The Internet Myth
Paolo Bory
The Internet Myth

‘The Internet is broken and Paolo Bory knows how we got here. In a powerful book based on original research, Bory carefully documents the myths, imaginaries, and ideologies that shaped the material and cultural history of the Internet. As important as this book is to understand our shattered digital world, it is essential for those who would fix it.’ — Vincent Mosco, author of The Smart City in a Digital World

The Internet Myth retraces and challenges the myth laying at the foundations of the network ideologies – the idea that networks, by themselves, are the main agents of social, economic, political and cultural change. By comparing and integrating different sources related to network histories, this book emphasizes how a dominant narrative has extensively contributed to the construction of the Internet myth while other visions of the networked society have been erased from the collective imaginary. The book decodes, analyzes and challenges the foundations of the network ideologies looking at how networks have been imagined, designed and promoted during the crucial phase of the 1990s.

Three case studies are scrutinized so as to reveal the complexity of network imaginaries in this decade: the birth of the Web and the mythopoesis of its inventor; and the histories of two Italian networking projects, the infrastructural plan Socrate and the civic network Iperbole, the first to give free Internet access to citizens.

The Internet Myth thereby provides a compelling and hidden sociohistorical narrative in order to challenge one of the most powerful myths of our time.

Introduction: Histories, Narratives, Networks and the Internet
1. Internet Histories, Narratives and the Rise of the Network Ideology
1.1 The Dominant Narrative of Internet History
1.1.1 The Narratives of the Internet’s Origins
1.1.2 The World Wide Web and the Transition of the 1990s
1.2 Alter-Net Histories
1.3 Looking for Network Imaginaries
1.4 The Ideal-Typical Network Models: Centralized, De-Centralized, Distributed
1.5 The Material Dimensions of Networks
1.6 The Rise of Network Ideologies
2. The Myth of the World Wide Web
2.1 The Birth of the Web: A Hero’s Story
2.1.1 The Web’s Journey
2.1.2 The Biography of the Web as a Myth-Building Narrative
2.2 Questioning the Myth of the Web: Media Imaginaries and Web History
2.2.1 Hypertext: The Forgotten Hero Ted Nelson
2.2.2 Retracing Old Media in the World Wide Web
2.2.3 The Web and the Network
2.3 Rethinking Web History
3. Lost Networks: The Socrate and Iperbole Projects in Italy
3.1 The Web Was Not Alone
3.2 The Italian Networking Landscape in the 1990s
3.3 Rise and Fall of Socrate
3.3.1 The Uncertain Reasons for the Failure
3.4 The Other Network: The Internet in Italy
3.4.1 Iperbole: The Pioneering Italian Civic Network Project
3.5 Conflicting Imaginaries: Socrate vs. Iperbole
3.6 The Ruins of Socrate
3.7 Legacy Systems
4. Challenging the Network Ideologies
4.1 Imaginary Networks
4.2 The Transitory Propriety of Network Imaginaries
4.3 The Power of Limits
4.4 Beyond Networks
List of Acronyms
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