SIGCIS 2012 Workshop, Traditional Papers III: Histories of Network(s)

Name: Andrew Russell

Institutional Affiliation: Stevens Institute of Technology

E-mail address:

Paper Type: Traditional Paper

Paper Title: Histories of Networking vs. The History of the Internet

Paper Abstract: In this paper I describe the difference between “the history of the Internet” and “histories of networking.”  The former phrase often describes a linear success story, one that starts with Sputnik and then moves to the creation of the Arpanet, Cerf and Kahn’s Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, the commercialization of the Internet, and the global adoption of the World Wide Web.  I argue that there is an opportunity now for historians to talk more about the latter category, “histories of networking,” which includes both the Arpanet and Internet as only part of the story.  Histories of networking also include developments in data networking, telecommunications, and wireless transmission that took place in other countries or that do not fit neatly into the narrative of the Internet’s success—in other words, projects that are not necessarily part of the established linear history of the Internet but are nevertheless important to describe and to understand.  The goal for this paper, therefore, is to destabilize the American-centric, triumphalist, and teleological narrative of linear success—from Arpanet to Internet to global information society—that is so pronounced in the existing popular accounts of the history of the Internet.