Las Metáforas de Internet
Author: Edgar Gómez Cruz
Publisher: Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, 2007
Review Published: June 2009
These days there is a significant and large body of scholarship in the Spanish-speaking world taking the Internet and digital technologies as their main objects of study. Nevertheless, a decade ago, when I finished my master's degree, there were just a few and modest efforts, mainly by journalists, studying the role of Internet in society. My master's thesis was one of the first studies in Mexico on the topic of "virtual communities." It was a qualitative research investigation of "El Club," a famous BBS at the time. Twelve years later, already living in Spain, in one week I got four e-mails from different Latin American undergrad students asking me questions about "cyberspace," "virtual communities," and the Net. Those mails triggered two important issues:
First, although there are a growing number of books and articles written in Spanish, and some key works are translated (Howard & Jones, 2004: Hine, 2000; Woolgar, 2002), the majority of the literature related to Internet Studies is only available in English. That is kind of obvious because many scholars who are interested in the topic are fluent in English. Albeit, there are an important number of academics and students who are interested in these phenomena but lack the ability resources to access the latest literature.
Second, although there are some remarkable works on the history of Internet (Abbate, 1999; Hafner & Lyon, 1996), there do not seem to be that many in critical works in the history of the study of Internet (because it's still a field in construction) -- although important exceptions have to be mentioned (Silver & Massanari; 2006 or the special issue of New Media & Society in 2004, just to mention two). And more, there seems to be a lack of works on the relationship between technology, scholarship, and narratives. Interestingly enough, one of the best books on the subject (Flicky, 2001) was translated first to Spanish, then to English.
At the time, I was working in the field of Science and Technology Studies and my advisor, Rubén Blanco, suggested that a socio-historical work on the key concepts that shaped the agenda of Internet Studies was necessary. I took the challenge, but focused on what I had been studying for some years: Computer Mediated Communication. That is how this book (which originally had the title: The dead of Cyberspace: Waking up from the consensual hallucination in reference to William Gibson's metaphor) saw the light of day. It was intended to be a modest, and very personal, research project. I aimed to critically review my own growth as a scholar within this topic and set a general and critical map of the history of the field. Further, I wanted to act as a sort of translator -- translating important works in English for Spanish-speaking scholars.
I suggested that there were three main concepts that set the ground for the "cyberculture": Cyberspace (a territory), Virtual Communities (a form of social organization), and Virtual Identity (a way of being online). In the book I tried to see how cyberculture was shaped as an object of study among technical artifacts, narratives, and academics. And I tried to show how these concepts, more than mostly grounded on field studies, were from the beginning metaphors to explain the new phenomena related to CMC. Therefore, I tried to review these narratives in historical and specific contexts where they arose and in a critical way because, as Sterne (2006) puts it: "We should treat the historical periods in our writing less like self-evident categories in our data and more like problems to be considered and debated. We should place object construction at the very center of our intellectual project" (24).
Abbate, J. (1999). Inventing the Internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Flichy, P. (2003). Lo imaginario de internet. Madrid: Tecnos.
Gómez Cruz, E. (2008). CMC research in Latin America and Spain: Metaanalyses from an emergent field. In S. Kelsey & K. St.Amant (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Computer Mediated Communication: Information Science Reference.
Hafner, K., & Lyon, M. (1996). Where Wizards Stay up Late: The Origins of the Internet. Simon & Schuster.
Hine, C. (2000). Virtual Ethnography. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Howard, P., & Jones, S. (2004). Society online: The Internet in context. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Levy, S. (1984). Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. New York: Penguin.
Silver, D. (2000). "Looking Backwards, Looking forward: Cyberculture Studies 1990-2000." In D. Gauntlett (Ed.), Web Studies: Rewriting Media Studies for the Digital Age (pp. 19-30). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Silver, D., Massanari, A. (2006). Critical cyberculture studies. New York: NYU Press.
Sterne, J. (2006). "The Historiography of Cyberculture." In David Silver and Adrienne Massanari (Eds.), Critical Cyberculture Studies (pp. 17-28). New York: NYU Press.
Wellman, B. (2004). "The three ages of Internet studies: ten, five and zero years ago." New Media & Society, 6(1), 123-129.
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