Ch 11 Networks

In 2014, most people of the world do not have direct access to the internet, but the trend towards universal access  is clear. Although only 15% of the population has network access in Africa, the rate of adoption is astronomical.  In North America, 80 percent have access, as might be expected.  It’s 68% in Australia, 63% in Europe, 40% in the Middle East and 27% in Asia.

Thanks to the open software movement and free speech protection, the global internet is the most socially constructed technology in history.   In other words, a human vision of  this technology has driven its development. This idea stands in sharp opposition to the technologically deterministic view that people adapt to the inevitable march of progress,  with little control over technologies that are largely autonomous.

International regulation of the internet is becoming highly contentious.   Vint Cerf, one of the early originators of open networks, had this to say about proposals to regulate the internet at the UN level:     (May 25, 2012, New York Times)

When I helped to develop the open standards that computers use to communicate with one another across the Net, I hoped for but could not predict how it would blossom and how much human ingenuity it would unleash. What secret sauce powered its success? The Net prospered precisely because governments — for the most part — allowed the Internet to grow organically, with civil society, academia, private sector and voluntary standards bodies collaborating on development, operation and governance.In contrast, the I.T.U. creates significant barriers to civil society participation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, it grew out of the International Telegraph Union, which was established in 1865. The treaty governing the agency, last amended in 1988, established practices that left the Internet largely unaffected. 

Discussion questions

  1. Replacing universities: Why did H.G. Wells say that universities are highly conservative and resistant?  How exactly did he think they could be replaced? How does this seem to be working out?
  2. Curves in the road:  How did AT&T miss the curve in the  road with DARPA? What about the mass media? How did they miss the curve in the road with the World Wide Web?
  3. Changes in mass media traffic patterns:  Consider the information traffic diagram (right) that shows the difference between top-down programs and other kinds of media.  List examples of other new and old media companies in each of the four categories. (Click on the diagram to enlarge it).
  4. Cyberspace Independence:  Originally, the Internet was supposed to transcend and then transform governments.  How much has it lived up to its potential?
  5. The power of intellectual capital:  How on earth would one guy, working alone, be able to digitize over 22 million newspaper pages, for free, when the Library of Congress got about 5 million pages in the same time period for about $15 million.   See this video to visualize the contrast.
  6. The Internet hall of fame has a lot of likely suspects, but is it as complete as it might be?  Who is missing?

People & Events

Tim Berners-Lee, Marc Andreessen, H.G. Wells, Vannevar Bush, J.C.R. Licklider, Martin Greenberger, Ted Nelson, Len Klienrock, Vint Cerf, John Perry Barlow, Jeff Bezos, Reed Hastings, Larry Page, Sergei Brin

Teletex, Minitel, Prestel, Prodigy, America On Line, World Wide Web, Mosaic, Netscape, Internet Explorer, Mozilla, laws of network value, Amazon, Netflix, Google, crowdsourcing, social capital, Striesand effect,

Documentary videos

  1. Triumph of the Nerds 2.0 describes the early years of network development, from the Defense Department to the development of the World Wide Web at CERN. An excellent and entertaining documentary, probably too long to show in full during class.
  2. Evolving Personalized Information Construct – EPIC – A  tongue-in-cheek history about the decline of real media in the face of “Googlezon.” The news wars of 2010 are notable for the fact that no actual news organizations take part… In 2014, New York Times goes offline …
  3. Larry Page and Sergi Brin on the founding of Google — TED Talk from 2004.
  4. YouTube has dozens of videos about the history of computing. One of the most interesting is a 1974 interview with an Australian Broadcasting Corp. reporter and Arthur C. Clark  talking about the future of the internet in a room full of computers. (Embedded on this page)  Another is Bill Moyer’s 1988  interview  Isaac Asimov about how computers and networks have the potential to greatly improve education.

