In his essay From ARPANET to Internet Mark Giese brings up an important topic about the Internet that gets taken for granted these days. Namely that the Internet has a long, interesting history and did not just shoot forth into existence arbitrarily, as some people probably assume. While it did well at explaining this topic, I found some confusions and contradictions in his discussion on the dichotomy of Internet ‘culture.’
His main point is that the history of Internet culture and development is defined by two contradictory, but interrelated sides, that of the hierarchal rigid military sphere, and the more egalitarian ‘hacker’ academic sphere. The problem is that he provides very little evidence of the military actively conflicting with the academics. The military, in his description, seems to take a very laissez-faire approach to how the academics and hackers used their equipment. As long as ARPANET and it’s successor kept performing it’s originally intended defense function, then the military had little reason to interfere with the academics and hackers discussion groups and experiments. The problems of the early Internet Giese describes don’t seem to be a product of military blockheadedness, but the growing pains of new technology.
In fact, the relationship between the military and academic cultures seems to not be one of confrontation and contradiction, but of mutual benefit, forming a sort of feedback loop. If it were not for ‘hackers’, such as Bill Gates, then there wouldn’t be the Microsoft systems upon which the military is completely dependent. The latest pieces of military technology, such as the Predator drone, would not be possible without the innovations brought about by the military’s attitude towards the academic community. Modern net and ‘hacker’ culture flourished because of military hierarchy and control, not in spite of it.