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An interdisciplinary study that traces contemporary notions of "the web" to their origins long before the Internet came into being

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Copyright © 2001, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.


This compelling interdisciplinary study investigates the scientific and cultural roots of contemporary conceptions of the network, including computer information systems, the human nervous system, and communications technology, demonstrating that the image of the network is actually centuries old. Networking places current comparisons of nerve and computer networks in perspective, exploring early analogies linking nerves and telegraphs and demonstrating how 19th-century neurobiologists, engineers, and fiction writers influenced each other’s ideas about communication.


The interdisciplinary sweep of neuroscientist and literary scholar Laura Otis’s book is impressive, focusing simultaneously on literary works by such authors as George Eliot, Bram Stoker, Henry James, and Mark Twain and on the scientific and technological achievements of such pioneers as Luigi Galvani, Hermann von Helmholtz, Charles Babbage, Samuel Morse, and Werner von Siemens. Networking will appeal to general readers as well as to scholars in the fields of interdisciplinary studies, 19th-century literature, and the history of science and technology. The paperback edition of the book has been updated with a preface by the author.

“A sophisticated but jargon-free analysis of the ways in which scientific and technological ideas created novel explanatory metaphors that also became powerful tools for understanding social and natural systems.”
—Technology and Culture

Laura Otis is Associate Professor of English, Hofstra University. In 2000, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for her interdisciplinary studies of literature and science. Her previous books include Membranes: Metaphors of Invasion in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Science, and Politics and Organic Memory: History and the Body in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries.