[Air-l] is this internet studies? (fwd)

ANDREW RUSSELL arusse14 at jhu.edu
Mon Dec 22 12:32:54 PST 2003

Greetings all - 

I think David is right to point out that the Internet studies community should at least be aware of its relationships with (and perhaps dependence upon?) military funding. Luckily we have plenty of recent history - the influence of the Cold War on many areas of academic research - to consider when reflecting on these issues. I have in mind the "who's using whom?" historiography of Cold War physics, especially Paul Forman's contention that military funding diverted the path of quantum physics, and Dan Kevles's reply that Forman overstated the case, and that physicists engaged military funding with eyes wide open (I don't have the cites handy, but a search on google for Paul Forman "Beyond Quantum Electronics" will get you there). Bill Leslie's book The Cold War and American Science (where he examines the 'military-industrial-academic complex at MIT and Stanford) also reflects on these issues, as does much of Michael Dennis's historical work. There's also the rise and fall of 
the field of "Area Studies" (again, I don't have the cite handy but I think there is an essay on this in a book called "The Cold War and the Intellectuals").  

Finally, closer to Internet studies, I argued in a recent paper that the ARPANET existed as an artifact of the Cold War science policy consensus. JCR Licklider saw that the military's need for improved command and control could be achieved through his interest in "interactive computing"; he sold this idea to the DoD and, as head of ARPA's Info. Processing Techniques Office, got much of what we think of today as "computer science" started. In this light, the ARPANET (and perhaps subsequent computer research) represents a symbiosis of national security needs with the interests of computer researchers. (the paper is available from http://arussell.org/alr-SHAFRpaper.doc - sorry for the MS file format...)  I don't know of any historical work that examines systematically the origins of the field of computer science with an eye toward explaining the influence of the national security state. 

All of this is a rather long-winded way of saying that it is indeed important to know how national security, war, terrorism, etc. will affect Internet studies; and a good way to start thinking about this is to consider some how some other emerging disciplines dealt with this dynamic. In other words, this community might benefit from previous attempts to deal with the important questions David raises.


Andy Russell
History of Science and Technology
Johns Hopkins University

----- Original Message -----
From: david silver <dsilver at u.washington.edu>
Date: Monday, December 22, 2003 1:45 pm
Subject: Re: [Air-l] is this internet studies? (fwd)

> thank you for your post Lee.
> i am aware that the net has always been .mil, beginning with its 
> originswith ARPANET.  but what i am refering to is a) the very 
> recent history of
> the net and digital technologies and b) developments that have 
> taken place
> within this recent history within the US.
> i would, however, question this line:
> > despite some obvious surface difficulties, war is good for the 
> economy.
> and, more to the point of my original post, is war good for academia?
> as the field of internet studies works towards academic legitimacy,
> especially within the US, what does it mean when this process of
> legitimacy takes place within a national economy run by war, 
> threats of
> terrorism, and homeland security.  put another way, where will the 
> moneyfor US-based academic internet studies come from and should 
> this be
> something we consider as the field matures?
> david
> On Mon, 22 Dec 2003, Lee Salter wrote:
> > Well, yes... almost. You seem to be saying that the commercial 
> Internet> has turned into the military Internet, whereas in fact 
> it was
> > vice-versa. Compare, for example, RFC 3271 with RFC 1087. We see 
> a clear
> > agenda to "roll out" the Internet, which was at least influenced 
> by the
> > need to cheapen such technologies by reducing the unit-cost. 
> This only
> > really makes sense when one is aware that the ultimate control 
> of the
> > Internet shifted from the Department of Defense to the 
> Department of
> > Commerce in the 1990s - which the movement from IANA to ICANN 
> seems to
> > illustrate (see also the /Image Online Design v. IANA, et al./ 
> case). I
> > wouldn't, therefore, agree that the Internet has moved from .com to
> > .mil, but vice versa, with the proviso that .com is far from
> > antithetical to .mil. This shouldn't, however, surprise us. Michael
> > Kirdon (Permanent Arms Economy) and C Wright Mills (The Power 
> Elite) are
> > two of many examples of writers who inform us that capitalism is 
> on a
> > permanent war footing - despite some obvious surface 
> difficulties, war
> > is good for the economy. Brian Winston (Media, Technology, and 
> Society)> has applied this sort of dynamic to media technologies 
> very well (we
> > should of course remember the role of war in the car, aeroplane, 
> radio,> food technologies... etc.).
> >
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