The Evolution of the Net: Information Infrastructure from the Telephone Network to the Global Mind

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The Evolution of the Net: 
Information Infrastructure

from the Telephone Network to the Global Mind
LIS 350NET (undergraduate minor course)

Mondays/Wednesdays, 900-1020, LIS 52

Bruce Schatz,

This course will discuss the technologies of the Net – the global information infrastructure. "infra" means "internal" and "structure" means "support". Information Infrastructure is the underlying protocols that enable users worldwide to interact with information. Throughout history, improved technologies have increasingly supported deeper structures, to enable user interaction to become closer to cyberspace visions of "being one with all the world's knowledge". The course will discuss in equal parts: the past, the present, the near future, and the far future. Explanations of the workings of underlying technology are given at length, but no technology pre-requisites are assumed for the lectures.  Students will be required to write essays on both the past and the future, to better appreciate how the lessons of the past guide the realities of the future.

 Recommended Readings:

Fernand Braudel, The Structures of Everyday Life (history of infrastructure in the past)

Raymond Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines (history of technology in the future)

Vernor Vinge, True Names and the Opening of the Cyberspace Frontier (science fiction)

The course will meet twice a week. The typical arrangement is that

the first meeting of the week will be a lecture on a new topic, while

the second meeting will be a discussion of ideas in the lectures and the readings.
Two assignments are required for completing the course. Each is a ten page essay on a topic of your choice, related to the materials presented and discussed.

The first essay must be on the Past of the Net, the second essay on the Future of the Net. Any relevant aspect is fair game, but the arguments must attempt to explain the communications technologies underlying the infrastructure services.

The grade will be based upon the essays with some consideration of the class discussions. 50% Future Essay 40% Past Essay 10% Discussion

Course Schedule

Jan 22 Overview

Jan 27/29 The Structures of Everyday Life

Evolution of Infrastructure

Feb 3/5 The Evolution of Infrastructure

Feb 10/12 The Waves of the Net: Service Functions (outside)

Feb 17/19 The Waves of the Net: Infrastructure Protocols (inside)

Waves Past and Present

Feb 24/26 Example: Telephone Network

Mar 3/5 Infrastructure (Past): The Internet

Mar 10/12 Example: WorldWide Web

Mar 17/19 Infrastructure (Present): The Interspace

  • Paper due on Net Infrastructure of the Past and Present

Waves Near and Far Future

Mar 31 / Apr 2 Example: Health Monitors

Apr 7/9 Infrastructure (Near Future): The Intermodel

Apr 14/16 Infrastructure (Far Future): The Intermind

Architecture of Infrastructure

Apr 21/23 The Architecture of the Net

Apr 28/30 The Laws of the Net

May 5/7 The Structures of the Net

  • Paper due on Net Infrastructure of the Near and Far Future

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