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The Internet Trap$
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Matthew Hindman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691159263

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691159263.001.0001

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The “Nature” of the Internet

The “Nature” of the Internet

(p.162) 8 The “Nature” of the Internet
The Internet Trap

Matthew Hindman

Princeton University Press

This chapter argues that, in crucial ways, misconceptions about the “nature” of the Internet are still the explicit rationale for our public policies. The problem in writing about “the” Internet, the chapter argues, is that there is not one Internet but two. The first is the actual-existing Internet most of us use daily, if not constantly. The second is what can be called the “imaginary” Internet—the idealized, fictionalized, reified Internet that “everyone knows,” which is democratizing communication and economic life. Again and again, our understanding of the real Internet has been obscured by unfounded faith in the idealized one. The chapter argues that the gap between the imagined Internet and the real one is not just a matter of emphasis or optimistic tone or rhetorical flourish. On the imagined Internet, many still suppose that audiences are spread thinly across tens of thousands of outlets. On the real Internet, by contrast, a third of web visits go to the top ten firms.

Keywords:   Internet, public policies, imaginary Internet, communication, imagined Internet, web visits

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