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Hearsay Culture #252 — Prof. Ben Peters on the History of the Failed Soviet Internet

The Soviet expe­ri­ence sug­gests some­thing real­ly impor­tant for us today, which is that net­works are entire­ly com­pat­i­ble with sur­veil­lance. And many of our favorite things to talk about, then, peer-to-peer pro­duc­tion, or end-to-end intel­li­gence, kind of missed the point that I think is now obvi­ous. That whether you’re the NSA or Google or who­ev­er else…you’re a gen­er­al sec­re­tari­at, seek­ing to pri­va­tize our pow­er, and you are sur­veilling us, because you have a net­work in place.

The Platonic Network

I want­ed to give you a lit­tle bit of per­spec­tive on Otlet’s broad­er vision, which I think is in a way even more inter­est­ing as a ref­er­ence point for think­ing about some of the changes we’re see­ing today as our lives are increas­ing­ly reshaped by tech­nol­o­gy and net­works. What Otlet offers is a dif­fer­ent way into that space, and a dif­fer­ent way of think­ing about what a net­worked world could look like.

Re-calling the Modem World: The Dial-Up History Of Social Media

Where did the Internet come from? And in order to answer that ques­tion, you would have to have a pret­ty clear idea of what you mean when you say the Internet.” I sus­pect that if we were to poll every­body in the room, we would have a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent, some­times con­tra­dic­to­ry, some­times incom­pat­i­ble, some­times over­lap­ping, def­i­n­i­tions of the Internet.”

There Is No Internet

What I’d like to do for prob­a­bly the next 40 to 45 min­utes is just first of all talk about how Reading Writing Interfaces as well as the Media Archaeology Lab under­lie my next/current project that I’m call­ing Other Networks,” which will lead me into an expla­na­tion of my kind of mys­te­ri­ous title There Is No Internet.” And I’ll fin­ish with talk­ing about spe­cif­ic exam­ples of oth­er net­works. When I say oth­er net­works” I’m talk­ing pri­mar­i­ly about net­works that were out­side or before what we now call The Internet.