Week 2: 1961–1983
The Culture of and around ARPANET, or How No Technology Is Neutral
The first designs for the internet emerged in military research in the 1960s to create a survivable command and control structure capable of withstanding nuclear attack. But the means of solving the problem of durable communication, using distributed networks and packet-switched data transmission, quickly moved beyond this narrow aim. Both at the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), where network research began, and in commercial services, such as Tymnet and Telenet, the technology came to foster wider cooperative tools. Looking back at the era’s counterculture, Stewart Brand would later say of the internet, “We owe it all to the hippies.” This week we’ll consider what cultural values were embedded into early internet technology, why no technology is value neutral, and how researchers of the early internet see its values changing today.
Readings for Class
• J. C. R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor, “The Computer as a Communication Device,” Science and Technology, April 1968.
• Driscoll, The Modem World, 1–28.
• Stewart Brand, “We Owe It All to the Hippies,” Time, March 1, 1995. [PDF]
• Fred Turner, “The Rise of the Internet and a New Age of Authoritarianism,” Harpers, January 2019. [PDF]
• Janet Abbate, “How the Internet Lost Its Soul,” Washington Post, November 1, 2019.
• Matthew Lasar, “ARPANET’s coming out party: when the Internet first took center stage
Forty years ago the founders of the Internet had a revelation,” Ars Technica, October 18, 2011.
• Lawrence Roberts, “Multiple Computer Networks and Intercomputer Communication,” Proceedings of the First ACM Symposium on Operating System Principles, 1967. (First paper on the ARPANET)
• Lawrence Roberts, “The Evolution of Packet Switching,” Proceedings of the IEEE 66, no. 11, November 1978. (Early reflection on the central technology of packet switching)
• Janet Abbate. Inventing the Internet. MIT Press, 1999.
• Fred Turner. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. University of Chicago Press, 2006.