Kevin Driscoll is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. (CV)

Research

Popular computing

My latest book, The Modem World: A Prehistory of Social Media, tells a story about how the internet became social and why this matters for its future. The book will be published by Yale University Press in April 2022 and is available for pre-order now from all your favorite booksellers.

The Modem World offers an alternative origin story for the internet. In the place of military contractors, university researchers, or Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, the book is organized around a distributed network of more than 100,000 bulletin board systems, or BBSs, operated by amateurs, activists, educators, and entrepreneurs across North America during the 1980s and 1990s. The social and technical contributions of this grassroots community laid the groundwork for the transnational internet that we rely on today.

I am especially interested in comparative histories of the Net that look beyond North America. In 2017, Julien Mailland and I published, Minitel: Welcome to the Internet, about the technology, culture, and political-economy of the pioneering French videotex system. We continue to maintain a digital archive and online museum: The Minitel Research Lab, USA.

Related publications

Political talk online

I'm also working on a number of projects related to popular culture and political talk online with my former colleagues from USC including François Bar, Dayna Chatman, Lian Jian, Jieun Shin, and Kjerstin Thorson. Using a combination of macro-scale computational methods (thematic clustering, natural language processing) and micro-scale textual analysis, we have explored rumor diffusion and de-bunking, humor and live-tweeting during televised presidential debates, and the interrelationship of Black Twitter and Scandal fandom.

Related publications


Polaroid by Ernesto Cháívez

Photo credit: Ernesto Chávez, 2021

Books

The Modem World: A Prehistory of Social Media book jacket

Minitel: Welcome to the Internet book jacket

Other artifacts

Elsewhere on the www

modem.world
Research directory and digital archive dedicated to dial-up BBSs, FidoNet, and other amateur networks.
Minitel Research Lab, USA
Online archive of devices and ephemera related to the French network that ran continuously from 1982-2012.
@kevindriscoll
Twitter account for occasional professional updates.
Zotero
The most important piece of software in my research toolkit.
Internet Archive
Old computer books and magazines I've digitized and shared.
Are.na
Clippings, screenshots, and other ephemera from the modem world.
Github
Various software tools I've written for research.
What were the earliest .edu domain names?
Historical lists of dot-edu domains including very early domains and HBCUs.
Net neutrality research database
Mapping the net neutrality controversy. a little dated but still useful.
Alternative net histories timeline
Experiment in using timelines to depict interwoven historical narratives.
Feature Phone
Scrapbook of weird phones and other mobile tech.
Animated GIF Zoetrope
Print and play on a standard turntable. (Warning: 13MB PDF!)
Lone Wolf - Nightwind
A mixtape of slowed trance music for late night driving.
Pinboard
Research-related bookmarks
Web rings