Podcasts and OPEN courses

Further reading

General histories of the Internet

  1. Social media are 2,000 years old, says Tom Standage.
  2. PBS Life on the Internet — Timeline 1960 – 1997
  3. Virtual community by Howard Rheingold, 1993, a classic available now online.  “When you think of a title for a book, you are forced to think of something short and evocative, like, well, ‘The Virtual Community,’ even though a more accurate title might be: ‘People who use computers to communicate, form friendships that sometimes form the basis of communities, but you have to be careful to not mistake the tool for the task and think that just writing words on a screen is the same thing as real community.'” – HLR

Early history of the Internet

  1. Teletext — an early form of rich content text information that could be recieved on telelvision or computer screen.  BBC ‘s implementation, Ceefax,  begin as early as 1974.  Not to be confused with teleprinters, such as the system adopted by the Association Press in 1914, or the   “telex”  system  used in the 1950s – 80s.
  2. Prestel was British postal service system that was commercially launched in 1979 using  Viewdata technology. The system was a British rival to the far more successful Minitel.
  3. Minitel 1B terminal (Courtesty USC Annenberg Minitel Research Lab).

    Minitel was a French  national social and commercial internet from the early 1980s to around 2010. It was  successful long before the internet began taking off.   Minitel began as a government telephone service project in 1980, and by 1990 it had millions of subscribers and tens of thousands of businesses online.

    1. The Minitel Research Lab   is creating a comprehensive independent digital Minitel museum and resource center; exploring the technical, social, political and legal significance of the Minitel network; and making creative use of the machines to incite critical thinking about network design. The lab is based at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.
    2. “A French Internet Revolution,”  Business Week, Sept. 29, 1997.
    3. Radio France International (RFI). “Minitel Lives On,” February 11, 2009
  4. Library of Congress Internet history links
  5. John Markoff, “When Big Blue Got a Glimpse of the Future,” article about 1970s meeting between IBM execs and network visionaries. The New York Times.
  6. The Birth of Online, by Walter Isaacson.

    Even with the new systems, most average PC owners could not easily join virtual communities. You needed to have access to the Usenet or one of the government-funded networks that were being woven into the Internet. But then, in the early 1980s, a little but explosive innovation came along that led to a new phase in the digital revolution: the modulator-demodulator, known as a modem. Modems could modulate an analog signal, such as a that carried by an ordinary telephone line, so that it could encode digital information, and also reverse the process. In short, it allowed ordinary people to connect their computers using phone lines. The online revolution could now begin.

  7. Roads & Crossroads of the Internet  
  8. David Carlson’s History of Online news 
  9. Arango, Tim. “How the AOL-Time Warner Merger Went So Wrong,” The New York Times.
  10. Early versions of the Web:  NAPLPS
  11. Tim Berners-Lee and the inspirations for the world wide web, a TED talk by Ian Ritchie.
  12. — The Wall Street Journal’s take on who is responsible for building the Internet.  July 30, 2012.
  13. Video of what 1995 students expected the internet to become.  Went viral in 2012.
  14. Blockbuster video store’s self-inflicted tragedy. Nov. 13, 2013.
  15. Ray Tomlinson and the invention of the @ sign for email (Washington Post, March 6 2016)… and some of Tomlinson’s own observations about it.
  16. Controversy over EMAIL and its inventor.
  17. John Perry Barlow and the 1996  Declaration of Cyberspace Independence represents an important moment in the history of the internet and free speech. Barlow also discusses beat free spirit, Neal Cassidy, in an article about one of the most interesting intersections of American culture.

Internet and the news media

  1. Viewtron — Knight-Ridder newspaper chain and AT&T — 1983 – 1986.
  2. Prodigy plans new features — New York Times, 1990.
  3. News and Observer —  started in 1993, was one of the best attempts by newspapers to come to grips with new media.
  4. Microsoft and NBC launch a cable channel called MSNBC in 1996.
  5. News aggregation and the law — NiemanLab article, Sept. 8, 2010.
  6. RCFP briefing on “hot news misappropriation” copyright issues. d Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 2012.
  7. Google closing its news aggregation in Spain over tax issues – Huff Post, Dec. 12, 2014.
  8. Americans feel better informed, thanks to the Internet.  Pew Research Project, Dec. 8, 2014.

