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Decoding the Internet in Global Popular Culture

Stephanie Ricker Schulte

Publication Year: 2013

“This is the most culturally sophisticated history of the Internet yet written. We can’t make sense of what the Internet means in our lives without reading Schulte’s elegant account of what the Internet has meant at various points in the past 30 years.”
—Siva Vaidhyanathan, Chair of the Department of Media Studies at The University of Virginia
In the 1980s and 1990s, the internet became a major player in the global economy and a revolutionary component of everyday life for much of the United States and the world. It offered users new ways to relate to one another, to share their lives, and to spend their time—shopping, working, learning, and even taking political or social action. Policymakers and news media attempted—and often struggled—to make sense of the emergence and expansion of this new technology. They imagined the internet in conflicting terms: as a toy for teenagers, a national security threat, a new democratic frontier, an information superhighway, a virtual reality, and a framework for promoting globalization and revolution.
Schulte maintains that contested concepts had material consequences and helped shape not just our sense of the internet, but the development of the technology itself. Cached focuses on how people imagine and relate to technology, delving into the political and cultural debates that produced the internet as a core technology able to revise economics, politics, and culture, as well as to alter lived experience. Schulte illustrates the conflicting and indirect ways in which culture and policy combined to produce this transformative technology.
Stephanie Ricker Schulte is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Arkansas.
In the Critical Cultural Communication series

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-20

Humorist Dave Barry’s burlesque Dave Barry in Cyberspace provided mid- 1990s Americans with a how-to manual for participating in what was rapidly becoming the new and necessary—if intimidatingly foreign—technological experience: getting online. In it, he described the internet as global public and private network run by Jason, a hormonal thirteen-year-old. After signing...

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1. The “WarGames Scenario”: Regulating Teenagers and Teenaged Technology

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pp. 21-54

Many Americans “experienced” computer networking for the first time in 1983 by watching a young Matthew Broderick nearly blow up the world. In the immensely popular, Academy Award–nominated film WarGames, the teenaged computer-hacker David Lightman (Broderick) accidentally dials into the Pentagon’s defense system while looking for a computer game company.1 Lightman plays what he thinks is a game called “Global Thermonuclear...

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2. The Internet Grows Up and Goes to Work: User-Friendly Tools for Productive Adults

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pp. 55-82

Beginning in 1983, IBM launched an extensive advertising campaign featuring Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp to market the PCjr, the company’s first major foray into the home computer market and ultimately the bestselling computer of the period.1 IBM’s massive magazine, newspaper, and television campaign featured the Tramp as a Depression-era worker and...

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3. From Computers to Cyberspace: Virtual Reality, the Virtual Nation, and the CorpoNation

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pp. 83-112

In 1996, economist, techie, and writer Carl Malamud teamed up with one of the inventors of the internet, Vint Cerf, to set up the Internet World’s Fair.1 Called the “most ambitious undertaking on the Internet to date” by Newsweek magazine, this fair had over 5 million visitors from 172 countries, garnered over $100 million in contributions from a variety of industry and...

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4. Self-Colonizing eEurope: The Information Society Merges onto the Information Superhighway

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pp. 113-138

The 2002 award winning German film ½ Miete, or ½ the Rent follows a computer hacker in his thirties named Peter as he “unplugs”—that is, he makes the conscious decision to live his life off-line.1 The film’s opening shot characterizes this hacker’s home life in ways similar to American films like WarGames and the Matrix. The main character’s apartment is disheveled...

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5. Tweeting into the Future: Affecting Citizens and Networking Revolution

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pp. 139-164

Egyptians took to the streets in 2011 in a revolution that would overthrow a regime that had controlled the country for three decades. In the midst of the unrest in Egypt, the New York Times website featured an image: a woman holding a scorecard that read “Facebook: 2, Dictators: 0” (presumably, mocking the deposed dictators in Tunisia and Egypt). The revolution became...

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pp. 165-174

As Jeffrey Sconce snarkily notes, historical writing tends to end where it began, because “cyclical returns in history imply the existence of immutable forces, power brought to light and made predictable by the insight of the author’s historical analysis. ‘History repeats itself ’ goes the well-known aphorism.”1 While this book ends in some senses where it began, it does so to...


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pp. 175-176


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pp. 177-234


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pp. 235-252


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pp. 253-260

About the Author

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pp. 261-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780814788684
E-ISBN-10: 0814708668
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814708668
Print-ISBN-10: 0814708668

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 838793645
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cached