The growth of the internet has been spectacular. There are now more 1.5 billion internet users across the globe, about one quarter of the world's population. This is certainly a new phenomenon that is of enormous significance for the economic, political and social life of contemporary societies.
However, much popular and academic writing about the internet takes a technologically deterministic view, assuming that the internet's potential will be realised in essentially transformative ways. This was especially true in the euphoric moment of the mid-1990s, when many commentators wrote about the internet with awe and wonderment. While this moment may be over, its underlying technocentrism the belief that technology determines outcomes lingers on, and with it, a failure to understand the internet in its social, economic and political context.
Misunderstanding the Internet is a short introduction, encompassing the history, sociology, politics and economics of the internet and its impact on society. The book has a simple three part structure:
- Part 1 looks at the history of the internet, and offers an overview of the internet's place in society
- Part 2 focuses on the control and economics of the internet
- Part 3 examines the internet's political and cultural influence
Misunderstanding the Internet is a polemical, sociologically and historically informed textbook that aims to challenge both popular myths and existing academic orthodoxies around the internet.