Internet: the huge social network
Do you remember the movie called “The Network”? Sandra Bullock played the part of a beautiful geek who lived virtually cloistered in a dark room without ventilation, having no contact with the outside world other than that provided by her computer’s Internet connection.
It was 1995, and the web was a novelty accessed by just a few users, but the main character had already used it to work, buy dinner, plan her vacations, and contact her few friends.
What seemed astonishing back then seems insignificant today, proving once again that fact is stranger than fiction. The obsolete view of the net as a mysterious and abstruse tool for just a few eccentrics with bonding issues is totally forgotten.
Many of the scenes from the film are more real today than ever: there are millions of us working, shopping, paying bills, staying informed, and socializing through the Internet. Far from being a platform that promotes isolation and lack of connection, however, the net today is an important tool for socialization, perhaps the most important ever invented.
We all know the stories about creation of the web. We’ve all read or heard that ARPANET, the project that became what we all know as the Internet, was launched by the United States in the 1960s as a Defense Department project to connect universities and research centers in the event of a nuclear threat. Was this the only objective behind the origins of Internet? Or was the net, from its beginnings, seen as a socialization and interaction tool that placed most of its power in users’ hands?
The first attempts to generate a worldwide interconnection were carried out by a group of scientists who were responsible for most of the advances that shape the Internet of today. The local area nets, TCP/IP protocols, email, and FTP are some of the achievements of the ’60s and ’70s that are pillars of the web as we know it.
American scientists JCR Licklider and Robert W. Taylor, pioneers in net development, published a paper titled The Computer as a Communication Device in 1968. It wasn’t until six years later that the term Internet began to be used; however, in this paper, the authors outlined many of the concepts that describe the current network. Taylor and Licklider described an interactive platform where users participate in generating content, strongly suggesting that the Internet was created as a social tool. In the words of these fathers of the net, “We believe we are entering a technologic era where we will be capable of interacting with the richness of live information, not in the passive way we are used to when we read books or go to libraries, but as active participants in a process in movement. We will be receiving something through our connection and contributing through interaction.”