Fifty years ago, on October 29, 1969, the first message was sent via what we now know as the internet. While so much has been achieved, problems still remain, as associate professor of Science and Technology Janet Abbate points out. Abbate also says she hopes to see more diverse voices as a part of the internet of the future, and that we can expect it to “surprise us.” Her expertise has been quoted in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
“While the network started as a U.S. academic-military experiment, the internet as we know it today represents the convergence of a diverse, global movement toward building networks and experimenting with online sociality.”
“The key technological innovation was a method for connecting diverse types of networks — this transformed the original ARPANET into the internet and allowed it to scale and grow exponentially.”
“We may be reaching a crisis point with the current business model for the internet: problems with surveillance, invasion of privacy, identity theft, and manipulation of news have become so constant and visible that the public is losing trust in the system.”
“We could be one catastrophe away from a public revolt — a hack that causes physical injury or death could rouse demand for new types of regulation in the name of security.”
“What I hope to see is more diversity in the people driving innovation: right now Silicon Valley is a very white, male, privileged place; we need to hear the voices and support the talents of people of all kinds, who have different visions and different approaches to offer.”
“The history of the internet teaches us that nobody, even the experts, has ever correctly predicted the future of the internet! So the only thing I’m confident in predicting is that the future of the internet will continue to surprise us.”
Dr. Abbate’s work focuses on the history, culture, and policy issues of the internet and computing. She is an associate professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Her book “Inventing the Internet” (MIT Press, 1999) has become the standard reference on the history of the internet. Her current research investigates the historical emergence of computer science as an intellectual discipline, an academic institution, and a professional identity. Read her full bio here.
Recent publications & presentations
- “History of the Internet: Actors, Decisions, Implications.” National Defense University, Washington, DC. Sept. 24, 2019.
- “Should Children Think Like Computers?” Society for Social Studies of Science Annual Meeting, September 7, 2019.
- “Code Switch: Changing Constructions of Computer Expertise as Empowerment.” Technology & Culture 59(4), October 2018, S134–S159.
- “Rethinking Opportunity and Empowerment in Programming.” William & Mary College Symposium on Gender and Technology, 2018.
- “What and Where is the Internet? (Re)defining Internet Histories.” Internet Histories vol. 1:1 (2017), 8-14.