Mark Giese in chapter 8 of Communication and Cyberspace discusses the transformation from the Arpanet to the Internet and how the phrase “Information Superhighway” has transformed as well. Giese defines the Internet as a network of computer networks. Although there are much more users in 2012, there were 1.5 million host computers and 21 million users worldwide in the 1990’s. The 1990’s were time of great growth. The Internet first coined as the Arpanet (Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) was first used for maintaining communication within the military in case of a nuclear bombing or catastrophic event. Giese makes a fabulous point about how the rationale behind using the Arpanet was the same reason behind the construction of the Interstate highway system: national security. A second reason for the growth of the Internet was described as a clash of cultures with the defense establishment and the academic research community. The Arpanet and the highway system were both intended for the use for elite groups only, not everybody. The term hacker ethic, the free flow of information, became popular at this point. Discussion groups made it a popular “tool” instead of for military uses. The clash of the two cultures was directly responsible for the expansion of the network and changed the world forever. It was soon noted that the Information superhighway system was not a correct synonym of the Internet. The uses for the Internet had nothing to do with what the highway systems were about, as discussed in class as well. Another nickname was the Information infrastructure, which did not last either. Cyberspace did not start out as its original word either, but was rather called cyber places. People did not agree that “place” was a good word to use because it was not an actual place they would visit, but rather a space (hence cyberspace).
Chapter 9 poses the questions concerning public interest in and access to the Information superhighway. In 1998, the Internet economy generated $300 billion in the U.S alone. A great definition by Ron Jacobson is that the Internet is “really about the transformation of information and knowledge, rather than its growth.” Al Gore, Vice President at the time, was the Clinton administrations most avid supporter of the national telecommunications reform making many promises to the people for the year 2000. The digital divide was a huge concern for many citizens at this time as well. The digital divide is the gap between the information haves and have-nots. “One can only hope that the emerging global information infrastructure will lead to environments that offer potential for leveling great socioeconomic inequities and for improving the quality of life for humans.”