Revolutionary Discourses in a Time Capsule: A Historiographical Analysis of Canonical, Intellectual Literature Concerning the Social Impact and Significance of the Internet

Nathalie Fridzema*, Susan Aasman, Rik Smit, Tom Slootweg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic

16 Downloads (Pure)


Whilst the internet’s development can be traced back to the 1940s (Turner, 2006; Flichy 2015), the rhetoric of a digital revolution primarily emerged during the early 1990s and mid-00s and was often produced by the US-based academic community which has been intrinsically involved with the advancement of the internet. The dominant conceptualizations put forward in their popular, scholarly writings about the technology’s past and future, became authoritative in our academic understanding of the internet’s social impact and significance. Subsequently, notions like ‘the electronic highway’ were adopted in legislative and popular discourse which, in turn, influenced how the internet was understood, designed, and used on a broader, societal level. Notable authors of these influential texts - Howard Rheingold, Nicholas Negroponte, Sherry Turkle, and Geert Lovink - wrote their findings based on their own experiences with internet initiatives and from their particular theoretical backgrounds and positionality. Most importantly, these texts present valuable information as if coming from a time capsule; often framed with a rhetoric of transformation, the writers themselves contribute to the idea of a revolutionary internet following optimistic notions of digital utopianism and technological solutionism, situated in a particular Zeitgeist. The aim of this paper is to contribute to a better understanding of how these revolutionary notions developed over time and what their grander impact was on our contemporary conceptions, in and outside the influential American context. This is achieved by conducting a critical, historiographical analysis of canonical, intellectual literature about the early internet and thus re-contextualizes it as historical traces itself.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 21-Dec-2023
EventThe 24th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers - Piladelphia, United States
Duration: 18-Oct-202321-Oct-2023
Conference number: 24


ConferenceThe 24th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers
Abbreviated titleAoIR2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States

Cite this