A History of the Social Web

This is a cross-cultural, critical history of social life on the Internet. It captures technical, cultural, and political events that influenced the evolution of computer-assisted person-to-person communication via the net. In difference to other historical accounts, this essay acknowledges the role of grassroots movements and does not solely focus on mainstream culture with all its mergers, acquisitions, sales and markets, and the (mostly male) geeks, engineers, scientists, and garage entrepreneurs who implemented their dreams in hardware and software. This is a critical history as it traces the changing nature of labor and typologies of those who create value online as much as it searches for changing approaches toward control, privacy, and intellectual property. It shows strategies for direct social change based on the technologies and practices which already exist.

Scholz, Trebor. “A History of the Social Web (draft).”

Some mornings I just have nothing to say, so I’ll let this piece stand in for me. It’s an exhaustive and detailed study and for some reason it reminded me that more and more of my spam seems to be coming from Germany and China. The Chinese spam is short, usually only a brief sentence and a link. Most of the German spam I get is for furniture, which I find particularly strange.

These new kinds of spam don’t yet outnumber the pharmacy or Viagra ads– all of which seem to come from (American) English sources– but they are at least as common as the African/Nigerian email letters asking for my help processing money. This has got to be at least some measure of the increasing internationality of the web, if a less happy one than what Trebor suggests.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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