Internet Studies is an interdisciplinary field studying the social, psychological, pedagogical, political, technical, cultural, artistic, and other dimensions of the internet and associated information and communication technologies. While studies of the internet are now widespread across academic disciplines, there is a growing collaboration among these investigations. In recent years, internet studies have become institutionalized as courses of study at several institutions of higher learning, including the University of Oxford, Curtin University of Technology, Brandeis University, Endicott College, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Appalachian State University and the University of Minnesota. Cognates are found in departments of a number of other names, including departments of "digital culture", "new media" or "convergent media", various "iSchools", or programs like "Media in Transition" at MIT. On the research side, Internet Studies intersects with studies of Cyberculture, Human-Computer Interaction, and Science and Technology Studies. A number of academic journals are central to communicating research in the field, including Bad Subjects, Convergence: The Journal of Research into New media Technologies, Ctheory, Cyber Psychology + Behaviour, Computers in Human Behavior, First Monday, Information, Communication, and Society, The Information Society, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, M/C, New Media & Society, tripleC: Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, and TeknoKultura, but research relating to internet studies appears in a diverse range of venues and disciplines.
Topics of study
Topics within Internet studies include:
- Internet architecture: including the fundamental programming and architecture of the Internet, such as TCP/IP, HTML, CSS, CGI, CFML, DOM, JS, PHP, XML.
- Internet security: such as the structure and propagation of viruses, malware, and software exploits, as well as methods of protection, including antivirus programs and firewalls.
- Sociology of the Internet: including the social implications of the Internet, new social networks, online societies (virtual communities) and social interaction on the Internet.
- Computer-mediated communication: such as the role of e-mail, online chat, blogs, and text messaging in communication processes.
- Digital rights: including privacy, free speech, intellectual property, and digital rights management.
- Open source software: focusing on the ability of Internet users to collaborate to modify, develop, and improve pieces of software which are freely available to the public without charge.
As Barry Wellman argues, internet studies may find its beginnings with the 1978 publication of The Network Nation, and was largely dominated by computer scientists, presenting at venues like the annual CSCW conference. These were quickly joined by researchers in business fields and library and information science. By the late 1990s, more attention was being paid to systematic investigation of users and how they made use of the new technologies. During the 1990s, the rapid diffusion of internet access began to attract more attention from a number of social science and humanities disciplines, including the field of communication. Some of these investigations, like the Pew Internet & American Life project (http://pewinternet.org/) and the World Internet Project (http://www.worldinternetproject.net/) framed the research in terms of traditional social science approaches, with a focus less on the technology than on those who use them. But the focus remained at the aggregate level.
In 1996, this interest was expressed in other ways as well. Georgetown University began offering a related master's program in that year, and at the University of Maryland, David Silver created the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies on the web. Middlebury College developed Politics of Virtual Realities, one of the first undergraduate courses dedicated to exploring the political, legal and normative implications of the Internet for liberal democracy. By 2001, The Chronicle of Higher Education noted that "internet studies" was emerging as a discipline in its own right, as suggested by the first undergraduate program in the area, offered at Brandeis University, and noted that "perhaps the most telling sign of the field's momentum" was the popularity of the annual conference created by the then nascent Association of Internet Researchers.
More recent approaches to studying the internet have focused on situating technology use within particular social contexts, and understanding just how it is related to social and institutional change.
- American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIST)
- American Sociological Association Section on Communication and Information Technologies (CITASA)
- Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Communication & Technology Division (CTEC)
- Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR)
- Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
- International Communication Association Communication & Technology (CAT) division
- National Communication Association (NCA) Human Communication and Technology Division (HCTD)
- Electronic Commerce
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Library Science
- Science and Technology Studies
- Web Science
- Silver, David (2004). "Internet/cyberculture/digital culture/new media/fill-in-the-blank studies". New Media & Society 6 (1): 55–64. doi:10.1177/1461444804039915.
- Wellman, Barry (2004). "The three ages of internet studies: ten, five and zero years ago". New Media & Society 6 (1): 123–129. doi:10.1177/1461444804040633.
- Rice, Ronald E. (2005). "New media/internet research topics of the Association of Internet Researchers". The Information Society 21: 285–299. doi:10.1080/01972240500189232.
- Newhagen, John E.; Rafaeli, Sheizaf (1996). "Why communication researchers should study the internet: a dialog". Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 1 (4).
- Middlebury College Catalog Entry. http://catalog.middlebury.edu/offerings/view/catalog/catalog%2FMCUG/offering/section%2F201120%2F21966
- McLemee, Scott (30 March 2001). "Internet studies 1.0: a discipline Is born". The Chronicle of Higher Education 47 (29). p. A24.