Tag Archives: DigiRhet

Battelle, J. (2005). The birth of Google. Wired, 13.08. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.08/battelle.html

Google was the brainchild of Sanford graduate students Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who named the software googol, the name for the number one followed by 100 zeroes.

Unlike search engines that ranked results by keyword, Page and Brin’s system ranked results by the amount of links at each site. This mechanism privileged sites with more links, making them more “important” in search. The students cobbled equipment together in their dorm rooms and offices to service Stanford with PageRank, which regularly brought down Stanford’s internet connection in the fall of 1996.

Barlow, J.P. (1996, February 8). A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. Retrieved from https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html

John Perry Barlow was a libertarian who helped write lyrics for the Grateful Dead and who was involved in shaping the political identity of cyberspace in the early 90s. He published an essay titled “The Economy of Ideas” in a 1994 issue of Wired magazine and his declaration of independence in 1996. The Declaration, which was widely distributed after its publication and was both celebrated and strongly critiqued, is described about a decade later as Barlow’s “Thomas Jefferson moment” in a 2004 interview with Brian Doherty of Reason Magazine.

In this interview, he explains that his political philosophy was one of passivity; that his beliefs centered around the idea that taking care of oneself and raising consciousness was better than confronting authority directly. He changed his mind at the beginning of the 2000s, saying in this interview that civil liberties were in grave danger. He joined the Democratic party in hopes of confronting what he saw as issues very damaging to intellectual property and a free society.

Copyright and intellectual property are the most important issues now. If you don’t have something that assures fair use, then you don’t have a free society.

If all ideas have to be bought, then you have an intellectually regressive system that will ensure you have a highly knowledgable elite and an ignorant mass.

In explaining his comments on how Microsoft was operating an information monopoly, he said,

Anytime you engage with information, the reality that you extract from that information is shaped bu the tools that deliver it.”

This statement supports what I am trying to demonstrate and articulate in these exams.

Barlow’s Declaration was hailed by many triumphantly, but it was also called “hogwash” by critics who viewed Barlow with skepticism as an idealogical hippie who was out of touch with the economic and political realities of the internet. His lifelong fight for the freedom of information online, however, has played an important role in helping define (and relax) boundaries around the free exchange of knowledge on the internet.

Barabasi, A. (2002). Linked: The New Science of Networks. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.

In his study of networks, Barabasi has put forth the dictum that everything touches everything. He says that the modernist practice of taking everything apart to examine its pieces does not guarantee that we will understand the way the pieces work when they are together – or that we will even ever understand how, exactly, to put them back together.

When one starts becoming familiar with different kinds of networks, they begin taking on particular characteristics that become obvious. They look like webs without spiders, wherein nodes are more or less connected but never solely responsible for maintaining connectivity.

Leonhard Euler is considered the grandfather of graph theory, but today, we consider his work our basis for thinking about networks. The 7 bridge coffeehouse problem demonstrated that

Graphs or networks have properties, hidden in their construction, that limit or enhance our ability to do things with them.

Every network display a separation of nodes between 2 and 14. Granovetter demonstrated the strength of weak ties, illuminating the importance of distributed connectivity.

Watts and Strogatz’s clustering model cracked Erdos and Renyi’s random worldview when it came to networks —> a random universe does not support connectors, or highly connected nodes which become network hubs.

A random network exhibits the familiar bell curve pattern and is likened to a highway map, with nodes evenly distributed which connect other nodes with relatively equal paths leading to and away from them. A scale-free network, on the other hand, does not exhibit a bell curve, but may have 2 or 3 giants for every hundred small nodes. It resembles more of a airway map, with some nodes handling much more traffic than others and servicing many, many other smaller nodes. These scale-free networks adhere to power laws, not “natural” laws.

Normally, bell curves (random networks) rule in nature, but when systems experience phase-transitions, the move from chaos to order occurs as components begin to self organize. This phenomenon produces scale-free networks containing hubs and adhering to power-laws.

80/20 and rich-get-richer – in scale-free networks, the connectors with the most links become hubs. Almost without exception, 20 percent of the nodes are connected to 80 percent of the links, making them hubs. Once they’re hubs, they keep collecting nodes, which is what is meant by rich-get-richer.

Real networks are governed by 2 laws: growth and preferential attachment. But growth alone can’t explain the emergence of power laws. The Fitness Model explains how new nodes get links when they come late to the game.

Scale-free networks experience a greater degree of disruption tolerance. The creators of ARPANET knew this, which is why the network was designed to enable it to function even if large portions of it were destroyed. When you have a web with no true spider, the web can survive even devastating destruction.

The structure of the web has an impact on everything – it “limits and determines our behavior in the online universe” (162).

Abbate, J. (2000). Inventing the Internet. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

This history of how the Internet came to be traces its origins as ARPANET, an undertaking of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which was created by the Department of Defense.

Abbate explains that the values of the Internet as we know it today are a combination of military values (survivability, flexibility, and high performance) and the values of academic scientists (collegiality, decentralization of authority, and open exchange of information).

Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn are celebrated for designing the internet architecture we rely on today, and Tim Berners-Lee is credited with the invention of the WWW application in Geneva.

Packet switching formed the basis of the ARPANET, even though the concept was met with skepticism at its outset. The whole project, in fact, was much maligned and regarded with hostility by most of the principal investigators, who saw the network as an intrusion and desired to concentrate on their own research. Forcing universities to connect to the ARPANET was the primary way that it actually got off the ground.

The project was consistently framed by the need to justify the project to the military in terms that were rigid and definable. At the same time, nonauthoritative, fragmented, and unpolished RFCs, or Requests For Comments, were one of the main ways that feedback was disseminated and given about the ARPANET, reflecting some of the values of academia mentioned above. In this way and many others, the net experienced transformative growth through user participation.

Biggest accomplishment of ARPANET: email. It was unplanned, unanticipated, and mostly unsupported. This represented a radical shift in ARPANET’s identity and purpose. This was the biggest surprise of the project: its greatest resource was people, and the greatest resource for people was communication.

As the ARPANET grew, it became clear that this project would expand beyond the limits of what its creators thought possible, but there were many problems to be encountered. Different systems and protocols had to be negotiated and overcome, and standards were difficult to agree upon as competing entities pursued their own agendas. On 30 Apr 1995, the government formally ended its ownership of the Internet’s backbone, as commercial interests could not exist on a government owned system.

It was the creation of the World Wide Web application and hypertext, along with the proliferation of personal computing and a graphical interface, that opened up the floodgates of users accessing and contributing to the Internet. With the introduction of web browsers and search engines to help sort and deliver the immense and rapidly increasing information available online, the modern Internet was born.


Essentially, Abbate’s book provides a very detailed history of the rise of the Internet, while stressing that it was the informal, participatory process of its invention which set the standard for the net we know today. From its inception as a research and communications network available to an elite group of academic and military personel within the United States to its eventual spread as a dynamic, multifaceted global web of information and commerce, its authoritative and technical structures remained remarkably decentralized, and its open architecture invited an active user participation which placed individuals in the roles of both consumers and producers of information on the net.