Internet Between Utopia and Dystopia

The Narratives of Control

Per Hetland

Abstract

The Internet has often been envisioned as a technological utopia, framed by the rhetoric of hope. However, after studying the popular discourse, three meta-narratives are identified: utopian narratives containing the pro-innovation position; dystopian narratives containing the anti-diffusion position; technology-as-risk narratives containing the control position. While narratives of anti-diffusion are more or less invisible, narratives of control are surprisingly absent from the scientific discourse about the Internet. The present article sets out to explore narratives of control as they were presented in the Norwegian press during the 1995-2006 period. We have also studied how the expectancy cycles of the Internet fluctuate over time within this period. The study supports two general conclusions: (1) the expectancy cycles for the Internet in the mass media fluctuate in a manner comparable with the stages of the innovation-decision process and; (2) the control position promotes individual, social, technological and institutional control, and is more prominent when the Internet is lower on the media agenda.

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