Women's Role in the Development of the Internet

Women's Role in the Development of the Internet

Shirine M. Repucci (National Coalition of Independent Scholars, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch206
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The majority of the literature written about the history of the Internet has focused on chronicling only the technical milestones that led to its development. In doing so, most have overlooked a significant period in the Internet’s history, the period bounded by the retirement of the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s network (ARPANET) in the late 1980s and by the commercialization of the network and the excitement over the World Wide Web browser in the mid-1990s. The historical accounts, as a result, include little more than a passing mention of the National Science Foundation Network backbone project (NSFNet) and Merit Network, Inc., which conducted the transfer of this technology to society at large from 1985 to 1995. Additionally, the literature holds little evidence of women as a force in the Internet’s early development. For example, in Inventing the Internet, the most thorough book published to date on the history of the Internet, Abbate (2000) mentions more than 60 different men who were involved in the Internet’s development but does not recognize a single woman other than to show a female model advertising a computer. The contribution women made to developing the Internet is similarly neglected in Kristula’s The History of the Internet (2001), Griffiths’ From ARPANET to World Wide Web (2002), and Castells’ The Internet Galaxy (2001). Overall, readers of the Internet’s history are left with the impression the Internet was developed solely by men. This impression is incorrect, as is the impression that the Internet’s success is solely the result of a series of technical achievements. This article presents evidence that many women were employed in the Internet industry prior to the mid 1990s, filling in gaps in the literature on this point. In addition, it suggests that, collectively, women may have held a key role in the extraordinarily successful transfer of the internet technology from a small circle of academics and governmental researchers to society at large. The findings presented here are part of a larger body of work examining the role women held in the Internet’s development, carried out at Eastern Michigan University for the completion of a master’s thesis in interdisciplinary technology (Repucci, 2004).

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