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Web 25

Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web

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Edited By Niels Brügger

Web 25: Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Web. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Web has played an important role in the development of the Internet as well as in the development of most societies at large, from its early grey and blue webpages introducing the hyperlink for a wider public, to today’s multifacted uses of the Web as an integrated part of our daily lives.

This is the first book to look back at 25 years of Web evolution, and it tells some of the histories about how the Web was born and has developed. It takes the reader on an exciting time travel journey to learn more about the prehistory of the hyperlink, the birth of the Web, the spread of the early Web, and the Web’s introduction to the general public in mainstream media. Furthermore, case studies of blogs, literature, and traditional media going online are presented alongside methodological reflections on how the past Web can be studied, as well as accounts of how one of the most important source types of our time is provided, namely the archived Web.

Web 25: Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web is a must-read
for anyone interested in how our online present has been shaped by the past.

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Chapter Two: Constructing the biographies of the web: An examination of the narratives and myths around the web’s history (Simone Natale / Paolo Bory)

Extract

chapter two

Constructing the biographies of the web

An examination of the narratives and myths around the web’s history

Simone Natale and Paolo Bory

Introduction

Rather than being confined to the nebulous realm of the imagination, the way we understand and talk about a new medium of communication has important consequences at a cultural, social, political, and legal level. As pointed out by Susan Crawford (2007, p. 467), what we mean when we refer to particular media technologies helps determine “which actors’ voices will be listened to, what arguments will be respected, and which goals will be considered legitimate.” Studying the social and cultural imaginaries of the information age, therefore, not only provides an entry point towards contemporary cultures; it also helps to comprehend how and why particular institutional frameworks are erected around given technologies, and certain practices of governance are preferred over others (Mansell, 2012; Schulte, 2013). In this context, the question of which mechanisms contribute to the formation of the imaginary becomes crucial to the study of digital culture, as well as to attempts of unveiling the dynamics of media change.

Scholars in literature and critical theory have shown that one of the key ways through which we form our images, opinions, and understandings about reality is storytelling (Cavarero, 2000; Olney, 1972). Throughout our everyday life, narratives allow us to make sense of events and situations, representing a crucial mediator between our experiences and our worldviews....

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