My book is a complete history and theory of internet daemons brings these little-known—but very consequential—programs into the spotlight. The book won the 2019 Gertrude J. Robinson Book Award.
Thanks to the support Concordia University’s Open Access Fund and the University of Minnesota Press, Internet Daemons is open access through Manifold and as a PDF through Concordia’s Spectrum library.
About the book
We’re used to talking about how tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon rule the internet, but what about daemons? Ubiquitous programs that have colonized the Net’s infrastructure—as well as the devices we use to access it—daemons are little known. Fenwick McKelvey weaves together history, theory, and policy to give a full account of where daemons come from and how they influence our lives—including their role in hot-button issues like network neutrality.
Going back to Victorian times and the popular thought experiment Maxwell’s Demon, McKelvey charts how daemons evolved from concept to reality, eventually blossoming into the pandaemonium of code-based creatures that today orchestrates our internet. Digging into real-life examples like sluggish connection speeds, Comcast’s efforts to control peer-to-peer networking, and Pirate Bay’s attempts to elude daemonic control (and skirt copyright), McKelvey shows how daemons have been central to the internet, greatly influencing everyday users.
Internet Daemons asks important questions about how much control is being handed over to these automated, autonomous programs, and the consequences for transparency and oversight.
Beneath social media, beneath search, Internet Daemons reveals another layer of algorithms: deeper, burrowed into information networks. Fenwick McKelvey is the best kind of intellectual spelunker, taking us deep into the infrastructure and shining his light on these obscure but vital mechanisms. What he has delivered is a precise and provocative rethinking of how to conceive of power in and among networks.” —Tarleton Gillespie, author of Custodians of the Internet
“Internet Daemons is an original and important contribution to the field of digital media studies. Fenwick McKelvey extensively maps and analyzes how daemons influence data exchanges across Internet infrastructures. This study insightfully demonstrates how daemons are transformative entities that enable particular ways of transferring information and connecting up communication, with significant social and political consequences.” —Jennifer Gabrys, author of Program Earth