay about how we remember the internet, not about what happened at the

> If so, why couldn't she just start out by saying 'The Internet looks like
> what
> it is today because of the political environment at the time it was
> created -
> both in general, and around the people who created it.' Then she could go
> on
> to explain how and why - lay out the detail in an organized way to back up
> her
> thesis.

This is how I would write a college essay about the topic but probably not
what the New Republic is looking for, in terms of style.

I think people here are being defensive (understandable) and missing the
point that this is a criticism of present day myth making around the
internet and how it (the myth!) is used to further agendas of various

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