Abstract and Keywords
Analysis of the material properties of the Internet reveals its true weight: the mass of component routers, switches, cables, satellites, cellnet masts, and of course computers, and the vast network of resource extraction, manufacturing, energy generation, and waste in which its functioning is embedded. Equally important is understanding the massless but highly regulated system of software and legislation affecting the ostensibly free and open evolution of network media. The chapter traces some exemplary standards bodies responsible for the design of key features such as protocols and codecs, and discusses the vexed dialectic of intellectual property rights and the notion of an information commons, arguing that the Internet bears the hallmarks of three major types of institutional construction, those proper to the nation-state, to commerce, and to network systems themselves. It concludes with a critical challenge to future archaeology: the ephemerality of digital files.
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