This round table is dedicated to the topic “The 1990s as a pivotal decade for the Internet and the Web”. Participants : Niels Brügger, Geert Lovink, Ian Milligan, Patrick Pétin, Valérie Schafer, Michael Stevenson, Felix Tréguer.
The round table is organised with the authors of a special issue of Internet Histories, which I coedited with Benjamin Thierry and which incorporates several themes identified in the call for papers: Web and Internet histories, archives and access, digital activism and Web history, historicising the Web and digital culture, and social imaginaries of the early Web.
Several of the authors of this issue dedicated to the 90s have agreed to exchange and compare their views, methods, problems and expertise, not by presenting the papers they wrote for the issue but rather by engaging in a dialogue based on four central questions that will shed light on the history of the “digital turn”:
- How and why were the 1990s a pivotal decade for the Internet and the Web?
- Why do we link/intertwine the Internet and the Web: is this relevant? What are the limits and advantages of this approach in analytical terms?
- What methods, sources, issues and limits come into play when we attempt to reconstruct the history of the 1990s?
- What type of approach is the most relevant and effective: a bottom-up or top-down approach? A study that explores the fringes or one that remains rooted in the mainstream? A US-centric or a more global, or local, or decentralized approach? A discipline-based approach or an interdisciplinary one?
Themes explored by the contributors include in particular Perl and the technology and culture of the early Web, the development of the digital rights movement in France, the emergence of a cyberculture in Amsterdam in the 1990s, integration of myths into the Internet and Web’s popular histories, development of an analytical infrastructure to rebuild the history of the 90s.
This round table will provide a rich seam of historiographical and methodological perspectives, through the interaction of authors with highly diverse approaches, whether in terms of sources (grey literature, technical guides and handbooks for the general public, legal or state reports, press and audio-visual archives, oral histories, web archives), methods (examining the portrayal of the Web and the Internet in speeches or contemporary representations, analysing controversial issues of the time, incorporating STS notions, etc.) or perspectives (European or North American approaches, the study of software, infrastructures, online content, etc.). This in turn will foster a dialogue with the audience on the writing and shaping of histories of the Internet, the Web and also digital cultures.