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CachedDecoding the Internet in Global Popular Culture$
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Stephanie Ricker Schulte

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814708668

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814708668.001.0001

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The “WarGames Scenario”

The “WarGames Scenario”

Regulating Teenagers and Teenaged Technology

(p.21) 1 The “WarGames Scenario”

Stephanie Ricker Schulte

NYU Press

This chapter explores how the film WarGames (1983)—the first mass-consumed, visual representation of the Internet—served as both a vehicle and a framework for America's earliest discussion of the Internet. WarGames presented the Internet simultaneously as a high-tech toy for teenagers and as a potential weapon for global destruction. News media focused on the potential realities of the “WarGames Scenario,” and in response, the U.S. Congress held computer security hearings, screened WarGames on the Senate floor, and produced the first Internet-regulating legislation. The chapter illustrates how WarGames engaged a “teenaged technology” discourse, which cast both Internet technology and its users as rebellious teenagers in need of parental control. The discourse allowed policymakers to equate government Internet regulation with parental guidance rather than with suppression of democracy and innovation—a crucial distinction in the context of the Cold War and especially in 1984, when George Orwell's 1984 (1949) reappeared as a news media focus.

Keywords:   WarGames, Internet, teenagers, global destruction, WarGames Scenario, U.S. Congress, Internet-regulating legislation, Cold War, 1984

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