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Internet Daemons

Digital Communications Possessed

2018
Author:

Fenwick McKelvey

Internet Daemons

Manifold Edition

 

A complete history and theory of internet daemons brings these little-known—but very consequential—programs into the spotlight

In Internet Daemons, Fenwick McKelvey weaves together history, theory, and policy to give a full account of where daemons come from and how they influence our lives—including their role in hot-button issues like network neutrality. He asks important questions about how much control is being handed over to these automated, autonomous programs, and the consequences for transparency and oversight. 

"Beneath social media, beneath search, Internet Daemons reveals another layer of algorithms: deeper, burrowed into information networks. Fenwick McKelvey is the best kind of intellectual spelunker, taking us deep into the infrastructure and shining his light on these obscure but vital mechanisms. What he has delivered is a precise and provocative rethinking of how to conceive of power in and among networks."
—Tarleton Gillespie, author of Custodians of the Internet

We’re used to talking about how tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon rule the internet, but what about daemons? Ubiquitous programs that have colonized the Net’s infrastructure—as well as the devices we use to access it—daemons are little known. Fenwick McKelvey weaves together history, theory, and policy to give a full account of where daemons come from and how they influence our lives—including their role in hot-button issues like network neutrality.

Going back to Victorian times and the popular thought experiment Maxwell’s Demon, McKelvey charts how daemons evolved from concept to reality, eventually blossoming into the pandaemonium of code-based creatures that today orchestrates our internet. Digging into real-life examples like sluggish connection speeds, Comcast’s efforts to control peer-to-peer networking, and Pirate Bay’s attempts to elude daemonic control (and skirt copyright), McKelvey shows how daemons have been central to the internet, greatly influencing everyday users.

Internet Daemons asks important questions about how much control is being handed over to these automated, autonomous programs, and the consequences for transparency and oversight.

Awards

2019 Gertrude J. Robinson Book Prize for best book awarded by the Canadian Communication Association 

Internet Daemons

Fenwick McKelvey is assistant professor of communication studies at Concordia University. 

Internet Daemons

Beneath social media, beneath search, Internet Daemons reveals another layer of algorithms: deeper, burrowed into information networks. Fenwick McKelvey is the best kind of intellectual spelunker, taking us deep into the infrastructure and shining his light on these obscure but vital mechanisms. What he has delivered is a precise and provocative rethinking of how to conceive of power in and among networks.

Tarleton Gillespie, author of Custodians of the Internet

Internet Daemons is an original and important contribution to the field of digital media studies. Fenwick McKelvey extensively maps and analyzes how daemons influence data exchanges across Internet infrastructures. This study insightfully demonstrates how daemons are transformative entities that enable particular ways of transferring information and connecting up communication, with significant social and political consequences. 

Jennifer Gabrys, author of Program Earth

This book provides a fascinating historical account of Internet daemons, from their mythic origins to their concrete implementation in the infrastructure of the Internet. McKelvey provides an insightful foundation for what should be a growing agenda for research on Internet daemons. 

Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology

Fenwick McKelvey provides a well-researched and authoritative account of the history and theory of Internet daemons, and related policy responses.

Maria Michalis, University of Westminster, London

I found it to be the best explication of the technical underpinnings of network neutrality issues that I have read.

William H. Dutton, University of Oxford

Fenwick McKelvey’s book is an engagingly-written and timely endeavor, well-served by its evocative metaphors and use of theory and concepts. This is a book not to be missed by all readers who are interested in the “politics-at-large” conducted via Internet infrastructure, and how they affect our lives as Internet users, consumers, and last but not least citizens. 

Internet Histories

Internet Daemons

Abbreviations and Technical Terms

Introduction

1. The Devil We Know: Maxwell’s Demon, Cyborg Sciences, and Flow Control

2. Possessing Infrastructure: Nonsynchronous Communication, IMPs, and Optimization

3. IMPs, OLIVERs, and Gateways: Internetworking before the Internet

4. Pandaemonium: The Internet as Daemons

5. Suffering from Buffering? Affects of Flow Control

6. The Disoptimized: The Ambiguous Tactics of the Pirate Bay

7. A Crescendo of Online Interactive Debugging? Gamers, Publics and Daemons

Conclusion

Acknowledgments

Appendix: Internet Measurement and Mediators

Notes

Bibliography

Index