“We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far”

What a corker of a song. The Buggles, from The Age of Plastic, 1979.

in my mind and in my car

However you name it, cybercultures, or internet studies, is our perspective on history. In this song, The Buggles nostalgically lament the loss of knowledge of bygone technologies, and they blame new technologies for this, rather than the humans who created them, or any of the socio-cultural or socio-material contexts which gave rise to it.

put the blame on VCR

This represents to me a decentring of human intention, but perhaps not in a way completely conducive with socio-material theories. This brings to mind the criticism of actor-network theory by McClean and Hassard (2004): they argued that it’s inevitably ethnocentric because we’re the ones explaining the network and making the connections. They quote Bloomfield and Vurdubakis (1999):

How can we re-present Other times and Other places with only the tools of Here and Now with which to do it? (p. 631)

Sterne raised the possibility of historiographical gaps in our narrative of cybercultures. But it may be worth taking this further. Is there a historiographical problem in general with our current perspective on cybercultures? Is our (natural?) nostalgia for the past – discussions of the noise that dial-up internet made, the Nokia 3310, fixing a VCR with a pencil, etc. – actually damaging for the way that we understand our interaction with technology now? And, if so, does this cross over into the way we think about using technology in our teaching?


Bloomfield, B. P., & Vurdubakis, T. (1999). The Outer Limits: Monsters, Actor Networks and the Writing of Displacement. Organization, 6(4), 625–647. https://doi.org/10.1177/135050849964004
McLean, C., & Hassard, J. (2004). Symmetrical Absence/Symmetrical Absurdity: Critical Notes on the Production of Actor-Network Accounts. Journal of Management Studies, 41(3), 493–519. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6486.2004.00442.x
Silver, D., Massanari, A., & Sterne, J. (Eds.). (2006). The Historiography of Cyberculture. In Critical cyberculture studies (pp. 17–28). New York: New York University Press.


One Reply to ““We can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far””

Comments are closed.