NM speaks with Kevin Driscoll, author of The Modem World: A Pre-history of Social Media (Yale University Press, 2022), which examines the physical — and social — technology that underpinned the DIY side of networked technology’s evolution in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Parallel to institutional network culture were the proto-dark-forest communities of BBS networks and other pre-www systems. From FidoNet to De Digitale Stad (DDS) Netherlands, Kevin maps out this early territory, with a brief history of the French Minitel system along the way.

Through his work, Kevin asks us to consider what it really means to be “autonomous” online and what alternate conceptions of “the internet” might be possible when we consider the broader origin story of the digital social sphere.

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