Before the rise of the Web and our contemporary digital cultures, computer networks had already been imagined, tested, and used worldwide. This special issue retraces some of the technological, cultural and social paths that shaped the development of networks in six different areas of the world. The papers and the final conversation between two leading scholars of this issue touch some crucial topics of network histories from a variety of cultural, geographical and disciplinary perspectives.
The issue combines studies and researches based on theoretical and empirical analyses in the U.S., Europe, Brazil and South Africa. Among the most relevant case studies, the story of the Italian-American pioneer Robert Fano, the early data activism networks in France, the role of telephonic infrastructures in the German network, the digital activism in South Africa during the Apartheid, the communitarian and technical dimension of the first BBS in the U.S., as well as the origins of the Internet in Brazil. A final conversation among the two conference’ keynote speakers also contributes to compare the ways in which network histories are studied but also narrated in different areas of the world. All papers result from the two-day conference held at the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) in Lugano on December 2017, which saw the participation of 22 researchers from 13 parts of the globe. Based on new and unpublished researches, the special issue explores six uncharted territories part of the complex Internet realm, linking and adding unveiled nodes to the network of stories and experiences that shaped the internet not only at global level, but also in national and local contexts.