Political Geography and the Internet: the view from 1999

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This year, Spawn of Wonk has been studying geography. A discussion about the curriculum led me to dig out my crispy, moulding, but decidedly intact handwritten notes from the political geography course I took as an undergraduate.

And wonder of wonders, there’s half a page of notes on “Political Geography and the Internet.” When you hold it in the light of what I work on every day, it’s ever so slightly prophetic.

So here’s what we trainee diplomats in international politics schools were getting to grips with at the turn of the millennium. One of these links, amazingly, still works. My handwriting was as bad then as it is now.

Political geography and the internet
October 18, 1999

  • Gatekeepers’ roles have changed in light of the internet – official or private
  • Fourth world – nations of people without states
  • Silent voices, alternate voices against the status quo, consumers
  • At onset of internet, notion that political geography would no longer matter
  • How will technology change geopolitical balance? Question goes back to Mackinder and Mahan*
  • Packet switching, 1980s ARPAnet linked with mainframes, IBM Bitnet, NSFnet
  • Who’s online? U.S. 23% in 1995
  • State pages, alternative groups, space involving active conversation
  • Idea of 1) multidirectional and interactive communications 2) instantaneous 3) transnational
  • www.actlab.utexas.edu/~zapatistas live chats with Marcos
  • www.cybergeography.org

*22 years later, as government commissions a £200 million nationalist yacht, we are arguably right back at Mackinder and Mahan.

The Author

I’m a UK tech policy wonk based in Glasgow. I work for an open web built around international standards of human rights, privacy, accessibility, and freedom of expression. The content and opinions on this site are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of any current or previous team.