Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Leisa D Meyer


"" explores identity, nationalism, and power on the Internet between 1969 and 2000 through a cultural analysis of Internet code and the creative processes behind it. The dissertation opens with an examination of a real-time Internet Blues jam that linked Japanese and American musicians between Tokyo and Mississippi in 1999. The technological, cultural, and linguistic uncertainties that characterized the Internet jam, combined with the inventive reactions of the musicians who participated, help to introduce the fundamental conceptual question of the dissertation: is code a cultural product and if so can the Internet be considered a distinctly "American" technology?;A comparative study of the Internet's origins in the United States and Japan finds that code is indeed a cultural entity but that it is a product not of one nation, but of many. A cultural critique of the Internet's domain name conventions explores the heavily-gendered creation of code and the institutional power that supports it. An ethnography of the Internet's managing organization, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), investigates conflicts and identity formation within and among nations at a time when new Internet technologies have blurred humans' understanding of geographic boundaries. In the year 2000, an effort to prevent United States domination of ICANN produced unintended consequences: disputes about the definition of geographic regions and an eruption of anxiety, especially in China, that the Asian seat on the ICANN board would be dominated by Japan. These incidents indicate that the Internet simultaneously destabilizes identity and ossifies it. In this paradoxical situation, cultures and the people in them are forced to reconfigure the boundaries that circumscribe who they think they are.



© The Author