Bradley Fidler | Internet Histories
In the humanities and some social sciences, many social theories, histories, and philosophies of networks often draw on incomplete representations of the Internet’s evolution and structure. Empirical and analytical difficulties result when scholars select this partial understanding as an archetype that they use to derive underlying social properties, and consequences, of networks. These networks, in turn, are put to work as both as a metaphor to describe a (our) new kind of society, and a fundamental, causal force that is bringing it into being. In other words, society is said to be governed by networks, but the network ideal-type—insofar as it is based on visions of the Internet—is inaccurate. A common problem with this work lies in its misunderstanding of the technical functions of the Internet Protocol (IP): specifically, the misidentification of IP with routing, and thus with the distributed property of the Internet. As a corrective, I offer a brief history of Internet routing, the Exterior Gateway Protocol (EGP) and autonomous system in particular.