Episode 18: The Forgotten Origins of the Social Internet
The typical history of the internet tells a story that emphasizes experts and institutions: government, industry, and academia. In this origin story, the internet began as a product of the military during the Cold War, was adopted by academia and research institutions, and then Silicon Valley and the private sector brought it to the masses. What this history leaves out, however, are the many computer enthusiasts and hobbyists of the 1980s who used modems to connect to bulletin board systems—creating thriving online communities well before most people ever heard about the “information superhighway.”
On this episode, host Jason Lloyd is joined by Kevin Driscoll, associate professor at the University of Virginia, to discuss how the forgotten history of bulletin board systems can help us understand today’s social media-dominated internet and build healthier, more inclusive online communities.
- Read Kevin Driscoll’s Issues essay, “A Prehistory of Social Media,” and his book, The Modem World: A Prehistory of Social Media, to learn more about early social networks.
- Check out Kevin’s first book, Minitel: Welcome to the Internet, coauthored with Julien Mailland, on the French precursor to the internet. They also have a great website for the book.