Research beginnings : 0.1

Rethinking strategies for an Internet research bibliography

Constructing a bibliography is the first step in academic research and basic guidelines propose an extensive library catalogue search as the starting point. Online French academic databases such as Sudoc, Biblio SHS and library catalogues such as the Bnf catalogue general and les signets de la Bnf, provide formatted reference information on scholarship in specified research fields.

However, searching academic references for relatively new fields or rapidly changing technological phenomena such as the ‘Internet’, demands a different strategy.

Research topics in their initial stages are vast and establishing a bibliography helps define topic boundaries and disambiguate overlapping meanings of research terms.  Here is a brief account of my beginnings.

Library Catalogue and Google Scholar

In my case the initial research terms included: representation, self and Internet. Single word or equation entries of these terms queried in the Bnf catalogue produced unsatisfactory results. Simple search options in the index under topic criteria delivered 1608 entries for ‘Internet’, 850 forRepresentation’ and 930 for ‘Self’.  Single entries under topic criteria display different aspects of the topic as defined by cataloguers in order to narrow down the research. Some popular aspects defined are: social, administrative, psychological, defense, political, economical, and arts. The catalogue provides no pre-established list of these aspects. Therefore, the research query can be formulated as ‘term+aspect’ which is flexible to adapt and facilitate different research topic demands.

A quick scaling of the single entries for ‘Internet’, ‘Representation’ and ‘Self’, revealed no interconnection between these terms, so the ‘term+aspect’ query was applied, for example: Internet+ Social/Psychological Aspect. This query was successful in delivering expected results, but presented variants of initial terms.

Contrary to library catalogue, commercial search engine databases, such as Google Scholar, provided term efficient results. Google Scholar has an intuitive interface, specified subject fields and simple search options. It has indexed a large number of research articles under the citation ranking order, therefore, it provides query specific results. The equation query Interent+self+representation provided satisfactory results and displayed mainly academic books, scientific articles or article citations and thesis on Internet as a research topic.

However, both search systems indicated variants of initial terms especially for the term ‘Internet’.

Term variants – the lexical field

The variants of the initial queried terms indicate the topic’s extended lexical field which can also be used to locate pertinent references.

Initial Term

Variants

Internet Cyberspace, Virtual World, Net, City of Bits, Networked Community, Virtual Community,  Digital Realm, Online, Web
Self Digital agent, Cyborg, Body, Virtual Individual, Avatar

These variants indicate that the term ‘Internet’ has a specific history and that its variants are a product of and represent it’s technological, literary and media   development. The following table shows only a minor part of the initial terminology development, marking important steps of transition from Cyberspace to Internet.

Omni_Jan1991

From Cyberspace to Internet


1948

Norbert Wiener, publishes his book “Cybernetics – control & communication in the animal and machine world”. Main ideas: for action to be effective communication is important and secondly, both living & non living organisms can have a purpose.The second idea draws directly from the Greek etymology of cybernetics, meaning the art of steering’, or taking action to achieve a goal’.
1981-82 British science fiction author, William Gibson combines the term ‘cyber’ with space and coins a new term ‘Cyberspace’ in his short story “Burning Chrome” published in Omni (sci-fi magazine) Gibson’s use of cyberspace means that it is a virtual reality simulation interface for the matrix grid where computational data is thrown and can be accessed.
1984 Gibson publishes second  sci-fi novel “Neuromancer » where Cyberspace is defined as a “consensual hallucination”
1990 British scientist Tim Burners Lee writes his programme “WorldWideWeb” which included the first web browser, issued to the NeXT community.
1991 M.Bendikt edits the first popular academic publication on Cyberspace, Cyberspace: First Steps, Cambridge Mass: MIT Press, which presents a collection of articles by virtual environment theorists
1992 M.Andreesen & E.Bina design and programme the first graphical browser “Mosaic” responsible for popularizing the use of WorldWideWeb.
1995 The term ‘Internet’ starts appearing in academic publications.
1999 Both terms Cyberspace and Internet appear independently in academic publication.

This brief section of the Internet’s terminology development period indicates the importance of science-fiction and informatics in conceptualizing it.  The emergence of science-fiction terminology like ‘Cyberspace’ and ‘Virtual reality’, helped word the abstract idea of what the worldwideweb and the Internet could offer before its mass consumption in 1992.

In this initial period, video and computer gaming also played an important part in concretizing the Cyberspace myth. During this initial period of unscholarly endeavors to visually materialize Cyberspace, Disney played a pioneering role in producing the first audiovisual materialization of what the cyberspace could look like in TRONreleased in 1982, 10 years prior to the release of the graphical Internet browser Mosaic, which popularized Tim Burner Lee’s worldwideweb.

Consequently, as this brief portion of the Internet term variants suggests, research on the Internet as a topic requires an interdisciplinary approach, where representation of the self can only be understood in the context of a specific “consensual hallucination”.

….to be continued with TRON (watch for free in streaming here)


Carnet de recherche visuel de Fatima Aziz

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