‘The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is’ Review: Warning! This Site Isn’t Safe

Most people assume they know what the internet is. But if asked to describe its power, its reach or its history, most of us will lapse into easy metaphor: We call it a “web,” a “virtual public square” or “the cloud,” to name a few common terms.

In “The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is,” Justin E.H. Smith, a professor of history and the philosophy of science at the University of Paris, asks how our use of such metaphors informs our understanding—and misunderstanding—of the internet. He also poses challenges to the history we have constructed about it, notably the Silicon Valley-approved tale of man’s progressive march towards a digitally enabled, frictionless future. In other words: The internet is not the ahistorical, morally neutral invention we think it is.

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