Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

William Keith

Committee Members

David Clark, Scott Graham, David Allen


Digital Rhetoric, Internet History, Internet Protocols, Publics, Sociotechnical Imagingary, Technology and Culture


Culture and Code traces the construction of the modern idea of the Internet and offers a potential glimpse of how that idea may change in the near future. Developed through a theoretical framework that links Sheila Jasanoff and Sang-Hyun Kim’s theory of the sociotechnical imaginary to broader theories on publics and counterpublics, Culture and Code offers a way to reframe the evolution of Internet technology and its culture as an enmeshed part of larger socio-political shifts within society. In traveling the history of the modern Internet as detailed in its technical documentation, legal documents, user created content, and popular media this dissertation positions the construction of the idea of the Internet and its technology as the result of an ongoing series of intersections and collisions between the sociotechnical imaginaries of three different publics: Implementors, Vendors, and Users. These publics were identified as the primary audiences of the 1989 Internet Engineering Task Force specification of the four-layer TCP/IP model that became a core part of our modern infrastructure. Using that model as a continued metaphor throughout the work, Culture and Code shows how each public’s sociotechnical imaginary developed, how they influenced and shaped one another, and the inevitable conflicts that arose leading to a coalescing sociotechnical imaginary that is centered around vendor control while continuing to project the ideal of the empowered user.