Finn Brunton: Spam: Shadow History of the Internet (2013)

14 May 2013, dusan

The vast majority of all email sent every day is spam, a variety of idiosyncratically spelled requests to provide account information, invitations to spend money on dubious products, and pleas to send cash overseas. Most of it is caught by filters before ever reaching an in-box. Where does it come from? As Finn Brunton explains in Spam, it is produced and shaped by many different populations around the world: programmers, con artists, bots and their botmasters, pharmaceutical merchants, marketers, identity thieves, crooked bankers and their victims, cops, lawyers, network security professionals, vigilantes, and hackers. Every time we go online, we participate in the system of spam, with choices, refusals, and purchases the consequences of which we may not understand.

This is a book about what spam is, how it works, and what it means. Brunton provides a cultural history that stretches from pranks on early computer networks to the construction of a global criminal infrastructure. The history of spam, Brunton shows us, is a shadow history of the Internet itself, with spam emerging as the mirror image of the online communities it targets. Brunton traces spam through three epochs: the 1970s to 1995, and the early, noncommercial computer networks that became the Internet; 1995 to 2003, with the dot-com boom, the rise of spam’s entrepreneurs, and the first efforts at regulating spam; and 2003 to the present, with the war of algorithms—spam versus anti-spam. Spam shows us how technologies, from email to search engines, are transformed by unintended consequences and adaptations, and how online communities develop and invent governance for themselves.

Publisher MIT Press, 2013
Infrastructures Series
ISBN 026201887X, 9780262018876
270 pages

review (Evgeny Morozov, The Wall Street Journal)
interview with author (NPR)

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Download (removed on 2013-5-20 upon request of the publisher)

Thomas Streeter: The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet (2011)

5 February 2013, dusan

This book about America’s romance with computer communication looks at the internet, not as harbinger of the future or the next big thing, but as an expression of the times. Streeter demonstrates that our ideas about what connected computers are for have been in constant flux since their invention. In the 1950s they were imagined as the means for fighting nuclear wars, in the 1960s as systems for bringing mathematical certainty to the messy complexity of social life, in the 1970s as countercultural playgrounds, in the 1980s as an icon for what’s good about free markets, in the 1990s as a new frontier to be conquered and, by the late 1990s, as the transcendence of markets in an anarchist open source utopia.

The Net Effect teases out how culture has influenced the construction of the internet and how the structure of the internet has played a role in cultures of social and political thought. It argues that the internet’s real and imagined anarchic qualities are not a product of the technology alone, but of the historical peculiarities of how it emerged and was embraced. Finding several different traditions at work in the development of the internet—most uniquely, romanticism—Streeter demonstrates how the creation of technology is shot through with profoundly cultural forces—with the deep weight of the remembered past, and the pressures of shared passions made articulate.

Outstanding Academic Title from 2011 by Choice Magazine.

Publisher NYU Press, 2011
Critical Cultural Communication series
ISBN 0814741169, 9780814741160
221 pages

review (Yuenmei Wong, International Journal of Communication)

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Michael Hauben, Ronda Hauben: Netizens: On The History And Impact Of Usenet And The Internet (1996)

27 February 2012, dusan

Netizens, one of the first books detailing the Internet, looks at the creation and development of this participatory global computer network. The authors conducted online research to find out what makes the Internet “tick”. This research results in an informative examination of the pioneering vision and actions that have helped make the Net possible. The book is a detailed description of the Net’s construction and a step-by-step view of the past, present, and future of the Internet, the Usenet and the WWW.

The book gives you the needed perspective to understand how the Net can impact the present and the turbulent future. These questions are answered: What is the vision that inspired or guided these people at each step? What was the technical or social problem or need that they were trying to solve? What can be done to help nourish the future extension and development of the Net? How can the Net be made available to a broader set of people?

With foreword by Tom Truscott
A print edition was published by the IEEE Computer Society Press, later distributed by John Wiley
ISBN 0-8186-7706-6


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