[ih] Roshomon: Was Re: New Republic Article - "How We Misremember the Internet’s Origins"
karl at cavebear.com
Fri Nov 1 16:52:00 PDT 2019
This thread about the New Republic article has reminded me that most
events, and especially complex events such as the formation of the
Internet is something that is subject to the Roshomon effect, from the
1950 Kurosowa film of the same name. (
As the film portrayed, each person viewing or experiencing an event can
perceive something quite different from the next observer.
It is my hope that every one of us here can set down in some permanent
way our view of what happened, what we did, and what others did.
Some years ago my wife and I set out to do longish video interviews with
various people about their roles. We stopped a few years back due to
competing forces (we had to pay attention to running our businesses.)
But we are getting ready to resume. (Many of you here are on our list of
people we want to interview.)
Our goal is to have long, free ranging interviews. We want to publish
the raw takes, uncut and complete, via the Internet Archives so that
historians-of-the-future can have first person materials.
In parallel, we intend to make our own edits to tell our own version of
the story, but making it clear that it is but one perspective.
We are not documentarians and our background is live theatre, not film
(and much less sound recording) and our early recordings show our lack
of experience. But we are learning and equipment has improved.
You can see our initial trailer - now seven years old!! - at
https://history-of-the-internet.org/videos/trailer/ with some notes at
As you can see from that trailer, we seem to have a cold war point of
view. (In actuality we take some of the ideas of store and forward
processing of electronic messages back to what I think is the real
progenitor of much of the Internet, which is the telegraph system of the
late 1830s.) But it is hard to be synoptic in a two minute video. ;-)
(We are not particularly interested in recapitulating technology; we are
far more interested in the dynamics of creation - how ideas come about,
how they compete for acceptance, how even good ideas can be lost, and
the way that personal relationships and somewhat random happenstance can
affect the outcomes.)
Here's how we describe what we are attempting.
(By-the-way, please excuse the lower case 'i' - we did that because we
are trying to explore a broad and somewhat diffuse body of ideas and
things rather than the particular system that actually arose to
dominance. In a sense this is why a couple of paragraphs above I used
the word "telegraph" rather than "Telegraph".)
Also by-the-way, as I re-read the text below I realize that we may have
created an impression that the net was merely a random creation by
average beings. That, of course, is far from the truth; there have been
(and remain) very impressive intellects at work. Rather, the notion was
that there was no person who woke up one bright morning, applied pen to
paper, and said, let me create the Internet.
> This series is the story of the internet in the years before the rise
> of the world wide web.
> Our story is of people and ideas rather than an explication of technology.
> This series has several themes:
> There was no grand plan. The internet could have evolved into
> something quite different than what it is today. Or it could have not
> evolved at all.
> The net emerged out of the contributions of many. There were no
> singular geniuses who gave birth to the internet; rather the internet
> is a collage of many minds.
> There were (and are) no internet deities.
> Much of the early internet was a result of government investments,
> initiatives, and policies.
> The internet is not done and its continued existence as an open
> platform for innovation and exploration is at risk.
> The internet is much more than the World Wide Web.
We have all lived through (and are still living in) a Gutenberg level
shift of social organization and communications. And as much as we all
should tell our truths of how we contributed, we also ought to leave a
legacy for reflection back on these events by people in future centuries.
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