Emerging Networks (2000 – present)

  1. Bob Metcalfe, “Metcalfe’s Law Recurses Down the Long Tail of Social Networks” 18 August 2006.
  2. David Reed, That Sneaky Exponential – Metcalfe’s law to the power of community building, Context magazine, Spring 1999.
  3. Rod Beckstrom, The Economics of Networks and Cybersecurity, US Dept. of Homeland Security, Dec. 12, 2008.
  4.  Video Game and New Media History links
  5. “The Top 500 sites on the web,”
  6. Alpert, Jesse and Nissan Hajaj. “We Knew the Web Was Big . . . ” The Official Google Blog, 2008.
  7. Anderson, Chris and Michael Wolf. “The Web is Dead,” Wired magazine, August, 2010.
  8. Pew Research Center for People & the Press, “Internet Overtakes Newspapers as News Outlet,” December 23, 2008.
  9. Anderson, Janna and Lee Rainie. “The Future of the Internet,” Pew Internet and American Life Project, February 19, 2010.
  10. Citizen Media Business Issues: Traffic Rankings, Search Engines, and Search Engine Optimization – Center for Citizen Media
  11. N. Negroponte: “Being Digital”, Bits and Atoms, Chapter 1
  12. FTC said to prepare review of Apple tactics in mobile ad market 
  13. Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google’s Sergey Brin, The Guardian, April 15, 2012.
  14. Inside Washington’s high risk mission to beat web censors Oliver Berkeman, The Guardian, April 15, 2012.
  15. Americans pay too much for high speed internet, Washington Post, Oct. 28, 2013.  Similar international comparisons were made between a century beforehand between the cost of a telegram in European government-owned systems and a telegram sent by the private Western Union monopoly  in the US.  The European rates were one half to one third the US rates.
  16. Crowdsourcing goes mainstream in typhoon response.  Nature. Nov. 2013.
  17. The Streisand effect — When an attempt to censor information has the effect of publicizing it more widely. Named for an attempt to censor photos of Barbara Streisand’s home. (Wikipedia)
  18. Our Machine Masters — David Brooks, NY Times, Oct 13, 2014.
  19. No, Mr. Trump, the US is not turning over control of the internet to the Russians and Chinese, LA Times Sept 28, 2016 

Anti-trust law and the networked world

  1. The Apple – Amazon – Justice Dept. anti-trust suite of 2012 “is not about saving literature or the sanctity of the literary world, it is about the publishers’ business model,” says  Hoyt Hilsman in the Chicago Trib (April 26).   “Since the advent of digital technology, the book business — along with the music business, the film business and a slew of other traditional businesses — has been broken.”
  2. European Union competition watchdogs began an investigation into Google in November, 2010 and the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opened its own probe into the company’s lucrative search and advertising business in June, 2011. Google under scrutiny.  Reuters, Sept. 20, 2011.
  3. It’s silicon valley against the baby Bells as the FCC proposes public wifi networks.   Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2013
  4. US Senate Judiciary Committee, September 21, 2011:   “The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?”  See especially testimony of Jeff Katz, founder of Orbitz:

“In 2002 this openness and competitive aspect of the internet was also available to the founders of Nextag. They began to invest around Google’s ideas, and technology. But what Google engineering giveth, Google marketing taketh away. Google abandoned these core principles when they started interfering with profits and profit growth. Today, Google doesn’t play fair. Google rigs its results, biasing in favor of Google Shopping and against competitors like us.”

Networked education 

  1. Clay Shirkey on how universities got “cost disease” and what it will mean. November 2012.  Highly recommended read.
  2. Shorenstein Center’s Jan. 2013 list of links on Massive Online Open Courses
  3. On the closing of – by Christopher Kelty, UCLA, March, 2012 — “The publishers think it is a great success in the war on piracy … The pirates think that shutting down will only lead to a thousand more …  But both are missing the point: the global demand for learning and scholarship is not being met by the contemporary publishing industry. It cannot be, not with the current business models and the prices. The users of – these barbarians at the gate of the publishing industry and the university – are legion.”  
  4. Congress financing high speed public school networks.  Dec. 11, 2014.

 Net neutrality and copyright 

  1. Zero Day — Washington Post series
  2. ISPs are becoming copryight police — LA Times / February 26, 2013
  3. Comic-book approach to explaining net neutrality issues.
  4. The Oatmeal explains Net Neutrality in terms so simple that even a US Senator like Ted Cruz  could understand it.
  5. Net Neutrality and the future of journalism – FreePress
  6. Aaraon Swarts and the PACER episode – EFF, Aug. 2014
  7. Why is it so hard to get local TV on internet? Why does cable have a blanket statutory license to capture local signals?  – EFF, July, 2016

Cool  net stuff

  1.  Ten Unforgettable Web Memes — Fail, cats, dancing baby, flash mob, jump the shark and others we’ll probably find embarrassing in 10 years.   Also, Memes and the spread of ideas — Smithsonian magazine.