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Time Constructs: The Origins of a Future Internet


Technological time has been a topic of much theorization and dread, as both intellectuals and laypeople fear that human life is increasingly becoming secondary to the technological world. Feelings of despair and nihilism, perhaps attributable to social, political and economic upheavals brought by the synchronization of human life with technology, have been theorized by numerous scholars in a plethora of overlapping disciplines. What is left undertheorized is how technology develops in ways that might or might not actually foster these sensations of synchronicity, or speed. Technological development includes patterns of social coordination and consumption, as well as individual use and goals, that all relate to a sense of lived time. But what of the ways that technical design fosters these relations? What is the discourse of time in technological projects?

This dissertation investigates the aforementioned questions in the context of NSF-funded Future Internet Architecture (FIA) projects—Named Data Networking (NDN), eXpressive Internet Architecture (XIA), and Mobility First (MF)—which are currently underway. Architecture engineers and developers for these projects are building new global Internet networking protocols that are intended to challenge many of the features of, and indeed replace, the longstanding Internet Protocol (IP). To answer the question above, I gathered data from over 100 project documents, 30 hours of interviews with project principals, and application code from each of the protocol projects.

The analysis of this data focuses on three main categories of technical discourse surrounding real-time applications: temporal representation, technical time, and speculation on the future of the project itself, each with many subcategories. The ways that the project data fits into, exceeds, and overlaps with these categories and subcategories illuminate a “discourse of time” that reveals the processes by which concepts of “time” are built into these FIA projects.

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