Legacy systems: internet histories of the abandoned, discontinued and forgotten

Michael Stevenson and I just published a special issue on “Legacy Systems” in the Internet Histories journal. The special issue explores the productive ambiguity of the concept of “legacy systems” in different directions to address the past’s persistence as well as its felt absence. The contributions revolve around a socio-cultural sense of legacy – of ideas built into Internet culture and how Internet devices continue to operate into the present. They also address cultural and political legacies relevant to histories of networks and digital culture, and investigate how specific technologies bear the marks of past debates and decisions.


Taken together, the various contributions to this issue provide evidence of a rich terrain for engaging with seemingly failed, abandoned and forgotten objects, discourses, and practices in Internet histories. They reveal that doing so requires attention to symbolic and material legacies and lineages, and remind us that these histories must be appreciated to fully understand the present – including what is missing from it.

The original articles appearing here were first presented at ‘The Web That Was: Archives, Traces, Reflections,’ the third biennial RESAW (Research Infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web Materials) conference, held at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, June 19-21, 2019, organized by Anne Helmond and Michael Stevenson, the University of Amsterdam. We thank all presenters and participants for their contributions, as well as all contributors and reviewers who made this special issue possible.

This work is part of the research programme Innovational Research Incentives Scheme Veni with project numbers 275-45-006 and 275-45-009, which are (partly) financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).

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