The Co-evolution of Influence and Technology
New Horizons in the Economics of Innovation series
Chapter 1: Introduction
The Internet system, a global network of computer networks, emerges as one of the core technological regimes in the current information and communication technology (ICT) revolution (Freeman and Louçã, 2001). A leading contention in the Information Society debate1 is that the Internet is becoming increasingly important to societies and economic life because of its powerful potential to change economic, social and cultural systems at both national and global levels. Castells describes the fundamental, distinctive features of the ‘new economic system’ brought about by the ICT revolution as ‘informational, global and networked’ (Castells, 2000: 77). It is seen as a major driving force for the transformation of modern societies in that it is altering the ways in which people come together, communicate with and control one another (Rheingold, 1994; Cairncross, 1997; Slevin, 2000; Hoff et al., 2000; Smith and Kollock, 1999; Grossman, 2001). This book aims to provide an alternative history of the development of the Internet and the consequence of it. MacKenzie (1996: 7) points out that ‘technologies may be best because they have triumphed rather than triumphing because they are best’. In fact, the Internet system was neither the only possible choice (Thomas and Wyatt, 1999) nor the best data network system in terms of technological and economic performance (Parulkar and Turner, 1990) but we do not attempt to prove or contest the intrinsic or ex post superiority of the Internet. We believe that the negotiation among social groups in the design of a technology determines the realization of...