[Air-l] Internet History/Stages, was Internet in Everyday Life

Hugh Brown hugh.brown at internet-thinking.com.au
Wed Dec 4 21:25:29 PST 2002

Hi all,

When I think of Internet vs internet (as I do most days) I make the choice
based on whether I'm referring to an entity or a phenomenon.  For example,
there is only one Internet (in terms of the common experience/parlance), but
there could potentially be many internets (in terms of the ability to hook
up computers and make a network).

In this case, the grammatical device of capitalisation implicitly denotes
the definition, similar to the difference between Indigenous people (people
who identify as part of a culture that was present prior to the arrival of
Western colonist/invaders/settlers (let's not go there right now), for
example, Aboriginal Australians, Inuit, etc, vs indigenous people (I regard
myself as an indigenous Australian - I was born here - but I am not in any
way Indigenous).

This seems a simple, unambiguous definition, however, I note there the talk
of a number of Internets.  What do others make of it?

Hugh Brown
Editor, On Line Opinion
Ph +61 7 3852 2138
Mob +61 409 622 395
Fax +61 7 3252 9818

-----Original Message-----
From: air-l-admin at aoir.org [mailto:air-l-admin at aoir.org]On Behalf Of
Lisa-Jane McGerty
Sent: Friday, November 29, 2002 22:24
To: air-l at aoir.org
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Internet History/Stages, was Internet in Everyday

Thanks to Steve for some thought-provoking comments. I've also recently
grappled with the issue of Internet/internet though for slightly different
reasons. In my PhD thesis (now almost completed) I abandoned early on the
use of Internet with the capital 'I', preferring instead to use 'internet'.
This was partly due to the fact that other media are not capitalised, as
Steve points out, and also that using the capitalised version somehow
implied that it is set apart from the everyday, that it should somehow stand
out or is mysterious. As my thesis is looking at everyday domestic uses of
the internet this seemed wrong. Also, using 'Internet' seemed somehow to
reify all the biases inherent in the early history of the technology (the
gender, class, and ethnic biases particularly) which I did not want to do.
So I now always use 'internet', although I always try to pin this down by
stating what I really mean by the term (i.e. am I just referring to the WWW,
or to other aspects of the wider global internet, or to some historical
interpretation of it, or whatever).

I just wanted to throw this in as this is the first time I've seen this
topic discussed anywhere!

Lisa McGerty
Applied Social Sciences
University of Bradford, UK

----- Original Message -----
From: Steve Jones <sjones at uic.edu>
To: <air-l at aoir.org>
Sent: Thursday, November 28, 2002 12:32 AM
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Internet History/Stages, was Internet in Everyday Life

> Email overload, I'm finally picking up threads of conversations from
> days ago....
> In short, although my talk focused largely on issues related to
> immersive virtual reality, it began by discussing networks, and I did
> say that I thought it is time to abandon the notion of an "Internet"
> and think about an "internet." (With due respect for citation, this
> occurred to me after a lengthy phone conversation with Joe Turow in
> which he noted that other media are not capitalized.) The former I
> use to refer to the process, begun in the 1960s with U.S. government
> funding, of connecting computers and standardizing communication
> among them. The latter I use to refer to the networking of computers
> that may or, more importantly, may not rely on that process. In this
> latter category are included any type of networking project, from
> home networking to wireless network to cellular networks to Internet2
> and so on. In other words, _the Internet_ is an internet (i.e.,
> internetwork) but _the internet_ is a medium akin to other media
> (e.g., television, radio, etc.).
> The larger point was that use of the term "network" embedded in these
> is itself important, whether we are discussing the actual, as in
> hardware, software, etc., or more importantly when discussing the
> symbolic, as in the relatively recent popular use of networks as
> metaphors for everything from stock markets to relationships to
> biology. That's what made me strongly consider _internet_, for I've
> been reminded of the ways in which a signal point in the development
> of media is when we begin to use it symbolically and metaphorically
> to compare other aspects of life to it.
> I expect to develop this further when I get to taking the talk and
> turning it into something publishable at some point, but in relation
> to the discussion at hand that's what Ulla was referring to, and
> while it doesn't really sort out the matter of "Internet eras,"
> perhaps it does provide still another way to think about the
> development of the technology and its uses (symbolic and otherwise).
> Thanks,
> Sj

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