As I sit here behind my computer, surfing the web, going through the last things on my list, listening to some music on youtube, aggravated by the commercials disturbing my flow, cleaning my second screen from unwanted pop-ups, caused by my incurable desire to stream series from other countries, as I sit here, I realize that this is the last day of the project. Not just the last day, it is the last night.
Two years ago we followed up on our desire to understand the Internet as a human phenomenon. As a technological phenomenon, the Internet surely is intriguing, but not mysterious. It is well understood. Basically, the Internet is a wire. Not much has changed since two persons decide to use a long piece of rope to signal messages to each other.
Internet Studies is the name given to the Geisteswissenchaften of the Internet. It brings together philosophy, media theory, psychology, sociology, anthropology and basically any theoretical framework that can bring order to the anarchy that is the Internet. Questions that emerge in these interdisciplinary dynamics are questions surrounding what problems to pursue and what methodologies to develop. Since the Internet is revolutionary, it seems it needs a revolutionary science.
Whether this is true, we leave up for you to decide. Let us just give some pointers to what a good Internet Science should be. Firstly, it should refrain from utopic or dystopic thinking. Many novels such as 1984, Brave New World, the Circle (and the list goes on and on and on…) have sparked our imagination. It seems all too human to immediately think of the Internet as either that great revolution that will finally bring an end to human suffering or as that great impending doom that will dehumanize us all. Neither of these states of mind are conducive to good scientific practice. What one needs is methods, concepts, and theoretical frameworks, not fear or praise.
This relates to the problem of how we ought to speak about the Internet. It seems that we still have to work out our language and are momentarily caught in metaphors. An example is the concept of data. We might think this is as literal as it gets, but actually, it is Latin for those that are given. This gives us the idea that information is given, and thereby neutral, unbiased and value-free. But „data“ is and remains a metaphor. What the things are „data“ refers to is a question in need of answering. Internet Studies needs to sort out its language.
Although the Internet might seem new, this does not imply that one needs to develop a whole new science. Media theory, philosophy, psychology, etc., might just have all the conceptual and methodological resources already available to help us understand the Internet. The question of how to integrate these different disciplines stands at the methodological heart of Internet Studies.
This is but mere speculation. Internet Studies is new, but since the Internet is not going to go anywhere soon, it is to be expected Internet Studies has its work cut out for it. We had the honor and pleasure to reap some of the fruits of this young and promising science. And we discussed them thoroughly, we analyzed them, criticised them, debated them. And now we are done. Perhaps we will use this site to share some more insights concerning Internet Studies. Until then, happy surfin‘!