Special Issue CfP

Call for Papers: Legacy Systems

Special issue of Internet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society
Special issue editors: Michael Stevenson and Anne Helmond (University of Amsterdam)

What are the legacy systems, technological or otherwise, that inform the contemporary digital media landscape? What early computer networks, outdated software, platforms, programming languages, standards, dissolved companies, and forgotten developer and user communities continue to exert influence on how we produce and experience digital culture? How might we conceptualize forms of continuity and change that, while not unique to internet histories, nonetheless capture what Megan Ankerson (following Lucy Suchman) describes as historically specific, techno-social processes of configuration and reconfiguration? Similar questions revolve around how our access to internet histories has been configured: how do past technologies, pre-existing legal frameworks and early imaginaries of the internet continue to enable and constrain web archiving practices and the methods we develop to study web archives? In short, how does the internet’s past operate in the present?

In computing, a legacy system refers to seemingly obsolete technology that remains in use. Deemed too expensive to replace or otherwise resistant to wholesale change, a legacy system formats present action according to a logic stemming from a prior historical moment. Legacy systems can be thought of as outdated technologies that impose artificial constraints on the future, however for this special issue we are particularly interested in how such techno-social configurations carry the past forward. What histories are lurking behind today’s systems and software, standards and protocols, genres and practices? The concept also connects to growing interest in studying practices of maintenance and repair. What efforts have sustained supposedly obsolete technologies, products, forums and platforms?

We invite submissions that relate explicitly or implicitly to the concept of legacy systems, either in its technical or metaphorical uses, and that also fit within the journal’s general scope. In particular we seek articles that combine historical research with theoretical or methodological reflection, however we are certainly open to submissions that do one or the other. The special issue is inspired by The Web That Was, the third bi-annual RESAW conference to be held at the University of Amsterdam (NL) from June 18-21, 2019 (http://thewebthatwas.net/). 

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

* Legacies of past technologies, software, standards, products, platforms, companies or communities;
* Legacies of previously existing cultures of media and technological production;
* Legacy programming languages, standards, products, forums, platforms, etc. that remain in use, as well as the maintenance and repair work that sustains them;
* Reflections on the social shaping of archived content as well as methods for platform and app histories;
* Methods for examining digital media objects that resist archiving;
* Approaches to examining discontinued web platforms and communities.


Abstracts of a maximum of 750 words should be emailed to Michael Stevenson and Anne Helmond (specialissue@thewebthatwas.net) no later than 22 March 2019. Authors of accepted abstracts are invited to submit an article, and notifications of acceptance will be sent by 12 April 2019. Please note that acceptance of an abstract does not ensure final publication as all articles must go through the journal’s usual review process.

Time schedule

22 March 5 April 2019 : due date for abstracts
12 April 2019: notification of acceptance
1 September 2019: full articles to be submitted for review

More information on Internet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society can be found at https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rint20