This is where you can read my PhD dissertation on the arrival and diffusion of the Internet in Israel. My PhD was awarded to me by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2008, where I was a student in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. My doctorate was supervised by Prof. Eva Illouz.
It is a project carried out in the tradition of Science and Technology Studies (STS), or the Sociology of Technology. Significantly, it examines the infrastructure of the Internet rather than the uses of it. For pretty much the first time (as far as I know), it applies the tools of STS to the spread of the Internet itself.
If you want a brief idea as to what the research is about, you can read the Abstract. If you want a slightly more comprehensive overview, including more of a literature survey, read the Introduction (Chapter 1). And then, if you like, you can skip straight to the Conclusion.
Chapter 2 describes the methodologies used in the study.
Chapter 3 discusses the arrival of the Internet to Israel, and argues that studies of the diffusion of the Internet so far have missed out on an important point, namely, how the Internet spread from the US to other countries. Diffusion of the Internet research has been so busy analysing the variables that affect the speed at which the Internet spread through various countries that it has forgotten that the Internet needed to get to those countries in the first place. By describing how that happened in the Israeli case, I am also able to say some interesting things about how globalisation happens and what the role of cosmpolitans might be in all of that.
The next chapter discusses the commercialization of the Internet in Israel, referring to the fact that the Internet ceased to be a service provided for free by academic institutions for its members, becoming instead a commodity purchased from private enterprises. In this chapter, I analyse the formation of a new field, that of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and subject the power relations in it to a Boudieuan field analysis. Dividing the newly formed ISPs into three groups (based on their size), and analysing their attitudes to the field of power (the state, represented by the Ministry of Communications), I show how possessing a global habitus came to be increasingly important in the field of commercial Internet provision in Israel.
Chapter 5 looks at the linkage between the technology of the Internet as it emerged in Israel during the early 1990s, and the various values associated with it, especially techno-utopianist values. All technologies are value-laden–they are instilled with values by the people who develop them, and they have the potential to change society in morally significant ways. The chapter inquires into the values associated with the Internet in its early days in Israel, asking questions such as: how was the Internet represented? Were there differences in perceptions of the Internet among different groups of actors? What values were seen as accompanying the Internet? What was the perceived affinity between those values and the technology itself? In general, it appears that the closer the actors referred to in this chapter were to the actual provision of the Internet to people’s houses in Israel of the mid-1990s, the further they were further from the global discourse of technological utopianism.
The final chapter is a case study of how Hebrew characters in websites are presented on our computer screens. Far from being a merely technical matter, I show how it is a complex social issue that involves processes of globalisation and cultural imperialism. Ultimately, I argue that the technology which has become dominant in this regard – known as Unicode – is a global solution that enables the localisation of the Internet.
Then, of course, there’s a Conclusion which concludes things.