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Cached: Decoding the Internet in Global Popular Culture

Stephanie Ricker Schulte
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This is the most culturally sophisticated history of the Internet yet written. We can't make sense of what the Internet means in our lives without reading Schulte's elegant account of what the Internet has meant at various points in the past 30 years. - Siva Vaidhyanathan, Chair of the Department of Media Studies at The University of VirginiaIn the 1980s and 1990s, the internet became a major player in the global economy and a revolutionary component of everyday life for much of the United States and the world. It offered users new ways to relate to one another, to share their lives, and to spend their time - shopping, working, learning, and even taking political or social action. Policymakers and news media attempted - and often struggled - to make sense of the emergence and expansion of this new technology. They imagined the internet in conflicting terms: as a toy for teenagers, a national security threat, a new democratic frontier, an information superhighway, a virtual reality, and a framework for promoting globalization and revolution.Schulte maintains that contested concepts had material consequences and helped shape not just our sense of the internet, but the development of the technology itself.Cachedfocuses on how people imagine and relate to technology, delving into the political and cultural debates that produced the internet as a core technology able to revise economics, politics, and culture, as well as to alter lived experience. Schulte illustrates the conflicting and indirect ways in which culture and policy combined to produce this transformative technology.Stephanie Ricker Schulteis an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Arkansas.In theCritical Cultural Communicationseries

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8868-4
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-20)

    Humorist Dave Barry’s burlesqueDave Barry in Cyberspaceprovided mid-1990s Americans with a how-to manual for participating in what was rapidly becomingthenew and necessary—if intimidatingly foreign—technological experience: getting online. In it, he described the internet as global public and private network run by Jason, a hormonal thirteen-year-old. After signing up for a “user-friendly interface” with a company like America Online, you could do a variety of things, like “waste time in ways that you never before dreamed possible” and communicate with “millions of people all over the entire globe… many of whom are boring and stupid.”...

  5. 1 The “WarGames Scenario”: Regulating Teenagers and Teenaged Technology
    (pp. 21-54)

    Many Americans “experienced” computer networking for the first time in 1983 by watching a young Matthew Broderick nearly blow up the world. In the immensely popular, Academy Award–nominated filmWarGames, the teenaged computer-hacker David Lightman (Broderick) accidentally dials into the Pentagon’s defense system while looking for a computer game company.¹ Lightman plays what he thinks is a game called “Global Thermonuclear War” and unintentionally brings the United States and Soviet Union to the brink of global destruction. Several weeks afterWarGameswas released, NBC aired a story that described the film as having “scary authenticity” since the North American...

  6. 2 The Internet Grows Up and Goes to Work: User-Friendly Tools for Productive Adults
    (pp. 55-82)

    Beginning in 1983, IBM launched an extensive advertising campaign featuring Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp to market the PCjr, the company’s first major foray into the home computer market and ultimately the bestselling computer of the period.¹ IBM’s massive magazine, newspaper, and television campaign featured the Tramp as a Depression-era worker and average man in his recognizably oversized suit-tails, jumbo shoes, bowler hat, mustache, and characteristic playful smirk interacting with IBM’s computing and networking technology.² Perhaps the most-discussed and-successful corporate representation in the early 1980s, the campaign itself became a news hook.³ OneTimemagazine article concluded that “the Tramp campaign...

  7. 3 From Computers to Cyberspace: Virtual Reality, the Virtual Nation, and the CorpoNation
    (pp. 83-112)

    In 1996, economist, techie, and writer Carl Malamud teamed up with one of the inventors of the internet, Vint Cerf, to set up the Internet World’s Fair.¹ Called the “most ambitious undertaking on the Internet to date” byNewsweekmagazine, this fair had over 5 million visitors from 172 countries, garnered over $100 million in contributions from a variety of industry and governmental sources, and received letters of support from a dozen governmental elites like Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin.² The fair changed the infrastructure of the internet through its establishment of the “Internet Railroad,” a global networking backbone that...

  8. 4 Self-Colonizing eEurope: The Information Society Merges onto the Information Superhighway
    (pp. 113-138)

    The 2002 award winning German film ½Miete, or ½the Rentfollows a computer hacker in his thirties named Peter as he “unplugs”—that is, he makes the conscious decision to live his life off-line.¹ The film’s opening shot characterizes this hacker’s home life in ways similar to American films likeWarGamesand theMatrix. The main character’s apartment is disheveled, with empty food containers and dirty clothing strewn about. Near the onset of the film, the hacker emerges from his darkened computer room overjoyed that he finally finished his long-term project, a computer virus. To his horror, Peter...

  9. 5 Tweeting into the Future: Affecting Citizens and Networking Revolution
    (pp. 139-164)

    Egyptians took to the streets in 2011 in a revolution that would overthrow a regime that had controlled the country for three decades. In the midst of the unrest in Egypt, theNew York Timeswebsite featured an image: a woman holding a scorecard that read “Facebook: 2, Dictators: o” (presumably, mocking the deposed dictators in Tunisia and Egypt). The revolution became known (both in and outside Egypt) as the “Facebook Revolution” as news organizations such asFox News, CNN,and theNew York Timesreported that Egyptian Facebook users laid the online social networking groundwork essential to the political...

    (pp. 165-174)

    As Jeffrey Sconce snarkily notes, historical writing tends to end where it began, because “cyclical returns in history imply the existence of immutable forces, power brought to light and made predictable by the insight of the author’s historical analysis. ‘History repeats itself’ goes the well-known aphorism.”¹ While this book ends in some senses where it began, it does so to illustrate the ways historyfailsto neatly repeat itself. The visions of the internet detailed in the previous chapters do not recycle efficiently like a historical Ferris wheel, nor do they whiz along on a linear rollercoaster into the...

    (pp. 175-176)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 177-234)
    (pp. 235-252)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 253-260)
    (pp. 261-261)