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On Distributed Society. The History of the Internet as a Guide to a Sociological Understanding of Communication and Society


As early as 1960, the Internet pioneer J. C. R. Licklider stated: " In due course [the computer] will be part of the formulation of problems: part of real-time thinking, problemsolving, doing of research, conducting of experiments, getting into the literature and finding references... And it will mediate and facilitate communication among human beings. Licklider expressed the hope that the computer “ through its contribution to formulative thinking... will help us understand the structure of ideas, the nature of intellectual processes. The “most important present function of the digital computer in the university should be to catalyse the development of computer science.
And so it did. As the ARPANET and other network experiments unfolded in the sixties and seventies, the computer as a medium inspired the transition of computer science towards information science. I think it is possible and potentially constructive to go even further. In due course, to paraphrase Licklider, one important function of the Internet may be to inform our "formulative thinking" about society itself. The Internet may help to catalyse not only the development of computer and information science, but sociology and social theory as well. In what follows, "innovation" will refer precisely applying the Internet as a design or as an inspiration for the understanding of what society is.

  tags storia del computer,