[Journal:] Internet Histories [ISSN:] 2470-1483 [Publisher:] Taylor & Francis [Place:] London [Volume:] 3 [Year:] 2019 [Issue:] 3-4 [Pages:] 275-292
The history of the Internet has been narrated many times. However, political histories of the Internet with a non-US-centric focus are still an uncharted research area. This paper contributes to closing that research gap. It reconstructs the Internet’s history in Germany through the lens of semantic changes in press coverage on politics. In our investigation, we sought to analyse semantic change as a political history by drawing on insights concerning the relationship between semantic change and political conflict from the perspective of discourse theory and theoretical reflections on politicisation. The study follows our intuition that semantic struggles of the past leave traces in word contexts. Conversely, it uncovers semantic change by following the traces of semantic struggles in these contexts. In line with this rationale, we conducted a ‘blended reading’ of word contexts that relied on a quantitatively assisted qualitative text analysis. The study finds that the Internet has long been understood predominantly as a tool for politics in the political public. In the late 2000s, its perception as a highly politicised object of governance also became dominant. While the Internet was always associated with a medium and a public sphere, its characterisation changed from ‘web 1.0’ to a ‘web of corporations’.
political history semantic change Internet discourse Internet policy digitalisation