The ARPANET Into the Internet: A Tale of Two Networks

Noel Packard


The Internet is a split civilian and military entity in physical and social construction. Investigating this split entity in all its manifestations is an important venture, but this study explores the split social construction of the ARPANET’s reported history. ARPANET/Internet literature shows a division between literature that does and does not include the history of the intelligence communities (IC) working relationship with the pre-privatized ARPANET. Two different genres of literature are discussed, charted in a Table and compared to aspects of the ARPANET’s known and reported developmental and privatization history. Different origin stories are discussed in a general way; then a pattern in the literature is explored, namely, how illegally and libelous spy data gathered in 1960s intelligence community (IC) operations and processed through the pre-privatized ARPANET, is acknowledged in indirect or second-hand ways, when ARPA demonstrated feasibility of the ARPANET ; while after privatization the literature acknowledges IC spying through the commercialized Internet in firsthand and direct ways. The study examines how earlier and contemporary literature continues contesting the role that 1960s IC spy data played in demonstrating the feasibility of the ARPANET; a prerequisite test for the privatization of the ARPANET. Findings indicate ARPANET histories have excluded direct reporting about how ARPA and the IC demonstrated ARPANET’s feasibility prior to privatization. The conclusion is that understanding history about how ARPA and the IC demonstrated ARPANET’s feasibility, makes it easier to comprehend reports about how the Internet serves counterinsurgency purposes. The study confirms ongoing debates about the social construction of Internet history. 

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Studies in Media and Communication      ISSN 2325-8071 (Print)   ISSN 2325-808X (Online)

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