This introductory chapter briefly looks at the political and cultural meanings—primarily in the United States but also in Europe and elsewhere—that helped make the Internet a technology able to revise economic, political, and religious life, and also make it a place where life itself happened. It draws from narratives of how the Internet is a way of exploring who we are as users, humans, consumers, and national and global citizens, as well as a way of understanding and comparing the policy and regulatory practices that governed the Internet and its users in the United States and elsewhere. This story begins in the 1980s when understandings of the Internet hinged largely on understandings of the still relatively new phenomenon of computing. As Internet use began to skyrocket news media, popular culture, and policymakers tried to make sense of the technology as it merged into a site of transnational commerce, identity, and regulation.
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